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Wide Toe Box Shoes vs. Wide Shoes: What Keeps Feet Comfortable?

A couple of years ago, we wrote a blog asking if wide shoes are always the answer, or if a wide toe box is really the solution.  This question still comes up time and time again and we thought it would be worth revisiting.  

Are my feet actually wide?  

When we were young, before we had the chance to have our feet put into shoes, we all had wide feet to an extent: our toes were the widest part of our foot.  Why then would most traditional footwear get more narrow at the toes?







Baby Feet with wide toes 
Babies' feet are widest at the toes

From the time we begin wearing shoes, we generally squeeze our toes into a space that is not wide enough for them.  This continued reshaping of the ends of our feet have them looking more like a pointed triangle and less like the natural footshape we know.  The toes can begin to lose the ability to function as they were meant to—and things like balance, gait, and posture can all be affected.

Many people can feel that there is something their feet don’t like with the tapered toes of most shoes.  Everyone knows what it is to feel uncomfortable in a too tight shoe.  When our feet are uncomfortable, we try to adjust even if we can’t pin the problem down.  Maybe we try a shoe size larger or look for a wide shoe.  Women will sometimes turn to men’s shoes that are constructed a bit wider for relief.  

Shoes too tight?

For many of us, that feeling may not be telling us that our sizing is wrong; rather it may be our toes trying to tell us that they are unhappy.

Are wide shoes really what my feet are craving?

When toe-scrunching shoes are all we know, it can be hard to think that something more comfortable is out there. Wide shoes offer more room throughout the entire shoe.  Shoes with a wide toe box, however, provide that room at what is usually the widest part of the foot: the toes.  After spending so much time in shoes with tapered toes, experiencing footwear that gives toes room to breathe can be, well, a breath of fresh air.  For many of us, that extra wiggle room is exactly what our feet have been wanting without us even knowing it.   

Wide barefoot Hobbit feetHobbits keep their toes free.

Wide Toe Box Shoes - Toe Room For All!

When we designed our footwear, we chose to focus on providing a wide toe box.  With this natural foot shape, we are actually able to serve feet of different widths with the same shoe.  Wide feet (EE) have found a good fit in the same shoes that can accommodate a standard or even a narrow width.  

Wide toe box shoes compared to traditional toe box

A wide toe box (left) vs. the traditional toe box (right)

By choosing a shoe that is built around the shape of the foot, you get the width where it is most often needed (at the toes) while still fitting the heel and midfoot comfortably. It turns out that's what most feet want!

Check Out SOM's Barefoot Minimalist Shoes

A Word on Foot Measurements:

Now, feet are notoriously hard to measure.  Most often, we look solely at length and width when picking a size.  When you use a 2-D sizing system to measure a 3-D object, you are limited in determining a good fit.  Everyone’s foot holds its volume differently and sits differently in a shoe.  In addition, our feet can change in size over the years—shoes that fit 3 years ago may no longer work for the same feet.  

Measuring your feet

The best answer is always to try a pair on to see how your unique foot fits.  This doesn't mean you have to purchase shoes only in person...when buying online, be sure to choose a company that allows for exchanges and returns to ensure you can get the right shoe fit.

At the end of the day, be sure to listen to your feet and toes.  They have a lot to tell us about what is most comfortable for them.

To learn more about the steps you can take when adjusting from traditional footwear to SOM shoes, please check out our blog, New to Barefoot Shoes?

Strengthen your feet through barefoot-inspired footwear.


  • We stopped in your store in April. You showed us how you make the shoes. I am training for Pikes Peak marathon and the ascent in August 21 and 22. The training is on steep climbs with muddy and rocky trails. The shoes I bought work better than my other trail shoes. I am going to run both races in your shoes. Thank you, Ken

  • you’d really make the mark with removable footbeds. i must use an orthotic but can’t find any american made athletic shoes that look good. thanks for reading my suggestion. let me know if they ever become available. God bless America

  • What brands can I buy that are wide toe, my my toes are straight across. Always Like the the description my big toe and pinky are pushed towards my other toes

    Jay Deeks
  • Just read the comment from Nancy, in December, 2019. I have sought podiatrists and years ago I was asked to be part of a feature story for USA Today. I called in to the # posted in the issue of the day and was encouraged to let them record my responses. No denied, because I knew no one would provide and answer to third toe issues other than surgery. I need 2 different sized shoes. 9 and 1/2 on my left foot because of my “monkey” toe. Size 9 on right foot, with a long 2nd toe. I am 70 years old and have lived with irritated toes my entire life and have bought every kind of shoe, insole and orthotics from numerous locations in my lifetime.

  • My third toe is as long or longer than second toe & big toe, most “wide toe box” shoes, still add a taper assuming third toe is shorter and I must still force my third toe to curl in or rub shoe, even in “wide toe box”. Does anyone else have longer than normal third toe & found good shoe source?


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