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.

Strengthen your feet through barefoot-inspired footwear.


  • Karen,

    We understand your frustrations and concerns. We do as we grow, making new options and sizes always requires quite an investment, so we have a file of wishes we keep. So as we grow we can fulfill those wishes, meet more needs and serve more feet!

  • Some of us have feet that are both widest across the ends of the toes AND wide in the forefoot. The few manufacturers who make foot-shaped shoes seem to have forgotten that feet come in different widths. Also, not all feet have toes that slant down from the big toe to the pinkies — some are more straight across. I’m waiting for the day when manufacturers recognize the varieties in foot shape and width.

  • This article brought me to tears. Thank you very much!!!
    I have been trying to explain this to people for 50 years to no avail. I often wished I could sue every shoe company that made shoes I wore that has deformed my toes…

  • I don’t understand why narrow toed shoes ever existed. Manufacturers, please take a look at your feet. The toe area is wide, isn’t it? It’s only possible for me to wear slippers, EVERYWHERE. This needs to change, make shoes for humans, not monkeys, please.

    Christine paora
  • Dear Anna, we hope you’ll find your fit. SOM Footwear is a zero drop shoe and don’t give you the 1/4" you are looking for. Someone who never goes barefoot may not like our shoes. We are sorry we can’t serve you. Keep hoping.

    SOM Team

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published