Do you know if you have wide or narrow feet? It might seem easy to glance at your feet and give an answer, or compare your feet to someone else’s. But the truth is, it can be a little more complicated than that!
It might seem silly, but knowing if your feet are wide or narrow can make a huge difference in your life. Everything from the comfort of your shoes to long-term foot problems can come back to this question!
Here’s how to tell if your feet stray more toward being wide or narrow. Knowing this information can change everything from shoe choice to comfort levels.
Why Is It Important to Know?
Understanding your foot width can make a massive impact to both comfort and performance in shoes, depending on exactly what the shoes are made for.
Wearing the right size and width shoe provides support in all the right places and gives your feet room to breathe and move.
Wearing shoes of the wrong width can lead to unpleasant side effects, including:
It’s hard to do anything well when your feet are squished into shoes with the wrong width! Your gait will probably change to accommodate your cramped feet, which means you may find yourself hobbling instead of walking properly.
On the other hand, if you’re wearing shoes that are too wide, you might find that you have to grip your toes to stop them from sliding around, which can also significantly increase your discomfort.
Too narrow shoes are highly likely to cause chafing, especially at the sides of the forefoot and on your baby toe. You may develop blisters or find that your skin is rubbed raw.
Even with shoes that are too wide for your foot, you’re likely to change your gait slightly to try to walk comfortably, which could put a strain on certain parts of the foot and leg that wouldn’t usually be there. This can lead to aching muscles that fatigue quickly.
Too-tight shoes—especially in the toe box—can lead to unpleasant and painful conditions, like ingrown toenails, bruised toes, hallux rigidus, corns and calluses, metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma, bunions, and hammertoes, amongst others.
Too-wide shoes can lead to blisters from friction as your feet move within the shoe, hammertoes or mallet toes from your toes gripping the footbed, and even Achilles tendonitis, peroneal tendonitis, or calf pain caused by a change in gait.
How to Know If You Have Wide or Narrow Feet
There’s no real test to determine if your feet are wider or narrower than usual. However, you can get a good idea by paying attention to your current shoe width.
Put your shoes on and take some time to feel them. Do they feel tight or loose on the sides of your forefoot? Do they hug your feet too closely, or not enough?
Then, check the width of your current shoe. In most cases, the standard width for women will be labeled with a B, while wide is a D. For men, the standard is D, and wide is E.
If you’re wearing a B and it’s too tight for you, it’s probably safe to say that your foot is wide. If it fits perfectly, you probably have normal-width feet. You may have narrow feet if it’s a little big around the sides!
However, while this is a simple way to figure it out, you’ll also need to check the average width of the brand. For example, Nike is known to be a narrow-fitting shoe, and New Balance is known to be wide.
So if you wear Nike and it’s too tight, you might have a fairly normal foot, and if you wear New Balance and it fits perfectly, you may have a wide foot.
As you can tell, it’s a bit of an art! You may need to experiment with a few different shoe brands to get a good idea of what width your foot is.
Measure Your Feet
A few brands have width charts, so measuring your feet is a good idea. You can do this by tracing around both feet on a sheet of paper, and measuring the distance between the widest part of your foot—the ball of your foot.
You can then match this measurement up with the ones on the width chart to determine if your feet are considered wide in that particular brand. Not all brands have a width chart, but knowing your numbers may be worthwhile!
How to Manage Wide Feet
If you feel that you may have wide feet, it pays to put a bit of effort into finding the right fit for your feet. Just a bit of attention to your shoes can make a huge difference to your comfort and the health of your feet!
Opt for Wider-Than-Average Shoe Brands
Depending on the shoe you’re looking for, you may need to research which brands naturally run a bit wider.
New Balance running shoes are known to be slightly wide. Altra running shoes have a fantastic foot-shaped toe box, which can be ideal for those who need more space in the forefoot and for the toes to splay. Toetem sandals are great for ladies who want something pretty.
You can also consider orthopedic shoes. These are designed specifically to cater for certain foot conditions, like bunions or hammertoes. They could be a good option for those who need more space in the toe box.
Find Out Which Brands Offer Wide Models
Wide models usually have a noticeably more spacious toe box than the regular models, often with a wider midfoot and heel.
Many brands offer wide models, so if you’re a fan of a particular brand, you may be able to find the same shoe you already love, but in a wider, more comfortable model.
Stretch Your Shoes
Some shoes—not all, but many—can be stretched to create a better fit on your foot. Learning how to stretch shoes for wide feet depends on the type of material the shoe is made of, but it’s worthwhile looking at.
This is handy if you have shoes that you don’t want to get rid of and you don’t want to or aren’t in the position to buy new ones at the moment.
Keep Moleskin Handy
If you have shoes that still don’t quite fit your feet, you can help prevent chafing, but sticking a piece of moleskin on areas that may chafe can make a big difference.
This will protect the parts of your feet that are slightly too wide. However, if there’s pressure on the sides of your feet and chafing, we highly recommend switching to a pair of shoes that are more suitable for your foot width.
How to Manage Narrow Feet
If your feet are narrow rather than wide, finding a pair to suit you can be more tricky. Finding shoe brands that specifically offer narrow fits is difficult! However, here’s how you can make your shoes fit better.
Go Half a Size Down
If you find that you have some space in front of your toes, you can try going half a size down next time you buy shoes. However, two problems could pop up here.
If the length runs true, then a half-size down may be too short for your foot. Two, not all shoes come in half sizes, and going a full size down could be too small for you. So you will need to carefully consider whether or not this is feasible.
Find a Brand That’s Naturally Narrow
Some brands—like Nike, ASICS, Amalfi, and so on—run naturally narrow. If you can find a brand that you really like that runs narrow, you may find that they fit your feet really nicely! However, they’re rare, so you may need to do some hard searching.
See If the Brand Offers a Narrow Width
It’s not common, but some brands offer a narrow width shoe, usually labeled an A width for women and a C for men. You may be able to find these shoes in some of your favorite brands, but they are few and far between.
Use an Insole
Wearing an insole can take up extra space in the shoe. While they don’t usually fill the gaps between the sides of your feet and the shoe, they can bring your foot closer to the upper, so you can tie the laces more securely, resulting in the upper fitting your foot more naturally and comfortably.
You can find soft padding that you add to your shoes to fill gaps between your foot and the shoe. These are usually quite comfortable and prevent chafing by keeping your feet still in the shoe.
Shrink Your Shoes
This won’t work with all shoes, but it can be especially useful for leather shoes. In most cases, this doesn’t change the length of the shoe, so you should be able to get a tighter fit without affecting how it fits length-wise.