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

Are wide shoes always the answer, or are wide toe box shoes the better solution to happier, stronger feet? Instead of conventional footwear shaping your feet, shouldn't your feet be the ones in control. Finding great fitting shoes starts with the toes and understanding how a great foot shaped shoe can make them happy.

Are my feet actually wide?

When we were young, before our feet met their first shoe, we all had wide feet to an extent: our toes were the widest part of our foot. Why then would most traditional athletic and dress shoes get narrower at the toes?







Baby Feet are widest at the toes

Babies' feet are widest at the toes

Eventually, we begin wearing shoes that squeeze our toes into a space that is not wide enough for them. The tapered toe boxes of traditional athletic shoes and conventional office footwear place style over substance, creating manufactured shapes that constrain and alter our feet.

Footwear too tight for uniquely shaped feet need wide to box shoes for room and comfort

This continued pressure against our toes can turn them more into pointed triangles and less like our natural foot shape. 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.

Wide toe box shoes compared to traditional toe box

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

Many people can feel that there is something their feet don’t like with the tapered toes of most shoes. Everyone knows that uncomfortable feeling of being in a shoe that is too tight. When our feet are squished, we make adjustments even when we can’t pin down the problem. 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.

For many of us, that feeling may not be telling us that our sizing is wrong, but rather our toes are telling us they are unhappy.

Are wide toe box 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 exists. 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 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 feet love wide toe box shoes so they can feel like themselves

Hobbits keep their toes free.

Shoes with a Wide Toe Box Means Toe Room For All!

When we designed our footwear, we chose to focus on providing a roomy 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.  

Here is a helpful guide to determined whether you have wide or narrow feet.

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
wide toe box shoes for athleteswide toe box shoes for casual wear

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.  

Do you have a wide foot? Measuring your feet to see if you need a wide toe box shoe

The best answer is always to try a pair of shoes with spacious toe boxes and 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 toes and trust your feet. 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's wide toe box shoes, please check out our blog, New to Barefoot Shoes?


Strengthen your feet through barefoot-inspired footwear and wide toe box shoes



  • 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?

  • 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…


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