Debunking the Wide Shoe Myth – Why Foot Shaped Shoes Are ACTUALLY Good For Wide Feet

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A photo collage of 7 extra wide barefoot shoes next to an extra wide bare foot with the text "shoes for extra wide feet" written over it and "Anya's Reviews" in the corner

Got wide feet? Struggling to find shoes that fit? Well I’ve got news for you – Most shoes available today, even the “wide” ones, are made with a distorted view of width. Your feet aren’t the problem, it’s the shoes that suck!

In this article we’re setting the record straight on width in shoes and sharing the best options that are actually good for wide feet. You and your feet will be forever changed.

Debunking the Wide Shoe Myth

A collage of 3 shoes side by side with a foot superimposed over the top to shoe if it fits inside the shoe. First is a standard shoe, and the pinkie and big toe are hanging off the sides. Second is a wide shoe and the pinkie and big toe are still hanging off the side but there is now a lot more width in the middle of the shoe. 3rd is a foot shaped shoe and the foot fits fully inside the shoe without hanging off at all

There are a variety of shoes out there that offer “wide” as an option for people who don’t fit into “regular” shoes. And indeed they are in some ways wider than their standard counterparts, but not throughout the entire shoe. Suspiciously, the toe box remains pointy in these so called wide shoes.

This leaves me with plenty of space at the ball of my foot and at the heel, but my toes are still pinched together, as if toes just don’t count when it comes to width. But here’s the thing – they really do count, and there’s a good chance the lack of toe space is why most shoes feel horribly uncomfortable for you.

A photo collage showing a bare foot with toes spread and a foot in a foot shaped shoe that still lets the toes spread, versus a bare foot with a rubber band around the toes squishing them together and a foot in a shoe with a pointy toe shape to show how the toes look inside that shoe

Foot Shaped Shoes Are Best For Wide Feet

“Wide” is subjective and open-ended – you can add width to any part of a shoe while other parts remain narrow.

By contrast, “Foot Shaped” suggests the shoe matches a natural anatomical shape that is asymmetrical and leaves space for all the toes. The width in a foot shaped shoe is distributed according to human anatomy.

A collage of 3 shoes side by side. Vans, which are very wide in the middle, Brooks wide which are wide in across the ball of the foot, and Barebarics barefoot sneakers that have an anatomical foot shaped toe box

This is why you should stop looking at shoes marketed as wide, and instead look for foot shaped shoes.

To be sure, not all feet are shaped the same (in fact I wrote a whole article about this) but the majority of the time an unadulterated foot will be widest at the toes. We see it in young children who haven’t started wearing shoes yet, in unshod populations, and I also see it all the time in people who switch to foot shaped shoes and start taking care of their feet. Yes, your feet can change shape depending on what you do with them!

A photo collage showing a bare foot with toes spread and a foot in a foot shaped shoe that still lets the toes spread, versus a bare foot with a rubber band around the toes squishing them together and a foot in a shoe with a pointy toe shape to show how the toes look inside that shoe

So it makes a lot of sense that putting a foot that is widest at the toes into a shoe that is narrowest at the toes would be quite uncomfortable. And it gets worse: Evidence increasingly points to footwear as a contributing cause for the bunion epidemic that rages in industrialized cultures. And yet few people question the pointy shape of most shoes.

It’s time for a new paradigm when it comes to shoes. The best shoes for wide feet are the ones that match the shape of those feet!

If this is a new concept for you and you want to dig deeper into shoes that respect the natural functioning of the foot, take a segue on over to my article on the Benefits of Barefoot Shoes that covers everything you need to know. Want foot shaped shoes, but not barefoot shoes? I got you there too in my article on Wide Toe Box Shoes That Aren’t Barefoot.

Where Do You Need Your Width?

Now that we’ve established that conventional shoes are not serving the needs of our feet, let’s move on to another important width distinction.

To determine which are the best wide shoes for you, take a look at your feet. Where exactly do you need your width?

A collage of 4 different types of feet matched up with a barefoot shoe that mirrors their actual width and shape

Some people have straight feet that don’t taper in significantly at the arch area. Others have fan shaped feet with a big width difference between their toes and their heel. You can see how what would be good for one would be uncomfortable for the other!

Of course most people will fall somewhere in between these extremes, and that’s perfectly fine. Now you have the language to define your shoe fit woes, and that will make it easier to intentionally select the wide shoes most likely to work for you!

The shape and contour of your toes can also play a role in how shoes fit. Here we’re just focusing on width, but you can read this article to dig deeper on foot shapes and to find shoes for narrow and average width feet!

What If My Feet Aren’t Widest At The Toes?

If you’ve spent your whole life in tapered footwear, there is a good chance it has affected your feet (feet can change, remember? And it goes both ways). So foot shaped shoes might give you more toe space than you can actually fill! The amazing thing about the human body is that it is adaptable – give your feet space and over time there is a good chance they will fill it. Go for a shoe that fits you comfortably today with enough space for your toes to spread out. As long as the shoe fits securely without flopping, the space around your toes shouldn’t be a problem.

But Are My Feet Actually Wide?

Many people come to me believing they have humongous feet, but then learn that all they need is a foot shaped shoe! Tiny, tapered shoes have really F-ed up our understanding of what’s “normal”. At first it can be hard to know how wide of a shoe you actually need, so expect some trial and error as you shift to this new paradigm.

To help people hone in on the right shoe for their foot, I created The Barefoot Shoe Finder. This is a searchable, filterable database of hundreds of natural footwear brands, plus a quiz to match you up to the right one. This is where to look if you don’t need the extra wide shoes listed below.

The Best Shoes for Wide Feet List

If you do have truly wide feet, the following lists are for you.

To recap, the best shoes for wide feet are:

  1. Anatomically shaped
  2. Wide where YOU need it

Many of these shoes can cross over between both lists, just like many feet cross over into multiple categories. You will never know for sure if a shoe will fit until you try it on, so don’t feel limited by these options. Use this is a stepping stone!

And here’s a reminder that the following are all EXTRA WIDE foot shaped brands. For anything less wide than that, use The Barefoot Shoe Finder.

One final note before I launch into the list – if you look at any of the size charts for these brands and you might think they look too narrow by the numbers. I encourage you to read this FAQ on interpreting a size chart to learn why there’s more to width than the measurement!

Shoes for Wide Fan Feet

Here are 12 of the widest shoes that fan at the toes, for fan shaped feet.

*skip to the list for Wide Straight Feet by clicking here*

Pro Tip: If you have narrow heels, you might struggle with heel slippage. These Narrow Heel Fit Hacks can help make your shoes fit better.

Softstar Shoes Switchback, barefoot zero drop hiking boots with an extra wide toe box and rugged Vibram outsole

Softstar Primals (US) – Sizes 5U-15U. Amazing shoes for the widest fan shaped feet. Note that not all Softstar Shoes are shaped like this, you want to look specifically at the Primal line.

Top down view of a person with one foot off and one foot wearing Peerko street in navy to show the wide anatomical toe box

Peerko (EU) – Sizes EU 37-45. This stylish brand disguises an extra wide toe box for a more mainstream look. The quality is also top notch.

Use code ANYASREVIEWS10 for 10% off the EU shop. Select styles available seasonally at Anya’s Shop.

Top down view of a pair of feet wearing Ahinsa Jaya Black Vegan Barefoot Combat Boots

Ahinsa (EU) – Sizes EU 36-47 – Some models available in extra wide, but all are fan shaped and vegan.

Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 10% off, and you can find the Jaya at Anya’s Shop!

shapen Poppy comparison between regular and wide width

Shapen Barefoot (EU & US) – Sizes EU 36-43. My favorite dressy women’s shoe for extra wide feet. So pretty! Choose wide width for max toe space, regular is only average width.

Code ANYA5 gets you 5% off the EU shop. And you can find them at Anya’s Shop (US)

Top down close up of blue hidden seam mama janes from everleigh meadow, handmade barefoot shoes in fun colors for women with extra wide feet

Everleigh Meadow (US) – Sizes US Womens 6-11. These are available in 3 width options with Wide/Full Splay offering lots of toe space. Read the Everleigh Meadow Review here.

Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 10% off

Extra wide fan shaped Wyde Footwear pink sneaker being worn by a person flexing one foot

Wyde Footwear (EU) – Sizes EU 37-45. Really wide square shaped toe box. Has a 13mm stack height and a very breathable mesh upper.

Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 10% off

NoNs Barefoot tall leather custom barefoot handcrafted lace up boots with brogue details

No(N)s (EU) – Sizes 37-44. Really excellent craftsmanship! Some customizations available (I had the ankle and calf of my boots customized to my measurements)

Read my No(N)s review here!

A woman's feet outside on a rock, the left foot is wearing minimalist trail running shoe, the Lone Peak by Altra. The right foot is barefoot.

Altra Running (US & EU) – Sizes US Women’s 1 – Men’s 16. Altra shoes from the “Widest” section have a thick cushioned sole, but are still zero drop and have a fan shape.

Read my Altra review here

Top down view of RealFoot Farmer Boot next to an extra wide foot wearing Knitido toe socks. There is ample toe space for splay in RealFoot shoes

Realfoot (EU) – Sizes EU 33-47. These are for extremely fan shaped feet!

Read my Realfoot Review here & use code ANYASREVIEWS10 for 10% off

Close up front angled view of Jenon Leather J. Joplin Pumps in embossed leather with criss cross elastic laces up the front.

Jenon Leather (EU) – Sizes EU 36-48. This brand just recently started shipping to the USA and we love them! They offer standard and custom sizes/shapes.

Read our Jenon Leather Review here

zlatush barefoot barefoot ballet flats cognac t-strap close up

ZlaTush (EU) – Sizes EU 36-46. Really soft leather, and one of my favorite shoe styles (t-strap). She makes a whole range of shoe styles in addition to feminine dress shoes.

A top down view of a pair of feet standing on concrete wearing black vegan Tikki Shoes barefoot sandals - Vibe model

Tikki Sandals (EU & US) – Sizes EU 36-43. The lightest sandals for wide feet you’ll try! Vegan options as well.

Toetem sandals, made in the USA, in red being worn by a woman.

Toetem Sandals (US) – Sizes US W6-M13. These all have an extra wide forefoot for really fan-shaped feet. Read our Toetem Review here

Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 7% off

A pair of feet wearing Shamma barefoot sandals, left foot is wearing the Trail Stars and right foot is wear the Warriors

Shamma Sandals (US) – Unique Sizes 4-14. Read my Shamma Reviews here! My personal favorite all purpose sandal brand – they fit a wide variety of foot types.

Use code ANYASREVIEWS2023 for 10% off from Shamma, or find the Warrior model at Anya’s Shop!

Goes Both Ways

These 8 shoe brands fit nicely in both categories – they provide ample space for fan shaped feet and the stay wide in the middle for straight feet.

Tired of scrolling? Skip to the list for Wide Straight Feet by clicking here.

Top Down view of a woman wearing Be Lenka Brooklyn barefoot sneakers with an extra wide toe box, leather uppers, and flexible foot shaped zero drop sole.

Be Lenka (EU & US) – Sizes EU 36-47. Read all my Be Lenka Reviews here! Be Lenka has so many practical everyday shoes, as well as dressy/stylish options. All in an extra wide shape (works for straight feet as well).

Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off directly from Be Lenka (EU), or find many models at Anya’s Shop (USA)

Side by Side of Bohempia Regular and Wide cool converse style barefoot hemp sneakers

Bohempia Wide (EU & US) – Bohempia barefoot shoes come regular and wide. Choose wide if you have extra wide feet. They’re the coolest foot-shaped sneakers available! Works for straight feet as well.

Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 10% of Bohempia EU. Select models are available at Anya’s Shop (USA) for easier access.

Groundies Amsterdam metallic flower sneaker in barefoot plus width for extra wide feet

Groundies Barefoot+ (EU & US) – Groundies is one of my favorite brands and they now offer an extra wide option labeled Barefoot+. Read all my Groundies Review here

Select models will be available at Anya’s Shop (USA)

Freet Barefoot (UK) – Sizes EU 30-49. Read my Freet Reviews here! A super practical brand for athletic use and hiking.

Use code AnyaFreet10 for 10% off

Top down view of Angles Fashion Artemis barefoot chelsea boots

Angles Fashion (EU & US) – Sizes 35-46+. Lots of great everyday/dressy styles. Read my Angles Fashion review here. Works for straight feet as well.

Use code ANYA for 5% off directly from Angles (does not ship to the USA). Select styles also available in Anya’s Shop (USA)

Top down view of Wildling Elderberry barefoot boots

Wildling Shoes (EU) – Sizes EU 36-48. Certain models have an extra wide shape to them, and others do not. This changes seasonally so read each product description and my Wildling Reviews.

A front view of a pair of feet standing on concrete wearing Vibram Five Fingers KSO barefoot running shoes in black with one foot pointed

Vibram 5 Fingers (US & Worldwide) – Sizes EU 34-50. They’re basically gloves, so highly adaptable to different foot shapes.

15% off Vibram automatically applied through the link above

A top down view of a pair of feet standing on concrete wearing black Laboo Leather barefoot sandals

Laboo Leather (US & EU) – Sizes EU 35-45. Run a teensy bit small, amazing quality, and the straps are completely adjustable!

Also available from the Laboo Leather Etsy shop which ships from Hungary and offers custom shapes!

Lems Boulder Boot Top Down and Sole Shape

Lems (US) – US Sizes W4.5-11.5 & M3-14. All Lems have a stack height around 8-14mm, and not all are zero drop or foot shaped, so read product descriptions.

Read all my Lems reviews here.

Select Lems styles also available at EU retailer Mugavik Barefoot – Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off

Shoes for Wide Straight Feet

Now let’s move on to the best shoes for wide straight feet. Here are 9 extra wide shoe brands that have work well for feet that are wide through the middle.

a close up of a pair of feet standing on concrete, the left foot is bare and the other foot is wearing a Barebarics barefoot sneaker, Zing model in taupe, to show it's natural foot shape and wide toe box

Barebarics (EU) – Sizes EU 36-47. Read my Barebarics Review here

Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off from Barebarics, or find select styles at Anya’s Shop (USA)

A top down view of a pair of feet standing on concrete wearing the Xero Shoes Kelso barefoot sneaker made of pink leather

Xero Shoes (US) – Sizes W5-11 & M6.5-15. Read all my Xero Shoes Review here! Excellent brand for the straightest feet out there. Men’s sizes are wider than women’s.

Shop Xero Shoes EU if you live within the EU

a top down view of a pair of feet standing on concrete wearing black oxfords with brogue detailing in a natural foot shape

FeelBarefoot (Turkey) – Sizes US women’s 3.5 – US Men’s 15. This is one of the more affordable places to get nice barefoot shoes. Read my full FeelBarefoot Review here.

Use code ANYA50 for a discount

Top down view of Shapen Ivy barefoot ankle boots in Bordeaux being worn by a woman in denim.

Shapen Barefoot (EU) – Size EU 36-43. Read my in-depth Shapen Review here!

Code ANYA5 gets you 5% off the EU shop. And you can find select Shapen styles at Anya’s Shop (US)

A top down view of a pair of feet wearing Tadeevo bliss barefoot running sneakers in grey

Tadeevo (EU) – Sizes EU 35-53. Read all my Tadeevo reviews here! The Bliss is one of the all time best barefoot running shoes.

Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off

Top view of a woman's feet in Magical Alaskan barefoot winter boots in brown leather

Magical Shoes (EU) – Sizes EU 18-47. This brand is very soft and flexible, great for thick straight feet. Just be aware that the adult models run small so sizing up is advised.

Use code ANYA for 10% off

Top Down view of Sole Runner Hati extra wide warm barefoot boots for wide straight feet

Sole Runner (EU) – Sizes EU 25-49. Most Sole Runner shoes are wide, but read the product descriptions to find the extra wide options.

A top down view of a person wearing a pair of Feelmax Kuuva black barefoot waterproof hiking boots standing on snowy grass

Feelmax (EU) – Sizes EU 35-48. Shoes come in and out of stock, so ordering can be a bit tricky.

A pair of strappy barefoot huarache sandals each one shown with different tying options shown on a pair of feet against a tan wall

La Mexa (Mexico) – Sizes 23-28cm. Prices are in Pesos! These are your basic huarache sandal, but with a straight cut sole.

And don’t forget custom options! There are a surprising number of custom shoemakers out there and it doesn’t have to be crazy expensive. This is a great way to cut to the chase and get a perfect fitting shoe. Check out the following guide to ordering custom barefoot shoes if this interests you.

Healthy Feet Are Happy Feet

Feet are a seriously underrated part of our body. Considering that they are our one point of contact with the ground whenever we are standing, walking, or running, it makes sense that unhappy feet would affect our entire well being. Making the switch to shoes that allow your toes to spread out can pay dividends in your life.

Got super wide feet? Now you know what the best shoes for wide feet actually are.

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101 thoughts on “Debunking the Wide Shoe Myth – Why Foot Shaped Shoes Are ACTUALLY Good For Wide Feet”

  1. What Whitin shoe size should I use if my feet are 10.5″ x 4″, high volume, and extra wide straight?

    Currently using size 13 (normal textile sneakers).

    1. Most likely you would enjoy a size 13 in Whitin’s Wide Barefoot shoes (make sure you are looking in that section and not just the “Barefoot” section). Their size chart isn’t super helpful, but I’ve found they are pretty true to size in their Wide section.

  2. I just received my Poppy and wow they are THIN! SO neat! I was nervous about buying the wide because I used to wear “narrow” in traditional shoes. I ignored the labels and went with the measurements and I’m glad I did. These are going to be great!

  3. I’m so glad I found you! I struggle finding shoes for my extra wide straight (and short!) feet. I see mostly sneakers, do you have recommendations for sandals? Even in normal wide size 7 non-barefoot sandals, my feet can sometimes be too wide in the middle.

  4. I appreciate all of the information. I’m looking for a shoe that won’t crush my toes, especially my baby toenails, and that my heels won’t slip out of. I have calluses on the sides of my big toe, little toe nails, and on bottom of my feet. I have a pair of Naturlizer sandals that tick all the boxes–suede lining, criss-cross at toes but baby toenail is free, adjustable buckle straps, no lumps or bumps in the sole, and soft leather. Problem is I’ve worn them out. Sneakers are fairly comfortable if I can keep them from slipping in the heel but there is either too much bulk which makes my feet sweat and swell or too minimalist, no padding at all in the sole. Sigh.

    1. You might want to check out the options in this list of Barefoot Shoe Brands for Beginners (wide toe box shoes but with more cushion). Oesh sounds like it could be a good brand for you, you also might like Whitin shoes. They come with an insole that has some padding, but you could also swap it out for your own if you need a little more.

  5. You are a foot genius!!!! This is so remarkable and such a compendium of valuable information. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t see Birkenstock – I like their regular width shoes (not what is typically listed as medium but the wider ones). Are those considered too narrow? I do notice they are way more foot shaped than most other shoes. Now many more possibilities to try. Wonderful.

    1. I’m so glad this is helpful! Birkenstock does indeed have a good foot shape to them, I think they are a great option if you want to use arch support. But I’ve personally stopped wearing Birkenstocks because I wanted to move away from the intense arch support and strengthen my feet so that they didn’t need that support any more. You can read more about this here (but of course for some people they are still great)

  6. Your website is amazingly informative. I have a frozen right big toe and the other four with some neuropathy. The big toe also has a bunion. My physical therapist directed me to your website. I think many of the shoes would help me but I have a question about the flexible sole trait of minimalist shoes. The podiatrist I saw wanted me to use a carbon fiber insert to keep the sole of the shoe more rigid. This means two different kinds of thinking since she wanted me to use a roller bar shoe and not a shoe with minimal sole. Perhaps you can give me insight here. Is there something in between that would help me? My foot is very wide across the toes.

    1. If you are planning on using a stiff insert in your shoes, I would suggest looking at some of the thicker more cushioned options from this list:
      Barebarics in particular is a good one. You can get the benefit of a flat shoe with toe space and still use the carbon fiber insert if that’s what your feet need right now. And on the side you can be working on your foot strength/mobility. It’s possible that with time you could move toward a thinner, more flexible sole.

  7. Susanna Bylund

    You don’t have my favourite on your list: Aylla (men’s sizes)!

    I have Tikki sandals (Soul) and while they are wonderfully wide they are also low volume causing the straps to bend akwardly across my high volume feet.

    Which Wildling models are extra wide? I tried their North Wolf (description said ”runs a little wider) but they were waaay too narrow, even when I tried sizing up.

  8. What brand is the red t-straps? Also, I have a high arch, 9.5″ in length and 4.5″ in width. What is the best way to get the right size?

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Picture of Hi. I'm Anya.

Hi. I'm Anya.

I first discovered barefoot shoes after a long history of foot issues. By changing my footwear and strengthening my body I was able to completely transform my life. Anya’s Reviews is my way of sharing with the world that healthy feet are happy feet!

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