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. (We understand your frustration when your shoes limit your activities. Our active founder opened his shoe factory to solve this problem.)

Are my feet wide?

When we were young before our feet met their first shoe, we all had wide feet: our toes were the widest part of our feet. 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 adjust even when we can’t pinpoint the problem. Maybe we try a shoe size larger or look for a wide shoe. Women sometimes turn to men’s shoes that are constructed a bit wider for relief.

For many of us, that feeling may tell us that our sizing is wrong, but rather, our toes tell 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, classified as EE, offer more room throughout the shoe, and, it is the difference between wide-toe-box shoes for women and men. 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 fresh air. For many of us, that extra wiggle room is precisely what our feet have wanted without us knowing it.   

Wide feet love wide toe box shoes so they can feel like themselves

Hobbits keep their toes free.

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Shoes with a Wide-Toe-Box Means is different than wide shoes.

When we designed our footwear, we focused on providing a roomy toe-box.  With this natural foot shape, we are able to serve feet of different widths with the same shoe. Wide feet (no more than EE) have found a good fit in the same shoes that accommodate a standard or even a narrow width.  

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

By choosing a shoe built around the foot's shape, 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. We often 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 three 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 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, choose a company that allows for exchanges and returns to ensure you can get the right shoe fit.

How do I know if I need wide-toe-box shoes?

In brief, be sure to listen to your toes and trust your feet. They have much to tell us about what is most comfortable for them. We see it daily; when someone tries on a pair of wide-toe-box shoes for the first time, like our SOMs, we often hear: "Wow, those are comfortable!" Right then, they realize these toe shoes make a lot of sense (Well, our founder's story tells more about how he conceived the shoes with common sense.) In other words, toe shoes with wide-toe-boxes are for everyone with toes that need to spread to give balance and stability. This includes standard or "normal" feet, too.

Please check out our blog to learn more about the steps you can take when adjusting from traditional footwear to SOM's wide-toe-box shoes. : New to Barefoot Shoes?

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



  • Thank you for reaching out to us, Abbs. We can’t speak for other brands, but all of our shoes are unisex, with the same wide, flexible toe-box for both men and women. In SOMs, toes have room to breathe and be themselves without be crammed into an unnatural shape.

  • You buy shoes that are hald inch bigher than yoir longest toe. Common sense. The problem wirh shoes today os athletic shoes are cut. Like stilettos in the toe box so and inch in the front isn’t helping the sides. And to make matters even worse most joba today require safety shoes and yet still shoe companies still dont get it and make the hard toe box so narrow noone likes to wear them. So my question is are mens shoes made wider in the toe box? Im really thinking of trying mens composite toe shoes because im tired of bloody and bruised toes.

  • 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

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