How To Know If You Have Wide Feet?

Do shoes that are supposed to be your size often feel tight and uncomfortable? It’s a sign that you may have wide feet. 

Wide feet are perfectly normal. They can occur because of genetics or various factors like aging. They require the right care to prevent problems like bunions, pain and deformities. 

Here’s a quick guide on how to know if you have wide feet and what you can do about it. 

5 Signs You Have Wide Feet

5 Signs You Have Wide Feet

1. Shoes In Your Size Feel Tight 

If you buy shoes that are your size, but they still feel tight, it’s likely because you have wide feet. 

Take note where the shoes feel tight. If it’s at the front against your toes, then you’ve probably bought a smaller size shoe. Try going half a size or one size up.

But if the tightness is only on the sides of your feet, then you have wide feet. Getting shoes a size bigger may not resolve the problem. 

Note that our feet can swell up temporarily usually when it’s hot or after spending a lot of time on your feet. So going into a shoe store once and finding that shoes are too tight is not a guarantee that you have wide feet.

Try testing again at different times of the day and see if the shoes still feel tight. If they are uncomfortable no matter when you try them on, then you have wide feet.  

If you want to be really sure you have wide feet, get them measured. There are devices in shoe stores that measure foot length and width. 

Compare those measurements to the length and the width of a shoe that’s your size. 

2. You Have Flat Feet 

People with flat feet are also more likely to have wide feet. That’s because the factors that lead to fallen arches also tend to make feet wider. 

For instance, flat feet are common in the elderly as the muscles and ligaments in their feet lose elasticity. This process also makes feet wider. 

Obesity is also strongly correlated to flat feet. As feet flatten because of the added weight, they tend to also widen. 

3. Blisters

If your feet are wide, they’ll rub up against the sides of your shoes. If you do a lot of walking, the combination of constant friction and pressure can lead to painful blisters. 

The blisters usually start out as red patches. Eventually, the fiction causes the skin to open. This leads to infection and blisters. 

If you don’t do anything about them, friction blisters can be really painful to the point where you struggle to walk or cannot walk at all. 

4. Bunions & Calluses

Pressure on your toes, especially the big toe, can lead to bunions. A bunion is a bony growth that forms at the base of the big toe. It occurs when pressure from wearing tight shoes pushes your big toe against the next toe. 

Bunions are painful and can make walking difficult and uncomfortable. 

If you find a bony bump developing at the bottom of your big toe, it’s because your feet are wider than the shoes. 

Friction and pressure between your feet and shoes can also cause corns and calluses. They occur as the skin tries to protect itself from the constant friction and pressure. 

The skin hardens and thickens.

Calluses and corns are usually not painful, but you may feel self conscious about them when you are barefoot. They also make your feet feel rough. 

In some cases, calluses can break open and get infected, leading to ulcers. This can be especially dangerous for diabetics.  

5. Feet Deformities

A bunion is one of the formities that is common in people with wide feet. There are others as well that result from the pressure on your feet. 

Other deformities that can form if your shoes are too tight for your wide feet include hammer toe, crossover toe and claw foot. 

What Causes Wide Feet?

Some people are born with feet that are wider than average. If you’ve had wide feet for most of your life, that’s genetics and there isn’t much you can do about it. 

Wear shoes that are extra wide and you’ll be fine. 

External factors can also cause your feet to widen. These include: 

  • Edema or swelling. This happens when too much fluid builds up in your legs and feet. It can be caused by an underlying health condition or certain medications. It is usually temporary and goes away once the underlying problem has been treated. 
  • Aging naturally causes feet to flatten and widen. This happens as muscles and ligaments lose their elasticity and strength. 
  • During pregnancy, the body releases hormones that relax the ligaments around your pelvis to make delivery easier. These hormones also loosen ligaments in your feet, making them grow wider. This change is usually permanent. You may need to go up a half size or full size up when shopping for shoes. Also check if you need to switch to wider shoes. 
  • Prolonged obesity places stress on your foot muscles and ligaments. Over time, you are likely to develop flat feet, which is often accompanied by wider feet.   

How To Take Care of Wide Feet 

Once you are sure you have wide feet, the next step is to change your footwear. Do it immediately to avoid worsening any problems you are currently experiencing. 

How to Buy Shoes for Wide Feet

Pay more attention when you shop for shoes. If the box or product description does not specify the width of the shoe, assume that it is standard width and is not a good fit for you. 

If the width of the shoe is specified as D (for men) or B (for women), that also means it is a medium or standard width shoe. Avoid it. 

The mark you are looking for is E. Some brands will use several Es to indicate how wide a shoe is. So an EEEEE shoe is quite wide. 

Others will use a number before E such as 2E, 3E and 5E. Test different widths to find which feels more comfortable for you. 

You may also find some brands using the labels X-wide, XX-wide and so on. 

Measuring The Size Of Your Feet

If you are shopping online, you obviously cannot try on the shoe before you buy. In that case, it’s important to know the exact dimensions (length & width) of your feet. 

You can then order shoes that are a perfect fit

Orthopedicians and shoe stores have a special tool called a Brannock device they use to get a precise foot measurement. But you can also measure the size of your feet accurately at home using pen and paper.

Here’s a video showing how to do this. 

When measuring foot size, remember to place your body weight on your feet to get it to widen to its maximum point. 

Also remember to account for socks or orthotics, if you wear any. 

If your feet tend to swell, wait until they are at their most swollen before taking measurements.   

Can Feet Become Less Wide?

Most of the change in the width of your feet is permanent. There’s no way to make them narrower again. 

However, if your feet are wide because of weight gain (e.g. during pregnancy or due to obesity), they may appear smaller and narrower once you give birth or lose weight. 

That’s because there’s less pressure on the feet, so they don’t splay outwards as much. But they will not completely reverse to their previous size. 

How To Make Wide Feet Appear Smaller

As long as you wear the right shoe size, there’s no health problem with having wide feet. But some people feel self conscious about the size of their feet. 

Unfortunately, there is no way to get them back to how they were before. But there are a few tricks to making your wide feet appear smaller. 

  • Flat shoes can make your feet appear wider. Heels, on the other hand, make them appear smaller. But if you are concerned about the health effect of wearing heels, try wedges or platform heels. 
  • Open shoes expose more of your feet, making it easier to tell that they are wide. In situations where you are conscious about your foot size, opt for closed shoes. 
  • If you have to wear large shoes, you can make them appear smaller by wearing long flared pants or a long dress that covers the shoes. 
  • But don’t be afraid of showing off your legs in more casual situations. In fact, wearing dresses or shorts that reach just above your knees can make your feet appear smaller. That’s because it makes your legs appear longer, so your feet don’t look out of proportion.  
  • Avoid tight clothes that cling to your body. They will emphasize the size of your feet and shoes. 
  • Wear something chunky to balance out the size of your feet. A wide belt works great as does a chunky necklace. 

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