I have size-four feet that are wide and flat. It’s a fashion curse I’ve had to adjust to during my tenure as an editor, and at times—particularly before trainers and ugly sandals received the official stamp of approval—it’s been incredibly frustrating. As someone who loves shoes more than all other accessories, and maybe even clothes, I’ve had limited choices over the years. Getting creative with footwear options that feel current but are comfortable and practical has become a speciality of mine. I’ve suffered through multiple foot injuries due to some poor shoe purchases over the years. Take this as a prime example: Faux Birkenstocks cherry-picked to Interrail through Europe with a heavy backpack resulted in a stress fracture, an early flight home, lots of tears and years of effort to recover. I was told as a child that I had “no bounce” in gymnastics class, and through many podiatrist appointments later on in life, I discovered it was the structure of my wide feet that created the problem. The specialist’s advice? Gorgeous orthotics that only fit into the clumpiest of shoes for the rest of time. It simply wasn’t a decent option for me as a fashion assistant, and it certainly isn’t a great solution now, so over time, I have developed a list of footwear no-nos to avoid at all costs.
The Style Stalker
You may not suffer with the same flat-footedness, but if you landed on this article, it’s highly likely you do have wide feet and feel underserved by the current wide-fit options available—many of which appear to be quite cheap-looking (what is it with fake patent leather and wide-fit shoes?) or completely outmoded. I will feature some of the stronger options below, but I’m also here to give some pointers on general silhouettes, trends and finishes to look out for. Some are very obvious. For instance, pointed toes are an instant red flag, and I’m sure that even people with slimmer feet struggle with a pointed-toe style with a very high heel—the pressure this puts on your toes is not worth any amount of trending credentials, in my opinion. We only get one pair of feet, and they carry us through life, taking a battering every damn day (especially if you’re keeping that step count up!), so without further ado, let’s take a look at the best shoes for wide feet, along with the worst styles to steer clear of.
Avoid: Pointed Toes
Wear Instead: Almond, Round or Square Toes
It really doesn’t take a doctorate in podiatry to decipher that pointed-toe shoes are not great companions to wide feet. They pinch and rub and will cause bunions over time and discomfort almost instantly. Fortunately, there is no one toe shape that is in fashion these days, and you can have your pick of all of the wider cuts, such as almond, rounded or square. (Although, look out for the latter being quite slim and long at times.) The ongoing trend for chunky, utilitarian ankle boots provides very roomy shapes for an autumn/winter solution. For closed-toe shoes, a softer almond edge will still be flattering and leg-lengthening. Even if a pointed-toe shoe came in a wide fit, I would still avoid it unless it felt truly comfortable and were rendered from soft, supple leather.
Flexible mesh—who knew Balenciaga was thinking of wide-footed girls?
Avoid: Unadjustable Straps
Wear Instead: Tie-Up, Knotted, Buckled or Other Adjustable Styles
As darling as strappy sandals are, they are often quite unforgiving for wide feet, and it would take a LOT of wearing-in to make a pair comfortable. There are some wide-fit options out there via the likes of ASOS, M&S and New Look, but the designer options are few and far between. That’s why I now look out for lace-up, buckle-up and other adjustable fixtures that allow strappier shoe styles to give a bit of room. Rope-style lace-ups, particularly in suede or fabrics, will be suppler than straps that have front-and-back layers sewn together, and if you’re looking at styles that feature buckles, make sure the backs of the hardware are well-finished and not going to dig into your feet.
Most French brands have this kind of simple style.
Avoid: Extra-High Stilettos
Wear Instead: Lower or Chunkier Heels
It's just gravity! The less of an angle your foot is having to be positioned in, the less squished the front of your wide feet will be. It's also the same kind of theory for stiletto heels versus chunky ones. Chunkier styles allow weight to be distributed more evenly.
Without a wider sole, this kind of flip-flop style can be a nightmare for wider feet.
Avoid: Patent Leather
Wear Instead: Plain Leather or Suede
By default, the lacquer of a patent finish makes the leather stiffer, even with the most premium of designer shoes. I’ve tried my best with patent shoes in the past, but the truth is they are difficult to wear in, and wide feet need an easy, comfortable fit. Wherever possible, I try to find suede versions of the shoes that I want, particularly when it comes to closed-toe styles like boots, brogues or loafers. You will need to be prepared to defend their lifespan with suede protector sprays, but they will be kinder to your feet from the off. If suede isn’t an option, your next best move is for real leather and good-quality leather at that. Although synthetic or vegan leathers are quite soft in design, they aren’t as good in terms of breathability and general wear and tear—I find that non-leather shoes tend to scuff and tire out quicker than real leather shoes.
One thicker strap at the front of a pair of sandals will be cut to an average foot-width dimension, so I often look for crossover styles instead. They have a little more fabric in them and can be more readily manipulated to suit your foot style. Soft leather sandals that have a knotted and twisted front are something that I’ve come to rely upon time and again, and they are quite present across the high street in regular fits.