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Do You Have Wide Feet? Here’s Why You Should Avoid Patent Leather (Plus Other Tips)

Shopping for shoes that are wide enough is no easy feet.

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If only wide shoes were as common as wide feet — they’d be front and center in the shoe aisle, and we wouldn’t have to hunt, dig, or ask the store assistant to check the stock room for our size. Adding insult to injury: Many “wide option” shoes are not actually designed for wide feet.

Time and again, I find myself spending money on flats and sneakers that don’t even last a year — sometimes not even a week — because they don’t stretch as we break them in. If you’re ready to break this frustrating cycle, the tips below will help you find the right shoes for wide feet.

Choose suede and soft leather over patent leather.

Those shiny dress loafers might be tempting — they’re slip-on, low to the ground, and can withstand a little rain. But if they’re shiny, there’s a good chance they’re made with patent leather, which isn’t a great pick. True patent leather is a type of coated leather with a polished, water-resistant finish. (Nowadays, many products labeled patent leather are actually made of plastics.)

Whether it’s true patent leather or not, there’s a good chance that it has no give — a no-go for wide feet. The lack of “breathing room” can cause feet to become irritated and swell, making a tight space even tighter. Instead, choose loafers made with soft materials like leather, faux leather, and suede.

Look for unisex sizes.

Some brands sell the same shoe in a men’s version and a women’s version, with the women’s style having a narrower toe and heel. You can therefore buy the men’s version in your size (men’s size 7 is usually women’s size 9), but this takes a little guess work. Not quite the same (but close): Look for brands that sell unisex shoes. You won’t have to guess your size, and because the shoes are made to fit everyone, you won’t have to deal with a narrow toe or heel.

Add comfort to your existing pair.

If you aren’t ready to spend money on another pair of shoes (it’s a risk, after all), there’s nothing wrong with sprucing up the ones you already own. Here are a few ways to make your sneakers, boots, AND heels more comfortable:

  • Use a shoe stretch spray. We recommend a shoe spray because other DIY stretchers might stain the shoe interior. To do: Spray the product on the area you want to stretch, put on a thick pair of socks, and wear the shoes until they dry. Or, if you saved the thick cardboard inserts that came inside the shoes, tuck the inserts into two socks and stuff the socks inside each shoe. Let them widen overnight. Looking for a shoe stretch spray? Try this one from Foot Matters Professional (buy from Amazon, $9.99).
  • Take out the inserts and replace them. Swapping the inserts might give you a little extra room. Keep in mind that taking them out entirely might not be best — insoles help prevent discomfort and blisters (which can cause your feet to swell). If you can’t find inserts online that are more comfortable, try swapping in some insoles or orthotics from another pair you have at home.
  • Wear socks that wick moisture. Cotton, wool, and very thick socks absorb sweat and hold heat, causing your feet to swell. Moisture-wicking materials like Merino wool and blends of polyester and spandex should do the trick. (Just look for “moisture wicking” on the sock label.)

We love these shoe brands for wide feet.

If you’re looking to invest in a shoe for wide feet, these are our top brands.

  • For every day activities: Kizik. Style literally meets function in these cushioned walking shoes, because you don’t have to bend over to put them on — really. The back squishes down when you put your foot in, then pops back up. They’re pricey, but Woman’s World reader Cynthia Kier (54) says they’re worth every penny. Each style is unisex and sold in wide EE.
  • For walks, adventures, or long standing periods: KURU Footwear. Unlike other brands, Kuru sorts its shoes into categories based on your foot ailment (plantar fasciitis, bunions, you name it). Prices are high, but the shoes will last for years. Plus, women say the bigger toe box gives plenty of breathing room for wide feet.

Looking for more options? Check out our top 10 shoes for wide feet that have some pizzaz.

Woman’s World aims to feature only the best products and services. We update when possible, but deals expire and prices can change. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission.
Questions? Reach us at shop@womansworld.com.

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