Maybe you were born with wide feet, or perhaps your feet have broadened as you’ve aged. Either way, you might have trouble finding a shoe that fits if you have a wider-than-normal foot.

While wide feet are usually nothing to worry about, they can sometimes be caused by other health issues. Treating these conditions and wearing proper footwear can help minimize any problems that people with wide feet can experience.

Read on to learn more about what causes wide feet and how to find the best-fitting shoe.

Feet come in all different shapes and sizes. Causes of wide feet include:

  • Genetics. Some people are simply born with wider feet. If you have flat feet, you’re also prone to having wider feet.
  • Age. As you get older, the ligaments and tendons in your body loosen a little, and your foot tends to grow longer and wider.
  • Foot deformities. If you develop deformities like bunions, calluses, or hammer toes, your foot may become wider. Bunions affect about a third of U.S. adults.
  • Improper footwear. Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly can lead to foot deformities. Some studies have found between 63 and 72 percent of people wear shoes that don’t fit the width or length of their feet.
  • Pregnancy. The pregnancy hormone relaxin can cause ligaments and joints to loosen around the feet. That’s why pregnant women may develop wider and larger feet, especially during their second and third trimesters.
  • Swelling. Edema, a medical term that means “swelling,” can cause your feet to widen. This swelling can be temporary and may go away once the problem is treated. Certain medications, specific health conditions, injuries, and fluid retention can all lead to edema.

Some people with wide feet report discomfort. This is often due to wearing shoes that don’t fit properly.

Footwear that’s too tight or narrow can cause pain, blisters, and certain deformities, such as:

  • Bunions. A bunion is an enlargement of bone or tissue around the joint at the base of your big toe. When a bunion grows, it may cause your big toe to turn toward your second toe. This can lead to pain and swelling.
  • Calluses. Putting too much pressure on the skin due to tight shoes can cause a type of callus known as a corn.
  • Crossover toe. Your toes can cross over each other when they’re squeezed too tight in a shoe.
  • Hammer toe. A hammer toe is a toe that starts to curl up, rather than lying flat.

Most shoe stores have devices for measuring the length and width of your foot.

If you’d like to measure your foot at home, follow these steps:

  1. Put on a pair of socks.
  2. Tape two pieces of white paper to the floor.
  3. Trace your foot onto the paper.
  4. With a ruler, measure the width of the widest part of your foot on the traced paper.

Shoe size charts, which can be found in stores or online shoe sites, can help you determine how wide your foot is. Remember to measure both feet, as one may be wider than the other.

Finding a shoe that fits your foot can make all the difference if you have wide feet. It’s a good idea to work with an expert who can help size you.

Get measured

The first step is to get measured. Remember, the size of your foot may have changed, so don’t rely on a past measurement.

Have your foot measured at the end of the day when it will be at its largest.

Make sure your toes don’t feel cramped

When trying on a shoe, make sure your toes don’t feel cramped. There should be about 3/8” or 1/2” of space (about the width of your finger) between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.

Be sure to examine the shape and depth of the toe box of the shoe. A deep, square toe box is often ideal for wider feet or foot deformities.

Look for shoes that offer a wide option

You’ll most likely want to purchase a “wide” version of the shoe, but each brand runs differently, so you may find that some shoes are wide enough.

Women with wide feet may be able to wear a man’s shoe for a better fit.

If your feet are different lengths

If your feet are different lengths, buy a pair of shoes to fit the larger foot.

You may also want to purchase a shoe with a removable insole, so you can add an orthotic device, if needed. Additionally, shoes without attached tongues are preferable, as they typically provide a better fit.

The most important piece of advice for those with wide feet: Never purchase a shoe that’s uncomfortable.

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Often, there’s not much you can do to make your foot appear slimmer. Wearing narrow, tight shoes will only worsen the problem.

If you have flat arches, special insoles may make your foot appear thinner while giving you support.

In some cases, losing weight or reducing swelling may also help your feet look narrower.

Some procedures may lessen the width of a person’s foot.

Foot-narrowing surgery, often dubbed the “Cinderella procedure,” has become trendy among women who want to fit into pointy, high-heeled shoes.

Doctors can shorten toes by removing an entire knuckle of the toe and pinning the bones back together. Toes can also be lengthened by cutting the bone and stretching it, or fusing in an implant. In some cases, toes can even be removed.

While cosmetic foot procedures have gained popularity in recent years, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, along with many doctors, call elective foot surgeries an “ill-advised trend.” Many experts warn that these procedures carry risks, and foot surgery should only be performed when absolutely necessary.

Bunion removal surgery may also make feet slimmer. This procedure involves removing a bunion and making other repairs to the foot.

See a doctor if you experience any type of pain in your foot that doesn’t go away or becomes debilitating. An orthopedic surgeon or a podiatrist can help determine what’s causing the discomfort and offer a solution.

If swelling is the reason for your wide feet, you might need to see another medical professional who specializes in treating your condition. The swelling could be due to pregnancy, heart problems, kidney issues, diabetes, or other medical concerns that require treatment.

Certain medicines, along with rest, may help reduce swelling in the body. Talk to your doctor about possible options.

Feet come in all different shapes and sizes. Some people are born with wide feet. Others develop wider feet as they age. And, certain individuals have foot deformities or other medical conditions that are to blame for their broad feet.

Your doctor can help you determine if your wide feet are problematic. While there are some things you can do to help your feet appear slimmer, the best advice might be to just embrace them.