We often receive the following question (or slight variations thereof) from readers and customers who are interested in determining the proper width of shoe to purchase:
I had my foot width measured at a local shoe store and was told that I need a wide shoe. Will the shoes you offer on your site work for me and my feet?
First, let me say that conventional foot and shoe width measurement techniques are inherently flawed and that we take a different approach in determining foot width and shape. The foot width measurements performed in most footwear retail stores use a piece of equipment called the Brannock Device—a metal device bearing numbers that you stand on while the salesperson assesses the length and width (e.g., B, D, 4E, etc.) of your foot. Though widely considered the gold standard for measuring foot width in the footwear industry, this device assesses foot width at the ball of the foot, not at the ends of the toes, where you need the width the most. An important truth is that most of us in the developed world possess toe deformities that are a function of the footwear we wear, and the Brannock Device measures the already deformed or misshapen foot. This is not helpful to those looking to restore normal foot width and shape.
In people who have never worn conventional footwear, it's the ends of the toes that are the widest part of the foot. This is true of all babies too unless there is a congenital deformity present in the foot (a very rare scenario). Indeed, this is the way we all start out in life. Though for many of us who have worn conventional footwear for decades, it's the ball of the foot that is the widest part. With the proper rehabilitation techniques, including natural foot care approaches, you can help restore normal, natural foot and toe anatomy. But this requires selecting footwear that allows your toes to splay the way nature intended.
So, shoe store salespeople may indeed tell you that you need a wide shoe, but usually, this means widest at the ball of the foot; in most cases, there is little consideration for the needed width at the ends of the toes. Brannock-based foot width measurements don't take into account true foot shape, the way nature intended it to be. The men's and women's footwear we offer on the Natural Footgear site, however, does take into account normal and natural foot and toe anatomy, and each shoe, boot, or sandal possesses a toe box that helps enable optimal toe splay. Most people find that the footwear we offer is snug where it's needed (around the heel and midfoot) and roomy where it's needed (in the toe box, from the ball of the foot out to the ends of the toes).
The Shoe Liner Test is perhaps the single best way to determine whether a shoe is appropriately wide for your feet. This test takes into consideration the true width of your foot when natural toe splay is enabled. It's an important test for finding shoes that are not only appropriately wide, but also appropriately shaped, and it does what a Brannock Device does not: Account for the toes! If you're considering purchasing a pair of shoes, boots, or sandals from the Natural Footgear site, you'll want to check out the “Sizing” tab that appears on each individual product page. Under this tab, you will (in many cases) find printable sizing charts that will give you a good indication of the width measurements for each available size.
This video, featuring Dr. Ray McClanahan, the inventor of Correct Toes, discusses traditional vs. natural shoe sizing techniques and demonstrates the Shoe Liner Test described above. It's another resource you can use to learn more about how to select footwear that truly respects the shape of your natural human foot:
If you ever have any questions about shoe sizing and how to achieve the best possible fit for your unique feet, please don't hesitate to reach out to us and we'll provide as much guidance as we can.
The above content is for educational or informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or augment professional medical instruction, diagnosis, or treatment. Read full disclaimer here.
Dr. Robyn Hughes is a naturopathic physician, or ND, with a special interest in natural foot health and sports medicine. After completing medical school at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, Dr. Robyn trained extensively with renowned sports podiatrist and natural foot care specialist, Dr. Ray McClanahan. Dr. Robyn is a co-founder of Natural Footgear, a founding member of the Natural Foot Health Institute, a freelance health writer, and a regular speaker at foot care teaching events. Dr. Robyn lives in Asheville, NC, where she’s an avid road cyclist, trail runner, and yoga student.
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