Choosing a pair of wide hiking shoes will go a long way if you’re after the right fit from your footwear. The first step to accomplish is finding out the precise width of your feet so that you can find a comfortable pair. Most buyers believe that shoe sizes are limited to their length and that once they get the right length, they will get shoes that perfectly fit. However, this is not always the case, and some buyers end up with blisters or deformed toes from prolonged wearing of tight and narrow hiking shoes—a scenario they could avoid if they stick with wide hiking shoes instead.
Manufacturers follow sizing charts when producing footwear. In stores, buyers can choose the footwear of their liking and choose a size that fits them. For the most part though, shoes available in stores are made to “fit everyone” for the assumption that the general consumer has similar foot sizes. In reality, however, people have different shoe shapes and sizes thus a “fit for everyone” shoe line does not really exist. Because of this, manufacturers may deviate from traditional sizing charts, so shoppers with different needs could also wear their shoes. If you go to stores or browse online retail outlets, you can find a range of wide hiking shoes, sandals, dress shoes, and casual footwear readily available.
When wide hiking shoes are a must for men and women
While shoppers can just go ahead and buy wide hiking shoes to their liking, they must consider their foot measurements first. You may want your toes to splay freely which you believe can only happen if you pick wide hiking shoes. Before you do that though, bear in mind that there are feet that are so slim and narrow while others are wide especially at the forefoot. In the end, it is the shoe measurement that matters most when picking any footwear.
There are also others who suffer from foot conditions like bunions, hammertoes, diabetes, and edema. Because of deformities and pains experienced by people with these conditions, wearing wide shoes become a necessity for them.
Bunions are bony bumps on the joint at the base of the big toe. This often happens when a person wears tight and narrow shoes, and could also be due to inherited structural defect, stress on the foot, or because of a medical condition.
Hammertoe is a contracture or bending of the joints of the second, third, fourth, or fifth toes due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments that hold the toe straight. This condition is brought about by wearing the wrong type of shoes, foot structure, diseases, and trauma.
Edema is a condition where fluids are collected in the body tissues. While it can appear in other parts of the body, it is most common in the feet, ankles, legs, and hands. This condition makes wearing tight or narrow footwear painful and uncomfortable.
Outdoor lovers especially suffer from these conditions because they tackle different terrains. Exposed to elements and hours (if not days) of walking, they almost always end up with injuries. Some may consider it normal but those who know better would swap their old pair with wide hiking shoes which may provide them comfort and stability.
Diabetes patients also have to be mindful of their footwear as wearing extremely tight hiking shoes could lead to foot ulcers which are painful. If left untreated, these can lead to amputation.
Pregnant women may also notice changes in the size of their feet. They may realize that the footwear they used to wear before pregnancy and even during their first to the second trimester no longer fit on their third trimester. Researchers attribute the changes in women’s foot size during pregnancy to the hormones produced in their bodies that increase the looseness of the joints and ligaments. As a result, and in order to support the weight that women need to carry during pregnancy, they tend to have flatter arch. New research also suggests that foot size change due to pregnancy could become permanent.
For shoe manufacturers, feet widths are categorized as narrow, medium, wide, and extra wide. Shoppers have to make sure that they pick the right footwear size in both length and width so they will be comfortable in wearing them. Choosing wide hiking shoes, for instance, will make hiking trips more enjoyable for wide-footed individuals as opposed to squeezing the feet in narrow ones. To cater to consumers with a wide forefoot and to cater to those with special needs, manufacturers offer wide hiking shoes.
Wide feet facts
Have you ever experienced the heartbreak of walking into a store, finding a great-looking pair of shoes, but walking away empty-handed because it doesn’t have your size? This is a situation that a lot of people are familiar with as at least once in your lifetime, you have experienced this. But probably, most people with wide feet have had this experience so many times they already lost count.
The average shoe width, which most stores carry, is size B. People who can’t fit these will automatically be advised by store assistants to pick among the C, D, and E size ranges which are considered wide-width.
Online shoppers need to keep an eye on dimensions as they may expect to get wide hiking shoes but get a totally smaller size than expected. Online shops have made it more convenient for buyers by categorizing wide shoes apart from standard ones.
The following are some factors that can affect the feet’s width:
Aging – the feet get wider as people grow older since the ligaments and muscles in the feet stretch and relax.
Obesity – extra weight puts more pressure on the ligaments and muscles, so the feet gets flatter.
Excessive standing – when people stand for long hours over an extended period, their feet will get wider.
Experts think that because of modern lifestyle, more people now have wider feet. The good news, most companies have seen the importance of providing the market with more fashionable and comfortable wide hiking shoes.
Characteristics of narrow, medium, wide, and extra wide hiking shoes
Identifying the distinguishing features of narrow, medium, wide-width, and extra wide hiking shoes could be a little tricky. It would be helpful to determine the width options across brands. This is important on your quest to look for new wide hiking shoes. Shoppers can start by familiarizing themselves with the different width sizing used by brands and the minor differences of each. Shoe length is represented in numbers, and width is represented in letters. Here are common width sizes used by most brands:
Women’s Narrow (AA) / Men’s Narrow (C)
Shoes that can accommodate feet that are thin, have high arches and narrow heels.
Women’s Average or Medium (B) / Men’s Average or Medium (D)
The usual shoe sizes available in stores.
If shoes don’t have a width associated with the size, then it is likely medium width.
Women’s Wide (C or D) / Men’s Wide (E)
These are ideal for people with wide feet, flat feet, or wearers with certain foot problems like the ones discussed in this article.
Women’s Extra-Wide (E) / Men’s Extra-Wide or EE
Extra wide hiking shoes that fit people with wider or swollen feet because of certain conditions.
These have more depth to accommodate removable insoles.
The more E’s, the wider the shoe is.
Men’s and women’s width sizes differ because men typically have wider feet compared to women. It is expected that men’s standard or medium-width shoes are already considered wide hiking shoes for women.
To know what width is best for you, you must learn how to measure your foot. The best way to measure your feet is by seeing a pedorthist, a professional that measures foot size and recommend modifications and devices to address foot conditions. If you are keen on measuring it on your own, here are simple steps to follow:
Measure your foot in the evening when it expands and at its widest.
Use the socks you will be wearing the wide hiking shoes with.
One foot is bigger than the other so measuring the feet should be done individually.
On a piece of paper, trace your foot by drawing a line at the toe, heel, and widest points of the sides.
Measure the length + width and use your preferred brand’s chart to figure out the actual width classification of your foot.
It may come as a surprise to you that you used to wear medium size hiking shoes but may need wide hiking shoes now. Take your foot’s measurement at least once a year as shoe sizes, both the length and the width, change.
These days, because shoes are no longer just purchased from physical stores, knowing how to pick the perfect-fitting wide hiking shoes from online stores is also a must. Here are some tips for shoppers:
Step 1: Look for clickable sorting in the online store.
Step 2: Sort brands, styles, and colors to see a listing of available wide hiking shoes in the area.
Step 3: Look for sellers with return policies to have an option of replacing the wide hiking shoes if it does not fit you well.
Points to consider about width sizing
It is easy to disregard a shoe’s width size when purchasing a pair, but buyers need to embrace the fact that the only way they can take good care of their feet is to buy a pair that is a perfect fit in both length and width. While there is no standard width system that shoe manufacturers follow when producing narrow, medium, wide, or extra wide hiking shoes, it helps to remember that the basic difference between width sizes is 1/8 of an inch.
In Europe, 90 percent of shoe sizes do not come in multiple widths. A European hiker may have to look for an international brand to get wide hiking shoes that will fit his feet right. However, medical brands made it a point to release wide hiking shoes to cater to the needs of people with special foot care needs.
For non-medical footwear, some devices could be added to address width differences. Remember that a shoe fits right if the edges and bottoms perfectly align with the footbed. If a shoe comes as too tight across the top, it would be best to replace it with a pair with extra depth. If the shoe feels loose at the top, an orthotic filler is needed.
Standard width across brands
A lady shopper could shop for a size 7 in the lady’s department and her kid could also wear a size 7 in the children’s department. A guy may shop for a size 7 shoe as well but this would be too big for both the lady and the child. To add up to the complication, if either of these people goes shopping in different parts of the world, a size 7 may not be the right size for them since different countries or territories follow different shoe size variations.
There are shoes that only come in standard widths but most companies have embraced different width sizes to cater to narrow or wide-footed individuals. Generally, brands use a group of letters to describe shoe width.
Different brands follow a different sizing chart. For instance, New Balance has sizes from B for narrow to 6E for double extra wide. Columbia shoes and boots have sizes up to 16 EE wide. Shoppers need to familiarize themselves with the chart used by their preferred brands. Some brands use a simple chart while others use a wider range.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) uses the ISO 9407:1991 – Mondopoint shoe size system which is based on length and width of the foot in millimeters. While Mondopoint sizes for length are more commonly used, a more sensible width fitting sizing system is also available.
This is based on the mean foot length and width which are represented in millimeters. For instance, if you are looking for a pair of wide width hiking shoes in 280/110, it indicates that your foot measurement is 280 millimeters long and 110 millimeters wide.
The Mondopoint system is widely used in sizing winter sports footwear. This is also used by NATO and other military services. However, still widely used in the United States and the United Kingdom are letter abbreviations:
US width abbreviations for women's shoes
SS – Extra Slim (or Quad)
S – Slim
N – Narrow
M – Medium
R – Regular
W – Wide
WW/EW/XW – Extra Wide, Double Wide
WWW – Triple Wide
An alternate US width fitting system is also in effect. However, this is slowly being replaced. There is not much difference as this system also uses letters: AA and A, C and D, and EE and EEE.
US and UK width sizes for men
In the US and the UK, the letters used for men’s shoe width sizes differ. The US has sizes B, C, C+, D, E/D+, EE, EEE (3E), EEEE (4E), EEEEE (5E). The UK starts with D for narrow shoes, E for medium, E+/EX for wide-width, and sizes F, F+/FX, G, G+/GX, and H for wider shoe widths. There used to be Fittings 4 to 8 used in the UK, but these were later discontinued, and the new standard width-size representations are used.
The European system is referred to as the length of the “last” which means that the sizing measurement is the length of the foot plus two centimeters. It is expressed in “Paris Points,” a unit of length that equals to 2/3 of a centimeter. The EU shoe size system is not adjusted for gender. Some French outlets, however, give widths like Largeur Confort, Grande Largeur, Extra Larges, and Ultra Larges.
Tips for choosing the best men's and women's wide hiking shoes
Although most shelves are filled with medium shoes, people with wide feet could still find the best wide hiking shoes to wear. Here are tips to consider when choosing the best wide hiking shoes:
Ask to have your feet measured in the store. Stores have the Brannock device which accurately measures the length and width of the foot. While most shoe manufacturers use different shoe sizing charts, knowing the length and width measurements is a good start to find the perfect-fitting shoe.
Go for shoes with wide toe boxes. If there is a shoe style that naturally makes a sound choice for people with wide feet, it would be wide hiking shoes with wide toe boxes. It will be easier for you to have a comfortable shoe if you go for styles that have wider toe boxes. Styles like pointy toes, on the other hand, would feel like wearing a torture device so keep your hands (or your feet) off of these styles.
Choose wide hiking shoes with removable linings or insoles and always fit shoes with your orthotics. If you want to create more room for your feet, choose shoes with removable linings. If you have orthotics, always try on shoes with them.
Slip-on shoes are untouchable. While slip-on shoes are great, they would allow the feet to slide forward. Even if you are wearing the right size, your feet will squash up in the toe box.
Strap or lace-up shoes are your best friends. Since these shoes allow you to set them as wide as you please, you will have no problem wearing them. You can punch as many holes as you need (and as allowed by the strap) to have more room for your feet. You can also get the longest laces you can find more room as well.
Shop at stores specializing in wide hiking shoes. People with wide feet get easily frustrated shopping for shoes in stores with very limited options. Thankfully, there are outlets and websites that specialize in selling wide hiking shoes. It is almost guaranteed that you will find a pair in a style you like and in the size you need.
The best fit
Improper shoe size and shape are two of the main causes of toe deformities, ingrown toenails, and other foot condition. Shoes that do not fit you right can also lead to muscular imbalances, which would then result in injuries in other parts of the body, according to an expert.
A good fit accommodates the natural expansion of the foot throughout the day and during activities. The best fitting shoe is one that allows the natural motion of the foot. With proper shoes, you can move and work freely without having to worry about pain or injury. Individuals with wide feet who refuse to wear wide hiking shoes often endure pain and injury. If they keep using the wrong shoes, they will still have the same injury.
Shoes that fit perfectly are very important whether for casual strolls or serious hikes outdoors. Since the feet support all of the body’s weight as well as the weight of other things a person is carrying, finding the shoes that support the feet is a must. Here are some benefits to wearing the right wide hiking shoes:
The shoes absorb shock when the feet hit the ground hard, especially when walking over rough terrains. This causes wear and tear in the foot tendons and ligaments which can lead to more serious conditions. The perfect-fitting shoes absorb the shock, provide cushioning and comfort to the feet, and help maintain balance during hikes.
Good shoes prevent ankle injuries, a very important consideration when you are outdoors as ankle injuries can be very painful and may even require you to stop hiking for an extended period.
Good shoes guard the feet from damages and injuries while preventing accidents like falls when you are hiking.
The right footwear width prevents conditions like bunions, shin splints, hammertoes, etc.
Characteristics of the best wide hiking shoes for men and women
When you go out hiking and you have wide feet, the least that you need is a pair of shoes that are so tight, it will seem like every step you take is torture. If your feet are wide, it is only sound that you pick wide hiking shoes. You need to find a pair that:
will reduce the pressure that you feel in your foot;
follow its natural motions;
allow it to breathe; and
protect it from the elements.
Wide-width versus wide toe box
There are people whose feet are wide all over but others have feet that are broad at the toes but narrow at the heel. So, is it really wide hiking shoes that your feet need or is it footwear with a wide toe box?
If you have feet that are wider at the toes and narrower at the heel, getting wide hiking shoes would mean having footwear with excessive space at the heel. On the other hand, if your feet are wide all over, wearing a shoe with wide toe box means squeezing the foot inside.
People with uniformly wide feet should buy wide hiking shoes. Those with a narrower heel and wider toes should get one with a wide toe box. The goal is to let the toes spread out naturally to prevent impact and pressure from affecting the foot.
Frequently asked questions about wide hiking shoes
Since the difference between wide hiking shoes from standard sizes is only about 1/8 of an inch, shoppers may feel confused and mystified about what huge impact it could give them. To help clear your thoughts, here are some of the most frequently asked questions of many consumers:
Will wide hiking shoes spare me from injuries?
You may hate your current hiking footwear for the injuries but there is no guarantee that new wide hiking shoes will solve your problems. As with everything, may it be a pair of wide hiking shoes or narrow ones, comfort is the greatest factor. If the shoes are not comfortable, then you will still end up with injuries.
It also helps to consider the safety features of your wide hiking shoes. Most brands offer shoes with added safety features so wearers will have a comfortable journey.
Have wide hiking shoes always been available for everyone?
Experts say that the average shoe sizes of Americans have grown over time—a trend observable in both children and adults. Even way back in 1901, companies like Nordstrom have offered shoes for people with hard-to-fit feet which are mostly made to order. Now, more shoe stores, retail outlets, and even online shops are offering wide and other special size shoes. Wide hiking shoes are specially made to provide comfort, stability, and safety to people who love outdoor adventures.
If I can’t fit the medium-width shoes of a brand I particularly like, does it automatically mean I need a wider shoe for all shoe brands?
Regardless of the brand, if you are getting blisters, experiencing foot hangs, or if you feel pain when wearing a shoe, then it is safe to look for a wider option. If not one pair is available in your size you can always choose a pair of wide hiking shoes. As brands could follow different sizing charts, one brand’s wide hiking shoes could still fall under another brand’s medium.
What shoe part is wide when it is classified as wide-width?
When a shoe is considered wide-width, the shoe part referred to is the upper. This means that the upper has about 1/8 inch more room as compared to the medium or standard-width shoe that the brand offers. Wide hiking shoes have slightly wider upper as compared to the standard size.
Are there more fashionable wide hiking shoes available?
A misconception of shoe shoppers about wide hiking shoes is that they can be clunky. While back in the day, shoe makers focused on producing wide-width shoes for people with special needs and medical conditions, they are producing more fashionable shoe options now. Wide hiking boots and shoes can come in aesthetically pleasing designs and cuts to suit the needs and demands of buyers.
Are there also wide-fit sandals for hiking?
Apart from wide hiking shoes, there are also wide hiking sandals hikers can use during their trips. Most outdoor gear brands are also producing wide-width or wide-fit sandals for hiking, running, trail explorations, and camping trips.
What can I do to make more room for my feet?
If your wide hiking shoes still feel uncomfortable, you can work on some techniques to make more room for your shoes. Here are two simple techniques:
Stretch the wide hiking shoes. A simple and affordable way to stretch wide hiking shoes is by freezing them. What you can do is fill two plastic bags with water and seal it completely. Place it in the wide hiking shoes and throw these in the freezer. As the bag freezes, the liquid expands and gradually stretches the wide hiking shoes. Take the frozen bag and shoe out of the freezer and remove the liquid-filled bag. Wear the shoe right away. Once it thaws out, you will feel the shoes molding to your feet.
Use different lacing techniques on your wide hiking shoes. One of the reasons why you end up with an injured foot, even if you are already wearing wide hiking shoes, is because of the wrong lacing technique you used. For people with wider forefeet, the wide hiking shoes should be laced a little loosely at the front to give more room. For people with uniformly wide feet, skipping some eyelets can give the foot more room to expand.
15 best wide hiking shoes
Oboz Sawtooth II Low
Columbia Ivo Trail
Danner Trail 2650
Vasque Breeze III Low GTX
Merrell Moab 2 GTX
Merrell Moab Edge 2
Danner Trail 2650 GTX
The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX
Keen Venture WP
Keen Targhee III Waterproof
Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX
Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator
Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof
Merrell Moab FST
Vasque Mantra 2.0 GTX
Paul loves adventure. Over the past 20 years, he has climbed, hiked, and ran all over the world. He’s summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races. He has worked in the outdoor industry as a whitewater and hunting guide, gear tester, copywriter, and outfitting specialist at places like The National Outdoor Leadership School, No Barriers USA, and Sierra Trading Post. He has been quoted in NYMag, NBCNews, and Business Insider to name a few.
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