For some men, shopping for sneakers, boots and all manner of footwear can be tricky if they’ve been handed some particularly wide feet. Unfortunately for this demographic, not all shoemakers take varying widths into account when making their shoes, instead, sticking to a more universal narrower fit. Fear not flipper-clad guys, for there is still a good number of footwear manufacturers who do look kindly upon you and offer shoes in various widths so that you can find a pair that prove to be unbelievably comfortable.
How Wide Is Wide?
First off, wide fit shoes are just like their normal-sized brethren, sporting the same overall length, but the front section and toe box are extended outwards to help accommodate for wider feet. Wide shoes can also have a higher profile to account for a greater foot depth.
As for what size you are can depend on the manufacturer you want to buy a pair of shoes from as it’s not strictly universal. Each brand will have its own in-house designation for wide fits, so you will need to do a little bit of research online, although, for situations such as this, we’d always recommend going into a store and actually trying some pairs of.
Some brands will use wording: Normal, Medium, Wide, Extra Wide, for example, others will use letters: A, B, D, E etc, and finally, you can also find letters with numbers: 2A, 2E and so on.
In North America, shoes are sized as A, B, C, D, E, EE, EEE, EEEE, F, G, with ‘D’ referring to normal width. But in the UK, C, D, E, F, G, H are used and ‘F’ is used to indicate a normal width. Australia follows the UK system for men and the US for women’s footwear.
Experiment With Different Materials
This is kinda sucky if you work in a conservative office, but softer materials generally suit wider feet more than their less forgiving, hard-leather counterpart. Materials like suede and nubuck stretch and move with your feet more, even if they’re on the more casual side and might not pass the test at work. This isn’t a dealbreaker though, as many of the shoes we’ve included below are perfect for even the stuffiest of corporate environments.
Don’t Fall For The Con
Most shoe salesman will spin the age-old yarn that ‘leather shoes stretch’, and it’s not a complete lie – but it doesn’t really matter. Even if you’re a lazy, sedentary slob whose daily exercise consists of walking from your cubicle to the office snack bar to get a bag of Twisties, your feet will swell up during the day. What feels ‘just a bit snug’ when you’re trying on in a store, is likely to cause a world of pain running for the bus to the outer suburbs after six in the evening.
Go To A Cordwainer
Before you ask ‘what the hell is a cordwainer?’, we should probably remind you that some guys just won’t fit any shoe, even if they’re a wide fit. To prevent a lifetime of blisters, trips to the podiatrists, and an unsightly limp that makes women avoid you, you might want to save some money (ie, a shitload) and hit up a shoemaker. They can fit shoes to specific specifications, add details you can’t get on any other shoe, and provide you with the smug satisfaction of being able to say ‘it’s bespoke, actually’ when your mates at work ask you where you buy your shoes.
But for those who don’t want to go down the bespoke route, we’ve scoured the web to find some of the finest makers of wide-fit shoes you can buy right now.
The company uses the lettering and numbers with letters systems, with wide shoes being classed as 2E, extra-wide as 4E and xx-wide as 6E. D is a standard fit and B is narrow. The 574, for example, one of New Balance’s most recognisable silhouettes, can be had in standard, wide and extra-wide variants (and even go up to a US size 18), and you can still benefit from the full range of colour options.
Boots, sneakers, loafers and even sandals are all given the wide fit treatment, and for styles you’d actually want to be seen wearing. ASOS doesn’t divulge which sizing method it follows, however, so we have to assume that, by being called ‘wide fit’ (and being a British brand) will follow the UK lettering system, so G or H widths will be implemented.
Robinson’s Shoes follows the UK sizing method of lettering, with G and H being wide and extra-wide fits respectively. Navigating the website is a breeze, simply select the width you’re after and you’ll be presented with all the styles that match. Wide-fit brands include R.M. Williams, Barker and Cheaney.
M&S, like ASOS, doesn’t give away the system it uses but again, being British, we can again assume the British lettering system is used. However, M&S says in the description of each pair if they rock a wide or extra-wide fit.
The company also uses a simplistic width naming system: N, narrow; M, medium; W, wide and X, extra, so if you find a pair with an XW option, they will be extra wide. With some 200 pairs across wide and extra-wide variants, you’re not exactly left wanting for choice. With sneakers, boots, loafers, dress shoes and sandals all covered, you’re guaranteed to find a well-fitting pair.
Today, not a lot has changed. The classic 6-inch boot retains the same silhouette as its ancestor but now use PrimeLoft ECO insulation and waterproof leather to make them more sustainable and ethical than ever and can be had in multiple colours and can even be customised if you so wish. Best of all, every single shoe size is available in a wide fit too, although Timberland does recommend you buy half a size down from your regular fit.
R.M. provides an online tool to help you determine the width of your feet, and offers its boots in wide and extra-wide variants. If for some reason there is a huge difference in size between your left and right feet, you can customise your boots accordingly.
A vast chunk of Cole Haan’s footwear range is available in a wide fit (although, not extra wide it seems) and many styles are ticked off, including sneakers, Chelsea boots, brogues, Oxfords.
Adidas also has an extensive range of wider fitting shoes too, covering golf, trail running and everyday walking shoes. Adidas doesn’t, however, say how wide of a fit its shoes provide, but we imagine they will use the American system, meaning shoes will fall under the ‘E’ category.
Nike simply states whether a pair of sneakers is wide or extra wide, and it seems the extra-wide variant is better served.
Clarks’ wide range is well varied. From casual shoes and sneakers to formal boots and even the company’s iconic desert boot being given the wide treatment. Clarks simply states its shoes are wide, which, being British, would translate to a G fitting.
A vast majority of Johnston & Murphy's footwear range is available in wider sizes, meaning you can get sneakers, boots, loafers, dress shoes and hiking/walking shoes in sizes to fit the flippers at the end of your legs. The range includes the XC4 series, which focuses on four areas of comfort: moisture-wicking, lightweight, additional cushioning and extra removable insoles to make sure you get the best fit possible.
This means shoes cost a little more than others, but you get genuine quality in return. The range of wide shoes is nothing short of vast either, with over 400 pairs available to choose from in widths E - EEE. Dress boots and shoes, loafers, Chukka boots, Chelsea boots, sneakers and more.
It should come as no surprise then to learn that the original Sperry boat shoe can be had in wide and extra wide fits, along with a range of casual canvas and leather sneakers and winter boots.
Quality is still a dominant focus of Florsheim today, with an extensive range of dress shoes including Oxford, Derby and brogues, along with loafers in both leather and suede being available in wider fits.