If anyone knows the woes of shopping for big, wide feet, it’s me. By the time I was eleven years old, I had grown a whopping size twelve foot with that they call a 3E width; today my feet measures 11 inches long, and over 4.5 inches at their widest…with bunions to boot! From my experience, I know it can feel like a waste of time or flat out joke to find and purchase new shoes, let alone one that actually fit your foot properly. But I have had plenty of success over the years, through much trial and error, and I hope that this guide can help with your search.
Before jumping into the guide, let’s make sure we understand the terminology around wide shoe shopping. Foot width, as pertains to shoes, is measured in D and E, D representing medium width, and E through EEEEEE (6E) representing the range of wider fits. Not all shoe brands or models offer varying widths, so it’s important to know ahead of time what your options are. With that, let’s review some of the more wide-friendly brands:
The Puma, Adidas, and especially Jordan brands are narrow-running brands. Having especially flat feet as well, I find that most Puma and Adidas models also have minimal arch support, and when they do, they try to mold the insole tightly to the contours of a “regular” foot and arch, immediately rendering it unwearable for snowshoe-footed folks like us. Jordan models also tend to stop at size 13, if you are looking for a longer shoe as well.
Nike as a brand also runs narrow, and I must say they also produce what is still the narrowest shoe model I have ever personally tried–the Shox. However, I can also say that in the few instances that Nike does a wide shoe, they do it damn well. Over the years, I have invested in the extra wide Nike Pegasus on three different occasions and loved it. I rocked those things so hard, it became part of my identity, (e.g., “Man, Jackson always has the flyest Pegasi!”). They are extremely comfortable, come in a good variety of colors, and have a great long lifespan.
About two years ago, I also tried the Air Monarch III and it was like where wide feet go when they die if they’ve lived a good life. The comfort, support, and cushion level is unlike anything I’ve experienced in an athletic, non-skate shoe. I think the particular pair I had were an indulgent 5E size 12, and I proudly introduced their nickname of “Footboats.” Since it felt like walking on water, the name felt particularly applicable.
As a young American male, I regularly find myself sacrificing fit for the brand equity of Nike. If you’re comfortable taking that same route now and again, be prepared to buy from 1.5 to up to 3 sizes too long.
Reebok has its moments, and may typically run wider than Nike, but often I’ve found Reebok has no concept of the actual shape of a foot, which is especially problematic when you’re looking for a flexible, practically custom shape as is the case with wide, flat feet. Nevertheless, I have found Reebok to be a great wide brand for cleats for the soccer, football, or baseball players out there.
Converse has a tendency to be a very threadbare, basic, classic shoe, and this favors the wide-footed. In case by now you haven’t noticed the trend, style and innovation (cough* Nike*!) are often especially unforgiving. That said, most Converse run slightly wide as a brand, and you can usually get away with wearing your correct size or one size up.
Vans when appropriately selected, are God’s gift to the wide and flat-footed. They tend to feel more like plush chinchilla bath towels wrapped loosely around your toes than they do shoes, and you can definitely wear your correct size or a +0.5–the only catch is they’re not always occasion- or sport-appropriate.
New Balance, however, is the Wide Athletic Shoe Brand. It’s actually podiatrist-recommended, and my personal experience with them has been phenomenal. With a “wide” variety of E-EEEEE models, they’re a great basketball, walking, or cross-training shoe, and I was especially excited to find they actually made the only wide model of track shoe I’ve been able to find. You may have to sacrifice on the style side a bit, but I’ve definitely noticed in the last two years that NB is pushing their designs and really making up some ground. Apart from Nike, there’s no other brand I’ve worn more in the last six years, and from a fit, function, and value perspective, New Balance is the pick for the wide, flat, or bunioned foot.
So to recap:
Jordan – Horrible
Adidas – Horrible
Puma – Bad
Reebok – Fair
Nike – Fair
Converse – Good
Vans – Great
New Balance — Great
A quick note on dress shoes: For those looking for wide shoes of a more formal variety, I’ve found that Rockport is a very reliable brand. You may still have to go a size up, but as long as you’re sure to purchase square- or rounded-toe and not pointed, you should be in great shape.
Having recently decided to roll the dice and embrace the boat shoe trend I’ve been seeing, I was extremely relieved to see that a good number of Sperry, Timberland, and Rockport models come up to 2E in width. I went with a pair of Sperry’s, size 12 3E, and love them.
EXTREMELY IMPORTANT – WHERE TO PURCHASE: My broad-footed brethren out there no first-hand how infuriating and depressing it can be trying to order shoes online, without the benefit of trying on first. My recommendation is to give Zappos.com a try. They allow you to filter by width (and about two dozen other criteria if so desired), have thorough and accurate reviews (even product demos), and offer free shipping with a generous return policy. I went ten years without ordering shoes online before I tried Zappos twice just in the last three months and could not be more satisfied.
Have you had any particularly positive (or negative) experience finding wide men’s shoes? Any brands you would go out of your way to advocate or to avoid? Let me know, I’d love to hear!