Womens Extra Wide Shoes and Exercise


In this article we are going to briefly outline extra wide womens shoes and why it is important to get the right size in general, but specifically when exercising. The general principles outlined below can also be applied to men.

One of the commonly cited causes of sore or problematic feet is ill-fitting footwear, and this is can cause a number of problems. But first, we are going to show you some interesting anatomical facts about your feet.

Foot Anatomy

Did you know, that each foot has:

  • 26 bones (52 for both, which is about one quarter of all the bones in your body; 206 bones in total).
  • 100 tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
  • 125,000 sweat glands in the sole of the foot (most sweat glands per square centimetre in the body, excreting about half a pint of perspiration every day).
  • 8,000 nerve endings (with most of the nerves close to the skin surface).

Form, Function, and Fit

There are three criteria to consider when choosing footwear:

  • Form: This relates to the aesthetic appeal of footwear.
  • Function: This relates to the ability of footwear to accomplish its intended purpose, e.g. to protect your feet when undertaking activities that may present a risk of injury (e.g. runners).
  • Fit: This relates to how footwear can accommodate the morphology of the foot (e.g. width and length).

It is generally acknowledged that fit governs function, meaning the footwear cannot fulfil its intended purpose if it does not fit your foot correctly. In exercise terms, ill-fitting footwear can increase your risk of injury. Generally, although important for an exerciser, you should consider fit first, function second, and form third.

When Will My Feet Stop Growing?

When was the last time you had your feet measured? Research suggests that, for 3 in 4 people, the last time they measured their feet was at school. For both men and women, their feet will generally stop growing around age 20/21 (although can continue into the early 20s). As a child the bones in your feet grow and this is what makes your feet bigger. When your bones stop growing, so do your feet; although there are some reasons why your feet may get bigger after this.

What Can Cause My Feet to Grow After Age 20/21?

After this point there is no actual bone growth but the shape (and size) of your feet may change as you get older. Potential reasons include:

  • Weight Gain: This can put pressure on the pads of your feet and make them spread.
  • Decreased Elasticity: You may experience decreased elasticity in your tendons and ligaments, which can make your feet longer and wider.
  • Physical Deformities: If you develop bunions and/or hammertoes you may have to wear a bigger shoe size in order to comfortably wear your shoes.
  • It is common for women to experience an increase in foot size during pregnancy. Reasons for this include increased weight, hormonal changes, growing uterus, and increased fluid retention.

The above will cause your feet to get flatter and wider, meaning your old shoe size may become ill-fitting, and cause pain and some of the following issues.

What Issues Can Arise from Wearing Ill-Fitting Footwear?

Wearing a pair of ill-fitting shoes once is unlikely to cause any problems, other than pain whilst wearing them. However, consistently wearing footwear that does not fit properly can cause a number of issues, including:

  • Blisters
  • Corns
  • Damage to the toenails
  • Metatarsalgia (pain in the ball of the foot)
  • Structural deformities (e.g. hammer toes and contracted tendons (can increase risk of injury during exercise))
  • Bunions
  • Shortened Achilles tendon (usually associated with high heels and can increase risk of injury during exercise)
  • Clawed toes
  • Plantar fasciitis (can make walking and running painful)
  • Stress fractures

If your footwear is too small and/or the wrong shape to fit your feet, it can cause pressure across the bones and soft tissues of the feet. As a result, your toes may ‘buckle’ to accommodate the shoe, leading to hammer toes and bunions. Further, the skin over pressure points often becomes thickened to try and protect the tissues, and this can often lead to callus and bursa over these pressure points.

2018 research by Andrew Budlt and Hylton Menz, in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, states that ”A large proportion of the population wear incorrectly sized footwear, which is associated with foot pain and foot disorders.” This research also notes that women are also more likely to suffer foot pain than men.

Think Fit, Not Just Size

Also, it is important to give consideration to fit and not just size – this means ensuring that the shoe is held in place properly. Shoes that are not secure to the foot result in you having to claw your toes to grip the shoe. Apart from the foot fatigue this can cause in the short-term, in the long term it can result in clawed toes.

For those engaging in exercise it is important to make sure your footwear fits well and is designed for the sport you are playing or the exercise undertaken. For example, do not use tennis shoes to go long distance running!

Also, remember that different brands of footwear fit differently; so keep this in mind. Finally, your feet will swell as the day wears on, so try footwear on later in the day.

Bigger Feet and Odd Feet

Did you know that since the 1970s, at least in the UK, feet have been getting bigger, on average by two sizes.

Also, approximately 60% of people have one foot that is bigger than the other. Yes, it is common for people to have one foot bigger than the other. If you have one foot bigger than the other, it is recommended to buy footwear that comfortably fits the bigger foot, adding insoles or making adjustments for the smaller foot.

Who Should Measure My Feet?

We do not recommend measuring your feet at home. A trained foot professional knows exactly what parameters to measure – such as length, width, heel to ball measurement and arch length – and will have the appropriate equipment to ensure the perfect fit for you.

Remember to take any orthotics you may have.

An Example: Runners

If you are a runner, besides considering your level, gait, and pronation when matching footwear to your running needs, you also need to consider fit and function.

Whether you are into road running, track and field, trail running, or clocking up the miles on your local gym’s machines, it is recommended that you use footwear designed for your activity. It is important to remember that running can put strain on your feet and joints, so it is essential to select footwear that is wide enough and fits well and specifically targets the kind of running you do. If you need footwear to address overpronation, or underpronation, or even if you are a neutral pronation runner, it is important to consider this alongside fit and function.


If you are still wearing the same shoe size as you did in your 20s, we recommend considering getting your feet measured and (possibly) a bigger size, as this will provide proper support and promote good foot health. Although an aesthetically pleasing form of footwear is nice, remember to consider fit and function first (as this will help to reduce pain and discomfort).

Extra wide shoes are not just for budding athletes, they are also useful for in the office or at home; with a number of manufacturers now offering a stylish and athletic-inspired design providing lots of support and adjustment for all-day comfort.


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