This is about shoes:

  1. Being more narrow inside (at metatarsal heads) than the bare foot would be when stood on comfortably
  2. Keeping toes together; at best hardly letting the toes separate, at worst squishing them into a point (rather than offer a wide toe box)
  3. Soles sometimes being even more narrow than the part above it (frequent in soccer cleats)

I run as though barefoot, weight on forefoot much of the time.
In shoes recommended to me, the forefoot feels cramped and I can't engage the toes for fear of mangling them. I notice the same with other people, but they tend to not pay it any attention (their general attitude being "I don't have time to question such trivialities").

From my point of view - verified best I could - it feels as though the design is dictated more by some shallow, arbitrary definition of "elegance" than anything else, and since fashion fads do frequently override practicality, it is absurd to assume that "someone smarter than me must have already proven this is healthier".

I expect these designs to be responsible for bunions, hammertoes, corns, calluses, ingrown nails etc. "Sports" shoes are better, but rarely deviate from the "slender foot" aesthetic.
So, with all this in mind - what are the benefits?

1 Answer 1


Is your experience growing up that you went barefoot a lot? I did, as most of my youth was spent at swimming pools.

My doctor once commented that I had "luau feet" - a wider spread that he attributed to being barefoot a lot over the years.

The shoes are not designed to be narrow and constricting, they are narrow because most people, at least in the USA, have feet that are shaped like that, so they produce for the "average" foot, for better sales.

There are plenty of shoes that are much wider in their design. Look for ones labeled "wide-width," or the company "New Balance" which specifically produces more of their shoes (they do running and athletic shoes) in wide size than others. Another online retailer that specializes in all varieties of wide sizes for shoes, both exercise and otherwise, is Hitchcock Shoes.

Hitchcock Shoes web site

Shoes should always fit comfortably, if your feet are feeling pinched, you're not wearing one that's right for you.

  • Thanks for the Hitchcock shoes link. My foot is indeed slightly thicker/wider than average, but this accounts for #1 at most. Anyway, if foot shape /girth is strongly influenced by footwear, I think this still falls under the same question; any health benefits to shoes shaping your foot to be narrow? And keeping your toes from spreading?
    – kaay
    Oct 1, 2016 at 8:58
  • While constantly wearing narrower shoes might account for less spread, and maybe even a bit more arch in the, well, the arch, I don't think that's a benefit or detriment, in and of itself. Obviously, women in old-time China didn't feel that narrower shoes and feet were all that great. I haven't heard of any negative health indications from having a wider foot spread, and don't have feet problems, myself, but that's not authoritative. My main concern was to let you know that shoes should always fit comfortably, and that they DO make them in sizes for you. Oct 3, 2016 at 13:37

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