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Tips to build healthier feet Part 1: Shoe Width

We have massive toe splay and very wide forefeet when we are born. As kids, we have excellent foot mobility, dexterity, and stability as we tend to be barefoot or in shoes that we are meant to grow into, giving us more room for our feet to move.

Yes, this is my actual birth footprint, thanks MOM!

As we age, we start wearing shoes more often. Typically these shoes have a narrow toe box; dress shoes are the biggest offenders with their pointed toe design. By wearing shoes with a narrow forefoot, we are DEFORMING our feet. Keeping our toes crammed into shoes limits mobility, decreases our toe splay, and weakens our feet. These foot restrictions can lead to bunions, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis and restrict ankle mobility/stability. Living with constant external support provided by shoes makes our intrinsic foot muscles weaker, leading to collapsed arches, over pronation, and decreased balance.

How do we pick the right shoes? Your shoes should look like your feet.


  • take the liners of your shoe out, place them on the floor

  • place your foot on top of the liner

  • spread your toes out as wide as possible

If your toes hang over the edge of the insole, your foot cannot maintain its natural shape in this shoe, and this shoe is too narrow.

Left Image: Left shoe: Vivobarefoot, Right Shoe: Brooks Middle Image: Insert from Vivobarefoot, a good fit Right Image: Insert from Brooks, too narrow

Shoe options with wide toe boxes (that look like feet): -Altra -Topo Athletic -Vivobarefoot -Xero Shoes Ensuring your feet have enough room to splay and breathe is the best place to start while picking new shoes. Many options (like Altra and Topo) have cushion/support, much like the traditional shoes we are all used to, making them an easier transition than going straight to a barefoot shoe. Check-in next week as we discuss the pros and cons of minimalist style shoes. Happy feet, Nicole Todisco MacDonald

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