wide feet

I have short, wide feet – about 110mm wide in the forefoot, and EU size 39 – basically duck paddles. Finding shoes that fit has been a lifelong challenge, and I figured I should write down some of my research in case there are others out there (dozens?) like me.

Daily wear

I am lucky to work in an industry where people don’t really care what you wear. I also don’t care what I wear, and I especially don’t care what other people think about what I wear.

I wear Chaco sandals about 95% of the time, both at work and non-work environments.

Running shoes

I can’t say I love running, but it’s definitely sucked less ever since finding shoes that worked for me and my flat-n-wide duck paddles.

Even with my feet, running shoes have always been manageable, since I don’t run very long distances or durations, and can tolerate a fairly sloppy fit. For many years, I just sized up and lived with it.

But then I found the excellent fellrnr wiki, specifically:

The image of mutant feet on that page is one of my favorite images on the entire internet.

Anyway, I consider fellrnr to be the canonical running resource, and you should read what he has to say about the science of running shoes and what to look for in running shoes.

For me, I was looking for a shoe with the following properties:

Specifically to my feet…

All that said, I’ve been pretty happy with the Altra Olympus, going through several pairs of them over the years.

In 2021, I tried a pair of Altra Escalantes and while they’re not as padded as the Olympus, they still felt pretty good.

fellrnr has reviewed almost every model, it seems. You should check out his reviews. Beware that Altra updates their models (1.0, 1.5, 2.0, etc.) fairly often (and not always for the better); fellrnr calls out which version he’s reviewed. You’ll want to double-check that against the latest online reviews for that specific model in case it changed in a way that you’re not compatible with.

Biking/cycling shoes

I was tempted to try Bont shoes, but was told by a very opinionated bike shoe seller that he would “never” try to put someone with wide feet into Bonts.

I was directed to try Lake shoes, and have been very happy with them. One trick was to size up - having a slightly longer bike shoe doesn’t sacrifice performance, and the extra space is worth it.

Ski Boots - last updated 2022-01-02

“Ski boots shouldn’t hurt” they say, as you grimly think “Fuck you” whilst limping awkwardly to avoid putting pressure on the agonizing hot spots taking over your feet.

But paradoxically, ski boots - the piece of foot gear that even normal people tend to associate with pain - are likely to end up as one of the better fits in your quiver.

Why? Because getting a custom fit from an expert bootfitter is a normal part of the buying procss, unlike with say, a pair of running shoes.

Between that and the fact that the type of ski boot you want is going to be heavily dictated by the type of skiing you want to do, along with how hard you rip, means that my experience won’t necessarily be generalizable to you.

(I am assuming you are here because you want to buy boots for your wide-ass duck paddle feet, rather than subjecting them to more torturous rentals. If you intend to continue renting, I can’t help you.)

That said, my situation was:

What I wanted was a wide boot, which is not necessarily the same thing as a “high volume” boot. A high volume boot is typically made for people with high arches, and what I found from talking with a variety of boot fitters is that there’s a limit to how wide they can stretch a boot like that, because past a certain point, the boot’s instep will lose structural integrity. Not good.

ski boot anatomy

stolen from skis.com

All I can say is to find a reputable bootfitter, go there, and pay handsomely for their advice. Try on a lot of boots. It’s a journey, but for this price range, you get what you pay for.

As for me, as a resident of the SF Bay Area, I tried quite hard to find a “local” outfitter (ie, in Tahoe) who could help. My experiences were:

In the end, I took a gamble on just buying the Nordica Striders from evo.com even though it’s spec’ed with “only” a 100mm width.

Blister has a nice review of them.

I got them just before a ski trip to SLC, and by chance, found a guy named Muskie at the Sports Den who made them work for me. They also had the fancy 3D foot scanning thingie. Muskie was in fact as awesome as his name indicates.

Good luck.