When buying barefoot shoes it is important to know your foot type. This will help you find the shoe that suits you best and help you know what you should look for when buying.

Here are some useful informations on how to identify your foot type.

1. Foot width & length

Some of the barefoot shoes brands are more suitable for narrow and other for wide feet. The approximate width of your feet can be obtained by using the device, published in the Slovak website: https://bosacik.sk/meranie

In the empty windows you should enter the length and the width of your feet in [cm] and the calculation shows you which category you belong to. The calculation is approximate and can serve you as an initial sensation of where you foot width is in comparison to other people.

Length and width of the foot in [cm]

A detailed guide on how to measure feet you can read here. How much space do you need in shoes you can read here.

On the photos below you can see an examples of the shoes which work well for narrow (left) and wide feet (right). Take in mind that some narrow models can also work for wide feet and vice versa. And not all models for one brand are the same.

Brands suitable for narrow feet:

Brands suitable for wide feet:

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2. Height of the instep

The approximate height of the instep according to Šťastné nôžky can be obtained by calculating the ratio between the length of the arch over the instep (from ground to ground) and the length of the foot by dividing the arch measurement by the length measurement.

The value approximately determines the height of the instep:
low instep: less then 0.7
normal instep: 0.71 – 0.81
high instep: 0.82 and more

For my feet the ratio is: 18.5 cm / 26.3 cm = 0.70 (7.28 inch / 10.35 inch = 0.70). I’m right on the upper bound of the value for low instep.

NOTE: The result is only approximate value. Deviations can occur if the foot is wide with low instep or narrower with higher instep.

More about this method you can read on Šťastné nôžky.

That I have a low instep I realised when I tried a few different barefoot shoes and I often had problems such as: I have to tie the laces as much as it go to make the shoe secure enough on my feet, in sandals I usually need some additional holes, etc.

Comparison – same foot lenght, low instep vs. high instep

Even the slip-on shoe models are often not suitable for people with low instep, because they are too loose over the instep. An additional fixation of the shoe is in this case very difficult. People with high instep have exactly the opposite problem. Everything is too tight.

High vs. low instep – same shoe (Feelgrounds* Droptop)
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If you can not find in any of these categories, your instep is likely quite a normal height 🙂

Example of the fit over the instep for two different slip-on shoes on feet with low instep
(Be Lenka* Eazy in Feelgrounds* Droptop)
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3. Shape of the toes

People have different foot shapes.

Retrieved from: Your Foot Shape and Your Genealogy (29.8.2019)

A very common foot type is (1) Egyptian (2) or Greek foot type.

(1) Egyptian and (2) Greek foot type

The shoes have different toebox shapes. Some have a very strong slope towards the little toe and are best suited to the Egyptian foot shape, others have a more rounded toebox that better suits the Greek or more square foot shape.

From left to right: VIVOBAREFOOT*, Lukshoes, Gea Soles, Wildling Shoes
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I have a Greek foot type. Where I see the problem?

If you have a foot shape where the second toe is longer than the first, as in my case, you may need a little more space in front of the big toe than usual, in a shoe that better fits an Egyptian foot, like this is shown in the picture below.

Greek toe shape in a) a shoe more suitable for an Egyptian foot, b) a shoe with a more rounded toebox shape

In the case of the Egyptian foot (1) you may have an opposite problem. In the shoe where the toebox which is not adapted to your foot shape, you may have a lot of additional space in front of your little toes. This can be disturbing and in sandals also visually noticeable.

Egyptian toe shape in a) a shoe more suitable for an Egyptian foot, b) a shoe with a more rounded toebox shape

You can see the above explanation in an example in the pictures below.

In the pictures below you can see examples of barefoot shoes that are more suitable for Egyptian foot type (left) and Greek or Roman foot type (right).

4. Shape of the feet

4.1 Straight line or shape of a “bean”

Some feet are shaped like “beans”, such as the shape of my foot (2). Here, the big toe is curved slightly to the side, away from the other toes and the inside of the foot is arch-shaped and not straight. The most of the foot width in the inside part of the foot.

On the other hand, the line at the big toe side may be straight and the foot gains its width to the outside where the little finger is (1).

(1) width of the foot on outside and (2) “bean” shaped foot with most of the width on inside

Some shoes fit better to the shape (1) and other to the shape (2). In the picture below you can see examples of two shoes. The left has a more straight line at the big toe side, and the right is bean-shaped.

Sole Runner (left), Ahinsa* (right)
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Lets add those info to the picture we already used above. The problematic areas are marked below.

a) shoe more suitable for an Egyptian foot and with a straight line at the big toe side of the shoe, b) a shoe with a more rounded toebox shape and with a shape of a bean

Let’s see the following example. Sole Runner shoes on the photo fit the best to the foot shape with a straight line from heel to toe and with an Egyptian foot shape. Feet 1 and feet 2 both satisfy the conditon of the straight line, but the toebox shape of this shoe is more appropriate for foot 2. Foot 1 can have similar problems as my Greek toe shape in this shoes.

Therefore, you always need to take everything into account. Different combinations are possible.

4.2 Shape of a fin or straight shape

According to Šťastné nôžky the width and the shape of the foot depends also on the ratio between the width of the toe area and width of the heel part. As stated on Šťastné nôžky if the heel is narrow also the ankles are narrow.

Šťastné nôžky has classified feet into 4 categories:

  1. narrow heel – narrow front part – the feet are pretty straight shape
  2. narrow heel – regular to wide front part – this type is also called fin, extending forward slightly or significantly
  3. regular heel – narrow to medium wide front part – the feet are pretty straight shape
  4. regular to wide heel – medium to wide front part – these are mild fins, the feet is extending slightly forward

The shape of your feet can change also after correction of the pronated feet (from more straight shape to fin shaped for example).

Each foot is unique. When buying your barefoot shoes it it always good to test them well to see how they fit and to check if your toes have really enough space in them.

Shoes are different lengths, widths, shapes and volumes. Therefore, when buying your shoes always check the following:

  • check internal length and width of the shoe (how much space do you need check here)
  • consider how much volume your feet have
  • check toebox shape of the shoe and compare it to your toe shape
  • check shoe shape and compare it to your foot shape

It doesn’t mean that all criteria about the shape should always 100% match (this is only possible with custom made shoes) so, don’t eliminate one shoe, just because the shape don’t perfectly match to your foot shape. Most brands still try to make shoes that will fit well to different foot types.

But with knowing your feet it will be much easier to recognise the optimal shoe for you. And I hope this post will help you a little bit with this 🙂

From left to right: Sole Runner, VIVOBAREFOOT*, Groundies, Zlatush, Ahinsa*
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