Are you finding it more difficult to get into – and out of! – boots these days? Then this article is for you.
With so many stylish boots in stores from Autumn through Winter, it’s tempting to buy a new pair this year. Especially as right now (early December 2020) there are some amazing discounts online.
But as you age your feet likely spread a little and if, like me, you don’t seem to be able to get rid of excess weight, then your calves and ankles may be simply too large for the standard boot.
Scroll to the end of the page to see my favorite wide fit boots this year.
What size boot counts as wide?
A standard shoe or boot is size D so you need to be looking for boots that are E, EE or EEE. In fact if I were you I would simply ignore any boots that are not listed under ‘wide fit’ on the retailer’s website. Even then you’ll find most retailers only go up to E. Reckon each size up adds about 1cm to the width. You’ll find boots increase the calf width too.
But see below for where I found the largest selection of EE and EEE fitting boots.
How to try boots on
Have you ever bought a pair of boots, got home, tried them on again and found they’re a bit tight? I think we probably all have at one time or another. The perfect pair suddenly feels like trouble!
How does that happen?
Well, think about when you were in the store. Had you just started your shopping trip? Were you wearing tights not socks? Was it a cold day?
I almost always wear socks with boots if I am wearing jeans or trousers with them. For me, that’s one of the really good aspects of boots – I don’t really enjoy wearing tights. But if I went shopping in a skirt I was probably trying on the boots with tights. That makes quite a difference to the fit.
If my feet were cool – just started shopping or cold day – then my feet will be a little smaller than if I’ve been tramping around the shops for hours, or my feet have swollen from hot weather. But we don’t want to change out of boots just because we’re intending to be on our feet for a few hours. In fact boots can be perfect for that sort of day. But they need to allow for our feet to get a little larger.
But there’s another reason we sometimes buy boots that are basically too narrow for us – either in the foot or the calf or both.
You pull on the new boots, a bit stiff but then, as the salesgirl agrees, ‘new leather’. We stand up and look at ourselves in a long mirror. Frankly we look pretty good. Certainly better than when we walked in wearing our usual shoes.
If the boots are a bit too narrow our legs look more slender and our feet look neater and smaller. Oh heaven! You feel younger, smarter and altogether full of new confidence with these shiny new boots on. So out comes the credit card.
But stop right there.
Dangers of tight footwear
Those boots might look great but they will hurt like hell, give you blisters, potentially make your feet even wider by giving you bunions and finally get put at the back of your shoe drawer and lurk there to make you feel bad every time you see them. They are, after all, ‘too good to get rid of’.
If stylishness is more important to you than comfort, you will force your feet into those boots all season and slowly but surely your poor feet will push against the sides until your toes can regain normal blood flow and your calves don’t cry out for the zippers to be lowered an inch at the first opportunity. Take a new look at the boots. They no longer make your legs look slender or your feet look neat – quite the opposite. The boots are misshapen and instead of disguising your wide feet and curvy calves they are now drawing attention to them.
How much better to accept that our bodies have changed and start looking for boots that understand this.
Finding wide boots
But actually, it’s not all that easy to find exactly what you want. For one thing there are so very many styles of boots and footwear retailers online that after an hour you may well give up the will to live – or at least to order any boots.
To cut your search to the minimum here are a few pointers before you start looking.
- Measure your calves before you start. Some online retailers tell you how wide at the calf their boots are so always look at the ‘more’ or ‘details’ in the description before you decide to buy.
- Forget pointed toes. Whilst fun flats for occasional wear don’t need great foot support, boots do. You tend to wear them more often and for longer. So be prepared for wider fit boots to have a more robust sole and heel and to have a larger box at the front for your toes.
- Rule out higher heels. A small block heel can help elongate and slim your legs but never go for a thin heel once your feet are older.
- Look for an adjustable strap and/or an elastic insert if your calves are curvy. Over time you’ll probably have to let that strap out. Elastic is ideal as it will accommodate anything from tights, through ankle socks with bare legs, to thicker tights, or even lovely warm knee-high socks.
- Think before buying pull-on boots. Pull-on ankle boots can be a boon if you find bending down and managing a zip difficult these days. But be aware such boots are a bit more like slippers than outdoor footwear. Reckon to buy a new pair much more frequently than more structured boots.
The next time you are walking behind a girl wearing Ugg style boots just take a look at how those boots are wearing. Unless they are new you’ll probably see they are leaning inwards. Fallen arches are no joke – they can lead to posture problems and back aches.
- Expect to pay the right price. Unless we’re talking prestigious brands, you tend to get what you pay for with boots. Cheaper boots will have less structure, less comfort, less arch support, less ankle support and be less technically designed for wide feet. They may also use leather or suede substitutes (which if you are vegan is fine of course!)
- Beware of ruched boots. That’s those booties, and sometimes knee-high boots, where the leather is gathered up into folds. They are flexible and easy to wear. They usually have a more flexible rubber sole, a bit more like sneakers than regular boots in fact. So why am I not so keen?
Buy boots that work for your outfit’s silhouette.
If we look at boots as part of our overall style and silhouette we should probably be looking for a substantial piece of footwear. This is today’s casual fashion.
Keep the legs as narrow as possible then end with quite a heavy or clumpy boot – both structured high shaft boots and ankle height booties work well for this look. You can see this trend easily if you look at how sneakers have changed over the last three or four years.
The alternative is to continue narrow pants or jeans with a narrowish boot. This is the inverted triangle silhouette that works well for both casual and dressy looks. For this you’ll probably be looking for knee-high boots.
The ruched boot – ankle or knee-high doesn’t work well for either of these styles.
It works brilliantly for 18 year old students with tiny little legs and a miniskirt. Because 18 year olds have so little ‘texture’ to their natural look and silhouette that a very textured boot makes a fabulous contrast. In other words their legs and hands and faces all look even smoother and straighter because their feet are covered with great folds of leather (thick skin!).
Our bodies over 50 have lots of texture. Our faces are becoming lined or even furrowed. Our hands are developing more prominent veins. Our whole body has various little odd curves and overhangs! And our legs are no exception. How many women of 60 plus have a smooth line from hip to ankle? I certainly don’t. I have all sorts of bulges around my knees and ankles that weren’t there years ago.
We call these texture.
So the last thing we want from boots is more texture. We want a good strong line making a simple style statement.
That said, I know that many women find these slouchy ‘pixie boots’ ideal for general casual wear whether under a midi skirt or with jeans. So I’ve included one ruched design in my picks.
Is real leather better for footwear?
Real leather or fake? Personally I find it difficult to see the difference between real leather and fake leather nowadays. The fake is so very good. However, real leather will be easier to maintain in good condition for longer. As far as snow or rain is concerned you might actually get better wear from the fake leather unless you apply a weather-proofing spray to your leather boots.
But when it comes to general wear then real leather is more forgiving. You can keep it shiny and supple by applying good polish regularly. As it ages, like our skin, it develops lines and creases – which can actually be quite appealing. Fake leathers will in general crack or the surface will scratch off with long-term wear and tear. Once this happens there’s not really much you can do about it.
Finding very wide footwear online
I’m adding these comments about real and leather-look because in my research for very wide boots in anything approaching a wearable style I mainly found fast fashion and most of these retailers prefer non leather.
There are lots of reasons I am less keen to buy fast fashion, mainly to do with working conditions. But whereas we may not mind too much recycling a fast fashion blouse after a season, I think most of us would baulk at ditching our boots so soon.
I’ve selected a couple of boots from Yoursclothing.co.uk. This retailer is fast fashion as you will see from the youngsters in the images on the site. But it does have an anti-slavery policy. And it does have lots of EEE very wide-fitting boots, many in styles that suit older women. I like that Yours only sells style for larger ladies and that their team (at least those in the photo) look to be curvy too.
Marks and Spencer’s is one of the largest retailers of wider fit footwear. They ship fast across the world (I buy from them here in France and they are faster than all other online retailers I use.) A good place to start looking for over-fifties who hate frumpiness but want to look smart.
I’ve included boots by Gabor who make excellent footwear in larger sizing. You can buy these through johnlewis.com who are speedy with delivery, generous on returns and sell worldwide without upping the price. UPDATE 2023: JohnLewis no longer ship outside the UK due to Brexit hassles.
Clarks is a favorite British brand selling across the world. They understand feet and they work hard to bring you fit and comfort at an affordable price.
So, to save you hours of research here are my picks of the best boots for wide calves and broad feet 2020-2021.
M&S always do a good assortment of wide fit footwear. These boots are very on-trend being quite sturdy. I really like them for weekend casual.
M&S pixie boots. These have been selling to women of all ages for years and years. They’re supple and soft to wear – a sort of foot glove!
A smart casual boot you could team with a midi skirt or jeans. A serious wide-fit and comfort footwear brand. These boots will last.
These little boots are so versatile. Wear with a dress or under jeans or over leggings.
I really like the look of these smart boots. The foot is a great shape and won’t stretch, whilst the leg is more flexible and will allow for curvy calves. Not leather, but with that equestrian cool for skirts, dresses or jeans. Yes please!
These are cute. I bought some similar boots locally in France and you’ll see them in my Winter Capsule Wardrobe try-on.
Clarks are a good footwear brand and craft their shoes to accommodate feet properly. This is part of their fun side and it’s ideal if you’re looking for a bit of stylish cool with jeans.
All these recommendations ship to most countries. Check return policy for where you live as trying on two sizes when buying from a new retailer can be a good idea.
If you haven’t taken the style quiz yet give it a go. It takes less than 5 minutes and you’ll find your personal style type so choosing clothes and shoes will be simpler and faster.