Why Have Wide Cleats Not Been a Thing?

Have you ever wondered why there are no wide cleats (at least until now)? The truth is, most athletic shoe companies don't care about feet as much as they care about making money. The largest shoe companies, aka "Big Shoe," have the resources to pay the best athletes in the world to wear their products, convincing millions (including myself) that they are getting the best products for performance. But this is a sham. It's impossible to have a one size fits all solution, and on top of that the narrowness of their shoes is actually damaging most people's feet, even if it seems like a good fit. Don't believe me? All you have to do is look at the shape of the shoes they make. Once you understand that feet are widest at the toes, you'll start to realize that "Big Shoe" is focused on profits, not athlete health or performance.

The pizza slice shape of the foot might not immediately strike you as attractive, and that's the main reason Big Shoe doesn't make shoes this shape. To give you a glimpse behind the scenes at one of these companies, here's a clip from the movie "Air" featuring Matt Damon as John Paul Vincent “Sonny” Vaccaro. This scene shows how Nike Marketing Executives drive design decisions, almost always choosing form rather than function; beauty and looks over performance and longevity.

I wish I could tell you this sort of decision is an exception, not the rule, but since I've been in the industry and talked with those who used to work at Big Shoe, I've heard that it's a structural reality. The marketing manager gets the final decisions on shoe design. That means they decide the look, but also the function, the material choices, and the last (the internal shape of the shoe). The shoe engineers provide choices, but they don't make decisions. It might come to you as a shock, but the people who understand feet and functional footwear design are rarely the ones that get to decide how a shoe will ultimately look and perform inside of Big Shoe.

The reality is Nike and Adidas are marketing companies that happen to sell shoes.

It all comes down to the fact that the human foot is naturally widest at the toes. This is an indisputable anatomical fact. But guess what? Shoes that are widest at the toe box don't look as good. And because a narrow toe box looks slimmer and sleeker, the big companies will always choose those aesthetics over an aesthetic that respects the function of feet.

Thankfully, there's hope:

Prevolve's Custom Cleats

These may be the widest cleats ever made. From a relative standpoint, this customer has a forefoot that is about 50% the length of his foot. Foot length: 230mm, foot width at forefoot: 115mm. As far as we know, there's never been a cleat with these proportions. This is on the extreme end of the wide foot spectrum, but it illustrates how a properly designed cleat should look. And when it comes to beauty, isn't it in the eye of the beholder? I see these cleats as a beautiful opportunity for someone to play their sport without pain. That's a good thing.

You, as the reader, as the consumer, as the one buying shoes, have a choice. You don't have to pick artificial looks over function. But to do this, you'll need something. You'll need to care more about your health than what other people think about you. This isn't always easy. It's commonplace to sit back and let others make decisions for us.

The first move is to educate yourself about healthy footwear and barefoot training. Stick around on this blog, and we'll hope to cover these topics in great depth so you can have the knowledge and tools you need to become the athlete you were born to be.

To give the devil his due, we can't skip over some of the other reasons for narrowness in shoes. These reasons are valid but usually not the driving factor behind narrowness. We think it's worth exploring though, so that you can understand why some companies that do have better motives still struggle to create functional wide footwear.

Manufacturing for the Masses

Big Shoe works at massive scales. They have to create average shapes because the molds they use to make the shoes are expensive, sometimes over $10,000 per mold per size. And because of the foot's ability to change shape, a good fit is perceived with a shoe that is a little too tight rather than a little too loose. So they end up making an average shape that hugs and squishes the toes.

Volumental, a full-service foot scanning company, has scanned millions of feet, and based on their data, only about 40% of the population can be adequately be served with a single width size.

So no average shape is going to really do the trick.

The nature of at-scale overseas manufacturing leaves us with a sub-optimal solution: narrow shoes that only fit a small portion of the population. Unfortunately, as the shoes deform our feet, they get "narrower" as companies match the population's foot shape, leading to a feedback loop of narrower shoes and even worse feet - leading to bunions, plantar fasciitis, and death. Okay, that was a bit of an exaggeration, but actually falling is a major cause of death in the elderly, and feet are a major part of keeping your balance. The worse your foot health, the more likely you could die at old age from an avoidable fall.

The Complexities of Shoe Manufacturing

Shoe manufacturing is a complicated process, and one of the trickiest parts is the toe box area. The toe box must be shaped and then de-lasted (removed from the last) after assembly. Narrowing the toe box makes this process easier and more cost-effective. By sticking to a narrow design, manufacturers can streamline production and reduce expenses.

Custom Engineered Last - For Minimalist Athletic Footwear - Prevolve Footwear

Above you can see a shoe last for Prevolve's custom cleats. The focus of large manufacturers on efficiency prevents them from switching to a more anatomical shape like shown above. At Prevolve we assemble all our shoes by hand and therefore don't require a narrow toe box for de-lasting.

"Performance"

Some shoe designers may argue that the narrower toe box provides better performance during extreme movements. While there may be some added responsiveness, narrowness comes at the cost of your joint and foot health... And if a wider toe box cleat is if paired correctly with toe spacers, you won't compromise any of those performance benefits that come with a snug fit. That's why Prevolve Footwear includes custom fit, modular toe spacers with every pair of custom cleats.

They allow for a snug fit that gives you the same amount of responsiveness as a narrow foot deforming shape.

More to Width Than Meets the Eye

When it comes to finding the right fit, width is not a one-dimensional measurement. It can be broken down into three distinct categories: heel width, midfoot width, and toe box width. Each of these areas needs to be properly accommodated to ensure a comfortable and effective fit.

  • Heel Width: The heel should fit snugly to prevent slipping and provide stability during movement.
  • Midfoot Width: The midfoot area needs to offer enough support to keep the foot secure without causing pressure points.
  • Toe Box Width: The toe box must be spacious enough to allow natural toe splay.

Even if a brand offers a "wide" fit, it often addresses only one or two of these areas, typically focusing on the toe box. However, a proper fit requires that all three widths be considered and correctly matched to the athlete's foot. This is why many wide-fit options still fail to provide the comfort and performance athletes need.

Conclusion

At Prevolve Footwear, we believe that comfort and performance should never be sacrificed for convenience or aesthetics.

Our approach challenges the status quo, offering a comprehensive solution for athletes who have long been overlooked by the major brands. By focusing on the needs of the individual rather than the masses, we create products that truly enhance athletic performance.

The lack of wide cleats in the market is a result of manufacturing practices, cost considerations, and consumer trends that favor narrow designs. However, this does not mean athletes have to settle for uncomfortable cleats. At Prevolve Footwear, we are committed to providing high-quality, custom cleats that prioritize comfort and performance. Our BioCleats are designed to fit the needs of every athlete, ensuring that you can perform at your best without compromising on comfort.

If you're tired of squeezing into narrow cleats, it's time to experience the difference with Prevolve's Custom Cleats.

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