Causes of Narrow Heels
A narrow heel can be the result of having a narrow foot (i.e., the entire foot is very narrow), or a heel that is narrower than “normal” in relation to the forefoot (i.e., the heel is narrower than would be expected based on the width of the person’s forefoot). Feet that are narrow simply require a shoe size that specifies narrow width. But if the heel of your foot is narrower than what the manufacturer considers “normal” in relation to the forefoot, it will likely be more difficult to find shoes that fit properly without some kind of customization.
Narrow heels are seen frequently in women. The natural anatomy of women’s feet is different from that of men. A landmark study on gender differences in foot shape found that men have longer and broader feet for their stature compared with women, and that men and women differ significantly in 10 other variables related to calf, ankle and foot shape. One of these variables is that women’s feet taper more dramatically from forefoot to rear foot than do men’s (i.e., they are more narrow in proportion to the forefoot). This means that shoes that are not designed specifically for women’s feet can cause particular problems in fitting. Until recently, most women’s athletic shoes were made on scaled-down versions of men’s shoe lasts. Now most athletic shoes are designed specifically for women’s feet, taking gender differences into consideration. But this does not solve the problem for all women.
Men also can have feet with heels that are narrow relative to their forefoot size; although this is less common, it still poses problems for shoe selection and fitting for some men.