I sometimes refer to my footwear picks as being suited to either high volume or low volume feet, but haven’t formally explained the differences. There are several attributes that determine where your feet fall on a continuum from low to high volume, with regular shaped feet placed right in the middle.
Your feet are on the high volume end of the continuum when they are wide, with high arches, high insteps and bunions. The extra width of your feet across the toes requires a roomier shoe all on its own. Throw in a high arch, a high instep and/or bunions, and the surface area of the foot increases even further. This means you need a lot more space in closed shoes than someone with low volume feet. You also typically require a bit of a heel for arch support, or at least one inch flats with plenty of arch support inside of the shoe. Usually you need a shoe with straps, because slip-ons with low vamps tend to fall off your feet. Slip-ons with high vamps stay on your feet more easily. Pointy toed footwear is hard to fit and often quite uncomfortable. On the positive side, you fill out sandals and chunky footwear to perfection.
Conversely, you have extremely low volume feet when they are narrow, with low arches and insteps, and sans bunions. They can also be quite bony. The flatness, the narrow width across the toes, and the low instep reduces the surface area of your feet and means that a slimmer fit shoe works best. Pointy toed footwear is usually quite comfortable. Low-vamped ballet flats and pumps tend to stay on your feet quite easily. Dainty footwear is usually a good fit. You tend to battle to fill out chunky footwear, and sandals especially because your toes fall right through the front toe straps.
I have described the two extremes of the continuum, but you’ll probably find that your feet are somewhere in between. You might have narrow feet with bunions and high arches. Or wide flat feet with no bunions. Your feet might be wide on the toes, but narrow on the heels, which makes slip-on shoes hard to fit. Or you might have regular width feet with high insteps.
Most of my clients are in the regular to high volume side of the continuum. I have fewer clients with low volume feet, and even fewer who require narrow footwear sizes. My own feet are regular in width, bony, and sans bunions. But their lack of arch and low instep put them firmly into the low volume side of the continuum. Narrow widths are too narrow, but I do battle to fill out regular sandals and chunky shoes. I find slim-fitting footwear quite comfortable, and pointy toes are a pleasure to wear.
Over to you. Do your feet tend to be more high or low volume, and how does this impact your footwear choices?