How To Decode Shoe Width Size Letters
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Navigating shoe sizes can be a confusing maze of numbers and letters to the uninitiated.
The US and Europe use different shoe sizing metrics, there are different sizing standards for men and women, and there is almost no true standard shared by all manufacturers.
However, within this mess of sizing nomenclature, there is another often overlooked set of designations: shoe widths.
Getting the width of your shoe correct is just as important as getting the length right for comfort.
This is particularly important for rigid, tight-fitting shoes or shoes that you plan to use extensively for walking or commuter cycling or road cycling.
Shoes that are too narrow can squeeze your feet and cause cramps, while shoes that are too wide will allow your foot to move and cause rubbing that leads to blisters.
Although it is sometimes possible to narrow or widen shoes after you purchase them, particularly in the case of leather shoes, it is much simpler and more comfortable in the long run to get the width of your shoes correct right from the start.
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To determine the width of a shoe, the key lies in a cryptic set of letters that are typically displayed alongside the length.
There are nine different widths of shoes in the measurement spectrum used in the US, with a different combination of letters to designate whether a shoe is narrow, medium, or wide.
Of course, there are also deviations from this scale in case it was not complicated enough on its own.
If you’ve ever wondered what the b(m) or 2e or other designations on a shoe’s label mean, this article is for you.
Here, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about how to decipher shoe width letters in order to find the shoe that is the perfect width for your foot.
The Shoe Width Scale
In order from the narrowest shoe to the widest shoe, the nine shoe width designations in the US are: AAA, AA, A, B, C, D, E, EE, and EEE.
Although the alphabetical nature of this scale makes it somewhat easy to remember, it is clearly not self-explanatory.
Often, the double and triple A and E sizes are abbreviated as 2a or 3e, for example.
To make matters even more complicated, some manufacturers have adopted additional designations for extra wide shoes, such as 4e or 5e.
These unorthodox designations are most commonly seen on men’s boots that are marketed as being extra wide.
Note that the physical dimensions that the shoe width letter represents depend on the length of the shoe.
For example, in men’s shoe sizing, a size 10 shoe of D width may be 4 inches wide at the point of the ball of the foot, whereas the same D width shoe in a size 14 may be 4.5 inches wide at the same point.
Thus, if you are choosing between multiple lengths of a particular shoe, you should also test whether you need a different width designation for the two different size shoes.
The A width is typically seen on women’s shoes that are labeled as being sized for narrow feet and is rarely seen among men’s shoes since there are relatively few men with feet this narrow.
A width shoes are typically between 3.4 and 3.9 inches across at the ball of the foot.
AA or 2A width shoes are also commonly seen for women and are slightly narrower, although the difference between A and 2A shoes depends largely on the manufacturer’s standards.
The B width is the standard shoe width for women’s shoes, but would be considered extremely narrow for men’s shoes.
For women’s shoes that are not labeled clearly as being wide or narrow, chances are high that they are B width.
B width shoes are typically between 3.6 and 4.1 inches across at the ball of the foot.
The D width is commonly considered to be medium width for men’s shoes and wide for women’s shoes.
For men, shoes that are not labeled as being wide or narrow are typically D width.
D width translates to between 3 and 5 inches across at the ball of your foot, but is usually around 4 to 4.5 inches width.
The E width is the typical wide shoe size classification for men’s shoes and is considered extra-wide for women’s shoes.
It usually measures between 4.2 and 4.7 inches across at the ball of your foot for men’s shoes, but may be anywhere from 3.2 to 5.2 inches across.
The larges width on the traditional scale, EE width is rarely seen in women’s shoes and is considered extra-wide for men’s shoes.
However, more EE width women’s shoes have appeared on the market in recent years, especially as transgender individuals have created a niche for extra-wide women’s shoes.
EE width shoes are typically between 4.4 and 4.9 inches across, but may be anywhere from 3.4 to 5.4 inches wide.
Manufacturers and Availability
It is important to remember that every shoe manufacturer uses their own model foot when making shoes and designating their sizes.
As a result, shoe width sizing will vary both among manufacturers and among different models of shoe made by the same manufacturer.
In addition, how the physical width of a shoe for a given letter designation scales with changes in the shoe length will depend on the make and model of the shoe in question.
Unfortunately, not all shoes are available in all lengths and widths.
In particular, people with especially narrow or especially wide feet will be quick to tell you that shoes sized 2A or narrow or 2E or wider are relatively rare to come by.
More often, these extra narrow and extra wide sizes are only available in short lengths or long lengths, respectively.
Unfortunately, extra wide shoe sizes have traditionally been lacking for women’s shoes, while extra narrow shoe sizes have traditionally been lacking for men’s shoes.
The best way to determine what shoe width size you will need is to have your foot measured at the store by a shoe professional.
The scales available at the store are highly accurate.
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However, be sure to have your foot measured every time you go since your feet can swell and shrink over time with weight gain or changes in your body’s water retention.
Of course, also be sure to try on the same shoe in multiple widths whenever they are available in order to find the width that works best for your foot in that particular shoe model.
Having shoes that fit not only the length of your foot, but also its width, is extremely important for long-term comfort in your feet.
A good fit is critical for shoes you plan to wear for significant amounts of walking, since shoes that are too narrow or too wide can quickly cause discomfort.
Unfortunately, shoe width size designations are somewhat convoluted and variable between manufacturers, between different shoe models from the same manufacturer, and even between different length versions of the same shoe model.
Therefore, it is critical to try on any pair of shoes to make sure it fits well before buying and to use the width sizes as a guide rather than an absolute measurement.
Now that you know how to read shoe width letters, we would love to know if this information helped you in fitting your most recent pair of shoes – let us know in the comments section below!
In addition, share this article with your friends so that they can learn how to decode shoe width size letters.