We are all aware that shoes come in various sizes, but it isn’t always clear exactly what those sizes mean. Different areas of the world have their own footwear charts, and it won’t always be clear exactly what you are dealing with compared to other footwear sizes from other countries.

If you have ever noticed size ratings like “D,” it can be difficult to figure out exactly what that is supposed to represent and how it will fit on feet of certain sizes. Searching up “what does D mean in shoe size widths?” can give you details from various countries and size systems, making it even more confusing.

What do Shoe Size Metters Mean?

Shoe size scales aren’t just meant to track how long a shoe is, but also how wide they can be. You need wider shoes for wide feet, just as you need a narrow shoe for narrow feet. The letters in the scales correspond to shoe widths, acting as standard width measurements that you can use to judge how wide a shoe will be. D, as an example, is seen as the standard width for men and a slightly wider-than-average size for women.

Different countries approach these letters in different ways, with each one corresponding to a different width. However, most follow the general pattern of A, B, C, D, and E, with minor variations for extreme cases. The scales will also vary based on sex and age, meaning that some have a different medium width compared to others.

A Width

The A sizes are generally more common among women’s feet and can reach increasingly narrow levels depending on how many As are used. A is the standard, while AA (or 2A) is even narrower. This usually ends at AAAA (4A), which is generally the smallest size produced commercially. Expect names like Slim or Super Slim, especially for the narrower sizes.

B Width

B is the most common letter among women’s shoes and acts as the standard.  In men s shoe scales, it is slightly below average. It is also the narrowest width among most children’s footwear.

C Width

C shoes are slightly more wide for women but don’t really appear often among    men s shoe scales. They will usually only be used for women’s shoes.

D Width

This is the most common men’s shoe size, acting like the average shoe width. Putting D men’s shoes in women’s sizes (or children’s sized) would make them above average in width.

E Width

E, EE, and EEE are the widest widths. They’d be considered wide for women, men, and children, with 4E (EEEE) being the standard for the widest commercially available shoe width. These will also be called names like “extra wide,” sometimes gaining an additional ‘extra’ to make “extra extra wide,” depending on how a particular store or manufacturer wants to market them.

These sizes can increase even further for specific cases, reaching up to 10E for people with a medical need for larger shoes, such as diabetics.

How do the Widths Compare across Countries?

Looking at the average shoe width chart UK stores follow, you can see that there are slight differences. For example, with men’s shoe widths, the UK considers many sizes to be smaller than those in the US, even if the lengths are similar. Because of the different shoes width chart, UK citizens going to the UK (or US citizens visiting the UK) will often have to convert the sizes if there isn’t a chart that they can rely on.

How do the Widths Compare across Sexes?

On average, women’s shoes will be narrower than men’s shoes. The chart generally considers women’s shoes to be one size narrow compared to men’s, meaning that they will be one letter behind overall. As you may have noticed from the details above, this means that the baseline for women s shoes in men s sizes is smaller, whereas the average mens shoes in women s sizes will be one size larger.

A will usually only appear in reference to women’s shoes, whereas EEE and beyond are more often kept for Men’s shoes. There can be exceptions, but these are much rarer, and you won’t always be able to find shoe widths beyond these limits unless you look for something outside of the commercial market.

Why does Width Matter?

In the same way, that length is a key part of buying shoes, width is just as important, if not more important overall. The wrong shoe width can easily lead to pain and discomfort while you are walking around, and not understanding what size you are buying can make things incredibly confusing. A shoe that might be the perfect length could still be extra narrow or extra wide, making it less comfortable but not necessarily giving you an understanding of what is wrong.

Keeping track of shoe widths is key in both men’s and women’s footwear. If you choose the right width, shoes will become more comfortable overall. For example, if you are a narrow B, wear B width footwear rather than going for an A size.

Once you understand how widths work, it isn’t hard to make sure that you are choosing the right options for your foot size. Remember that lengths are just as important as widths and that you will want something that is suitable in both directions, rather than just one.

Extra Narrow Shoes

Wearing a narrow shoe will mean that you are more prone to blisters, cramps, sores, and other types of pain. Your toes can get squished together and might even cross over one another, causing ingrown nails and serious problems with how your feet look. The increased chance of heavy sweating can lead to infections, spread fungi, and bacteria faster, and might even cause bleeding if you have sensitive skin or are prone to cuts.

If a shoe is too narrow, it also doesn’t leave much room for breathability or free movement, which can easily translate to problems when trying to walk. Replacing them with a wide pair (or a pair that only goes up one step on the widths chart) can be enough to fix this.

Extra Wide Shoes

A shoe that is too wide is sure to cause plenty of friction. Since they don’t attach to your feet properly and won’t typically protect you due to the wide shape, this can lead to all kinds of problems: skin damage, sores, blisters, and blood blisters, torn-off nails and general pain while moving around.

If your shoe is too wide for your foot, you can technically buy inserts to make it feel much more normal on, but it can be much more reliable to simply go down one of the widths. A smaller shoe size is often enough to fix the problem, or at least make the wearer more comfortable.

About the Author

Hey, I'm Lilly Harvey. If there's two things I'm passionate about in life, it's shoes and writing!

Combining both my passions with my Fashion Design degree, I've helped create Shoe Adviser to help readers choose the best shoes for them, enjoy!

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