The Basics | Shoe Widths Explained

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How Wide is Wide?

When determining your shoe size, width is just as important as length. Understanding shoe widths can be difficult, but buying the right width for your foot will make a world of difference in the comfort of your shoes. While shoe widths will vary across shoe brands, there are some guidelines to help you determine which width is best for your foot.

There is no industry standard used by typical retail shoe makers to regulate the measurements of shoes. Most shoes are described as narrow, medium, wide, or extra wide- but that doesn’t mean that all brands will have the same width. We know how important it is to find the right shoe for your feet, and understand that the only way to ensure proper fit is trying the shoes on.

In a typical retail shoe store, the only widths available are a medium, which is a (B) in a women’s size and a (D) in a men’s shoe. This width is designed to fit the widest range of normal foot, and if you’re lucky you may find a wide available in some stores. In retail shoes, a women’s wide is a (D), while a men’s wide is an (E ) or (2E). However, these wide shoes are few and far between in a typical shoe retailer, and a narrow is even rarer.

So, What's a Foot to Do?

When that medium width shoe feels too tight, and there is nothing else available, most shoppers will try the next size up. Since shoes are proportionately sized by length and width, you may find that the width improves, but the shoes are now too long for your foot. This extra length means that your arch support isn’t in the right place and your foot isn’t sitting properly in the footbed. In an effort to accommodate extra width, many people are walking around in shoes that are simply too long big for their feet.

The therapeutic shoe industry has stepped up to fill the need for shoes that are outside the range of the medium width shoes at the retail stores. While there is still no industry standard even here, the orthopedic and comfort shoes offered in multiple widths do conform to typical measurements in most cases. These shoes also offer the added help of extra depth and removable insoles or inserts to accommodate another important measurement, the volume of the foot. Most orthopedic shoes offer dual removable insole / inserts footbeds to further customize a wide range of feet and foot issues.

Shoes are sized by length and width. In order of narrowest to widest, shoe widths range from A to E. The narrowest width for women is subdivided into 4A, AA, with 4A being the most narrow shoe available. The widest sizes are also subdivided, from E to as large as 10E in some standard shoes. Shoes that have been designed for specific therapeutic purposes, such as diabetic shoes, will often be available in a larger ranges of sizes, with men’s shoes going as wide as 14E, and women’s width up to 10E. A general rule of thumb is that each increase of width adds about 1/4 inche across the shoe, but this may vary from brand to brand. Examples of Women and Men’s shoe widths

While there is no Shoe Manufacturer standard on shoe widths this is the most widely used Shoe Widths.

Women's Widths: Slim (4A), Narrow (AA), Medium (B), Wide (D), X-Wide (EE or 2E), and some styles (4E)

Men's shoes Widths: Narrow (B), Medium (D), Wide (EE, 2E), X-Wide (4E), (6E), and some styles (9E):

  • Apis Women's shoe widths: Medium (B), Wide (D), (3E), (5E), (7E) depending on shoe style
  • Apis Men's shoe widths: Medium (D), Wide (EE), (4E), (6E), (9E) depending on shoe style
  • Drew Women's Widths: Super Narrow (4A), Narrow (AA), Medium (B), Wide (D), X-Wide (EE)
  • Drew Men's shoes Widths: Narrow (B), Medium (D), Wide (EE), X-Wide (4E)

To determine whether your shoe is the right size and width, pay attention to the footbed. Your feet should align perfectly with the sides and bottoms of the footbed. Your heel should rest squarely in the heel cup, without the sides of the footbed rubbing your foot. Your toes should have about ¼ of an inch of space in the toe box.

If your toes rub or bump against the shoe, you run the risk of causing corns and calluses. The sides of your feet shouldn’t hang over the edges of the footbed, nor feel pinched or squeezed. The arch support should be the correct width for your foot and fit against the arch of your foot. The right fit and width hugs your foot, but never constricts.

When choosing shoes for therapeutic purposes such as diabetes, edema, or neuropathy, fit is especially crucial. In addition to length and width, keep in mind that depth matters, too. A deeper shoe allows for extra movement, as well as space for adding your own custom orthotics. Shoes with dual removable inserts provides the best custom fit for your feet.

Finding the perfect fit is important, and we’re happy to help. By providing expert help, a wide range of sizes and widths, and , ICS Shoes is dedicated to helping you find the right shoe. Simply give us a call, and we’re happy to speak with you about your needs.

Still not sure of your shoe size?

Email us your foot measurements and we will reply with some shoe suggestions.
The Length (L) from the heel to the tip of the longest toe (may not be the big toe)
The Width (W) from under the big toe to the small pinkie toe, at an angle (not sure of the angle, lift the heel of the foot, the area that stays on the ground is the foot width area.
The Instep (I) area of the foot. With the foot flat on the floor, measure the area from the Ground OVER the foot the to other side. This is the Instep or inside shoe volume measurement. ICS can suggest different depth shoes based on this measurement.
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