What does the letter "M" signify in shoe width?

Wide shoe sizes can be quite perplexing and overwhelming due to the terminology used. Different measures like Normal, Medium, Wide, and Extra Wide are combined with letters such as M, D, and E, and even numbers like 2A, 2E, and 4E. Let’s dive deeper to understand the meaning behind these shoe width sizes and how wide shoes cater to needs.

We have all been guilty of wearing shoes that are too snug or narrow. It could be because we have a pair that we want to hold onto, or the store didn’t have our exact size available. Regardless of the reason, wearing shoes can have negative consequences in the long term.

When it comes to purchasing shoes, it’s crucial to begin with finding the fit. Surprisingly, research has found that two-thirds of people don’t wear their shoe size. What’s more concerning is that certain groups, such as individuals, older adults, and those with diabetes, tend to predominantly wear shoes that are too narrow.

What Exactly Are Wide-Width Shoes?

Wide-width shoes are modified versions of sized shoes. While the overall length remains unchanged, the toe box and forefoot widths are increased to accommodate feet. Individuals with feet typically have a heel width but require more space in the forefoot area as well as for their toes. In addition to measurements, wide-width shoes may also offer depth since wider feet usually have a higher arch.

Unraveling Shoe Width Sizes

Similar to clothing sizes, understanding shoe width can be confusing because different brands and styles utilize varying methods of measurement.

There are two ways of determining shoe widths; one employs a letter-based system, while the other uses words in combination with sizing labels. The letters are often paired with specific size ranges.

A/2A/4A Widths

For women, shoes labeled with an ‘A’ width (sometimes referred to as Narrow or Extra Narrow) indicate options for slender feet. Men Extra Narrow footwear is generally categorized under this ‘A’ width label.

As more “A”s are added (2A, 3A, 4A, etc.), the shoes will gradually become narrower. These measurements can also be represented purely by letters (2A = AA, 3A = AAA, 4A = AAAA, etc.). To add confusion, women’s shoes are sometimes labeled as Slim and Super Slim, which essentially mean the thing as Narrow and Extra Narrow.

B Widths

The shoe size for women is a ‘B’ width, which is considered to be a Normal/Medium/Standard width. On the other hand, for men, a ‘B’ width is considered to be Narrow.

D Widths

When it comes to men’s shoes, a ‘D’ width is the size and is considered to be a Normal/Medium/Standard width. However, for women, a ‘D’ width is considered to be Wide.

E/2E/4E Widths

Among the letter sizes denoted by ‘E,’ 2E and 4E are pretty standard. Similar to how adding more Es increases the width in sizes like ‘A’ for men, a shoe with 2E width is categorized, whereas 4E or larger widths are classified as extra wide. For women’s shoes, any size equal to or larger than 2E falls under the category. It’s worth noting that some boots even come in sizes other than 10E, which are commonly found in diabetic footwear.


Narrow/Extra Narrow Widths

For women’s shoes, sizes labeled with the letter ‘A’ will be considered narrow; anything beyond 2A would fall into the extra narrow category. As for men’s shoes, those marked with a ‘B’ width are categorized as Narrow; an ‘A’ width would indicate a fit. These narrow options may also be referred to as Slim/Super Slim at times.

The dissimilarity between A and 2A is insignificant, which is why manufacturers generally provide sizes of 2A and 4A.

Medium Widths (Normal/Standard)

When it comes to women’s shoe sizes, the letter ‘B’ represents a Medium/Normal/Standard width, whereas, for men, it’s denoted as ‘D.’ If a shoe does not explicitly specify its width, it is typically assumed to be a Medium.

What does “M” signify in terms of shoe size?

In women’s shoe sizes, “M” stands for “width. Occasionally, “B” is also used to indicate the width of “M”.

For all of us, walking is a part of our routine. We rely on shoes to fulfill this purpose. However, finding the fit for sneakers or shoes that provide comfort can be challenging. It’s essential to find a pair that fits well.

When selecting cross-training shoes, there are two factors to consider: shoe length and shoe width. You may have encountered abbreviations and letters like M, D, BM, H, D(m), B(m), and others. So what does M mean in shoe size? In this article, I will explain these terms and other essential aspects so that you can confidently choose the shoe size when shopping for footwear.

Wide and Extra Wide Sizes

For women, if you wear a men’s Medium (D), that’s considered as a width. Anything more significant than an E is classified as Wide. As for men, Wide usually starts at E. Anything beyond 2E is deemed Extra Wide. It’s important to note that not all brands offer widths in every size increment. 2e and 4E are the commonly available options.

Determining the Need for Width Shoes

If you often find shoes that fit well in terms of length but feel tight on the sides, it’s an indication that you require wide-width shoes. Opting for shoes can be a solution, providing some extra width; however, it may result in an awkward fit with excessive space either in the heel or toe box area. This can lead to discomfort such as chafing or blisters, affect your walking pattern, and even cause tripping incidents. It’s always recommended to find a pair of shoes that fit correctly.

Another way to assess your foot width is by using the Brannock Device—an instrument employed by professionals to measure feet accurately. While the Brannock Device is mainly used for measuring foot length, it also includes a slider mechanism for measuring foot width.

Can the width of our feet change over time? 

Many people who typically wear medium-width shoes might be surprised to discover that they should be wearing width shoes. In some cases, we often blame a fitting shoe on a lengthy break when, in reality, it’s simply the wrong size. According to the Cleveland Clinic as we age it is common for our feet to become wider due to factors such as weight gain or natural changes, in ligaments and tendons. If your shoes are tighter than they used to be, it might be worth trying on a pair of wide shoes.

Determining Your Shoe Size

From baby shoes to men’s work boots, shoes are typically categorized based on their length and width. It’s crucial to understand how your foot dimensions correspond to sizes to ensure a fit whether you’re purchasing them in-store or online.

How to Measure

To measure you’ll require a piece of paper that’s larger than your foot, a pencil, and a measuring tape.

How to measure shoes sizes
  • Stand upright. Place the paper on the floor directly in front of you. If preferred, you can secure the piece with tape to prevent it from shifting. Position your foot on the paper.
  • Using a pencil, carefully trace along the edges of your foot while maintaining perpendicularity with the paper.
  • Once you have entirely traced one foot, flip the paper over. Repeat the tracing process for your foot on its reverse side.
  • Utilize a measuring tape to determine the length of your foot at its point. Then, ascertain the width at its end. Jot down these measurements on the paper.
  • To account for variations caused by pencil lines, subtract ¼ inch or around ½ centimeter, from both the length and width measurements.
  • Referencing these adjusted measurements, consult the chart below to find your shoe size.
  • Remember to trace and measure both feet individually since it is common for one foot to be slightly larger than the other. Use the measurements from your foot when determining your shoe size.
  • If you find it challenging to maintain balance while tracing, try doing it near a chair or table that can provide support for steadiness. Alternatively, having a friend trace your foot can also make the process easier.


 Finding shoes that provide comfort and proper fit is essential as our feet change over time. It’s important to recognize when your current shoes no longer feel right so that you can make adjustments accordingly.

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