Buying shoes can be a mission even when you’re not that picky about their looks. You’re mostly a 9, but there is that brand where you’re an 8 ½, and in another, you’re a 10. But now you’re online, there’s a sale on a fabulous shoe in a brand you know. But while they’ve got 9, it also says, “B width.” Now your boyfriend claims a B width is narrow, and your best friend is saying it’s standard. Who is right?
A B width in shoes means a narrow in men’s sizing and is standard/medium width for women, sometimes sold as “normal.” A shoe shop can measure your foot to determine the width, or you can measure the widest part of your foot at home with a flexible measuring tape.
I have included B width size charts for men and women later in this post, to help you find your correct measurement (skip ahead to check this)!
Feet change as we age. People are aware that it is important to routinely measure kids’ feet. However, adults are not as diligent. There is a misconception that our shoe size has remained the same since we’ve stopped growing. But ligaments and tendons loosen with age, and other events, such as pregnancy or weight gain, can also impact your shoe size, especially the width.
B Width Is Different In Men And Women’s Shoes
A B width is different in men’s and women’s shoes because they don’t have the same average-sized foot. A man’s average foot width is bigger than a woman’s average. Thus, most shoes off the shelf are a “medium” or “standard,” which for a man is D width and for a woman is B width.
A Woman’s Narrow Is A, But A Men’s Is Usually C
A woman’s narrow is an A. Confusingly, a narrow in men’s is typically sold as “C” or “C/B.” Even when not explicitly stated, most men’s shoe manufacturers group B in the same category as C. It is rare to find a men’s shoe with a separate category for B or a brand that measures even narrower than a “C.”
But technically speaking, shoes come in a broad range of widths, from AAA (narrowest) to EEE (widest). However, very few brands cater to people that fall out of the “standard” width, and the further your foot is from the standard, the more challenging it is to find shoes that look good and fit.
You Should Avoid Sizing Up Or Down For Width
Because shoe manufacture’s seldom offer shoes outside of standard width, people with wider feet often compensate by going up a shoe size. Occasionally, a person with a narrower foot will see if they can go down a size for a narrower fit. Usually, with narrow feet, people find their toes scrunch and give up. But occasionally, because the toe just fits, they do it.
It is understandable why people buy the wrong size to achieve the correct width. The options outside the standard sizing are limited and sometimes unaffordable. But purchasing a bigger (or occasionally smaller) shoe size to achieve the right width should be avoided.
Going bigger or smaller raises the likelihood that feet will chafe and blister. The heel will either be too big or pinch. In the case of hiking boots and many other athletic shoes, going too big or small can also damage or lose toenails.
In the case of shoes too big, the foot “slams” forward against the toe box when going downhill, sudden stops, and sometimes while running. On the other hand, when people “just fit” a shoe, their foot naturally swells during the activity, pressing their toes into the box, causing pain and potential damage.
How Do I Measure My Shoe Width?
Measuring your feet is ideally done in a shop with a proper Brannock Device, known as “that metal foot thingy” to everyone else. But if you can’t get to a shoe store and don’t own a “metal foot thingy,” then there are ways to measure your own feet. (Yes, measure both, as they will be different, and you need to buy for the bigger foot.)
There are two basic at-home foot measuring methods
For both, you should do it twice, once barefoot and the other with the type of socks you wear for that type of shoe. For instance, most runners’ socks are thinner than your average hiking socks. Thus, if you are looking to purchase hiking shoes, don’t measure your foot in your running socks. Similarly, if you wear dance shoes barefoot, don’t measure your feet while wearing warm, fluffy hiking socks.
Tracing Your Feet To Measure Shoe Size
For the first method, you will need two pieces of standard plain paper and a pen.
Stand on the paper, one for each foot, in your natural standing position. Thus, you should be fully upright, not leaning forward or back, weight evenly distributed, and feet hip-distance apart (the distance between the bones, not any fluff you may carry). Then have somebody trace each foot.
You can trace your own foot, but it is less than ideal as your weight shifts, slightly altering the measurements. But cats, dogs, and budgies are terrible at helping their person with such tasks, so sometimes we have to do it ourselves.
Once your foot is traced, you measure your foot with a ruler or tape measure. For the width, you use the widest part of your foot.
Measuring Shoe Size With Tape Or String
The second method for measuring your width is standing on a flexible measuring tape like you’d use to measure a bicep, thigh, or hip. The other option is using a piece of string.
Next, you stand up with the tape or string under the widest part of your foot. Gently wrap it, so it is firm but not tight, then mark the spots on either side of the foot.
Once you’ve marked the spots, step off. Now, note the figure on the tape or measure the distance on the string against a ruler.
What Is The Measurement For B Width?
Once you have determined the numerical width of your foot, you ideally want to find that brand’s shoe chart. Then it is easy; you simply match your measurements with their chart, and – ta-da – you know your shoe size. Unfortunately, only certain shoe manufacturers provide this vital information.
Thus, here are generic charts for both men’s and women’s “narrow,” “medium,” and “wide.” As noted above, B from men is often grouped with C. However, if you have a brand that offers B and C, B will be the narrower of the two. Also, when it comes to wide for women, C and D are often grouped.
Women’s Shoe Chart In Inches For Width:
|Shoe Size||Narrow (A)||Medium (B)||Wide (C and D)|
Men’s Shoe Chart In Inches For Width:
|Shoe Size||Narrow (C and B)||Medium (D)||Wide (E)|
A B width in men’s and women’s shoes does not mean the same thing. In men’s, it is narrow, and for women, it is standard. If you want to know the width of your foot, it is best to have it professionally measured, but you can do it yourself. Always try to find the manufacturer’s sizing chart before relying on a generic sizing guide.
For more shoe sizing guides check out:
What Is D Width In Shoes? (Size Chart & Guide)
What Is 2E Width? (Shoe Size Chart & Guide)
What Does GS Mean In Shoes? GS Shoe Size Chart
What Does H Mean In Shoe Size? (Size Chart)
Lorna is a footwear geek and the founder of Wearably Weird. She created a YouTube channel in 2021 for fellow footwear fanatics, dedicated to detail-rich footwear reviews and info. She has a fashion media qualification (awarded in 2011).