How to Convert Men's and Women's Shoe Sizes

Expand your choices if you're looking for unisex styles

Woman standing on man's feet, both wearing white sneakers.
Steven Lippman / Photodisc / Getty Images

Picture this: You're wandering around a shoe store when you come across the perfect pair of shoes. But there's only one problem. They're men's shoes and you're a woman, or vice versa.

Men's and women's shoe sizes differ slightly; a size 8 in a men's shoe is not the same size as an 8 in a women's shoe. Knowing your companion size can give you a lot more options, especially if your feet are wide for a woman or narrow for a man.

Generally speaking, women with wide feet can find a better fit in a pair men's shoes because men's shoes are made in wider widths, while and men with narrow feet will likewise find shoes that come in narrower widths in women's sizes. And there are more shoes in the smaller range in women's sizes and greater choices in larger sizes in men's shoes, so if your shoe size falls on these extremes for your gender, you also might find a greater selection if you also consider shoes for the opposite gender.

So if you're looking for a unisex style like a pair of sneakers, oxfords, loafers, or substantial sandals, you could find a pair that fits better if you cast a wide net and look around at styles marketed for the opposite gender.

Men's and Women's Shoe Size Conversion

Converting men's to women's shoe sizes is fairly simple. If you're a woman, generally speaking, you should subtract two sizes from your U.S. women's shoe size. If you're a man, add two sizes from your U.S. men's shoe size. For example, say you're a U.S. women's size 8.5. Your U.S. men's size companion is 6.5.

With sneakers, subtract a size and a half if you're a woman and add a size and a half if you're a man. If you wear a U.S. women's size 8.5, you would probably find a comfortable fit in a sneaker in a U.S. men's size 7.

Finding the Right Fit

These conversion guidelines can come in handy, but they're still very generalized rules of thumb. Conversions vary quite a bit from brand to brand and even between different styles of shoes made by the same company. So use these conversions as a starting point. How the shoes fit still is what determines the right size.

Trying a pair of shoes on in the store is the best way to find a perfect fit for any type of shoe. If you're shopping online you don't have that luxury, so the best thing you can do is measure your feet and then compare that with the size chart provided on the website. But it's not just about length since men's shoes tend to be wider than women's and women's narrower than men's. If you're a woman whose men's shoe size is a 6.5, for example, you might find you need to go down an additional half or full size to get the right fit if the shoe is too wide. It's also wise to order two different sizes of the shoes so you can compare the fit, but before you order anything, make sure you've thoroughly researched the retailer's return policy.