Men's Shoe Width Letters Decoded

Man shopping for shoes
Bellurget Jean Louis/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Knowing just your shoe size isn't quite enough to obtain a properly fitting men's shoe. Width is also a factor. Sure, it would be easy if shoe manufacturers simply stated their fits as either "wide" or "narrow." Instead, they use a range of letters and numbers to refer to shoe widths. This makes things confusing, especially if you're shopping online. But once you've deciphered these shoe width letters (which can vary by manufacturer), shoe shopping becomes a breeze. Below is a chart to help you sort it all out.

Men's Shoe Width Size Chart:

X-Narrow/Slim Narrow Medium Wide X-Wide
A N M 2E 4E
- - - W WW
- - - - XW

Decoding Shoe Width Letters

With a few simple tricks, you need not memorize the chart above before you go shoe shopping. First, notice that the letters range in alphabetical order from narrow to wide. So a "B" width is always going to be narrower than an "E." Also, check out the number of letters that correspond to each width. The wider the size, the more letters it contains. For example, "EEE" is wider than "EE," and "WW" is wider than "W." If you're still confused (which is totally understandable), visit a knowledgeable shoe store, find out your proper size with the help of a salesperson, and pick out a new pair of shoes all in one trip. And if you're shopping online, look for a link to the shoe manufacturer's size chart. This will help you decode their brand-specific abbreviations and may also provide you with a length and width measurement in either inches or centimeters.

Shoe Width Ranges by Shoe Size

As a general rule, larger shoe sizes are wider, while smaller shoe sizes run narrower. But you don't want to settle for shoes that are either too long or too short just to obtain the proper width. When shopping online, first measure your feet by tracing around each one, and then measuring the widest point with a ruler. Match that up to an online chart that shows the usual widths of men's shoes for each given shoe size. Once you have the numbers and letters correct for your personal size, navigate back to your shoe manufacturer's site and make your purchase. Make sure to convert your American shoe size to an international size by using a men's international shoe size conversion chart before purchasing a shoe made in Europe or overseas.

Custom Shoe Fit

After all, if the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it. Some guys (and women) have feet that don't match a traditional shoe-size mold. If this sounds like you, you may never find a comfy shoe unless you buy custom shoes made specifically for you. Start by consulting a local cobbler, if you have one where you live. If you don't, many online retailers specialize in building custom shoes in a plethora of styles, from athletic shoes to boots. And while the cost may be steep, the shoe quality and fit will blow doors on anything you buy at the mall.