What Does B and M Mean in Shoe Size?

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By Tina Hudson

Have you ever felt confused trying to buy shoes because you didn’t understand the sizing? Those letters after the numbers, like 10M or 7B, indicate the width of the shoe. Getting the proper width is key to finding that elusive perfect fit for all-day comfort. But what does B and M mean in shoe size? and why are they so important?

Key Takeaways: Why B and M Widths Matter

  • B and M indicate medium width shoes to fit average feet well
  • Getting the width right prevents pain, slippage, foot problems
  • Width accommodates natural toe spread when walking
  • Consistency in width across the same shoe model
  • Mix narrow/wide widths of same model can negate break-in
  • Focus on width in addition to shoe length for ideal fit

Why Shoe Width Matters for Healthy Feet

It’s easy to focus only on the numbered shoe size, but our feet come in a variety of widths too. Ignoring width is a recipe for pain and health issues over time. Shoes that are too narrow squash your toes together, restricting proper motion and circulation. Too wide and your foot slides around, failing to properly stabilize each step.

The right width keeps your toes and forefoot aligned while allowing natural toe spread as you walk. This prevents calluses, bunions, nerve problems like neuromas, and conditions like hammertoes or plantar fasciitis over time.

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Standard width designations emerged because medium widths accommodate most people well. B represents the medium width for women’s shoes, while M serves as the default medium for both men and women. But what do these letters signify specifically? And why does getting them right matter so much?

B and M

Making Sense of Shoe Sizing Systems

First, it helps to understand that the numbered shoe size only indicates length. Sizing formulas vary by region:

  • United States: Foot length in inches x 3 minus 22
  • Europe: Foot length in centimeters x 1.5 + 2
  • UK: Similar to Europe but using barleycorn units

These length-only sizes fail to consider key foot differences, namely width. So standardized width designations were added using letters or indicators like “N” for narrow or “W” for wide. Some common width scales are:

  • Narrow widths: AAA, AA, A
  • Medium widths: B, M, D
  • Wide widths: E, EE, EEE

Now let’s break down what B and M specifically mean.

Common Shoe Width Designations

WidthWomen’sMen’sDescription
NarrowAAA, AA, AA, BVery narrow feet. Constricting for most.
MediumBMAccommodates average width feet well. Ideal compromise of support and roominess.
WideD, ED, E, EEWider feet. Allows more toe spread when walking.
Extra-WideEE, EEEEEE, EEEEVery wide feet needing ample room.

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What Does the B Width Mean?

  • B is a medium width designation used for women’s shoes.
  • It falls in between narrow and wide to accommodate slight foot expansion as you walk.
  • The B width gives room for comfort but still offers stability and support.
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To understand where B falls, it helps to compare it to other widths:

  • AAA or AA would be too narrow, constricting toes
  • A may still pinch some feet, but works for narrow feet
  • B fits average or slightly wide women’s feet well
  • D is on the wider side, but allows more toe spread

So B hits the sweet spot–not too narrow, not overly wide–for most women.

Decoding the M Shoe Width

The M width indicates a medium or standard men’s shoe width. But it’s also used as a default “medium” in unisex sizing when no width is specified.

  • An M width is subtly wider than a B width.
  • It provides men and women in the middle of the pack a comfortable fit.
  • For men requiring less width, they could size down to a B or A width shoe.
  • Women needing more room could opt for a D or E width instead.

Again, M hits that ideal compromise between foot support and toe wiggle room for most feet.

Why You Need the Right B or M Width for Your Feet

Now that you know what B and M widths signify, why does getting the correct width matter so much? Consider the following:

Consequences of Shoes That Are Too Small or Narrow

  • Squished, painful toes
  • Loss of circulation
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Nails pressing into skin, causing infections
  • Bunions, hammertoes, corns, or calluses over time

Ramifications of Shoes That Are Too Wide

  • Foot sliding around inside shoe
  • Lack of stability when walking
  • Blisters from friction
  • Tripping hazards
  • Overpronation, plantar fasciitis risk

Benefits of Matching Your Foot Shape

  • Allows natural toe spread when walking
  • Reduces pressure points, friction, calluses
  • Stabilizes each step for proper gait
  • Prevents various foot problems
  • All-day comfort!
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Since feet swell and shrink throughout the day, you’ll want consistency in width sizing across shoes of the same model. Mixing things up can negate any break-in factors over time.

While less common widths like EEE or AAA have their purpose too, most feet will find their match with either a B or M width shoe. Now that you know how to size for width too, you can seek out that just right fit for happy, healthy feet!

Final Words

Understanding B versus M widths will help both women and men find that elusive “perfect pair” of shoes. Knowing your size is only half the battle! Seek out shoes offering various widths, try both lengths and widths on, and give your feet the room they deserve. Prioritizing foot health now prevents problems down the road.

I aimed to write an engaging, reader-focused article explaining B and M widths in approachable language. Please let me know if you would like me to modify or add anything!

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