What Does “M” Mean in Shoe Size?

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By Tina Hudson

Finding the perfect shoe fit can be a daunting task, especially when navigating the maze of shoe size notations. One common designation that often leaves people scratching their heads is the letter ‘M’ after a number, such as 8M. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll unravel the mystery behind the ‘M’ in shoe sizes, ensuring you can confidently shop for the most comfortable and suitable fit.

Understanding Shoe Size Fundamentals

Before diving into the specifics of the ‘M’ notation, it’s essential to grasp the basics of shoe sizing. Shoe sizes primarily indicate the length of the foot the shoe is designed to fit. However, a crucial distinction exists between men’s and women’s shoe sizes for the same foot length.

To accurately measure foot length, shoe retailers and manufacturers often rely on the Brannock Device, a metal tool with sliding scales. By placing your foot on the device, the sliding scales can determine your foot’s precise length and width, providing valuable insights for finding the perfect fit.

Learn more about What Does B and M Mean in Shoe Size?

The Meaning of ‘M’ in Shoe Sizes

Now, let’s address the burning question: What does the ‘M’ mean in shoe sizes? Simply put, the ‘M’ stands for ‘Men’s’ or ‘Male.’ This designation denotes that the size refers to the men’s shoe size scale.

For example, if you see a shoe labeled as size 8M, it means the shoe is designed to fit a men’s foot with a length corresponding to a size 8 on the men’s scale.

In contrast, women’s shoe sizes are typically denoted by the letter ‘W’ (e.g., 8W), while some unisex styles may not include a letter at all.

shoe size

Men’s vs. Women’s Shoe Sizes: Understanding the Difference

While it may seem counterintuitive, men’s and women’s shoe sizes differ for the same foot length. This discrepancy arises from the fact that men’s feet are typically wider than women’s feet.

To illustrate this, let’s consider a foot measuring 9.5 inches in length:

  • For a man, this foot length would correspond to a size 8M.
  • For a woman, the same foot length would translate to a size 10.

The reason behind this size disparity is that men’s shoes are designed to accommodate wider feet, necessitating a longer shoe length to ensure a comfortable and suitable fit.

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When to Use ‘M’ Sizing

As a general rule, ‘M’ sizes should be used when purchasing men’s shoes. However, there are a few exceptions to keep in mind:

  1. Unisex Styles: Some unisex shoe styles, particularly in athletic or casual footwear, may use ‘M’ sizing as the default. In these cases, it’s essential to consult the brand’s sizing guide or try on the shoes to ensure a proper fit.
  2. Wide Women’s Feet: Women with exceptionally wide feet may find that men’s ‘M’ sizes provide a more comfortable fit, especially in certain shoe styles or brands.

It’s always advisable to measure your feet accurately and consult sizing charts provided by the shoe manufacturer or retailer to determine the most appropriate size for your needs.

Measuring Your Foot for Accurate Sizing

Accurate foot measurements are the foundation of finding the perfect shoe fit. While size charts and notations can provide guidance, every foot is unique, and taking precise measurements is crucial. Here’s a step-by-step guide to measuring your feet for accurate sizing:

  1. Prepare the Necessary Tools: You’ll need a flat surface, a ruler or Brannock Device (the metal tool used by shoe retailers), a pencil, and a piece of paper.
  2. Measure in the Evening: Feet tend to swell slightly throughout the day, so it’s best to measure them in the evening when they’re at their largest.
  3. Trace Your Foot: Stand on the piece of paper and trace the outline of your foot with the pencil. Make sure to distribute your weight evenly and keep the pencil perpendicular to the paper.
  4. Measure the Length: Using the ruler or Brannock Device, measure the distance from the heel to the longest toe. This measurement will determine your foot length and corresponding shoe size.
  5. Measure the Width: Measure the widest part of your foot, typically across the ball of the foot. This measurement will help you determine the appropriate width for a comfortable fit.
  6. Repeat for Both Feet: It’s common for feet to differ slightly in size, so measure both feet and choose the larger size to ensure a comfortable fit.
  7. Consider Foot Conditions: If you have conditions like bunions, hammertoes, or other foot deformities, make sure to measure accordingly and consult a professional for proper sizing recommendations.

By taking accurate foot measurements, you’ll have a better understanding of your true shoe size and width requirements, increasing the chances of finding the perfect fit right from the start.

Tips for Finding the Perfect Shoe Fit

Even with accurate measurements, finding the perfect shoe fit can be a challenge. Here are some tips to help you navigate the process:

  1. Try Shoes on Later in the Day: As mentioned earlier, feet tend to swell throughout the day. Try on shoes in the evening when your feet are at their largest to ensure a comfortable fit.
  2. Wear the Appropriate Socks: Wear the type of socks you plan to wear with the shoes during the fitting process. This will give you a more accurate representation of the fit.
  3. Walk Around: Don’t just stand in the shoes; walk around the store to ensure they feel comfortable and supportive during movement.
  4. Check for Wiggle Room: There should be about a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. This wiggle room allows for proper toe movement and prevents discomfort.
  5. Consider Width Options: If a shoe feels too tight or too loose, explore different width options. Many brands offer narrow, medium, wide, and extra-wide widths to accommodate various foot shapes.
  6. Trust Your Instincts: If a shoe doesn’t feel quite right, even if it’s your “size,” trust your instincts. Every foot is unique, and the perfect fit may vary slightly from the recommended size.
  7. Break Them In: Keep in mind that some materials, like leather, may stretch or mold to your feet over time. However, shoes should still feel comfortable from the start, with minimal break-in required.
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By following these tips and being patient during the fitting process, you’ll increase your chances of finding shoes that not only look great but also provide the comfort and support your feet deserve.

Common Shoe Fitting Issues

Even with the best intentions, shoe fitting issues can still arise. Here are some common problems and potential solutions:

  1. Heel Slippage: If your heel is slipping out of the shoe, it may be too wide or too long. Try a narrower width or a shorter size, or consider adding an insole or heel grip to improve the fit.
  2. Toe Cramping: If your toes feel cramped or pinched, the shoe is likely too short or too narrow. Opt for a longer size or a wider width to alleviate the discomfort.
  3. Arch Pain: Inadequate arch support can lead to foot pain and discomfort. Look for shoes with built-in arch support or consider adding an orthotic insole for extra cushioning.
  4. Blisters and Hotspots: Friction caused by ill-fitting shoes can lead to blisters and hotspots. Ensure there’s enough wiggle room and that the shoe doesn’t rub against your foot in any areas.
  5. Instep Pressure: If you feel pressure or tightness across the top of your foot, the shoe may be too narrow or too shallow. Try a wider width or a shoe with a higher instep to alleviate the pressure.
  6. Ankle Rubbing: Shoes that rub against your ankles can cause irritation and discomfort. Look for shoes with a higher or lower cut, depending on your preference and ankle shape.

If you experience any of these issues, don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance from a qualified shoe fitter or podiatrist. They can provide personalized recommendations and solutions to ensure you find the perfect shoe fit for your unique feet.

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Other Size Notations to Consider

While the ‘M’ notation is widely used for men’s shoe sizes, there are several other notations you may encounter:

  • ‘W’: As mentioned earlier, this letter denotes women’s shoe sizes.
  • ‘D’: This notation indicates a wide width fitting, often used in conjunction with the size (e.g., 8D for a men’s size 8 in a wide width).
  • European Sizes: Many international brands use a European sizing system, which assigns a numerical value based on the length of the last (the foot-shaped model used in shoemaking).
  • UK Sizes: Shoes manufactured in the United Kingdom may use a separate sizing scale, typically denoted by the absence of a letter (e.g., 8 for a UK men’s size 8).

It’s essential to familiarize yourself with these various notations to ensure you select the correct size and width for your feet, regardless of the shoe brand or origin.


Understanding the ‘M’ notation in shoe sizes is a crucial step towards achieving a comfortable and suitable fit. By recognizing that ‘M’ stands for ‘Men’s’ and denotes the men’s shoe size scale, you can confidently navigate the shoe shopping experience.

Remember, the key to finding the perfect shoe lies in accurate foot measurements and consulting sizing charts provided by the manufacturer or retailer. Don’t hesitate to try on shoes in-store when possible, as every foot is unique, and the perfect fit may vary slightly from the recommended size.

Embrace the knowledge you’ve gained about shoe sizing notations, and embark on your next shoe shopping adventure with confidence, ensuring every step you take is a comfortable and stylish one.

Fun Fact

Did you know that the concept of left and right shoes only became common in the 19th century? Before that, most shoes were made “straight,” meaning they could be worn on either foot. The invention of the Brannock device in 1925 further revolutionized shoe sizing by allowing for more precise measurements of both length and width.

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