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

Expand your choices if you're looking for unisex styles

chunky shoes


Unlike the cult-favorite Snuggie, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to footwear (sadly, since this would have saved us a lot of time on our online shoe returns). So wearing a size 8 in Docs doesn't necessarily equate to an 8 in Chucks. Apart from a shoe's brand, its material and gender are all factors that will play into its fit. And just because a department store might categorize their footwear by men's and women's offerings, you shouldn't feel limited to style pickings marketed toward your gender only. This is the 21st-century, after all.

So if you're shopping for a new pair of kicks, whether it be elegant Oxfords or loafers to lounge in, we're here to help. Once you find a style that suits your taste, the next step is ensuring your comfort. Below are a few guidelines to finding that Cinderella fit, especially if you're interested in a unisex style.

Keep reading for how to convert men's and women's shoe sizes.

Who Benefits

mint green cream sneakers


Knowing your companion shoe size can expand your options, not only in terms of style but also if you struggle with finding shoes that fit in general. This is especially true of women who have bigger or wider feet and men whose feet are smaller or narrower than what is considered "the norm." The reality is that shoe sizing is based on general differences between men's and women's feet, but unfortunately, it neglects those of us who don't fit neatly into its mold (news flash: "It's bull."). Luckily, there is a way around it: by checking out the pickings in the opposite sex's shoe closet. Since men's footwear comes in larger sizes and wider widths, women whose feet fit this description might have some luck by slipping on a pair of men's shoes. Likewise, men with smaller or narrower feet may find more suitable options in women's shoe sizes.

Men's and Women's Shoe Size Conversion

colorful studio sneakers


As mentioned earlier, feet come in all shapes and sizes; thus, men's and women's feet and their corresponding shoe sizing differ. A size 9 men's shoe is not the same as a 9 in women's. However, fortunately for us, the formula for converting men's to women's shoe sizes—and vice-versa—is relatively straightforward.

To get their men's shoe size, women should subtract two sizes from their U.S. women's shoe size. On the other hand, men should add two sizes from their U.S. men's shoe size to get their women's size. So let's say you're a U.S. women's size 8.5. Your U.S. men's size companion is 6.5. See? Easy-peasy.

Size conversion for sneakers is slightly different but still won't require that you whip out the calculator. Women simply subtract a size and a half to determine their men's sneaker size, while men add a size and a half to determine their size in women's sneakers. If you wear a U.S. women's size 8.5, you would probably find a comfortable fit in a U.S. men's size 7 sneaker.

Finding the Right Fit

black athletic femme

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

There's no doubt that these conversion guidelines come in handy, but it's worth noting that they're a rule of thumb and not an exact science. Shoe sizes can vary quite a bit from brand to brand and even between styles by the same company. Trying on a pair of shoes in the store is still the best way to nail the right size. But in case you can't get to the store—or you've just succumbed to the convenience of online shopping—there's a solution: Simply measure your feet and then compare measurements against the shoe size chart provided on the brand's website. Keep in mind that it's not just about length, but width, as well. You might find you need to go down an additional half or full size if the shoe is too broad. If you can, consider ordering a pair of shoes in two different sizes to get the fit that's not too big and not too small, but just right. Make sure to check out the retailer's return policy first before you go ordering away (a lesson we learned the hard way). 

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