Even dress shoes and high heels can be comfortable if they fit well because a properly fitting shoe shouldn’t pinch or rub. The key to finding a shoe that fits is not just choosing the right size, but also choosing the right width. Feet come in all different widths, but you may not realize that shoes do as well.

While some people’s feet fit within an average shoe width range, many people need specialty sizing for a good fit. This is especially true if you are shopping for dress shoes or high heels. If you find that your feet are moving around in your shoes, you probably need a narrower shoe. If shoes are often too tight or pinch, you likely need a wider shoe size. Casual shoes may offer a slightly more forgiving fit. A size B is the average width for women and a size D is average for men.

A correctly fitting shoe should mold comfortably to your foot. There should be adequate, but not excessive space in the toe box and the heel of your shoe should not rub. The arch support should be the correct width for your foot and fit against the arch of your foot. This is true whether you are purchasing a rounded toe flat, a pointed toe stiletto heel or a man’s loafer.

Narrow Shoes
Narrow shoe sizes may be denoted as narrow or with letter designations. If your feet are quite narrow, you may need a AAA or AA size (also labeled extra-narrow) if you are female. These may also be called a 2A or 3A width. Slightly narrower than average feet may require a narrow or size A shoe, depending upon the brand. Narrow men’s shoes are labeled with a C. Experiment with shoe widths to find the shoes that best fit your feet in each brand.

Wide Shoes
Just as the letters A or C designate a narrow shoe, the letter E is the most common designation for wider shoe, especially for men. Women may find C and D used to note a wide, but not extra wide shoe. You may also find EE or EEE shoes available from some retailers if you need additional width.

What can you do if you just love a shoe, but can’t get the width you need? In some styles, you might be able to wear an average width shoe with heavier socks or tights if you typically need a narrow. You can also try buying an average width one-half size larger than you typically wear if you need a slightly wider shoe. Depending upon the shoe, a shoe repair shop may be able to stretch a slightly too narrow shoe to offer a bit of additional width in the shoe upper for comfort.