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The Difference Between Men's and Women's Shoe Sizes in the United States

Updated July 19, 2017

Shoes seem simple enough: a bit of leather, canvas and rubber put together to cover and protect your feet. At first glance, there doesn't appear to be a significant difference between men's and women's feet. But there are actually quite a few noticeable differences.

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The Size Difference

According to the Brannock Device, the most common sizing device, in the United States men's shoe sizes are one size larger than women's. That is to say, if a man wears a size 9, it is a size 10 in women's shoes.

Other Differences

Aside from the most obvious difference in length, women's shoes are also made narrower than men's shoes. This is because men's feet are wider than women's, because women generally have higher arches than men.

Differences in Feet

Studies have shown there are vast differences in the feet of the two sexes. Using a survey done by the Army, Pennsylvania State University researcher Peter J. Cavanagh found women have higher arches, narrower heels and thicker ankles and calves. Cavanagh also found women's ankles are slighter closer to the ground and men have thicker toes.

Brannock Device

The Brannock Device is the most commonly used device to measure foot sizes. It's the long, metal sliding scale that you put your foot on in the shoe store. The Brannock Device was invented by Charles Brannock, the son of a shoemaker. Brannock invented the device in the mid-1920s because there were inadequate tools for measuring foot size at the time.

It is based on linear measurement. According to the scale, a men's size 1 shoe is 7 2/3 inches long--each additional size is 1/3 inch longer.

Miscellaneous

Aside from differences in feet, men and women have many differences in body shape and movement, which can affect the way we walk and run. Therefore, shoe companies have to adjust for the differences. For instance, a woman needs support in different areas than a man does, based on differences in the body.

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About the Author

T.D. Wood is a 2006 graduate of the University of Alabama, but his passion for writing goes far beyond his journalism degree. Wood has put on many hats as a writer, covering sports for The Alexander City Outlook, blogging about entertainment, life and culture, and writing personally as a fiction, poetry and songwriter.

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