Is there a major difference between men’s and women’s running shoes?
Just about every shoe that we sell carries the same name in both men’s and women’s running shoes. The Saucony Guide ISO is called by that same name in both men’s and women’s, for example. But the same name does not mean the same shoe. Here are some obvious, but nonetheless very important differences.
The way dressmakers use a form to stitch together a dress, technical running manufacturers use a last to glue together a shoe.
The last gives the shoe its shape. So, before any shoes can be made, the last giving them shape is made. The last shows the manufacturer’s understanding of the shape of the human foot. In so many words, the manufacturer is saying: the most representative shape of a human size 9 foot looks like this. They repeat that statement for each combination of size, width, and gender.
That means that they have to make one last for size 9 medium women’s and another last for size 9 wide women’s. The first and most important difference between men’s and women’s shoes: they are made on different lasts.
Men’s shoe sizes tend to fall between sizes 8 and 13. Women’s shoe sizes tend to fall between sizes 6 and 11. There are clearly sizes that overlap between those two ranges—sizes 8, 9, 10, etc. But technical running shoe manufacturers make different shoes for men and women, even when the numerical size is the same. A size 9 in women’s running shoes, for example, is a different shape than a size 9 in men’s shoes.
Both men’s and women’s running shoes are made in medium, wide, and extra-wide widths (very rarely in narrow and extra-extra-wide). The actual widths and the letters used to designate the widths are different between the genders. Men’s widths are D for medium, 2E for wide, and 4E for extra-wide. Women’s widths are B for medium, D for wide and 2E for extra-wide.
Size conversions between men’s and women’s running shoes
Sometimes men can wear women’s running shoes, and vice versa. A guy who wears a size 7 medium, for example, may fit a women’s size 8 wide. A women’s wide is a men’s medium. These conversions can get tricky. Unfortunately, you will very rarely find a store that knows how to convert men’s and women’s sizes and widths to the other gender. But it’s one of the things that we specialize in at Run Shoe Store—we even created a chart that shows all of the possible conversions!