A woman can definitely wear men’s shoes, the only problem might be the width. However, this can be solved (or at least improved) with tighter laces and extra socks.
If a woman finds a pair of men’s shoes that are comfortable and fit well, there’s no reason not to buy them.
Of course, a woman may struggle to find some styles of shoes in the men’s section. (Male high heels are very much a niche market.)
Why are men’s and women’s shoes different?
There are broad differences between men’s and women’s feet. On the whole, women have smaller feet, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same but scaled down.
Women’s feet tend to be narrower, with a curved inside line and a higher arch. The positioning of the toes is slightly different, with a woman’s big toe often having a shallower curve than what would be expected of a man.
The outside of the foot, from the heel to the toe, tends to be a shorter line, even in similarly sized feet.
What does that mean for shoes? Logically, a woman’s shoe would be designed to accommodate these changes.
This can often be seen in the curve of the sole, and in the point of the toe. It’s also why it’s harder to find women’s shoes in larger sizes.
When taking a design for a male shoe, and changing it to fit a woman, the broad trends would show the shoe needs to be narrowed. The inside and outside edges would need to be curved differently, and the higher arch must be accommodated.
However, these general differences can’t really encompass the vast range of feet found across the genders. A shoe for a woman won’t fit every woman, and those with wider feet and lower arches may feel more comfortable in a shoe designed for men.
Much of this fitting depends on how much effort a brand puts into designing a shoe to suit a foot.
Going past the fit, the main difference between men’s and women’s shoes is the assumptions about design.
What are the differences between men’s and women’s shoes?
Despite the general differences in the feet, the differences in the shoes have a tendency to be cosmetic. By which we mean, women’s shoes look different from men’s shoes.
A shoe designed for a man, especially a dress shoe, is often black or brown with few distinguishing features.
A woman’s dress shoe, on the other hand, can be a whole range of rainbow colors. Women also have the advantage of bows and sparkles, various design features that men have to miss out on.
These broad social trends are similar to the expectations of shoe fit: generally considered standard, but impossible to accommodate for everyone.
It’s important to note that a woman can’t simply pick up a man’s shoe in the same size and start wearing it. Men’s and women’s shoes are sized in different ways, so a size 7 for a man isn’t a size 7 for a woman.
The general rule is that if a woman wants to wear a man’s shoe, it should be 2 sizes down from her standard size.
The average width of a man’s shoe is larger as well. If the shoes are too large, adding layers of socks, insoles, or padded inserts can improve the fit. For a woman with a wider foot, the fit of a man’s shoe may be preferred.
Can I buy unisex shoes?
Yes! Several brands are starting to bring out unisex shoes, and some have been doing it for a while. Perhaps the most famous example is Converse.
The Chuck Taylor All Star shoes, one of the most classic designs, are primarily unisex! Most people who have purchased a pair of Converse have bought unisex shoes.
The same goes for Doc Martens and the standard style of Birkenstock. These shoes are sized in both men’s and women’s sizes, but the actual shoe remains the same.
There are more gender-neutral shoes reaching the marketplace every day. Nike and Adidas have both introduced a range of unisex sneakers, with more likely to follow.
When shouldn’t women wear men’s shoes?
The only time a woman shouldn’t wear men’s shoes is when they’re uncomfortable. If the fit of a shoe isn’t right, it can cause painful problems.
Unfortunately, a significant percentage of women are wearing the wrong size shoes to begin with.
Perhaps the time to be most careful is when purchasing running shoes, or other sneakers that are designed for activity. These shoes need to fit correctly, to prevent the chances of injury.
That doesn’t mean a woman has to buy a pair of women’s shoes. Instead, a woman needs to buy sneakers that actually fit. The best way to do this is to get your feet professionally measured, and discuss what size and style will be best.
If the shoe fits, then the gender of it shouldn’t matter. The primary focus should always be comfort.
Can a woman wear men’s shoes?
Women can wear men’s shoes, and more brands than you realize are gender-neutral. Many classic shoe designers, such as Converse and Dr. Martens, have been making unisex shoes for years.
When purchasing a man’s shoe, a woman should be aware that the sizing and fit are slightly different. Women’s shoe sizes are assigned a different numbered scale to men, and a woman will generally need a man’s size 2 units smaller than a woman’s. The width of a man’s shoe is also normally bigger.
However, what’s most important is buying a shoe that fits your feet, rather than your gender. There’s nothing that should stop a woman from buying a man’s shoe if she likes the fit and design.
The main thing separating men’s and women’s shoes is tradition, rather than any actual need. Women’s shoes can only accommodate a standard level of fit, and for many women a man’s shoe may be more comfortable.
Don’t worry about gender, buy the shoes you like.