I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't struggle with having big feet. Even in middle school, my gym sneakers came from the men's department. Shopping for shoes in stores was a nightmare — either they didn't carry my size or the shoes that did fit my long, narrow feet were hideous. I could never squeeze into the sparkly, strappy Steve Maddens that I wanted so desperately.
Once, while visiting New York City in high school with my parents, I stumbled upon a store called French Sole New York. This tiny Upper East Side boutique (which seriously looks like Ollivanders Wand Shop and is just as wonderful) was the first store I'd stepped foot into that actually carried a wide selection of cute size 12s. Under my mother's guidance that I should "get them while I can," I stocked up and bought eight pairs of shoes that day. Maybe this sounds crazy, but I didn't want to buy eight pairs of shoes at once. And I know, I know, it sounds like every girl's dream, right? But feeling like you have to buy eight pair of shoes because you have trouble finding shoes everywhere else isn't all that glamorous.
And the thing that I really don't understand is, why is it so hard to find stylish women's shoes in larger sizes? After all, our feet are only getting bigger.
As reported by Jennifer Howard at Slate, "At the beginning of the 20th century, the average American woman wore a 3.5 or a 4; by the 1940s she was strapping on a 5.5. According to The Professional Shoe Fitting Manual, the average American adult female's shoe size in the 1960s was a 5.5 or a 6 ... By now, the average women's size could hover somewhere in the 9s." And still, very few brands are making shoes in large sizes, which really doesn't make any sense if you consider the market demands.
So, here, I've illustrated the awkward, frustrating, and sometimes painful experience of what it's like for us big-footed women to shop for shoes. Are you listening, shoe makers and department store buyers?
1. Cautious Browsing of the Display Floor
No matter how many times you've been here before, you insist on browsing the displays and ogling shoes that you already know don't come in you size. After a few laps around the store, you've pulled about two or three styles that you're interested in trying on — not necessarily because they're the ones you like the most, but because your experience is telling you that these are the styles that most likely come in your size.
2. Relinquish Power to the Sales Associate
The sales associate approaches and you tepidly hand him the floor samples you've picked out. "Do you have these in a 12?" you ask quietly. You don't want the size 7s to overhear your conversation and feel superior about their feet that can fit into any style. He sighs and scrunches his mouth. You know the odds aren't in your favor but you try to look as hopeful and nonchalant as possible. "Okay, well if you see any similar styles in a size 12 then I'll try them on. Or 11s... sometimes I wear 11s."
3. Try On The Only Two Pairs In Your Size
While waiting for the sales associate to return, you keep your eyes glued to your cellphone for fear of being tempted by other surrounding options that only run up to size 10. After a while, the sales associate returns holding 3 (if you're lucky) boxes of shoes. "So we didn't have the one style in black, but we do have them in this peachy orange color," he begins. "The other pair don't come in your size, but I found these that are kind of similar. And I brought an 11 in this pair because they run kind of big." No, no, and definitely not.
4. Receive Unsolicited Adivce
The frustration on your face is becoming more and more visible with each unsuccessful pair you try on. Sensing your annoyance, the sales associate recommends other stores that you should try instead. He's nice about it, but you still feel rejected. This is your Pretty Woman moment.
5. Glare At The Other Women On Your Way Out
You're too wounded to repack the shoes in their boxes, so you quickly gather your belongings and make a beeline to the exit — but not before giving stink eyes to every happy-looking woman in the store.
6. Shell Out For Shoes That Fit
After searching to the farthest depths of the Internet, you've realized that the stylish shoes that come in your size are going to cost you. So, you shell out a few hundred bucks for a pair of Stuart Weitzmans. Or, if funds are limited, you spend a few hours perusing pages and pages of Zappos until something decent sparks your interest.
7. Buy As Many Pairs As Possible
And when you finally find a pair that you're finally happy with (and fit the way that they're supposed to!), stock up and rejoice. All of the shoes. Treat yo'self. You deserve it.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy (7)