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Big Feet, Small Options?

by Irene Feeney Steele

As a Fashion Stylist, I often get enquiries and DM’s asking me – where can someone buy stylish shoes if they’re a UK Size 8 or larger? It is a nightmare for many women with a shoe size of UK9/EU43 or bigger when shopping for stylish and more occasional formal shoes. Why are options limited for women with larger size feet? Why are larger size shoes for women bland in colour and masculine? Is it a cost thing? Does it cost more to manufacture larger shoes? Why are some women given no choice but to shop in the men’s shoe section in order to find comfortable (style - questionable here) footwear? Are they destined to live in their trusty Converse, sports trainers and loafers? With inclusivity high on the agenda these days with fashion brands – are women with a larger shoe size excluded?

Let’s look at some statistics shall we. Since the 1970’s – women’s feet have grown at least two sizes bigger due to societal changes, genetics plus richer diets and in turn meaning, we are living longer and growing larger. According to the UK College of Podiatry, “the average shoe size of men and women in the UK has increased by two sizes, from a size eight to ten and four to six”. So you would expect with the average women’s shoe size increasing, that sizes UK 9-11 would be more readily available – yet most retailers still stock only up to a size UK 8. There seems to be a hidden societal rule in femininity when it comes to shoe size in women. For centuries, dainty and petite feet symbolized and epitomized the female gender role resulting in women torturing them selves and their feet into the ideal mould dictated by society. It’s not uncommon for women to suffer many podiatry ailments associated with ill-fitting footwear, down to the simple fact that the adequate representation of shoe size is not fully catered to by brands.

Although many brands such as ASOS, Long Tall Sally, Net-A-Porter and sportswear brands to name but a few, offer larger options, wide-fits and half-sizes - there is still a significant gap in the retail space for brands to ensure larger sized feet are catered for. Interestingly and according to Dr. Najwa Javed, a podiatrist and foot surgeon based in California in a recent article by ‘Today’, “women with big feet tend to have a much narrower forefoot which makes fitting shoes very difficult. Most brands assume that big feet equals wide feet but that is not the case”. Dr. Javed goes on to explain that “women with big feet tend to be taller and it is assumed that they just want to wear flats, hence why not many brands make heels for women with a larger shoe size”.

So until more brands recognize the essential need for this lost opportunity in the marketplace, what can women do with a larger size foot to find stylish and feminine shoes that they feel happy to walk in?

  • Look out for gender-neutral collections, often than none there will be styles for women that are trendy without looking clumpy.

  • Choose the fabric in your shoe wisely. Although it’s a common misconception, you can’t always rely on shoes to ‘stretch’. There are sprays and shoe-stretchers on the market for this but they may not work with certain material. If you are unsure, take your shoes to a professional shoe repair such as Minutes in the UAE to see if stretching is an option.

  • Invest in classics. Although it can be expensive, luxury designer brands can be better than many other high-street retailers on offering sizing options in footwear. By investing in a couple of stylish pairs, gives that ‘je ne sais quoi’ to your outfits.

  • When buying online, check the sizing reviews and if the website has a sizing calculator, make sure to measure your foot against their measurements.

Lastly and to quote Marilyn Monroe - “give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world”. Let’s hope brands will finally start giving the right shoes and including everyone.

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