16/08/2007

Big Feet Big Problem – Shoe Shopping For The Outsize

I have big feet. The gadget at Clarks proclaims them to be a size 9 ½ (and I had to use the electronic thing in the children's department because I was too big for the manual sizer, very embarrassing) but because every manufacturer fails to keep to the industry standards, I have worn a “size 8” – Nine West – to a “size 10” – at the bowling alley. The small sizing of bowling shoes is a point of particular irritation to me, as at least twice now I have asked for a size ten and been asked to repeat myself for the amusement of the staff.

More annoying than those rude idiots, however, is a trip to the shops to look for shoes. Especially if I am shopping for a specific occasion. Trainers and sneakers are easy, because I can just get unisex or “male” styles. For pretty shoes, or smart work shoes, however, hours and hours can be wasted, visiting every shop that stocks any kind of shoes, desperately hoping to find something that fits. Attractive shoes are usually not even made in my size, vintage shoes are out of the question. Generally all I can hope for is something inoffensive!

If there is one fashion-related topic on which I am an expert, it is shoe shopping for the outsize. If there is another, it is shades of purple - but I will save that for another post. For now, I bring you an overview of stores that stock shoes in sizes above a size eight, or whose size eight is particularly generous. Outsize supposedly means size 7 and above, but I have never been to a store that didn't carry sevens in all of its styles. I'm afraid this list is rather UK-centric, although some brands are availiable in other countries as well and some stores ship worldwide. If you have any recommendations, let me know in comment or e-mail and I will append them to this list, after paying them a visit myself if they are in the UK! I would also like to apologise for the high number of stores I have included that only stock up to my size, or whose products are very hit and miss. If I only included stores that were always good it would be a very short list! There are usually only varied width fittings availiable at these stores if I have noted so.

Another thing to note is that I only use offline, brick-and-mortar (or at least concrete breezeblock) stores, because I need to try shoes on. I have small ankles but pretty wide feet and long toes, so fit is very important. However, although I cannot rate the service, I have included some online retailers, and almost all of the offline stores listed have websites from which you can order as well.

Lastly, my definition of expensive is "higher than average prices in high street stores". We are not talking "designer" prices here - I have yet to find a single designer whose shoes are made above a UK size 8. Jimmy Choos go up to a 7!

Stores At Which I Have Had Some Success:

Clarks – Produces some shoes in size nine. Visit different branches, make sure you include the "K" branded section/adjacent store, because it's stock is often separate, and ask when they’re getting new stock in. Sometimes they will actually take you down to the stockroom and let you look in the section for nines but otherwise, just ask them to bring up everything in a size nine. Last time I did this they only brought up three pairs, but I have had more success on other occasions. Sale time is actually the worst time to visit because they will have less size nine stock left. I checked their website, and they currently have 37 styles that go up to a size nine, but only the minority of those are "smart" and many of their "casual" shoes are, um, hideous. Nine styles don't go up to an eight, but they're nothing to grieve for. Some styles are availiable in a small range of width fittings. One thing to note is that the vast majority of their shoes are made in black, blue, brown or red leather. They're no good for vegans, or for anyone wanting anything high fashion - all their styles are pretty classic. That said, the shoes are very good quality and comfortable and their staff are usually well trained and competent. No online store.

Evans – Their shoes go up to a ten, however, the last two times I’ve been in there they’ve had nothing nice left. Go as soon as the stock arrives. They also specialise in clothes for UK sizes 16-32. The staff are pretty rude and unhelpful in my local store, I hope this is not a nationwide problem. The website delivers to the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands, and USA.

Long Tall Sally – Sells sizes seven to eleven exclusively, however each style fits wildly differently. Some I tried on in a size nine were too tight so I needed a ten and some were way too big. The shop assistant at the London store said that the manufacturer makes half sizes, but they don’t order them because then they would have twice as many shoes to sell. I really wanted to point out that if they did this they would probably sell twice as many shoes. The range they have in store is really small, but the website delivers worldwide! They also sell clothes designed for tall women.

Monsoon/Accessorize – Half their size eights are really small, the rest are fairly big. Very random but large range. I know all this because I tried on every single pair they had in the King's Road store! I didn't buy anything because none of them were a perfect fit when it came to width. Website delivers to UK and Republic of Ireland addresses only.

Next – Has size nines. I have just discovered that they do free delivery from their website to stores. Go to their website at the start of the season, order a load of shoes to be delivered to the store, pick them up, try them on, and return any that don't fit to the store, which will cost nothing. Otherwise, they're no good unless you like ugly beige things. Whenever I go to the store mid-season or during the end-of-season sale, that’s all they have left in size nine, and when I’ve gotten them to call the warehouse to see if they have anything nicer in stock, they’ve had nothing left, being a popular chain they sell out really quickly. Their website only allows orders from the UK.

Nine West – Very big size eights, and their website lists up to a US 12 - a UK nine and a half, but I have never seen these in store, and they do not ship internationally. Sometimes they have the odd eight and a half in store – I actually got a pair of black and white polka-dot slip-ons in an 8 ½ in an outlet store in the USA, and I have seen them in UK shops too. Sandals are great, rounded or square toed shoes are hit and miss. Don’t bother with the pointed toes, and go in the sales because they are so expensive.
In the UK or Eire? You can order shoes online via
The Shoe Studio, but they only sell up to a size eight.

Office – Some styles in a size nine. Good for ballet-style pumps. Website shops worldwide.

Shellys – Has a size eight/eight and a half which just about didn’t fit me. Website only delivers to the UK, Republic of Ireland and Channel Islands.

Topshop – Does size nine in some styles. Just ask them if they can tell you what comes in a nine. If they haven’t got it in stock they can call other stores and the warehouse for you. Their website ships to the UK, USA and to Australia, however, the size nines are hard to find - you have to click each individual style and use the drop down selector to see what sizes are availiable.

Online Stores, and Offline Stores That I Have Never Visited:

Banana Shoes - Up to size twelve in shoes that are - in a phrase that I have borrowed from Gala Darling - only appropriate for answering the door, kissing & walking (or being carried) to the bedroom. Offline store is in Rotherham. Ships internationally.

Elephant Feet - Quite expensive, but pretty, and the sale selection is good. The brick and mortar store is in London, and they ship internationally, but orders have to be made by phone.

Faith - They never used to have shoes above size eight, and now they have nines, but I haven't visited them since this new development. They are a high street chain but you can also order online or by phone and they seem to ship worldwide.

Tall Girls – Formerly shoe catalogue "Nine To Eleven", specialising in those sizes. Only online, ships worldwide.

Totally... - Producers of size seven to eleven shoes. Pretty expensive, but very cute and they do have sales. Store is just down the road from London's Long Tall Sally in Chiltern Street, but by the time I left the latter Totally... was closed, and I have yet to return. Appears to ship worldwide.

Etsy (added 12/4/2008):

Because there are so many shops on Etsy I decided that it needed its own section so that I could point you in the direction of specific shops selling custom-made shoes and slippers. However, new stores are created everyday so I recommend using the search feature. If you search for shoes on Etsy, use the "items: tags, titles" drop down option and I recommend the following search string: "shoes clothing NOT vintage NOT baby NOT child NOT flip NOT flipflops NOT flip-flops NOT flippers". This will cut your results list down about by about 500 products and make sure you get actual shoes that are handmade, in adult sizes, which are not just customised flip flops. You will get the odd pair of customised ordinary shop-bought shoes but I can't think of a term to eliminate them without also stopping custom-made shoes from showing up, and there are always random things that will show up in the search too, it's not perfect.

I have divided this Etsy section into type-of-shoe categories to make it simpler.

Crocheted Slippers -casablynn offers these simple, Mary Jane style slippers. The size chart in the listing is way small, so I suggest requesting a pair through her Alchemy page if you want them. Similarly, CrochetKnitAndMore offers several different colour combinations of her "The Perfect Slippers" in her shop. A Playful Yarn has several different styles available - Mary Janes, Mary Janes with sock attached, and ballerina slipper style crocheted slippers.

Felted Slippers - superfay has several styles available, contact her for a custom order, and do the same for pawfelts' and opheliafelt's multicoloured creations. My favourite felted slippers have to be mommayaya's elf slippers, I think they're fantastic, but again, you will have to make a special order, nobody plans for us large of feet people!

Shoes - Em And Sprout's cute shoes have rubber soles and canvas uppers, so can be worn outside, and she accepts custom orders. bobilina studio makes shoes and slippers in several different styles and all the listings are custom, so go ahead and order! If you've got cash to flash, you can get more conventional (and inevitably longer-lasting) shoes from El Diablo Shoes, check out these gorgeous red retro platform pumps! I am in LUST! They do several other styles too and they look just fantastic. Lalay makes custom traditional shoes in Istanbul, which look really interesting.

The Blacklist:

Marks and Spencer – largest size is a small eight.

New Look – largest size is a ridiculously small eight. I am sure it is in fact a seven.

Barratts – they stock up to a size ten in a special selection, but they are awful. Plain, ugly, and with no grip at all. I had a pair when I was at school and they were really stiff and I kept falling over in them.

Other ideas:

Shoe boutiques – Worth visiting because they stock brand-name shoes which you won’t find in high-street stores that only stock their own brand. You might be able to ask them to order a pair for you, talk to the manager.

Drag queen stores – There is an ITV2 programme about “tall teens” doing the repeat rounds at the moment which follows a girl (who is a size twelve) as she visits one, with limited success. Stock is a bit random; expect some ludicrous heels and potentially high prices (see Banana Shoes as listed above!).

Finally:

Where to find the perfect fit - part two
from The Guardian features a list of websites for outsize shoe retailers.

If you have any advice or reviews to add, please comment. I am always on the lookout for new solutions to the big feet problem, and would also like to know where you have tried and failed to get shoes.

7 comments:

  1. This post is God sent! Thank you so very much for taking the time to write all this out and explaining everything about the shops. I'm 6' and I have the HARDEST time finding shoes in a European size 45. Like you I have also ended up with getting mens shoes on occasion.
    Living in Asia also exacerbates the problem, so much so that I have to resort to having shoes tailor made for me. Luckily though the service is cheaper than most shoes I can find in high street stores here!

    Thanks very much once again!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Hot Topic online store has some great shoe designs AND sizes for those who are subculturally inclined.
    Price-wise though, I suppose it's all down to you and how much you want to spend on a pair of shoes.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post, thank you!

    I think you should take New Look off your "black list" section though, they have a special "wide fit" section and their wide fit size 8's are a perfect fit for me! And New Look are great for affordable heels.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi - I am creating a list of all the online large-size shoe stores around the world - have a look and see if any inspire you. Many are UK-based but if you can afford a weekend in Paris, there are a few there too.

    Of course the downside of online shopping is not being able to try them first but them's the breaks.

    Have a look here: sizeninefeet.blogspot.com and hope it helps!

    Emma

    ReplyDelete
  5. Here is your sister girls!!

    I found a lovely site seling shoes from an 8 to a 12. Its Cinderella Shoes www.cinderellashoes.ie

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey there,
    I'm stuck with UK size 11/US size 13 which really are a mission!

    Recently got some shoes from www.amazonastyle.com which seem to have way more modern and fashionable styles than most retailers.

    www.totallylargeshoes.co.uk are good too for slightly younger and more fun styles!
    x

    ReplyDelete
  7. If it reassures you somewhat, I have size 3 feet and they're just as hard to find shoes for!

    ReplyDelete

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