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The Vine

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Home » The Vine

The Vine: April 26, 2017

Submitted by on April 26, 2017 – 8:28 AM16 Comments

Dear readers: Should I ever move again AH HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAA [sob] obvs a trick Q, no I shouldn’t. Anyway: shoes!

Hey, everyone. Finally portaged all m’shit to the Ridge of Bay and it’s time to get back to the important business of finding y’all books and dresses with pockets and whatnot. Hit it, LB…

After dodging this particular bullet for my first kid, I got nailed with my second. My already large feet grew a half size during pregnancy and did not return to form once the baby arrived. I did try and wait it out, but six months and a couple of online-shoe-order returns later, the change seems permanent. This has boosted me from the difficult-to-find size 10 to the impossible-to-find size 10.5. The manager of a large-scale shoe-store chain location told me most companies don’t make it.

As a fellow lady of style and significant stature, I thought you (or fellow similarly-sized members of the Nation) might have a shoe size at the larger end of the Brannock device and, therefore, some insight on where to find cute kicks to fit these canoes at the ends of my legs. If it matters, I’m a casual shoe gal: flats, low heels (preferably a wedge), sneaks, and boots. Bonus points for ease of obtaining/trying on/returning if necessary (as previously mentioned, mom of 2, which = ain’t nobody got time for that). Also, I’m a cheapskate, though I realize biology may have forced my hand on this issue. Thanks in advance for any insight you can provide.

Lady Bigfoot

Dear Lady,

My feet sympathetically grew along with Gen’s when she was pregnant with Master Stupidhead — or, after a lifetime of getting stood on, just…grew, although they didn’t flatten out at all, so who knows. I also had the good fortune of stopping at a 9.75, which is sort of annoying in that sometimes I take a 9.5 and sometimes a 10, and I never know which it is, and some of my old 9s from my yoot still fit okay but others had to be stretched. But at least those sizes exist. A 9.5 is a four-leaf clover, but a 10.5 is a unicorn.

A few things to try, with the caveat that you will have to spend a little time on these after the kiddles go to sleep, because your size is rarer than mine: browse for what you like on Zappos, note down the styles you like, then head to Amazon, which sometimes has a wider range of sizes, as well as unpredictable sales. The return-shipping deal isn’t as good, but you can find some of the fancier boots for a deep discount if you’d like to invest in, say, Swedish Hasbeens and not have to eat beans from the can to do it.

Second, if you don’t have problematic feet — super-wide, high arches — you can grab a few of the styles from Old Navy/Gap/American Eagle each season. There is a sustainability issue there, of course, but they’re cheap, they run big, and the faux-suede wingtips I got at Gap Outlet last fall are cute and comfy. A pair of fabric flats I spent eight bucks on at AE (and can launder) five years ago is still going strong. Yeah, sometimes they fall apart in three wearings but you can get lucky, and the price is right.

Third, focus on European/unisex or men’s shoes and styles. The same penny loafer we pay $65 for in a ladies’ 10 is, for some reason, $49 in a men’s 7.5, and since you like casual styles, this could be a boon for you…especially when you’re searching online. Just hunt for 41 or 42 and see what comes up.

And finally, and this is a variation on the advice all the style blogs give you about tailoring your shit, find the shoe guy near you — not necessarily the nearest shoe guy, mind you, but the guy who’s like, “‘Install a panini press in the left heel’? No problem, miss” — and bring him some 10s and tell him, look, I wear a size that ain’t, please make it happen for me. This is another solution that could take some time to enact, time you don’t think you have, but when the vintage boots that were giving you ingrowns for years, taunting you because they were so versatile and such a bargain and so frickin’ tight, come over the counter smelling like chemicals and actually go on your feet in two seconds without Crisco, believe me, it is worth it. A good cobbler knows what’s possible; tells you when it’s a “name” shoe whether it’s a risk to attempt stretching it; throws in sole-savers for free; and doesn’t charge as much as the shoe costs. Like I said, it’s a process, but once you find him, you’ll see.

Or you can do the “buy an 11, jam a paper towel in the toe” thing, but IME it just makes you feel like you’re in a clown shoe.

Readers, let’s hear your tips and tricks so LB here doesn’t have to live in Converse. (Not that that’s an unworthy solution, come to think of it.)




  • sam says:

    I have a friend who is a 10.5 (although her three kids may have expanded her to a true 11 at this point).

    She wears a lot of Birkenstocks. They actually make “real” shoes – ballet flats, boots, etc. in addition to their ugly sandals.

  • Sean Gallagher says:

    Sarah, where in Bay Ridge are you?

  • Amy says:

    I was just shopping for shoes online this morning, and noticed that Nordstrom seems to have a lot of extended sizes. I just went back and looked, and there are over 2000 pairs on their website in size 10.5 (they also carry many size 11 shoes). May not be your least expensive option, but they seem to have a great selection.

  • Sam says:

    If Nordstrom’s is too expensive, try Nordstrom’s Rack (which is also online). I’ll second the recommendation to look at men’s shoes for sneakers, boots, etc, though sometimes they manage to make my feet look even bigger.
    I’ve given up on size 10s except sandals, after killing my feet too many times. Size 11 is much easier to find than a size 10.5, when in doubt.

  • Beanie says:

    8 1/2 EE here. I buy from Nordstrom’s all the time, not cheap, but they carry my size. Not just in flats, either, heels and boots too. Unfortunately, if you wear an unusual size, Payless isn’t for you. (When I can, though, I wear Chucks. Can’t go wrong.) Good luck!

  • Rebecca U says:

    I’ll second the Rack. That’s where my husband shops for his size 15. Not a lot of selection at that size though. He also has luck on although they changed their return policy I think. good luck!

  • CT says:

    If you’re in Canada, Payless Shoe Store always has a varied (if not plentiful) selection of 10.5s!

  • attica says: is also full of choices at that size.

    In not new news, moving sucks so hard, no matter how good a decision it is. It’s one of the universal no-way-out-but-through things. The only good thing about it is it encourages (in me, at least) a willingness to part with shit rather than pack it.

  • Georgia says:

    All I have to say is: Yay! Bay Ridge, my lovely neighbor to the south. (I’m in Sunset Park–if you haven’t visited for our Mexican food, you’re missing out.)

  • Beth C. says:

    I’m a 10, sometimes 10.5. I troll the half yearly sale at Nordstrom. I know with kids shopping isn’t the easiest, but it’s only twice a year.

    I also agree with Sarah about finding a good cobbler. As one of my favorite quotes from Archer: “Go see my shoe guy.” “You have a shoe guy?” “You… don’t?” Find your shoe guy, you will never go back.

    Oh, and when you find the awesome shoes that fit perfect, Vibrum the soles and heels. That way you wear through the easily replaceable Vibrum on the bottoms rather than the trickier to replace, far more expensive shoe sole.

  • Nanc says:

    Full disclosure: I live in a small town so it may not work for you but here goes.

    Johnson Shoes, a local, regional but still at the mall in the county seat shoe store will pretty much order anything they can get from their supplier so I can try it on at their store and if it doesn’t fit, they make the choice to sell it or send it back. I believe JC Penney will let you order online and have it shipped to store free. You could do that, pick it up, try it on and if it doesn’t fit just return it right there at the catalog desk.

    I last moved 25ish years ago and swore the only way I’d move again is if I won a lottery jackpot–I’d just pack up my books and clothes and leave everything else behind!

  • Jen S. 2.0 says:

    Size 11.5 wide here. Sigh. Plus I have a small but weird bunion on my left big toe that means many shoes that should fit don’t (my right foot is actually the longer foot, but frequently a shoe that fits my right foot just fine, cuts across the left big toe knuckle (is that body part called a knuckle?) so awkwardly that it doesn’t work).

    Anyway. Not sure I have many tips. I wear a LOT of open toes, even when it’s cold (I am actively pissy with Steve Madden for discontinuing the Slinky. I read that it’s back for next season, but I’ll believe it when I see it). I buy men’s a lot (I barely even glance at ladies’ athletic shoes any more). I try on both the 11 and the 12 and buy whichever one is closer. I have 11s stretched. I put insoles and heel grips in 12s. When a brand works well, I search that brand more carefully. I only shop for shoes when I’m sure my feet are the largest they will be (my feet shrink after a workout. So, no shoe shopping on Saturday afternoons if I ran on Saturday morning. I have at least three beautiful pairs of shoes that fit fine on Saturday…and when I went to wear them to work on Tuesday, I did not make it out of my bedroom).

    But mostly, if it doesn’t fit well enough in the store, I leave it. Another shoe will come along. Someday.

  • Wehaf says:

    I know that Danskos are expensive, but they do make 10.5s (well, 41s and 42s) and they have lots of casual flats and low heels and boots. If you shop their online outlet (www . danskooutlet . com) you can get a significant price cut (but they charge shipping and return shipping, so make sure you know your size first). And they last forever, especially if you find a good shoe repair person to make minor fixes.

  • Judy says:

    I don’t know if you have wide feet or just long. I wear a men’s 9 wide, women’s 10.5 or 11 wide. For sneakers, I love Altra, both men’s and women’s. They don’t make a wide fitting as such but their shoes are made with a very wide toebox which is very comfortable for me. You can also find wide fittings in New Balance men’s sneakers.

    For women’s dressy shoes, a few years ago I discovered a brand called Ros Hommerson which had some very cute shoes in large and wide sizes.

  • Amy says:

    So, I’m about to violate a couple of the guidelines you give. They’re not cheap, nor super easy to get quickly. That said, I have serious love for Sue Swain’s work.

    She does custom shoes. Like, she traces your foot, and then makes a shoe to fit it. That kind of custom. If you’re the kind of person who only needs a couple pairs of shoes, they might well be worth it.

  • Wehaf says:

    I recently saw this article on where and how to get hard-to-find large shoes:

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