When I was 26 years old, I learned that shoes were supposed to fit when you buy them. Not just fit, but be comfortable and ready to wear. It sounds crazy, but up until that point I had thought that shoes were supposed to be too tight when you buy them, that’s just how it is. I wore a size 10 because that’s the biggest size women’s shoe that stores sold. I would make sure I bought leather shoes, then wear them around the house with wet socks. I looked really cool (no pictures of this and I’m not ready to recreate it, sorry!). Someone had mentioned that water helps leather stretch so I applied that concept to new shoes. As a result of the combination of wearing new shoes with wet socks, brute force of wearing them normally, and a shoe stretcher – there are permanent calluses on my toes from being smashed into shoes.
A few years later, something changed. Nordstrom and Joslins (now Dillards) had moved to Colorado, where I was living at the time. They carried shoes at least a few shoes larger than a size 10. It was like the clouds had opened up and angels were singing.
That year, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my roommate (size 8 shoes) and I were on a mission. I needed a pair of black pants (that were long enough) and a pair of black shoes that I could wear all day at a tradeshow booth. We went into every single store in the mall that carried women’s clothes or shoes. We would explain what we needed and sales people would bring out sandals, men’s shoes, large boots, none of which I needed or could use. It took us nine hours to find the only pair of shoes in the mall that fit comfortably, Doc Martin mary janes and a pair of black pants that fit, but only as long as I wore black socks with the black shoes because they were too short. My petite shopping-loving roommate conceded to the worst shopping experience in her experience. And for sticking with me all day and only yelling at one salesperson who didn’t understand that size 11 means size 11, not 10, not nine, I bought her a few margaritas.
It became easier after that. First, Nordstrom and the Nordstrom rack opened, providing me with the ability to buy shoes. Second, came the thing that saved my life when it comes to getting dressed every day, the Internet and access to larger size shoes.
Suddenly there were shoe stores online that carried not just a pair of large-sized shoes, but options. OPTIONS! Having moved back home to California, my new university job required me to wear close-toed dress shoes. And with the increased number of online shoe stores, I couldn’t stop shopping. BarefootTess and Nordstroms kept me from going barefoot and from blisters nearly every day in the eight years I worked at the university.
My mantra for shoes has always been, “if it fits, buy it… in every color”. This mantra stems not out of a fantastic need to have lots of shoes, but out of a deep seeded desperation that someday the larger sized shoes will disappear, POOF, leaving me with only shoes that are too small again. If my own personal apocalypse ever happens to all of the women’s shoes that are larger than size 10, I will be prepared.
And suddenly, nearly every pair of shoes I buy, fits. It’s amazing.
Obviously I have to share what I found, especially given the number of colleagues and friends who have tall tweens and need age appropriate shoe recommendations. No one should have to force their feet into smaller shoes every day for 15 years. Trust me, I’ve done it and hope to never have to do it again.
Come back here for the list of online shoe stores that carry larger sized women’s shoes. It’s coming next.