Shoemakers are bastards (nothing personal)

There is no better
Soul salve than 20 minutes
on Zappos dot com
I think is one of the most wonderful places on earth. It isn’t because I’m a shoe person. I’m not. I’m the opposite of a shoe person. I hate shopping for shoes. That’s because I have the hardest foot to fit in the world (it’s true, I’ve asked around, everyone agrees with me).

My mom claims my first baby shoes were as wide as they were long. When I was a little older, we’d go into the local shoe store (Kite’s Bootery on Ingleside Avenue) and the owner, upon seeing us, would hang his head and shake it briefly, a small tear running off the end of his nose. We’d be there for hours trying to find something that would fit and usually walk away with only one pair of boys sneakers. And for the last 20+ years on my own, I’ve struggled to find shoes that would fit that weren’t also featured in a catalog with shower assist bars and bunion pads (if I see a single comment about housecoats…).

It’s been really hard. I even had an orthopedic doc tell me that I have what’s called “partial club feet” because of their width and interesting curvature. Nice. All I need now is a lisp and a hump and I’m ready to go.

That’s why I love In three clicks I can find 50 pairs of shoes sized 7.5, W/WW/2E. Free shipping both ways. Informative videos of the shoes. And some of the shoes are really, really cute. They make my feet look like, well, feet. Not svelte feet (they don’t sell magic, after all), but somewhat stylish, interesting, decidedly not one bit old lady- or Quasimodo-ish.

But something has happened. All of a sudden a 7.5 W/WW no longer fits me. It’s been a little gradual, so I’ve been denying it. But the evidence is now clear. Case in point. I ordered $852 worth of shoes (13 pair) from Zappos recently (stop gasping! I never intended to keep more than a few pair; with feet like mine, you browse a lot and browsing at Zappos means bringing them home). Guess how many of those 7.5 W/WW/2E fit. Three. And one of those pair were Crocs, so they don’t count.  Two pair. That’s it. And they both were casual.

The rest were too narrow (actually, 1 was butt ugly, the other 9 were too narrow). I’m not talking a little narrow. I’m talking can’t-even-get-my-foot-half-way-into-the-shoe narrow. I expect this to happen – it isn’t unusual to have width variations, right? But 75% of the W/WW being too narrow, like by a lot? Something has changed. Somewhere, some rat bastard shoe maker has changed what a “wide” means.

And I’m pissed. In today’s world of technology advancements; when we can make a robot cheetah run on a treadmill and Photoshop models and celebrities into perfection, why must we use 13-year-old girls from Tibet to determine shoe widths?  How many people have you ever heard say “wow, I wish my shoes were tighter…”? How many of you wear your work shoes at home? You change into Crocs or socks or flip-flops right? Because why???? Ding ding ding because they are more comfortable! So what is it about the breed of human being that becomes a shoe maker that keeps them so out of touch with the real consumer? Perhaps they aren’t human beings after all. Perhaps they have all been replaced by some sadistic computer program which calculates the best way to build a shoe such that is rubs and pulls and pinches just enough to keep you thinking about your damn shoes all day but not so much that you don’t purchase them? I don’t know…

So here I am at home, my little cave man feet (as Frank calls them for some reason) in my Relief Crocs (extra wide shoe box! even regular Crocs think the Relief Crocs are dorky), trying to decide if I’m just going to be the woman at work with unusually inappropriate footwear. If I wore the hot pink slides from Easy Spirit with, say, a long skirt and dressy top — but did it with confidence and my head held high — could I get away with it? Would it be career limiting, or be something I could build a reputation from (“You know Maureen – great ideas and funky shoes…”)?  I’m not sure. I tried one day with the hot pink slides. Felt like I was wearing bedroom slippers all day and everyone was looking at me (couldn’t get a handle on the “confidence and head held high” bit). So I’m not all together sure it will work.

So I’m stuck back at, browsing, buying, returning, complaining. And hoping that the shoe makers out there will hear my pain and perhaps, just maybe, resize the shoes back up and give the little Tibetan girl a rest.

Leave a comment


  1. I hate shopping for shoes too. It takes me forever. Send Zappos a vicious and heart-rending email!

  2. “Light she was, like a fairy, and her shoes were number nine. Herring boxes, without topses, sandals were for Clementine.”

  3. The Rapid prototyping at home revolution can’t come soon enough. Sooner rather than later, an app will let you 3D scan your feet, automatically use them as a basis for revising an existing 3D model, and then output directly to your desktop multi-material 3D printer. I can’t wait.


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