…then it isn’t on my foot.
I have big feet. Not gigantic and un-shoeable, but big. It wasn’t always this way of course. My travels through childhood were in Buster Brown shoes, flats from the local shoe store, penny loafers and saddle shoes (both chunky and streamlined. The chunky style seems to be having a resurgence in some quarters). I was however a size 9 medium by the time I reached 8th grade and somehow ended up in a pair of 3 inch pointy-toed shoes for graduation …which made me about 9 inches taller than my processional partner, the shortest boy in my class.
9 was my number throughout high school until one inexplicable moment when the shoe salesman measured my foot and informed me I had one foot that was now a 9 3/4 and one that was a 10 (NOT the perfect Bo Derek kind). Still, I could be shod without too much trouble in fairly stylish shoes. Since I was by that time almost 18, I figured 10 was my number for life. Large but not unmanageable, right? Oh so wrong.
My number 10 feet deserted me once I was ‘with child’…one of those old wives’ tales that seems to have some basis in reality (I’ve since discovered a lot of them do). One day my size 10s no longer fit. My toes draped over the end of my sandals. My pinky toes and big toes were cramped, even in square-toed stacked heels. The horror! I asked to be measured again and discovered I was that dreaded non-existent size, 10 ½ B with an AA heel! How can this be? Feet change as you age, I was told. It can be in width or, as in my case, in length. But there are no shoes in 10 ½, I cried. Every shoe I’ve ever seen jumps from 5 through 10 INCLUDING half sizes, and 11. Not true, a shoe guru informed me. There ARE shoes in your size. They’re just a wee bit hard to locate. And they might be just a tad expensive. Oh how he lied. Impossible to find and a good bit more pricy was closer to the mark, unless of course you live in a really large city with many different (and pricy) shoe stores…and I don’t. The trip alone to The City would cost me more in gas or train fare than three pair of shoes in the dreaded size 11! Going barefoot was not an option. Dangerous to my feet given what’s on the ground or in carpets these days…so I coped and opted to size up when I needed to, rationalizing that all 11s were created equal.
Not so. Each shoe brand, much like each clothing brand, has its own sense of size and style. The more expensive, the more generous the sizing and range of designs. Bargain brands tend to run small (or REALLY big) and the bigger sizes can be downright (shudder) matronly. Shopping for shoes was depressing. I resolved to spend my life wearing walking shoes and padding the toes of my dress shoes. How sad. I couldn’t wear stylish backless slip-ons because I would walk out of them…rather embarrassing at meetings and workshops. Even strappy sandals betrayed me, their tiny straps slipping below my heel even at the tightest setting. Was there any hope at all?
Of course the answer is ‘yes, Maryann, there’s always hope, even in the world of shoes.’ Several shoe brands now have 10 ½ in different styles. I have two pair (from different places) that fit me like a glove. However…I tried to replace one and found that the 10 ½ they sent me was more like a 12! The other is no longer made. Sigh. So, I compromise. I can wear 11 in sandals with an adjustable band on top (and they’re cute too) and an 11 in boots gives me room for socks or the bottom of my jeans leg. Not too problematic. And I watch the local stores for shoe sales at the beginning of each season. IF I’m lucky, I might be able to snag one of the few 10 ½ sized pairs that seem to appear and disappear like the fog on a spring morning… because there are now a lot of us who, for some reason or another, covet those rarities—stylish shoes in the elusive 10 ½! I have noticed though that lately the size 11 shoes seem to be smaller…the adventure isn’t over yet!