I am bigfoot. My feet are long and they are wide. That has always made finding comfortable shoes (especially stylish ones) a challenge. The problem is that for an untold number of years, I’ve been buying shoes that are too small for my feet. It wasn’t until I stopped at a New Balance shoe store in Torrance, California last month, that I met a man who led me out of the shoe size darkness and into the light.
You may wonder how it is that, if I knew my feet were long and wide, I continued getting shoes that were too small for my feet. In retrospect, I feel kind of silly about the whole thing. What happened was this: since graduating from college, I’ve had it in my mind that I wear a size 10.5, 2E width. That has been the gospel truth, in my mind if not in reality, and so always tried shoes in that size.
Sometimes the shoes felt like they fit well, other times it was clear that they didn’t, but they were always pretty snug. Sometimes the shoes that felt like they fit well ended up not fitting so well once I brought them home, often pinching my small toes. Over time, I had come to accept that this was just my lot in life as someone with wide feet, and would stick loyally to the few pairs I had that were truly comfortable.
So it was something of a revelation when I walked into the New Balance store on a whim and the assistant manager, an affable young man named Matt, listened to my complaints about the difficulty I have in finding shoes that fit and asked, “When was the last time you measured your feet?”
Of course, this is one of those questions that shouldn’t catch someone by surprise. But I was stumped by this trick question. A long silence lingered, as I searched my mind for an answer. “I don’t know that I’ve had my feet measured anytime in the last two decades,” I responded with a twinge of guilt. With that, Matt suggested that measuring my feet would be the right place to start.
You will not be surprised to learn that I’m not a size 10.5, 2E. In fact, according to his measurements, I’m a size 11, 4E. Half a size longer, one size wider. This would go a long way towards explaining why some pairs of shoes I bought in size 10.5, 2E would still pinch my toes. THEY WEREN’T WIDE ENOUGH!
Matt also had me stand on a mat that measures how I distribute my weight, which showed that I put more weight on the balls of my feet than I should. That would explain the problem I had a few months ago with tendonitis in the front of my left foot. (As I write this, I’m amazed at how obvious these things now seem, and how inexplicable they were back then.)
We looked through a variety of shoes and Matt explained that even at a single manufacturer, the shapes of the shoes vary. He pointed me to one particular model, the 993, which is a classic New Balance shoe and is cut wider through the “toe box” – a term I had never heard before. Sure enough, trying a pair of these in the right size and with the right shoe insert was an amazing experience. The shoes actually felt roomy and comfortable instead of tight and cramped. I also noticed that I was putting more weight on my heels instead of the balls of my feet.
I left the store with two pairs, one in grey and another in navy blue, and a profound respect for just how much comfort a professional shoe salesperson can bring to another human being. Looking back, I still wonder how it is that I managed to go so many years without measuring my feet. Maybe it is because at most shoe stores, no salesperson ever suggests it. The future feels a little brighter, though, now that I’ve found bigfoot.