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For those of us with gorgeous, size 40 and up feet, finding a shoe that fits has, in the past, meant settling for what’s available. In 2021, fashionable shoppers are starting to make noise. As a size 42, finding the best footwear has required elaborate planning, like customizing existing options or commissioning cobblers to stretch archived Alaïa that ultimately ended up on TheRealReal. According to the industry’s models and stylists, it doesn’t get easier when you’re a star: “When I started modeling I thought, ‘I am finally going to be among other amazingly tall women, and I’m sure that means most of them will have big feet like me!” recalls New York City model Alexis Ruby, who found that wasn’t the case. She describes trying on shoes at shoots: “It’s always, ‘Are you sure it won’t go on any further?’ and never ‘Let me find you a bigger size.’”
It’s an attitude that can leave a mark in multiple ways. “I still have scars from my first fashion show season,” says Hamburg-born model Sophia Ahrens. At work, “my feet were always too big,” and while she notes that putting sample shoes on was always “a real struggle,” getting them off was even more dramatic. “There were a couple of times where people were literally pulling the shoe whilst I was holding onto a chair to get them off.” IRL, she’s always searching for the perfect, unbasic heel. New York stylist Donte McGuine, often seen working (or just lounging) with the cast of Gossip Girl, loves elevated proportions as well. “As a young, curious, closeted gay boy, I admired my mom’s heels, and when she wasn’t home, I would go into her room and close the door,” remembers McGuine. “I would force my wide, athletic-teen foot into the front of the shoe, leaving the rest to hang on for dear life.” Now, he’s found options (below) that work for a men’s 11.
“Just like wearing a larger dress size, it’s a constant compromise on what you want versus what your options actually are,” says Manhattan-based model Georgia Pratt Holiber, who’s launching fluid-size garments via Hilda Ereaut this fall. “My shoe size has always affected this part of my personal life.” She says that heels are often boring, vintage women’s options are almost completely off the table (“I’ve spent hours on eBay to find a few needles in the haystack”), and one has to get creative when shopping. “For work, I have definitely missed out on jobs because my shoe size is an issue!” she says, noting that she’s often squeezed into what’s available. London model Jess Cole agrees: “Not being able to find shoes that fit has been an issue,” Cole says. “I wrote an op-ed about my experiences for British Vogue a couple of years ago highlighting the issue,” she says, noting that while she’s seen the fashion world’s clothing sizing has become more inclusive, footwear is moving slowly. Shopping recently, Cole encountered multiple stores that didn’t carry above a U.S. size 9. “Every time I go onto set, I dread the conversation about my shoe size and how I am made to feel freakish for being just shy of six feet and having feet that are proportionate to my height,” she says. Plus, can’t a babe have a chance to express themselves? “Why is the freedom of expression, comfort, and the choice of style still only reduced to a select number of sizes?” Cole asks, and logically so.
Until the industry as a whole starts riding the size-inclusive footwear wave, we’ve gathered a range of pairs—from fashion-forward heels to chill flats and cozy slippers—that are leading the way.
When Pratt shops for heels, the options “quickly narrow down to a strappy black stiletto once you go over a size 11,” and that’s not her style. Luckily, Mach & Mach’s dreamy collection of pearl-strapped, PVC crystal options brings more than boring basics to the table in sizes up to a 42.
One of the many reasons Miuccia Prada’s footwear is so beloved is that the house has long offered sizing beyond size 40 and even 41. Consider it a first stop for crystal block heels and Clueless-worthy patent Mary Janes.
“Not only are Ugg shoes comfortable, they have extended sizing,” says McGuine of its all-gender options across the board (including the latest Telfar drop). “Working on set once with basketball legend Dennis Rodman, he needed a size 14 shoe—Ugg provided multiple styles in a size 14. It was amazing.”
While Mcguine likes Rick Owens’s culty platform Chelsea boot, he does admit it “feels like I’m walking on stilts.” Still, the brand “just extended sizing on this year’s drop,” which includes a Birkenstock collab that offers a more grounded option.
At the moment, Gucci’s classic leather heels go up to a size 42. In the future, one might expect Alessandro Michele’s push for freedom of expression to create even more expanded offerings.
Notice that the larger sizes of JW Anderson’s lace-up ballet flats and chain-embellished slippers are quickly selling out on platforms like Net-a-Porter and Ssense. Based on our experts’ hunt for originality, it’s simple math.