July 4, 2013

Ali Gets Some Shoes

A rare pic of the author in her manly years.
A rare pic of the author in her manly years.

As a transwoman with large feet, buying shoes can be a frustrating task.

I size into a 12 or 13W in men’s shoes, depending on the brand — actually, a shoe salesperson once told me I should be wearing 12.5W, but no one makes half-sizes anymore. Even in the men’s department my shopping choices are limited by both styles and locations. None of the box stores stock above a men’s 12 on a regular basis and almost never a 12W. When I do find a store that carries 13W, it’s almost always in ONE style, two if I’m lucky. For years I’ve shopped for shoes almost exclusively at Payless, as they’re the only place I can consistently find 12W and 13W shoes for under $50.

Not surprisingly, then, finding women’s shoes that fit me has been nigh imposible. Women’s shoes are sized differently than men’s shoes. There doesn’t seem to be a consistent answer to the question of how differently they are sized; depending on the brand, the style, the heel, it seems like women’s shoes are about one or two sizes smaller on average. And if I thought finding a men’s 13W was a chore, it’s been nothing compared to trying to find a women’s 14W (or 14WW, or EE — I haven’t quite figured out the various widths yet). In fact, not even Payless carries women’s size 14. As such, I have long been on the prowl for shoes that fit.

Thanks to the variability in brands and styles, though, and with some surreptitious trying-ons in the store when no one was looking, I have determined that certain women’s 13W shoes will fit me, albeit snugly.  Once again, Payless has been my go-to store, as it’s the only brick-and-mortar in the area that carries women’s 13W and one of the only sources anywhere that has 13W shoes for less than $50 a pair. [Heck, in women’s shoes, it’s more like less than $70 a pair.] Their online store has an even better selection than the scattershot stocking of the retail outlets, including exclusive colors in large sizes. You mean I get to choose between styles and colors? Yes, please!

So I recently went on a little website shopping spree. Yesterday the box arrived. And Ali is pleased.


No, there’s not a spiked heel or 4″ mule in the lot. The very first pair of women’s shoes I purchased for myself were 3″ heels, and they will almost certainly be the last pair of heels over 1″ I’ll ever buy. I’m already over 6′ tall, and frankly, they’re not very comfortable. [I’ve heard women say this for years, but I guess I had to find out myself.] Instead, I went for the sort of things I thought would be nice to just wear around, like to buy groceries or to visit the thrift shop. The beige wedges on the left became my favorite pair the moment I put them on; I almost wish I’d ordered them in black, too. The other two are the same brand as the flats I was wearing during the gasoline incident. Honestly, I’m not sure what I was thinking when I ordered the floral print ones; it was an impulsive buy but now that I have them, I have no idea what to wear them with. I’m not used to shoes in bright colors.

In my life, I’ve never had a need for more than three pairs of shoes at any given time — dress shoes for work, sneakers for life, and boots for weather. With this purchase, though, I’ve doubled my stock of women’s shoes to six pairs (and if you exclude one very ill-fitting pair that I’m about to give away, more than doubled). And based on what I know of modern fashion and style, I probably need at least four more pairs — a flat or short heel in black, a flat or short heel in white, some sneakers, and some boots. I also want sandals, though I have yet to find a pair that fits right. Women’s footwear is simply more complicated!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the memesis of my transition. What part of this identity shift has to do with being genuinely “female” vs. what part of it is conforming to culturally constructed “feminine”? I’m sure that shoes falls into the latter category, but I’m okay with that because a lot of transition is really about the cultural construct. As a transwoman I need to work hard, to overcompensate for who I was — not just declaring myself female, but accepting what the culture views as female — and so I play along.

Now, I just need to figure out how to match those floral flats to an outfit!

Oh, and if anyone’s interested: the brands that I’ve found are generously sized so as to fit my large feet are Comfort Plus and Lower East Side. Both are Payless exclusive brands (I think). As I said, they’re a little snug (I’m going to have to find 14s when I need shoes to wear socks with), but still comfortable.

No Comments

  • Try zappos. They carry larger sizes, but will probably break your budget. As for budget shoes, maybe just because I have bad feet, but I am willing to pay for good shoes – they just last longer and end up being cheaper in the long run.

    • Thanks for the tip. Took a look at Zappos. It’s definitely something to bookmark for the future. When I have a bigger shoe budget :).

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