Finding, Making Large Size Women’s Shoes, Size 12-15

Abby & Dad

Abby & Dad.  Abby, at 17, needs shoes sized 14 or 15.

Dear Shoe Lady,

My daughter Abby (in the attached picture with me) who is 17 YO, 6’1″, and wears a woman’s 14 or 15 depending on the maker has struggled finding shoes since she was 12.  We are glad to have medical confirmation that the growth plates in her feet are fused so she won’t be growing more, but that’s not to say that pregnancy or life may not increase her foot size more. All that to say that she is intimately acquainted with the difficulties of finding shoes in her size (that weren’t made for cross dressers).  We are of course aware of Barefoot Tess, Long Tall Sally, and other outlets for bigger shoes for women, but more often than not the shoes we order from their still don’t fit correctly.  She is also blessed with very long toes.

We are considering buying a 3D laser cutter/engraver that would allow her to cut leather, cloth, rubber, cork, and wood among other materials, so she could design, cut, assemble and sell custom shoes for girls and women with size 12+ feet.  (Statistically it appears that this is about 1.2% of the US women’s shoe market with shoes in Abby’s size be less than 0.1%.

We’d like to get your sense of the market and whether this really meets a need.  We would be making an investment of about $8000 to get going.

What are your thoughts?

Thank you,

Jon DeM.


Dear Dad and Abby-

I have a LOT of thoughts on this!!!  First.  Shoe manufacturers are not very bright.  Second, they depend solely on shoe retailers who are even less bright to make their decisions about the real market size for shoes.  I have written extensively about the size issue.  If the AVERAGE size for women’s shoes is now size 9, then 50% of all women wear size 9 or above.  The likelihood that only 1.2% of American women wear size 12+ shoes is slim to none.  That’s only 3 sizes above 9.  Go 3 sizes below 9 and you are at size 6.  Yet you will hardly find a store that carries shoes above size 10.  And fewer than 1% of all the shoe manufacturers selling into the USA make shoes above size 10, and then, only to size 11.  If you are defining the shoe market as what is manufactured, you are correct with your numbers.  But the need for these larger sizes is substantial and unmet.

Making shoes is an incredibly complicated business.  Not sure where you live but, if you are serious, I suggest Abby first take a course in shoe manufacturing.  Look into the course offerings carefully.  Here is a list of places. You also need to understand:

  1. the steps to make a shoe
  2. the 28 different “fit points” on a shoe
  3. how to measure and control for those fit points
  4. how to use different materials and manufacturing processes
  5. how to size for shoes above women’s size 12 (honest!  Manufacturers neither know nor care, which is one reason why Abby’s shoes don’t always fit.)

You are not talking about a 3D laser printer.  I believe you are talking about a 3D printer.  These are available and designers are just beginning to do interesting footwear with them.  But the resulting shoes are a very clearly 3D printed.  They are not (yet) very versatile in shoe looks.  I would suggest a course first.

When I founded and ran, we had up to 1500 styles in size 12.  I chased down and had made shoes up to size 15 so I know how to do it, know how complicated it is and know that the market is small.  But the market is small not because the women aren’t there but rather because they have given up looking for shoes that fit.  You are only likely to find them on line.  And, then, only from the largest companies that can aggregate customers.  I just checked Zappos’ listing for size 15 M women’s shoes.  They sell only three brands:  several Birkenstock sandals, one style of Bloch, and one style of Arcopedico.  Barefoot Tess was acquired two years ago by Long Tall Sally.  They mostly rely on individual vendors to know how to make a size 15 shoe…  very risky.  But they are beginning to make their own brand.  They, today, offer 76 styles (excluding slippers and inserts) and 28 of these are “house branded”.

Abby, you are the woman of the future.  At the rate of growth of women’s feet, you are likely to be on the large side for your lifetime, but 20 years ago size 7 was the average size.  When Title XIX passed in the USA, women’s feet really started growing.  In 20 more years, maybe the average size will be size 11.  And MAYBE by then the shoe industry will start paying attention to the numbers.

In the meantime, you’ll need to live with the challenge of shoe shopping all your life.  I suggest you invest in a course where you can learn how shoes are made and what is important about how they fit.  Even if you were a size 9, having long toes means that you should be looking for a certain style of shoes and avoiding others.  There is much to learn!  If you want to go forward and manufacture shoes for this badly under served market, make the decision after you take the shoemaking course and after you’ve done some “due diligence” talking to people in the shoe industry… and The Shoe Lady!

Best to you both,
The Shoe Lady




Wide Feet at Toes – What Shoe Size Should I Buy?

I have a question about a specific pair of shoes and a more general question about finding fitting shoes.
I have a lot of trouble finding shoes that fit me. I have wide feet, at least at the front (the part right before the toes) and my toes. In addition to that I’m really sensitive and can’t wear anything that is the least bit tight. It can be snug but if my toes touch the shoes then I can’t wear them. I’m not sure what size my feet are as I always wear shoes that are too big as my toes get squeezed otherwise. I haven’t managed to find shoes with arch support or other support in the sole that I can wear, it’s too uncomfortable. The size I normally wear is 38-39 Danish/European size. This leads to me wearing shoes that are 1,5-3 cm too long. My left foot is smaller than my right, in my current shoes the difference is about 1 cm (right has about 2cm to the end of the shoes, the left about 3 cm, estimated) I’m a student so I can’t afford expensive shoes or to get them custom-made. Do you know of any brand that makes shoes that might fit me? Or maybe you have some suggestions as to how I can find shoes that fit me? I’m also worried it might be a problem that they’re as long as they are.

I recently bought a new pair of shoes. They’re running shoes/sneaker style(not actually running shoes, just the style). As I usually have a lot of trouble finding shoes that fit so when I found these I they fit pretty well right off the bat so I hurried and bought them. I have worn them outside so I can’t exchange them. Now the problem is that the left shoe make a weird sound when I walk quickly. It doesn’t seem broken so I think it’s because it’s too long. The left shoe bends more in the front than my right, probably because my feet doesn’t reach as far in the left shoe as in the right.
In the right shoe there is about 2 cm from the end of my toes to the tip of the shoe, in the left shoe it’s about 3cm. I’ve tried smaller sizes and they get too tight around the toes of my right foot(I can just feel the edges of that shoe with my toe halfway through the day so any smaller would definitely hurt). Is it a problem that my left shoe makes this noise? So far it hasn’t hurt in any way but I don’t want to risk hurting my foot. I can live with the sound if nothing bad is happening though I would love if there was some way to make it stop.

I hope I didn’t misunderstand your website and you don’t actually answer such questions. I also hope that I have explained my problem in a way that makes sense as English is not my first language.

Stine K Vesterager

Need Deeper Toe Box on Shoes

Dear Shoe Lady,
So far, the only shoes that fit comfortably on my feet are Drew’s size 10W.  I’ve tried other so-called wide fitting shoes…WW…but they don’t have the depth I need and I can barely squeeze my foot in let alone wear them.  I’ve tried using a half size larger but then the shoes slip and rub my heels.

I’m looking for flats…something that isn’t clunky like the Drew models…and I’m also looking for a low cut winter snow boot.

What would you suggest…and am I able to return them from Canada if they don’t fit?


Dear Pat,

Please excuse my rude delay in responding to your question.
I suggest you read this article about understanding wide feet and wide shoe sizing:
There are 28 different “fit points” on a shoe.  You have discovered one that many people don’t even bother considering and that is the depth of the toe box.  Some brands like Drew and Propet are good at making shoes for comfort and have some styles that have a deeper toe box.  New Balance makes some of their athletic shoes with this feature as well.
But if you want a wider range of choices, you will need to seek out styles that have a wider forefoot, like round or square toed styles, not pointed toe styles.  Also, some styles have the infuriating pattern of getting shallower in the toe box as you reach the toes… just when you want that wiggle room.
Women with bunions don’t need the depth but they do need a disproportionate amount of width in the forefoot area but not in the heel.  You share this need.  Width is designed into shoes either by increasing the width of the sole or by adding more material across the top.  Either way helps you and helps women with bunions.  But if the heels are too wide, you will slip out.  I recommend wider styles with round or square toe boxes and for flats, a mary jane style.  Laceups and loafers also stay on your feet better.  Ballet flats can be hard to wear.
When summer comes, watch for sandals that have adjustable straps across the vamp and toe box area.
Look at the Propet and Toe Warmers styles in the Booties (Ankle Boots) department,, to find something with a deeper toe box.  For example, look at the Propet Weather Walker, Frost or Stowe styles and the Toe Warmers Tempt or About Town styles.
Please do let me know which ones you are thinking of and I will check further for you.

I HATE My Big Size 12 Feet! Teen Wants to Shoe Shop Like Friends

Shoe Lady!

I HATE my big feet!!! All my friends can find shoes so easily and get such cute shoes while I am suck wearing ugly sneaker since no but PAYLESS selling in my size!!!! What are some shoes I can get in my size that look similar to what my friends wear? (wish uggs came in size 12)

OH MY!  This is most unfortunate!

I am sorry you are in such distress.  But I am confused as to why you think there are so few choices for your size 12 feet!
I’d like to hear more from you about where you get your information?
It is quite true that you will not find size 12 shoes in regular “brick and mortar” shoe stores, at least you won’t find more than about two or three styles.  But until the shoe industry starts paying attention to the data and realize how many of you there are…. I estimate that between 4 – 5 million women in the USA wear size 12 shoes… then you must learn to find those fashion styles by shopping on line.
By the way, Uggs does make size 12’s.  But they may not make them in all the “girlie” styles you want.  I suggest you write to them directly and protest.  They are owned by Deckers Outdoor Corporation
Deckers Outdoor Corporation
495-A South Fairview Ave
Goleta, CA 93117
Main Telephone: 805.967.7611
As Sheryl Sandberg says, “lean in”.  Let them hear your voice!
Now as for other size 12 choices, today I find 1353 styles in size 12M (medium width) at this website:
Not sure what your taste is in shoe styles, but I’m adding an example of a red suede low heel knee high boot in size 12M, on sale for $96 from Aerosoles.  It is in the “Teen Collection”.
Again, Asha, you can find some great styles and not just at Payless.  But you have to shop smarter than your friends.  You have to shop on line.  You can still enjoy going store shopping and mall shopping with them… but you’ll need to stick to socks.  At least until places like Deckers wake up and discover how many of you there are!
Best to you,
The Shoe Lady

Question: Are you looking for Dressy or Casual Women’s Shoes? fans answered this survey with a preference for CASUAL chic shoes (30%).

Aerosoles' Birthright wedge heel slide in red.

Aerosoles’ Birthright wedge heel slide in red.











DRESSY with bling got 28% of the vote.

Vegas by Lava brand women's shoes.

Vegas by Lava brand women’s shoes.

24% of the voters were looking for “job interview” DRESSY.

Valerie, Brown by Ros Hommerson

Valerie, Brown by Ros Hommerson











Only 18% of the voters wanted CASUAL comfort!

Travelwalker in Coral from  Propet brand.

Travelwalker in Coral from Propet brand.

Bettie Page Size 12 Platform Pump is Stunning and Wearable

Dear Shoe Lady:
Hi I like the Betty page Cheryl blue pumps and think the right size would be a 12 med width. I am 5.11 and weight 185 lbs… you think I could wear them?

Available in size 12.  Stunning.  Wear like a work of art.

Available in size 12. Stunning. Wear like a work of art.

Dear Garry,

I think the royal blue Cheryl platform pumps by Bettie Page are stunning.  Having spent some time in a school of architecture, I find the metal ornamentation to be a refreshing change from the usual gew gaws one finds perched on the vamps of shoes.  The color is terrific.  So.  I’m puzzled.  Why could you not wear them?
Let me think of reasons.  I strongly urge you not to wear them for running, jogging or even standing for long periods.  I do not think they would wear well outdoors in inclement weather.  If you have a strong desire to not appear taller than a potential partner, I would advise against these, unless, of course, your partner is over 6’5″.  These are showpiece shoes.  Wear them like a work of art.
Best to you,
The Shoe Lady

Find Correct Size for Long Toes


I was wondering if you could make any brand recommendations for me. I wear an 8.5/9 and have narrow feet and long toes. I really struggle with finding brands with a long enough toe box. The last few years have been really bad as the rounded toe styles have been so popular! I find most Italian shoes are particularly short in the toe box. I am happy to see more pointy styles coming back, but even some of the new pointy styles are too short in the forefoot for me. If I go up a size then they are way to wide and my heel slips. It’s really hard to find narrow fitting shoes and even the narrow ones are sometimes not cut right for me. I often resort to boots and laced shoes as they at least stay on my feet! Any advice would be appreciated!


Dear Sam,

 I’ve been wanting to write on this issue for awhile!
First… tell me what types of shoes you would like to be wearing and for what kind of occasions.
Short answer… you have the answer.  boots and lace ups.   The only other style type I would add:  mary jane straps.
Also, you won’t find the solution by brand, only by style type.  Some shoes are longer than others within a brand.  But that is a fluke, not a brand policy.  For example, I just bought two pair of Propet styles:  a lace up (Firefly) and a mary jane.  Same size.  The lace up had extra space in the toes (a luxury) and the mary jane is going to be returned… my toes hit the end.
I will send a longer answer soon.
Thanks for the question!
The Shoe Lady

Thanks for the reply!

I am 46, but still like to wear a heel. I try to keep it 2.5 inches and under. It would be a miracle to find a comfortable pump that isn’t styled for seniors! Flats are also a problem for me- they just kill me most of the time. I think they often have shorter toe boxes. I am also somewhat flat-footed so I do need something with some structure. Very soft leather shoes are usually a bust for me.
Dear Sam-

First let me explain the relationship between long toes and how shoes are sized.  As my Faithful Readers know, there are 28 different “fit points” that need to be measured when making shoes.  With all those fit points to consider,  customers have to start overlooking some and paying attention to only the most important fit points.  For most women, length is the most important.  But not for you.


This device allows you to see what size shoe you should wear based on your "ankle length" vs. based on your "heel to toe" length. For short and long toed women, these two sizes will not be the same!

This device allows you to see what size shoe you should wear based on your “ankle length” vs. based on your “heel to toe” length. For short and long toed women, these two sizes will not be the same!

Shoes are designed and manufactured assuming an average toe length.  For a shoe designer, the most important measurement is the “arch length”, a somewhat misleading term that measures the distance from the back of the heel to the ball of the foot.  The ball is where the foot bends when you walk.  Shoes are designed to 1) curve out at that ball and 2) bend at that ball.  If your toes are longer than average and if you buy shoes based on length, that curve and that bend in the shoes will never be in the right place for you!


Each foot is the same length, but the BALL of the foot hits a very different place in a shoe.

Each foot is the same length, but the BALL of the foot hits a very different place in a shoe.

If you are wearing flats with a round or squared toe and a flexible sole, that curve won’t matter so much.  It will matter even less if you can find shoes that have more space or depth in the toe box so you don’t have to get them wider than you really need, just so you can have the width where the ball of YOUR foot hits the side of the shoe.


But if you want to wear 2.5 inch pumps, which a constructed specifically to have a built in bend at the place where average toe length feet would naturally bend, then you are in pain from the beginning.  The pump will not bend where your foot bends.  The arch will feel all wrong to you.  The widest part of the forefoot will not hit where the widest part of YOUR foot needs the space.

I’m offering an example of a pair of pumps that will allow your toes to peek out a bit.  A closed toe pump usually calls for an additional 0.6 inches of space beyond the toe.  If you wear open toes, you can claim that space and hopefully get the ball of your foot closer to where it should be in the design of the shoe.

This peep toe D'Orsay style pump will give you some extra space for long toes.

This peep toe D’Orsay style pump will give you some extra space for long toes.

Best to you,
The Shoe Lady

Finding Right Woman’s Shoe Size for Man

Dear Shoe Lady-

My size shoe is 11 wide (mens)  looking for what size is equivalent to a women’s size in ballet flats?



Dear Steve,

This is such an easy question.
But before you believe my answer, I suggest you read these:
and, because men’s feet are wider than womens, for the same length in inches, you will want to understand how shoe
manufacturers size wide styles:
Now that you are a shoe expert, fully edified and almost certified, I will tell you.  Look at the flats in size 13W
This will fit a foot that is 11 inches long and 4.6 inches wide, which should come close to your feet.
If not, read about how to measure your feet and find the right size for you on the shoe size chart.
Have fun shopping!
The Shoe Lady

High Instep Makes it Hard to Find Shoes that Fit

Shoe Lady-

What a difficult time it is for shopping for shoes.  :(  Shoes need to be made with higher insteps.  Any suggestions?  I wear a 11W.



 Dear Sharon-
I understand that you believe the cause of your problem is that shoes do not accommodate higher insteps.  But I’m not sure of what the resulting problem is?  Do the shoes not support your arches?  Do the shoes not provide enough space on the top of your foot, the vamp?
If it is a high arch, take this “wet pavement” test: and follow the tips.
If it is not enough space on the top of your foot, you will need to look for specific types of shoe styles that do not cut into the skin on your foot but still hold your foot securely.  Lace ups are a great choice.  And since menswear styles are such a hot trend right now, you will have lots of choices.  Shoes with microfiber or elastic uppers are also a good choice.
Tell me more about your problem and I’ll try to be more specific.
The Shoe Lady
Thanks for the reply.  To clarify, the top of my foot, the vamp, doesn’t have enough room,  and I also have wide feet.   I am finding due to not having enough room on top of the foot, the shoes are not fitting despite the wide foot.

I am so sympathetic.  I share your pain.  It was years before I realized that I have what I affectionately refer to as a “muscular” foot, ie. thick.  And I have a fairly high arch.  You must accommodate that width.  Think of the shoe as a container holding the volume of your foot.  Be rigorous about turning away from those fashionable styles that will bind into the top of your foot.  As mentioned, if you want to wear ballet flats and keep them on, they should have a mary jane strap.  Otherwise, the wider fit you need will invariably be too wide for your heel and the shoes will slip off.

Keep in mind the 28 fit points.  Most people just think about length, but that is only one fit point.  You need to shoe shop with length, width and front of shoe volume in mind.  Remembering 3 out of 28 is not hard.  And even if it limits your options, your feet will be happy and that will bring you comfort!
The Shoe Lady