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




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

Size 12 Competition for Women’s Shoes Is Fierce, Includes Competing With Cross Dressers

I was shopping at Nordstrom Rack with my then 16 year old 6’0” daughter who wears a size 12 shoe. Nordstrom has the best selection around for that size. So there I am looking through the racks trying to find something at which my teenager won’t turn up her nose and I feel the presence of another woman next to me.

It can be a pretty aggressive experience hunting down a cute pair of size 12’s! So I turn and look her in the eye, as if to say, ” back off this is my rack!!” Well to my surprise and shock, this woman is actually a man; a transvestite wearing a white mini skirt and tasteful blouse while searching for a strappy sandal! I had to laugh because it’s hard enough to find size 12’s without having to include the transsexual crowd! My teenager was of course mortified and won’t step back into that store. So thank goodness we found you!


When Shoes Are Hard To Find – We Keep Them A Long Time

A few weeks ago my daughter and her friend were playing dress-up when I heard the inevitable clunk, clunk, clonk on the stairs, and was greeted by the sight of two ten-year-olds wearing an amazing assortment of dresses, scarves, jewelry, makeup and high heels. My eyes were drawn to my lovely pale pink pumps, and the memories came rushing back.  These were the beautiful shoes I bought years ago (20?) when my only options were black pumps.  A size 10 by high school, I am used to being disappointed by the latest styles.  Yes, they are adorable/cool/hot – but they won’t be in my size.  These pink shoes are the most amazing color – soft and warm and sexy.  I remember wearing them in 1989 in Tokyo with a beige silk suit and a rose quartz necklace as I ate sashimi while seated on a totomi mat in a private dining room. I remember feeling like a princess…

But in 1992 I was back in the states and faced with a more challenging situation – finding shoes to wear on my wedding day.  My feet were now barely a 10, and the white shoes I sought were elusive. Satin would not be right, and I wanted comfort.  I looked up until the day before the wedding and then reached for my pink shoes.  They were perfect.  Comfortable.  Something old! And so well made that they still looked new.  If anyone noticed they were pink instead of white, they were having too much fun to mention it.

Fourteen years and two children later, I now wear a size 12, and many years have passed since I added my precious shoes to the dress-up closet. I laughed with the girls, and then asked to try on the shoes myself.  I can squeeze into them for a moment, if I hold my breath, just as I can into my wedding dress! But unlike the dress, no amount of dieting will make them fit again.  While my wedding dress hangs, lonely, in my closet, my shoes have a second life.  My daughter loves them too. So far, she takes for granted that the shoe she wants will fit her.  I know, however, how special it is to find that certain shoe, in my size, that makes my heart beat quickly.  And I am so glad that my pink shoes are still looking fabulous!



Shoe Size Goes Up Giving Birth to Baby Boys

I wore a size 7 at the age of 7 and each year my foot would grow another size until I reached a size 10 at the age of 10.  I thought that was it until I was pregnant with my first son at the age of 26 and my feet grew to a size 11.  Then at the age of 29 I had another son and my feet grew to a size 12.  There’s something about those boys, because this didn’t happen with my daughter who is my first-born. (Smile)
I notice that in retail shoe stores sizes 10 and 11 are more available, but it’s difficult to find a 12.  Thank you for making larger sizes available in a wide variety of shoes.

T 4.11.06

Size 12 Woman’s Shoes are Envy of Her Roommate

My long skinny feet have been a problem since I was in middle school.  Shoes to wear to work or school were ugly boring things.  Living with a roommate who had 30 pairs of shoes was torment in college.

Luckily these days I’m able to solve my shoe dilemma by shopping at  The best part is that my former roommate loves my shoes and wants to borrow them!  Of course my shoes don’t fit her 8B feet.

For her the shoes on the other foot now!



Foot Surgery Helps Size 12 Woman

When I was about ten I had a major operation on my right foot.  I had a bunion and my second toe was called a hammer toe. I had 42 stitches on that foot and a steel pin in my toe to make it stand straight.  I wore a cast with a heel up to my knee for I don’t recall how long. I have very ugly feet even though I had the operation so I was not in a rush to wear my feet in sandals, or even take my shoes off in front of people.
Now I’m 50; I love shoes, occasionally I can afford some really expensive great looking shoes, but am very happy to be wearing payless shoes in my size 11,12. I have a small collection of shoes, notebooks with shoes, I love greeting cards with shoes and my friends send my things with shoes on it.  How grateful I am that I have my ugly feet and did not have to have toes removed like the girl next to me in the hospital back then.  I do wear my feet out somewhat and will take my shoes off in front of people.  Hope she is as happy as my ugly feet and me.



Girl Grew 5 Shoe Sizes in 5 Years, Now Size 12

I remember as a kid wanting to wear the shoes that all my friends were wearing.  Only one problem my feet were growing so fast all that my mother could afford to keep me in was dime-store tennis shoes (i.e. canvas Keds but cheaper).

It got so bad that between the ages of 6 and 11, I grew 5 sizes – popping the toe out of my cheap tennis shoes before I actually wore the out.  I was eleven years old 5’2”, 88 pounds and had a size 11 foot (awkward does not begin to describe it).

Thankfully I grew taller, and gained a few pounds. Although last year, at 34 years old I gain an additional size, making me now a size 12 and a nightmare to find shoes. has been a dream come true.

J M.


Tall Majorette Needs Size 12 Shoes, Must Wear Sneakers

I turned seven years old my shoe size was seven.  Every year older the shoe size fit the age. It was the 60’s and I lived in Kansas. Where to find a shoe for a twelve year old, six foot tall, with a size twelve foot?

Finally at twelve my shoe size leveled off to a size 12, (but now as an adult I wear a 13) I remember my mom taking me from store to store where a size ten was the largest size.  At twelve and a seventh grader I was chosen to be a majorette. I was required to wear a black and white oxford. I was so embarrassed trying every store with no hope. You couldn’t even order one. I ended up with a tennis shoe. Most manufacturer’s didn’t make a size above a 10 and they weren’t stylish and young but old and ugly. But now thanks to “” I can leave all that behind.  And let me tell you I look like a designer in style!!!



Shoe Lady Rants on Behalf of Michelle Obama and Tall Ladies Everywhere

I’m hot.  It is Day 3 in a heat wave.  Humid.  That’s enough to make The Shoe Lady rant about anything.

But HEY.  Gotta say.  The First Lady of the USA should have more choice in shoes.  The internet thinks Michelle Obama is a size 11.5.  But The Shoe Lady was told by the Chicago shoe store merchant who sold her shoes that she is a size 12.  The Shoe Lady, who measures as a size 11.5 but opts for a size 12 because there are no 11.5’s to choose from, understands the plight of FLOTUS.  (First Lady of the United States)

So why must she, must I, must tall women everywhere, have so little choice in shoes?

The average shoe size for women in the USA is officially, this year, a size 9.   While many brands start at size 5, most start at size 6.  And most stop at size 10.

It is really too hot to start lecturing about the meaning of a bell curve.  But if the shoe manufacturers start at size 6 and stop at size 10 and the average size is size 9…..


If the shoe manufacturers wanted the core market for women’s shoes, they would make most of their shoes size 9.  It costs a lot of money to make a style in different sizes.  So The Shoe Lady understands why they don’t want to expand their size production too much.  But start with size 9, go up a size and down a size.  Then they are making sizes 8, 9, 10.  Expand the market more, then they are making 7, 8, 9,10, 11.    Expand the market just one more time so they are making only 7 whole sizes:  6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.

The Shoe Lady is happy.  The FLOTUS is happy.   My tall sisters who wear size 13, 14, 15+ are still not happy, but maybe those great shoe manufacturers like Naturalizer and Bellini and Bella Vita that now make almost everything to size 12 will expand their sizes too?

The Shoe Lady feels better now.

for her size 12 feet.

for her size 12 feet.

obama-feet-3 Obama-sz-12