From Childhood To Retirement, Narrow Feet Have Been Expensive

Since I started wearing shoes, back in the good old days, my parents had a very hard time finding shoes to fit me.  At first my feet were just very narrow but as I grew older the feet began to grow longer.  From the time I was 5 or 6 my feet grow with my age (Age 6, size 6; age 9, size 9; age 11 size 11 all in narrow) but thank goodness they stopped there.  There was only one store in our town that sold size 11 AA with AAA heel but they were more for mature people and of course had to be order special.  I know they were very expensive so I didn’t have the variety of shoes my girl friends had.  I remember when I was in high school wearing brown and white oxfords to school and I had one pair of dress shoes for church and special occasions.

We lived in an area where shoes were manufactured and my parents looked into having a last made for me, but each style of shoe would need its own last.  I said no, as a teen I wanted as much of a variety of styles as possible.

As I grew older more manufactures started making size 11 narrow shoes but they were still very expensive.  My friends could buy several pairs for the price of one pair for me.

Now size 11’s are very common but as in all things, as I approached retirement my feet have grown again.  I now wear size 12 narrow or medium and there are very few available at any price and being retired doesn’t again I can’t afford high prices.  Try to find a snow boot in size 12, HA!

I blame my Father for these long narrow feet.  When he past away at 75 he was wearing size 14 narrow.  Thanks Dad!



Women Wearing Size 11AAAA Shoes Have a Special Bond

I wear an 11AAAA so I still have challenges to find shoes that fit my larger footprint. I, consequently, adore each pair of shoes that I have and never take them for granted. Each pair of shoes that I own has stories of things that happened when I wore that pair of shoes.

I have found a few other women who have my size of shoe. Our bond is instant and strong, a thing that could never be shared by the 7 1/2 Mediums of the world.



Extra Narrow Sizes and Combination Lasts, Finding Shoes that Fit in the 21st Century

Greetings Ms. Shoe Lady,

Please ASAP your response as the few pairs of shoes I have left are wearing out and I don’t know if or when I will be able to replace them.

My Situation: About 20 years ago I bought my first pair of Easy Spirit Motion (see link for image) I have since worn a hole in one, only to find out they stopped making my size : 7  2A/4A – that is, a size seven with a double A in the front and a quadruple A in the heel. (Easy Spirit does still make the 7 2A but not in a combination size. Also, I have read it no longer has a steel shank.) I then tried Soft Spots which made a similar oxford (see link for image) My size in that shoe being a 7S. Unfortunately, I found out they stopped making this style of shoe altogether and have no plans to replace it with a similar style. Questions : 1. Where can I find a shoe almost identical to the ones pictured in the links in my size? 2. I read on another website some manufacturers still make combination lasts but none were cited in the post. Do you know of them? 3. Ideas to save money on shoes purchased (if I find some). This would be most helpful as I am on a rather tight budget right now. 4. The colors I am looking for are basic black and dark brown in a kid not a patent finish. Please Note: I use  custom orthotic inserts by Ideal Feet to address pronation. Since I began composing this letter, I located a shoe repair shop willing to repair my Soft Spots. No warranty was given and unfortunately, after about a year they are coming apart again. Please help. Thank you. ~cdv


Dear cdv-

I have a dear friend who is a huge fan shoes from the early years of Easy Spirit (remember the ladies playing basketball in their heels?).  She has been asking me for 15 years, ever since I became the Shoe Lady, where she can get shoes like those original laceup styles she loved.  I will tell you what I tell her whenever she asks.  The shoes do not exist any longer.  Easy Spirit exists in a market economy.  They developed a great brand reputation and they took the brand name, sold the name and stopped the manufacturing.  I’m not sure how many times the Easy Spirit brand name has been sold since you first bought your Easy Spirit’s 20 years ago.  But I assure you, each new owner has brought their own sense of what manufacturing standards should be in order to sustain their market.  These decisions, unfortunately, have excluded many of the features that you liked so much in the original shoes.
Ros Hommerson Nancy Black Combo Laceup

Ros Hommerson Nancy Black Combo Laceup

Next up:  what ever happened to combination lasts?   America is a wonderful place.  Up through the mid 1960’s we owned shoe manufacturing for the world and did an excellent job making shoes not only in different sizes and half sizes, not only in 6-7 different widths per size but also in different widths for the front and the back of each shoe!  What a country!  Think about it.  A woman wanting a size 7 could get that shoe in about 40 different combinations of widths!  Alas, as the shoe industry discovered, such attention to customer needs could not be sustained once tariffs dropped and foreign competition came into the shoe industry.  About 15 years ago there were one or two brands that still offered combination lasts but those have closed.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that many brands that care about comfort (and there are many) took a lesson from the days of combination lasts and realized that traditional lasting had not taken into consideration that women’s feet do tend to be disproportionately narrower at the heel than those old lasts had assumed.  So these comfort brands developed lasts that kept the width measurements across the ball of the foot but were narrower in the heel.  Euro sizing also assumes a narrower heel.  But they have one basic width for the forefoot which would be too wide for your slim feet.
I suggest you give up on the quest for a combination last but focus instead on brands that offer you a laceup style in a size 7S (AAA, Slim).  Even this will be a challenge as many of the comfort brands are focusing more on wider feet than on narrower feet as the wider footed population (you’ll excuse me here!) grows.  There are fewer styles offered in the slim (AAA) widths.  There are a few brands I can suggest to you that should offer the quality you want and accommodate your orthotics.  But each has some limitations.
1.  Propet:  They have some laceup styles but they only make widths to size 7 narrow. Every shoe is built with removable orthotics.
2.  Ros Hommerson:  They have been off the market for about a year but are back this fall and there is a style, the Nancy, that should work well for you.  In order to accommodate the market and financing of their lasts, they have skipped over the “slim” width and offer their laceups in narrow and “extra slim”.
3.  Softwalk:  They do make 7 slim but I don’t see any laceups yet this Fall.
4.  Trotters:  Several nice flats but no laceups yet.

Propet Firefly Black Laceup

Propet Firefly Black Laceup

As for some of your remaining questions:
For saving money on shoes, I definitely recommend that you sign up here:   to receive the weekly SHOENEWS email which regularly includes discount coupon codes for shoes at
For shoe repair, if you can find a good shoe repair place, go back regularly and have them maintain your shoes.  The shoe repair shops are a dying breed and we will miss them when they are gone, especially those of us with hard to fit feet who have limited choices and need to make our shoes last a long time because, as you have discovered, who knows when we will find shoes that fit us again!
Best to you,
The Shoe Lady

Top 10 Reasons Women Can’t Find Shoes that Fit

The Inside Scoop:
Top 10 Reasons Women Can’t Find Shoes that Fit

The Shoe Lady has just returned from a major shoe show in New York City. These shows are all about choices and options and yet as she wandered the streets of Manhattan she was reminded how hard it was for her and other taller and not perfectly average women (of the 1950s) to find clothes that fit. She was even wondering where she could, at a reasonable cost, buy the fabric and have the styles of her choice made just a couple of inches longer in the backwaist and a couple of inches longer in the leg and, oh maybe an inch longer in the arm. Somehow in the age of individual medicine, individual media and made to order cars, it was still so hard to find anything modern and fashionable that really fits us. Nearly 20 years after the Show Lady started to help women find shows that fit she wondered why things had not progressed faster and what we could do about it for ourselves and our daughters.. Here she has more insight into why her 11.5 M feet can’t find the range of style choices she’d like. While the world awaits a solution to her clothing problems, she tackles the Shoe Question.
1. Customers do not understand the width system in shoe sizing, or even that widths other than medium are available. So they do not ask for what they don’t see. This is where the problem begins. A woman who needs a 7WW will buy a 10M. Really.
2. Shoe companies complain about the cost of producing additional “lasts” (the frame a shoe is built on) for additional sizes and widths, beyond the basic whole sizes from 5 to 10. So they save money by making fewer lasts. Six different sized lasts for 8,000 pairs compared to 85 different lasts for 8,000 pairs saves a lot of money.
3. Factories that shoe companies hire to make the shoes would much prefer to do longer production runs of fewer sizes and widths than shorter runs with more sizes and widths because there is an additional “set up” time every time they have to change a size/ width. This is distracting for the factory worker, offers opportunities for error and the price for this extra “set up” time is not routinely built into the production price. So the factories make less money than they would with fewer last changes.
4. Shoe companies are reluctant to push factories to do the extra sizes and widths because a good factory is hard to find and they don’t want to strain the relationship with good factories.
5. Shoe companies believe the more sizes and widths (or “categories”) that a shoe style is separated into, the more likely there will be unsold inventory at the end of season. Some of these categories may not sell out, leaving the shoe company with leftover shoes in odd sizes.
6. Shoe companies plan based on prior year sales, for what they will order in each size/width category based on what they sold the prior year in that size/width category. And they’ve been looking backward for years.
7. Shoe companies do not factor in the substantial change in women’s average shoe size, from size 7 in 1990 to size 9 in 2013. Since they don’t track real size trends in the population, they are at the mercy of what they think the sales might be based on prior year selling history.
8. Shoe companies do not track the sales lost because the sizes were not available. Vendor analysis show turns per style, per color, per heel height, re-orders and other data related to the style of the shoe and the retailer. But they do not track the number of shoes sold per size, the change over time in that size profile and the estimate of the sales they lost because sizes were not available.
9. “Brick and mortar” shoe store pre-season orders skew production plans for shoes. Due to space and financial constraints, brick and mortar stores have rarely been interested in carrying a wide variety of sizes and widths. Their sales are primarily based on visual cues to attract the customer, such as the styles shown in the window and on the salon shelves. Six sizes and only one width suits this business model perfectly. It is up to the customer to squeeze into the shoe or go without. So companies are not inclined to argue with factories for sizes and widths that their core brick and mortar retailers don’t want. So shoe companies are not inclined to argue with factories for sizes and widths that their core brick & mortar retailers don’t want.
10. At the end of the season, shoe companies only remember the odd sized leftover inventory, the over and under sizes (over size 10, under size 7 and extra narrows, wides and extra wides they have. They take this bad memory into the production planning for the next season, bringing an additional bias against over and under sizes, narrower and wider widths.  

Wants High Heels for Office But has Long Toes, Narrow Feet and High Heels Hurt

Dear Shoe Lady,

I have narrow feet (size 7.5) and a longer big toe. Also, as I have very thin skin, I need a lot of extra cushioning for the ball of my feet.

I find it virtually impossible to buy comfortable high heeled office pumps. Any suggestion to brands I may try or getting custom made shoes?



Dear Noureen-

You were born with narrow feet, toes of disproportionate length and thin skin so the nerve endings are near the surface and very sensitive.  Mother Nature is trying to tell you something!  Why oh WHY are you trying to find high heel office pumps!?!
Good grief.  The challenges The Shoe Lady must rise to.
First, re-think the high heel part of the shoes you are seeking.  I’m sure you can find a way to look like an executive, leader, office diva without high heels.
But The Shoe Lady is here to help.  I will provide you with some “tips” that may shed light on a solution.
First, fit for your longer big toes.  I generally ask people to measure their feet from heel to toe.  And it works fine unless the toes are shorter or longer than average.  Truth is, shoes are made assuming a standard toe width and the key measure is the length from your heel to the widest part of your foot, the ball of your foot.  You should measure your feet on a Brannock device. This will tell you your shoe size if your longer toes were not an issue.  Why is this important?  If you are buying size 7.5 shoes because of your longer toes, but your heel-to-ball size is really a 6.5, then the shape of the shoe will not accommodate the ball of your foot correctly.  The ball of your foot will hit a narrower part of the shoe and in high heel pumps, this will be painful, even for thicker skinned folks.  Once you know the Brannock size and the full foot size, you will need to learn about shoe last shapes.  You will need a shoe shape that does not have a pronounced inward curve at the arch and outward curve for the ball of the foot.  An extreme example to consider might be a “D’Orsay” style pump.
Second, high heels.  If you are going to insist on high heels, let’s determine how high.  Studies of foot biomechanics suggest that women should not exceed heels of about 2.5 inches if they are going to wear them for most of the day.  But I hear you say you want to wear a 3 inch heel.  Then look for a pump that has a half inch platform sole.  You can have the heel if you raise the front of the shoe too.  What?  You want a 4 inch heel with no platform?  OK.  Here’s the deal.  Wear a reasonable 1-2 inch comfortable heel to work, on the way home, going to get lunch, etc.  Slip into the 4 inch heel while you are at your desk and walking to and from meetings.  Do not stand or walk in them for more than two hours a day.
Third, finding comfort.  There are a couple of options on the market that you may want to try.  Cole-Haan, part of the Nike shoe family, has used Nike’s technology for adding gas filled pillows under the balls of the feet.  You could find such pillows at a big drug store, but these are more permanent.  Look into the Insolia ( product to see if this will help.  Some shoe manufacturers incorporate it into their shoes.  But you can buy the inserts and add them to your shoes.
Fourth,  staying healthy.  Too much time in high heels will change your natural walking gait, even when you walk in flats or barefoot.  And it isn’t a good change.  It effects your posture, your ankle movement, your foot flexibility and the calves and tendons in your lower legs.  Of course all of this also effects your hip joints and back.  But I’m going to assume you are under 30 and don’t care about that.  If you do wear high heels a lot, then daily you must stretch out the backs of your legs, the tendons.  You must do foot exercises to keep those 27 bones, and all their related tendons and muscles, in each foot lively and moving.  Pick things up with your toes.  Role your feet over a golf ball.  Note.  If you are over 30, all that nice padding under the balls of your feet has started to slide forward toward your toes, or just disappear.  This means it is “bone on ground” time.  And the higher the heel, the more weight on the ball of your foot!
Fifth, brands to try.  Cole Haan, but they may not carry narrows.  Naturalizer, has comfort features and platforms.  Ros Hommerson, has been off market but is re-launching this Fall and I expect will bring good design and comfort features in narrow sizes.  Other brands that offer great “career wear” styles in your size include Bella Vita, Sofft, Soft Spots, Soft Walk, Trotters.  Try this link to get some options in your size:
Best to you,
The Shoe Lady
PS:  See these articles:
The Postural and Piomechanical Effects of High Heel Shoes: A Literature Review by Shavonda L. Pannell
by Cary Groner
A Biomechanical Evaluation of Standing in High Heeled Shoes
by Paula D. Henderson and Dr. Stephen J. Plazza
by Gretchen Reynolds\
by Colette Bouchez

Need Size 11 SLIM Shoes

Shoe Lady-

Do u carry extra extra Narrow size 11?




Dear Hazel-

Do you know that size 11N’s and 11 slims are famous in the shoe industry for being the feet typical of wealthy southern ladies.  I’m assuming you are writing from the expansive porch overlooking your estate while daintily sipping a mint julep?
Of course if the shoe industry really believed that, they wouldn’t have come so close to stopping production on size 11N and 11 AAA (Slim, S).  As of today has 49 styles in size 11S:   I hope they will have more by later this summer when the new Fall styles come out.
Best Wishes,
The Shoe Lady

Can “Gapping” be Controlled by Wearing Narrower Shoes?

To:  The Shoe Lady
Subject: Width

I require narrow width, as medium is full of gaps! My actual size is 12 1/2, which is already too large.  Smaller sizes have choices of 1/2 sizes AND width!  When a STYLISH or COLORED choice is advertised, it is immediately out of stock or backordered!  Of course, we too want to purchase a variety of shoes.  Please help us!



Dear Ellen-

There are a lot of causes for why your shoes gap.  Don’t assume that your shoes are too long or too narrow.  It could be that your toe length is not in the standard ratio of the “heel to ball” length.  It could be that your feet are flatter than average or arches are higher than average.  These are the most common reasons for gapping.  You will need to come to a clearer understanding of the shape of your feet and how that shape differs from the average shape.  Then you will need to pick styles that accommodate your foot shape.
I suggest you look for styles in size 12N to start.   
Bella Vita, Softwalk and Trotters are good brands to consider.
I could not agree more that it isn’t fair to offer shoes in size 5.5 which is 4 half sizes from the AVERAGE size 9, but nothing in size 12.5 which is also 4 half sizes from the average size.  Support the companies that take on this battle!  It isn’t easy.  I’ve got the scars to prove it.
The Shoe Lady
13 narrow works for me!  I don’t have the luxury of vast choices to try, nor the patience to order,try,return,try…
How unfortunate for me that manufacturers are focusing on WW,WWW,WWWW .  Many women with size 13 DO HAVE NARROW FEET and want to keep it that way!  Mine used to be AAA but over the years they widened for lack of available size for me.  How rediculous about “dainty feet” – Are you kidding???   And the 13 proportion is very often wrong and ugly on the foot.  Seems they simplly make the front of the toe longer, which makes our feet look like gunboats!  Casual flats too often are too long from instep to end of toe, rather than a low cut just covering the toes- a much more attractive and better proportioned shoe.  Occasionally they get it right. 
    I’m doing fine – just wish someone was giving it more consideration for the high prices we must pay!  Women with large feet also loook for more shoes to but…Wed love to see our size 13N included in the “NEW” and WE HAVE YOUR SIZE”  ads!  And what about the newest colors?  NOPE!    What does exist I probably purchased a year or two or three ago…  OH, well, That’s that. 

Need Shoe Size Advice ASAP for Trotters

Dear Shoe Lady,

I wear any where from a 9 to a 10 US size–foot measures 10.06 inches long, 3.31 wide for width ( actual width of toes), further down .5 inches below toes–3.44 inches wide, and 2.83 for the heel.  What size should I order for the trotter’s Liz shoe?  I am leaving town in two weeks.  I have trouble with the width by the toes and the width of the heel fitting.



Dearest Janet-

I don’t understand your description of your foot measurements.  Just to clarify, the “width” of the your foot measurement is the WIDEST part of your foot, not your toe area.  And, regrettably, it has been a long time since shoe manufacturers paid attention to the width of your heel, it is assumed to be in proportion to the length of your foot and the width at the “ball” of your foot.  So I’m going to take you for 10.06 inches long and 3.44 inches wide.
Foot Measurements
You are pretty close to a perfect 9.5 N.
I’m also not clear on what “trouble” you have with the toe and heel width?  Too wide?  Too narrow?
If you like your shoes a little wider, go for a 9.5M.  If you like them roomier in the toe, go for a 10N.
Rest assured that I am not measuring the actual Trotter’s Liz shoe in these sizes.  I am going by two pieces of information:
1.  Your measurements, as given, compared to the internationally recognized data on the size chart
2.  My knowledge that Trotters does a very good job of making shoes according to the size specifications used internationally.
I do hope this information reaches you in time for your trip!
Bon Voyage!
The Shoe Lady

Narrow Feet – Toes Too Tight and Heels Too Loose

Dear Shoe Lady,
My foot measures 10 inches long and 3 and a quarter inches wide at widest part of largest foot. Is that 10 and a half, narrow? Some narrows are a bit tight in the toes, but mediums are so wide in the heel, I can’t keep them on my foot. I do okay with flats, but when the heel is elevated, it is hard to keep them on. Thanks for your help.

Dearest Barbara,
With a length of 10 and width of 3.25 puts your size as 9.5 Narrow (N or AA). What size are you currently wearing now? Since the narrows are tight in the toes but loose in the heels then you may want to play around with insoles and possibly heel grips.

Full and half insoles offer different levels of support and no insole will create the perfect fit without trial and error. If you send me your email address I would be happy to mail send you some full insoles to play around with. Remember you can always trim the insoles. Email erica AT designershoes DOT com.

If you are looking for stylish flats in size 9.5 narrow here are some lovely options. The Naturalizer Shoes are known for their comfort more than style but that has been changing over the last few years. The Naturalizer Violette Pewter Mettallicare a stylish ballet flat with a buckle detail.

Naturalizer Violette Pewter Mettallic at

Naturalizer Violette Pewter Mettallic is a Low Heel Dressy Flat

Ross Hommerson shoes are always made from quality materials, anti microbial foam and padded footbeds, some with arch supports. Ross Hommerson is on the expensive side so may sure to wait for sales. The Ros Hommerson Ailis Bronze Nappa pictured below is on SALE for $48.82. Marked down from $99.00 and is made of COROLLA CONSTRUCTION

Ros Hommerson Ailis Bronze Nappa at

Ros Hommerson Ailis Bronze Nappa is a Low Heel Dressy Flat

Slender Long Feet

Dear Shoe Lady,
I have a daughter who is 13 and wears an 11.5 to 12 narrow width. Do you think you can help me to find her a more modern shoe than they have in the stores and more of an variety?

Dearest Hazel,
We have so many options to choose from! Our website features a very wide variety of sizes & widths including narrow, slim and extra slim, so no worries on finding the right size and style for your daughter. If you were looking for a dressier option, may I recommend Trotters Janna? Such a simple, classic heeled shoe would be perfect for a 13 year old. The Trotters brand offers narrow widths in sizes up to a womens 12.

Trotters Janna White Pearl

Trotters Janna White Pearl

For a little bit more style and warmth, I would like to shoe- I mean ‘show’ you (I’m very excited about these) the Softwalk Dani boots. These ankle boots are very ‘in’ right now and they make a perfect present this time of year.

Softwalk Dani Black

Dani by Softwalk is a Mid Heel Casual Bootie

If, however, you are more interested in casual, yet classy looking shoes- one can never go wrong with a great pair of flats such as the Antia Abella shoes in black. Although simple, they are versatile enough to go with any outfit, for almost any occasion. Happy Shopping!

Antia Abella Black

Abella by Antia is a Low Heel Casual Pump