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.  

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Asked Questions

Silver HIGH HEELS in women’s size 12 or 13 wide

Dear Shoe Lady,
I am looking for Silver HIGH HEELS in women’s size 12 or 13 wide. Can you help me?

Silver is a striking color that works with a variety of other hues. I like to think of it as jewelry on your feet. A touch of a shimmer or metallic reflections can really help to complete a look. Here are a couple of options to get you started!

Touch Ups Jillian Silver at

Jillian by Touch Ups is a High Heel Dressy Sandal

Special Occasions Paola Silver at

Paola by Special Occasions is a High Heel Dressy Pump

Touch Ups Twilight Silver at

Twilight by Touch Ups is a High Heel Dressy Sandal

Browse the additonal shoe options by clicking here!

Good Luck,
The Shoe Lady

Get Friendly With Your Feet

Dear Shoe Lady,

I always wear down my shoes on the inside bottom of the heel area. Is this significant?


Dear Marli,

EVERYTHING about shoes is significant! Your shoes are telling you that you are probably a PRONATOR. Don’t worry, you will neither be arrested or required to change your voter registration. But knowing this will help guide you in your selection of shoes. A pronator has a type of foot that rolls far inward during the weight-bearing phase of the stride. This type of foot is characterized by a very low or flat arch.

Arches in your feet are more than just decorative features. According to the folks at Northwestern Health Sciences University: Discovering what type of shoes, (especially running shoes) you need has a lot to do with simply looking at your feet, which is the first step to finding the right shoe for you. There are three different foot types, based on the height of your arches. A quick and easy way to determine your specific foot type is called the “wet” test. Pour a thin layer of water into a shallow pan; wet the sole of your foot; step on a shopping bag or blank piece of heavy paper; step off and look down; and analyze the shape of your foot and see if it matches with some of the foot types mentioned below.

Normal (medium) arch: If you only see about half of your arch you have the most common foot type, meaning you are a normal pronator (your foot can support your body weight without problem). You can wear just about any shoe but may be best suited to a stability shoe that provides moderate arch support or medial stability.

If you are a lightweight runner, you may favor a stability shoe with a moderate level of arch support or medial stability. Lightweight runners may want neutral-cushioned shoes without added support or a performance training shoe that provides some support but less weight for a faster feel.
Flat (low) arch: If you see almost your entire foot, you have a flat foot, meaning you are an overpronator (your foot and ankle have problems stabilizing your body and shock isn’t absorbed properly). Mild to moderate overpronators need stability shoes or motion-control shoes that have devices such as dual-density midsoles and supportive “posts” to reduce pronation. Severe overpronators, as well as tall, bow-legged runners or people over 165 pounds need firmer support devices.
High arch: If you see just your heel, the ball of your foot and thin line on the outside of your foot, you are an underpronator (meaning the force of impact is not evenly distributed, resulting in too much shock traveling up your legs). Neutral-cushioned shoes are recommended for you because they have a softer midsole to encourage pronation. No stability devices should be added because they reduce pronation.

And, of course, I recommend reading up on shoe fit here, too.

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Dear Phyllis,
Here is the link for that GREAT semi-annual shoe sale at

The ShoeLady

Lymphedema in both feet

Dear Shoe Lady,

I have lymphedema in both feet, ankles, legs. I have a very real need for width measuring information. not just the ball of the foot but the arch as well. ironically my toes and heels are not affected
and are ‘normal’. arch height is not the issue it’s the height from floor over top of foot to floor. right now I make moccasins and measure this way [traditional] but mocs don’t do well in wet or cold
weather or for dressy occasions!
The site is good for what is in it, but more measuring information in this area would of great help to me and others like me.
thank you


Dear Ms. P,

Thanks for your feedback!  There are 28 different “fit” points on a shoe and given the different shapes of feet and different styles …. multiplied by the average of about 50 sizes for each shoe style… well you see our problem.  We do as much as we can to inform customers about how to pick the best shoes for their feet.  I, your humble Shoe Lady, have thicker feet, floor to top of foot, and find it helps to think of shoes not as length and width, but as volume.  So I sometimes need to buy sizes a little wider than my width measurement suggests just so there’s room for the thickness or top-to-bottom height.

Please do take a look at the information in our “About Sizes” section on the lower right part of the home page.


The Shoe Lady

Dear Lady,

Thank you for answering me. I do understand fit should see my closet floor! lol  The collection is a study in width.
I thought I would get XW but I needed more reference for how wide is XW. it’s just a number. so even a ball park measure would help. imagine trying to buy a dress and having no idea what a size 2 vs 22 is.
at least if there was a number attached to the shoe you could measure and have an idea of where it is going.
I guess I will have to go to a shoe store with one of those measuring things and see what I get.  or a thrift store for a pair that are close to fitting me-I have no idea anymore if I wear an 8,8.5 or? even if it is a XW. yes I am taking a can of lysol eeewwww but desperate times make people do desperate things.
Thanks again.

My Dear Ms. P,

Go to a shoe store that uses a Brannock device (that stick thing) but the width information still may not help much.  Be sure to read our articles on measuring your feetand on Wide feet on our website.

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Durable sandals and sneakers are great choices.

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Shoes for Walking

Dear Shoe Lady,

I like to walk and like to take the opportunity during the day to get out for a longish stroll.  Or I’ll get off the subway a stop early and walk the extra distance.  I do not like to have to change my shoes to official “walking shoes” everytime I want to walk.  I like to wear the same pair of shoes all day and I don’t want them to look clunky and orthopedic.  What do you recommend?

T.B., Boston

Dear T,

A woman after my own heart.  Did you know that when you walk, you put three times your regular weight on your forefeet?  And when you run, it is up to 8 times the pressure.  That said, shop with this criteria in mind:  1.  a slight wedge heel;  2.  an arch support;  3.  a cushioned sole under the front of the foot;  4.  a flexible shoe that will bend and move with your foot.

Here are some styles to consider:

Viani by Naturalizer

Legacy by Naturalizer

Helen by Soft Spots

Billie by Walking Cradles

Of course, your best bet for walking is a performance shoe like those from New Balance.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  And if you buy the featured shoes from New Balance, you’ll also be contributing to support breast cancer research!

Happy Trails!

The Shoe Lady

Shoes for European Travel

Dear Shoe Lady,

I’m going to Italy for a two week vacation. I’ll never find my size there so I need to be sure to pack the right shoes. What do you suggest?

SL, Tampa, FL

Dear SL,

Fortunately for you I can tell you what is in style this summer and what comfort and fashion oriented travelers are wearing. Lace ups are huge. Most women traveling have discovered the sport casual lace up look launched a few years ago by Puma. I suggest you look at our Swift by Hush Puppies style to get an idea of this look.

Another lace up look that is almost required if you are under 30 – retro sneakers. Converse is big and all the new versions of the low top, lace up sneakers give you lots of choices. I love the PF Flyers choices. And for a trip to Italy, you can’t go wrong with the Center Lo version in Chinese silk! If you are doing a lot of walking, think thick soles with lots of cushioning. Soft Style offer lots of choices with thicker cushioned soles.

Last but not least…. EVERYONE is wearing ballet flats. They are in all colors, pastels and brights, patents and metallics. They usually have some ornamentation. Grab a pair of the
Have a great vacation!

The Shoe Lady