The Ugly Sisters done us dirty. Clowns don’t help. And Hobbits don’t offer quite the same style inspo as Sarah Jessica Parker. In popular culture, the school playground or the shopping mall, we’re often confronted with reasons to feel we should despise our big feet. But is it possible to find a little bit of love in our hearts for them…?
SEXISM AND FEET
The patriarchy has a lot to answer for. For men, a large shoe size is seen as an attractive quality (insert aubergine emoji here). Big feet are a sign of strength and power, qualities women aren’t historically applauded for. Nor have we been encouraged to take up a significant amount of space. But to suggest our feet should be smaller, is to say that they are there to be looked at, and not perform the functional roles for which they exist. And as Glennon Doyle so eloquently writes, “It is not a woman’s job to get smaller and smaller in body, voice and opinion. To take up less and less space until she disappears so the world can be more comfortable.”
THE SHOE SHOP
If anything is going to make you feel excluded and despondent about your feet, it’s looking for shoes on the high street. The few bricks-and-mortar mainstream retailers that ever have deigned to produce women’s shoes in larger sizes, have done so in such a small selection of styles, with so little indication of what is available in a shoe size 42 and beyond, that searching for footwear ‘IRL’ is an exhausting and frustrating endeavour that I gave up on years ago. I’m not sure if I was imagining the smugness in the shop assistant’s voice when she returned from the stock room to say “I’m sorry, we don’t have that size, it’s very rare to have women’s shoes in a size 9”, but it’s that voice that motivates me the most in my business.
THE BIG FOOT FETISH
All that being said, my Otto + Ivy Instagram DMs usually comprise of three things:
- Questions about what size to go for.
- Lovely messages about your Otto + Ivy shoes (yay!)
- Kinky messages from men who love women with big feet.
Let’s delve into number 3. Now I don’t want to kink-shame here, but please boys; stop sending me messages I did not ask for. I am NEVER going to send you a picture of my feet. Or my Paypal details. A genius business idea, but not for me. (Although I did suggest it at a village committee meeting recently as a way we could raise money for the skatepark. Think Calendar Girls but for a new generation equipped with Only Fans and smartphones.)
Most of those DMs arrive from blurrily-selfied men in their mothers’ basements. My own husband isn’t quite so turned on by massive feet, or any feet for that matter. But here’s the thing. He’s just not bothered about them. He didn’t run screaming when I told him I had size 9 feet. He lent me his size 10 Converses when I was pregnant. It’s just not a thing that he ever thought about (until feet became quite key to my work-life).
One of the things that I love — particularly as we near Christmas time — is when I spot familiar surnames and note that partners are purchasing gifts for my regular customers. I’ve had messages from men asking when particular styles will come back into stock, and thanking me for making their wives happy (the best). Men (and I mean MEN — not boys) don’t give a toss. No one goes on a first date and says “She’s a 10 but she’s also a size 10 shoe.” And if they do, they are showing themselves to be the petty person they were always bound to become. Use those beautiful size 10s to run very very far away my love.
THE BENEFITS OF BIG FEET
So if one of the benefits of big feet is being able to start a niche Only Fans revenue stream, and another is about weeding out petulant, red-flag bearing partners, what else is a big foot benefit?
Balance. Ok, I am exceedingly clumsy, yes. My feet are still far, far away from my brain. But if my feet were smaller, I’d be an even greater danger to myself. I cannot walk all 6’1 of me around on a pair of peg-legs. Hiking on uneven terrain would be an impossibility. Dancing after a few glasses of Sauvignon? A threat to lives.
Sport. Ever get called Flipper Feet? It’s not just a thoughtless putdown. It’s one of many reasons why Michael Phelps became one of the most decorated Olympians of all time. It’s also widely acknowledged that big feet and long toes help you sprint faster. Just ask Usain Bolt; his phalanges are 8.2cm in length, which provides extra power, because an athlete can only propel themselves forward when their feet are in contact with the ground. His feet stay on the ground for a split second longer on every step, adding up to a significant lead over the course of a race. Serena Williams wears a size 42 shoe. Missy Franklin wears a size 45. Big Feet = Gold.
LOVE YOUR FEET
Not convinced? Here are some confidence tricks you might want to employ…
Own your shoe size. I’ve said something similar about height previously, and it’s just as applicable to feet. If someone asks you your foot size, tell them confidently. Don’t apologise. Don’t talk yourself down. Too much self-deprecating humour is more damaging to you than you realise. Your words matter. They’re absorbed by the children who hear them. And they’re also absorbed by you. And if we really want to change the way people look at big feet (and I really REALLY do), then we have to stop contributing to this idea that big feet = bad.
“Why do you have such big feet?” Is probably the weirdest question I get asked. And I get asked a lot of questions about my appearance. The perfect response? “That’s an odd question. Why do you ask that?” Silence.
Wear the damn heels. You really want your feet to look smaller? Ok then. Wear heels. It’s an angle thing. It’s trigonometry. And trust me: nothing looks more fabulous and awe-inspiring than a confident tall woman wearing a beautiful pair of heels anyway. Win win.
Give your feet some me-time. Our feet could tell some tales. Women with big feet often suffer with hammer-toes and corns after years spent squeezing into too-small shoes. Treat your feet with the love and energy you really ought to be treating yourself with (but never do). Next time you watch a boxset in the evening, give your feet a good soak and pedicure. Buff away the hard skin, moisturise, and give yourself a nice lick of polish. It’s not about making your feet look better. It’s about rewarding yourself with some self-love and pampering, and telling yourself that your feet are worthy.
THANK YOU FOR COMING TO MY PED TALK
Yes, it’s been difficult to get women’s shoes in larger sizes (Otto + Ivy is helping with that). And no, us larger-footed ladies have not had the best endorsement by Disney, and Rachel did accuse Monica of stretching out her shoes with “big ol’ clown feet”. But my God, we have FEET. I remember (and this sounds like a trite attempt at comedy… I don’t intend it to be), back in my presenting days, I had a last-minute gig at the Paralympic Ball at the Grosvenor Hotel in London. I’d spent all day stressing about what to wear on my feet. Only to turn up and interview a brilliant athlete who didn’t actually have feet. If anything was going to put my day’s concerns into sharp perspective, it was that.
Shop the collection in sizes 42-26 at Otto + Ivy.