If you’re a woman with average-sized or relatively small feet, you should count yourself lucky. Why? Because it’s recently come to light just how poorly served women with larger feet are in the UK. In fact, few can regularly find shoes that fit at all. But why is this the case? Why aren’t we hearing about it more – has it always been a problem?
Well, the likelihood we don’t hear about it as much as we might (and why you personally may not have) is because, of course, it doesn’t affect anything like the majority of British women – most aren’t suffering from continuous rubbed feet or toes hanging off the end of their sandals. That said, another reason it’s not talked about much is because it’s probably only a relatively recent phenomenon. And we suspect this because of statistics – according to the College of Podiatry, since the 1970s, the size of British people’s feet has increased. Starkly so, in fact – back then the average size for men was an eight and for a woman a four; it’s now a 10 and a six, respectively. That’s an increase of two whole sizes for both sexes in around 40 years.
And this fact has become an issue because the shoe industry hasn’t appreciated it and so not moved with the times to tackle it. Now, needless to say, here at Sherry’s we’ll aim to supply every woman’s size, irrespective of whether it’s about average, large or small when they choose and select women shoes from us (whether they be leather or suede beat boots or any other kind), but the wider industry simply isn’t doing a good enough job.
Girls wearing boys’ shoes
So much so that, when asked about it for a recent BBC report, the Society of Shoe Fitters (yes, that’s right, there is actually such a thing) claimed that around 30 percent of the inquiries from the public their spokesperson takes come from young girls wondering what to do because they can’t find any suitable shoes above a UK size eight. In the vast majority of cases, as you’d have probably guessed, girls in this boat have to swallow their pride and go for a pair of boys’ shoes.
And that really isn’t a good thing because, beyond mere aesthetic considerations, boys’ shoes don’t suit girls’ feet, for the simple reason they’re specifically designed for boys’ feet. In fact, the society claims that wearing shoes intended for boys will even alter a girl’s physiology as, when she feels her feet hurting, she’ll shift her stance in an unnatural way, which will slowly damage her joints and tendons, potentially causing issues with her ankles, hips, knees and neck later in life. The blame for this, according to the society, lays at the, er, feet of the industry; shifting its focus of production overseas to cut costs as British shoe manufacturing began to fade in the 1980s. Today, around 65 percent of the shoes produced internationally are made in China, where the average woman’s shoe size is equivalent to a three-and-a-half in Britain, owing to Chinese feet generally being smaller and narrower than those of British people.
A few sizes ‘fit’ all – but forever?
The net result then is, yes, bully to women requiring larger shoe sizes over here. But now that the problem is becoming a little better recognised, what does the future hold? Will it be a case of only a few shoe sizes having to fit all forever?
Happily, hopefully not. The fact is things never stand still and technology is, of course, always improving. Allied to this is that old adage; necessity is the mother of innovation. With any amount of luck, better technology should mean that personalised fittings for women whatever the size of their feet should be possible – and not at the prohibitive prices of too many of today’s handmade shoes. After all, it’s possible even now to measure your feet via phone app – how soon before that data can be sent directly to a manufacturer and an order for a pair of shoes placed? If the shoe fits, indeed…