The Great British Shoe Hunt

Shoes. Glorious shoes. Shoes are the bane of my life it feels like for the past few years (and yes I realize there are far worse troubles to be having). But it’s true. Aside from having fallen arches, plantar fasciitis if I’m not careful to wear supportive hoof wear, and dodgy knees which cry out when I wear anything other than a clompy boot or trainer, I also have to contend with the fact that 95% of the shoes I would quite like to buy simply do not fit me for one simple reason, something that may well astonish any American readers.You see, in Britain, dear old Blighty, land of many hills and much walking and need for good, comfortable footwear – they have yet to catch on to the not exactly ground breaking concept of half size shoes. I’m not even kidding. 

There is exactly one store that I know of (Clark’s, where I shop when I can afford to or there’s a sale) that makes most of their range in half sizes. Oh and M&S do some too, but much of the selection veers towards frumpy/orthotic looking things. Other than that the high street is awash with shoes that simply do not fit my not unusual in America size 7 1/2 feet (that’s a five and a half in Britain, the only time you don’t feel like a big fatty and have to add many numbers to whatever size you are in America!). On top of that the conversions are often wrong, just ignore them entirely. I know the obvious answer here is just to buy my shoes in America, but we are usually in Florida, where I get "holiday blinders" within oh, a day, and start thinking life is a beach and what I really need are more sandals in my life (as if!).

Occasionally I will get lucky and find a shoe that runs small or large and almosts fit me. My feet, particularly my ankles/heels are quite narrow as well which doesn't help matters. I often find myself just staring at delicate shoes on other women and wondering how they aren't falling off - oh well, they're probably full sizes, the lucky so and so's! What particularly irks me is when a large international brand that I know MAKES half sizes is still impossible to come by here in anything other than whole sizes. I found myself futilely asking for them in a shop over the weekend, only to be pressured to buy shoes that were clearly far too small by the hapless assistant assuring me they would “stretch out”. I mean, come ON. I just can’t take it anymore!

No wonder they’re so perpetually quiet and passively aggressively grumpy here– their feet are killing them! (I KID! I love you Britain! Just not your shoes). But seriously, I just don’t get it. Oh sure, I can go up a half size in trainers (that's what Brits call sneakers my American friends - took me forever to get used to that one! ;-) and boots and be o.k., but any other kind of shoe and I’m at a complete loss. And so my closet is full of ballerina pumps that either pinch my toes or flop off my ankles (yes I use insoles, no I haven't found a pair that don't stick to my feet/bunch up inevitably), sandals that rub awkwardly or slide off my feet if I don’t walk very slowly. Never mind loafers or brogues or those hip trainer-y shoes with no laces (yes I have a pair, no they don’t fit). And I’m completely not a heel person but even a small heel presents problems – too small and my feet are coming out of them and onto the pavement, too large and I literally can’t walk.

Why is it so hard? Why do you have to be made of money to find shoes that fit on this godforsaken island?!! Grr! It just feels sort of typically British to me: "Oh these shoes don't quite fit, but I'll manage!" Never make a fuss, stiff upper lip and all that. Well as a 14 year veteran of this isle, I want to start a petition or something - who is with me? There are shoes that fit, fellow half sized British people, we just have to stand up and demand them! "What do we want? Half Sized Shoes! When do we want them? NOW!" 

And that’s just the tip of the foot iceberg. On a fashion level, I am pretty much relegated to sports trainers for both fit and aforementioned knee/foot reasons for any serious walking distance. Or my Birkenstocks if it’s not 60 degrees and raining as it is 90% of the time in the Scottish summer! And so this weekend I became particularly frustrated – usually I’m resigned to my unfashionable feet, but we are going to London next week, which is often actually warm in the summer, and so the impractical, fashion side of my brain started thinking about crazy things like pretty shoes. I know I need something I can walk in, but I would also ideally like something that isn’t hideous too. Oh and I’m on a budget. And in my case none of these things add up to a shoe that works. I’m really hankering after cute skate style shoes, but truthfully they have NO  arch support whatsoever and I know would just be add to the pile in my closet. But still I am eyeing up these slightly impractical suede Pumas that come in a half size online only, weirdly only at this Aberdeen shop - that's a sign right?! They've got a bit more support than other similar styles I've tried on....

I mean, they'd be OK right? (I need someone to tell me to buy them hint hint!). I  know I should be trawling the athletic shoe racks, looking for something that is cute and not too sporty (impossible?). I just want to have nice shoes that I can wear with a dress or walk in that don’t hurt, is this too much to ask? It feels like I have exhausted all my options. I am tired of the shoe hunt, and yet I persevere in blind hope (off to Debenhams sale today!).

And while we're at it, just exactly how do women totter around in stilettos? I can’t even imagine the pain (although I guess they’ve had a lifetime of practice here especially growing up without shoes that fit!). Hmm…anyway thanks for reading. :-) Any other shoe fit deprived folk out there with me? Where do you find your shoes? (Keeping in mind I cannot afford £150 sandals and whatnot!). Am I missing some place really obvious? 

10 comments

  1. Shoes are already hard to shop for and they don't have HALF SIZES??? What kind of nightmare is that???

    I have my various foot issues as well, one of which is bunions (ugh). I really need to stop ordering shoes online, they very rarely fit the way i think they will (you know, perfectly). I like going to the Nordstrom Rack here because they have all the shoes out so I can try on all of them, because sometimes i'm a 5.5, sometimes a 6, and very strangely, a 6.5 in one wedge pair I picked up. It's like a treasure hunt. A painful, frustrating treasure hunt.

    But I have not clue on where to lead you on your shoe hunt, so sorry!

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    1. I know!! And what gets me is, there are a few(expensive, like crazy expensive) brands online here that do half sizes, so British people either fork out way more for shoes than I can comprehend that fit or just suffer. So they know what they are missing out on, but just suffer the retail idiocy of it all. I mean why?! I order them online too and it's mostly a disaster, ugh! I can vary also but rarely in a way that works out for the shoes actually fitting my feet here.

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  2. I feel your pain. I am half sized, have skinny feet, foot injury and a dodgy knee. Try to stop myself looking at high heels still. Comfiest shoes I have found are Hotter, sometimes on sale online.

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    1. Thanks for the Hotter web tip Elinor, I must admit I'd forgotten about them as anytime I venture in the prices make my eyes bleed - they do indeed seem to be having a sale online though :-) NO idea what size I am in there!

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. So I wrote this long lovely comment bitching about the conspiracy of the shoe industry and my own foot problems and how no shoe is ever the same size twice, and it was awesomely worded and everything and then it didn't register, so poop. Just say I agree with your frustration and 1000% more! :)

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    2. Aw poop indeed, sorry! :-(

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  4. I had a pair of those lovely Pumas back as a teenager and LOVED them! So comfortable and they lasted me ages and ages.

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    1. Ooh! Good to know thanks! I still haven't bought them, hemming and hawing! I bought some bargainous Fila memory foam slip on things that are pretty decent (I think). But still need trainers. Obsessed with shoes this month!

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  5. I'm not much of a shopper--after ten minutes I'm ready to pull my hair out--but I swear I've been able to buy half-size shoes in the U.K. If I could remember where, I'd tell you, but not being much of a shopper I don't have a favorite place and seldom remember where I found what.

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