Boats, sleds, waffles, clodhoppers--all are terms women use when shoe shopping.
In our culture, the ideal female foot is small and narrow, and women with big feet sometimes feel ignored by shoe designers.
Although there are no medical techniques to reduce foot size, and binding, which was done to women’s feet in China for centuries, is torturous, there are ways to become less foot-conscious.
“If you think your feet are too large, you may want to stay away from heavy, flat, thick-soled shoes,” says Jenna Petrotta of Soul to Soul in Laguna Beach. “Or at least wear them sparingly, only if they go perfectly with your outfit.”
The first thing to look at when shopping for size-challenged footwear is the upper, which covers the arch to the toes.
“That’s what people notice first besides the height of your heel,” says Sandy Miller of Twice the Style in Costa Mesa. “Stay away from solids on the upper, which makes your foot look like a large expanse. Look for cutouts or a simple design of some kind to break it up.”
Shoes designed to showcase the foot are probably not a good idea to have if your objective is camouflage. “Some strap sandals can make your foot look awfully big, the same with the natural, Birkenstock-style sandal that just puts your foot out there for the world to see,” says Petrotta.
“I wear a size 10, and I purposely avoid sandals,” says clothing designer Ellen Corcoran of Yorba Linda. “My feet look wider in them because there’s nothing to hold them in.”
Some women who perceive their feet as large also stay away from mules, the popular flat with a back ankle strap. “The entire shoe is pushed forward, and if you wear a solid-colored pair, they seem to make your feet look long and wide,” Miller says.
There’s a lot of classic shoe styles that are always “in” and that are a more subtle part of your outfit, says Petrotta. “There are simple pumps that work with a wide range of outfits, as well as other shoes that don’t draw attention.”
Although they’re not for every outfit, high heels can make a foot seem smaller. “Because they’re elevated in the back, the upper is shorter and isn’t as revealing,” Miller says.
In the end, if you find that your foot fear makes shoe buying a painful experience as you try to squeeze into shoes a half-size too small, you could be taking it all a bit too far.
“If you’re wearing great-looking little shoes that are uncomfortable, it’ll show on your face at the end of the day,” Corcoran says.