small-shoes.jpgLesley James writes...

A lot of fuss is made about clothes size "zero", but what aboutsize zero feet? People with small feet seem to be invisible to most shoe retailers, but there's a lot of us out there, so here's all I know about how to shop wisely for shoes in size 2 and under. See a full list of UK shops selling shoes for small feet, here.

Ten points to make life a little easier for people with little feet:


1. What's the fuss all about?

'We get much more demand for bigger shoes than smaller shoes!' said the stroppy shop assistant. I just sighed. It gets harder and harder to actually choose any shoes in my size (size 34) these days. I just have to take what I can find to fit, when I can find it, and be grateful. The last pair of sandals I bought cost over three hundred pounds. They were the only pair in the shop that fit me, so I had no choice.

According to The British Footwear Association, 27% of the female population have feet that are between a UK size 1 and a UK size 4.5. This compares with 21% of the UK female population who have feet between a UK size 7 and a 9+. That's a lot of people with smaller feet...

2. Sizing

I had always thought that small feet were endemic in Wales, part of my genetic and cultural makeup as a celt. Natural. Nevertheless, there are fewer small shoes being stocked in Wales now, whether the shops are in the small villages or the larger cities. It is a commercial reality that women's feet are getting bigger. And so, we expect manufacturers to make more shoes in bigger sizes. This does not, however, mean that all the women with small feet have disappeared.

It is also true that there is now far more inconsistency over UK and continental sizing equivalencies. On the plus side of things, some suppliers understand this challenge. SmallShoes.co.uk offers to estimate your size based on a tracing around your feet.

3. The Publicity

In recent months I have noticed an increase in the amount of articles, features and promotion of sites and shops for small shoes. However, a word of caution: some of the sites recommended in major articles may just stock one or two pairs of size 2s amongst hundreds of pairs in their stocks. So, don't be disheartened.

So, here's advice no 2: SHOUT. Write to your newspaper's fashion editors; speak to all the shop assistants about the issues, lobby buyers, and nag independent retailers to seek out suppliers of your size.

4. Internet sites

In general, Internet small- shoe sites fall into two categories: the OOH AHH WOW category, and the NO NO YUK category. Clearly, the sites stocking the tacky, plastic, dated stuff appeal to some people. In the WOW category, all is not always wonderful. At first, I am wowed by the selection, but when I click on my size and try to buy, most of the more fashionable styles are (how strange!) out of stock or sold out. It is often the case that such companies only stock one of each size, and if you miss it, it's gone. The other negative aspect is the high price. We are a captive market, and suppliers do expect us to pay more.

5. Bespoke or Made to Order options

In the past I have been scared of this option because of the cost and the associated snobbishness attached to the whole concept of bespoke shoes. In desperation, I have looked at it again recently.

Many companies will make a last or mould to fit just your feet alone, and hand craft a pair of shoes that is tailor- made for your personal size and width. This can be an expensive option. It usually involves a costly, one-off payment for your individual last. This last is then reused for each subsequent pair of shoes you purchase. Selve: The Shoe Individualiser has a stylish website and would get my vote if I chose to invest a large, three-figure sum.

I looked into this option for my mum (also small size 2, but wide as well) and was surprised to find one company that specialises in orthopaedic shoes does a very wide range of leathers, colours and styles in boots, sandals and shoes. This is Cooper Footline Ltd who are based in Leicestershire. Their price range is more accessible than most bespoke makers, and they seem friendly, down to earth, and willing to accommodate those who live some distance away. Their styles are also far from lumpen, which makes this an attractive choice.


6. Inventive Option: Dance Shoes

Oh yes! Size not even an issue! Deep joy!
The best secret I can share with you, if you dance and would appreciate professional quality dance shoes, is Heavenly Dance Shoes.
This company make dance shoes and sandals in a very wide range of styles and designs. The fact that you may be size 2 or under is not even an issue for them.

Heavenly work from a template of your feet (you draw around them) and will create whatever combination of heels, straps and soles you desire. One word of caution, though: if you intend wearing these shoes outside, you must not choose the suede dance soles. Ask for leather or stick on polyurethane soles instead.

7. Cheap (and sometimes nasty) option: Children's shoes

Children's fashion shoes are not always made with style and quality in mind. The materials are often very cheap: plastic and polyurethane variants make your feet perspire. Furthermore, in a strange phenomenon, children's shoe sizes do not correspond directly to adult's shoe sizes. If you think you are a ladies size UK 2, you may find yourself having to try on sizes 1, 2 and 3 (33, 34 or 35) in children's styles before you get a pair to fit you. I do not know why this is the case, but be prepared for lots of trying on.

8. Specialist sites

It takes time to trawl the many and varied small shoe sites on the net for the one or two pairs of shoes that may appeal to you, or stock your size. You may not be prepared to sit at the PC for hours getting blurry vision, unlike me!

So, my current favourite site for small shoes is Small Shoe Heaven. This site is run by Sally Hirst, a lady who also has small feet. She has a select range of handmade, leather shoes at accessible prices.

9. Idependent retailers

Phone before you visit independent retails to avoid a wasted journey. Make a point of talking to your local independent retailers to make sure they are aware of your needs as a potential buyer.

10. An anecdote
I leave you with another little feet anecdote. Last week, I was out with the girls at a very posh bar in Cardiff. My friend, who is a midwife, looked down at my feet and gasped. I thought she was admiring my super sparkly Accessoire kid sandals, with Swarovski crystals. But no. All she said was, 'I'm glad I don't have to deliver you!' Apparently, there is a direct correlation between the size of your feet and the size of your pelvis. If you are pregnant, small feet can mean a tough labour because of small pelvic space. Just when I thought I knew all there was to know about having tiny tootsies. Anyone know how to stretch 'em?

Image: 'Jenny' court shoe from SmallShoes.co.uk

(Our thanks to Lesley for contributing this article)

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