Saturday, August 15, 2009

Discrimination Against Small Feet: We Want Rights! (Or Better Selection)

Something most people don't know about me is that I can wear shoes in size 3 childrens. Of course, it's a tight squeeze, but at least I don't have to tread my footwear along like over-sized clogs (my parents call them boats). I have small feet. I think I measured them once, and they covered 8 inches of the ruler. I could have been super rich in Imperial China (most girls with bound feet managed to squeeze them down to 5 or 6 inches, the smallest at a dinky 3 inches long!).

However, I live in modern day 21st century America. Women in the states, on the average, wear a size 8 wide shoe. Approximately 68 % of American women wear shoes between the sizes of 6.5 and 9.5 (source). I can usually manage most women's size 5 flats and bigger sneakers, but many size 5 heels leave a good 1/4 inch between my heel and the back of the shoe. Add leggings or pantyhose and I get to strut in slippery peril. I fall from the mean and get to deal with frustration every time I search for sophisticated pumps.

When trying on footwear, I notice a lot of stores using size 7 as the model. I love love love Forever21, but their shoes start at size 6 (looking on their online search by shoe size, I see they offer 2 products in size 5.5 and none in 5. Why even give us hope?). Charlotte Russe also has great deals on bright pumps and affordable trendy shoes, but starts at 5.5 (size 5 is reserved for funky-coloured rainboots). At Payless, I spend about 3 minutes inside the store browsing because the shoes available in size 5 are few and far between. At most, there is a selection 4 feet wide by however tall the stacks go. If I move a little to the left to check out size 4.5, I start seeing glittery round-toed flats that are shapely enough for Big Foot and light up sneakers and wannabe sophisticated styles (Limited Too is full of it). I love Ross's inexpensive clothing selection, but there are usually about 10 pairs of ugly sandals for the picking in size 5 (more in size 5.5 but barely an improvement). I drool at the savings for the 7 and 8-ers, with multiple rows and stacks of cute, perfectly cheap casual and dressy shoes for their average-sized feet. Sometimes on the kid's shoes wall, I can find a pair of $12 Converse, one of the better finds in the land of Power Rangers and Bratz.

I recently heard of a store called Giordano's in New York City that specializes in petite shoes size 4-5.5 only. Heaven on earth, right? When I checked their website, I discovered they are going out of business after 29 years. Womens feet are just growing with each generation, and the few of us left behind are struggling to find something to wear. Edit: Here is another website that tells you the best places to purchase petite shoes nowadays. It seems Nordstrom is the best place to buy trendy, fashionable small sizes, but if you're looking to save, we with the petite feet are out of luck (end edit).

However, I have found that American Eagle flats at Payless Shoes have the perfect size 5 for me. My feet are small AND narrow. For under $20, I can have a pair of cute flats that don't look like some stage prop for a kindergarten play. Consequently, I have way too many pairs of black flats all from AE xD. The hunt for the perfect pump is still on, and I found one pair on sale for $10 and bought on impulse, but the super narrow toe space cuts off circulation within minutes and leaves blisters and bruises. Beauty is pain.

I wear a size 35 in China (based on the European system). The average Chinese woman's shoe size is somewhere around 35-39. At least among my tiny-footed girls, I hit the bottom of the bell curve and not somewhere on the outer reaches of left nowhere-land. I think my best hopes in finding proper footwear is to splurge in China and fill the biggest suitcase I can fit in cargo with my tiny treasures and hope the heels don't snap for the next 5 years. $1200 a ticket to Beijing is a mighty price to pay for well-fitting slippers. But what can a girl do without shoes?

I saw a recent how-to video by Michelle Phan on stretching shoes too small with ice and I frowned. I wish there were some way to shrink shoes. That would solve all our petitite problems. If you know of such magic, please share! Meanwhile, let's get some shoes.


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