Men with big feet, help me find shoes for my big-footed son?
September 26, 2016 10:04 AM   Subscribe

My 17 year old son has US size 17 feet. He has had trouble with ingrown toenails, which I think is related to the fact that it is difficult to find shoes that fit him comfortably. We've been ordering online, but he finds the having-giant-feet thing a little embarrassing, so I think he is settling for whatever comes in the box, even if they don't fit exactly right, rather than having us return and reorder. I'd like it if he could actually enjoy his shoes, rather than endure them. So, big foot men, how/where do you get your shoes?
posted by qldaddy to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The name might not help the embarrassment but Oddball specializes in big shoes.
posted by carolr at 10:14 AM on September 26, 2016

Are your sons feet true 17 (according to shoe sizers) or are they exceptionally wide forcing him to look for overall larger shoes? Perhaps it's just my experiences, but I found that shoes that were too narrow seemed to lead to / complicate ingrown toenails. I'll note that according the the shoe measurement things, my ideal size is a 12.5 EEEEE . I once actually found a pair of simple black work shoes that matched that, but usually I just had to go up size, and accept tight-feeling shoes.

In highschool, I wore size 15 nikes (that would often need to be special ordered), or size 14 converse and also had a large problem with ingrown toenails that went away with my switching to full time flip flop use (and being religious about stuffing cotton under the edges after getting my nail cut down to the quick (but not fully removed)). When shoes died on me, it was because the shoe would rip where my pinky toe would force itself out of the shoe.

Now, as an adult, I can wear a wide toe-box shoe (like Altra or Topo) in a size 13 which is only minorly inconvenient to find. The shoe retailers that I know that also sell Altras are willing to order shoes for me to try on. So yeah, if I want a specific model of shoe I need to let them know what I want, wait 2-3 weeks, and then finally get called in to try it on. (I'm CDN, so likely my shoe stores won't be of help, but if size width is an issue, a wider by-design shoe might be awesome for him. - look on their "where to buy" pages.)
posted by nobeagle at 10:28 AM on September 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I highly recommend Soft Star Shoes (link to their custom size 17 pair they made) as they were excellent to work with for my fat footed/fat ankled/fat calved small child's sizing needs. They are made in the USA and you can customize what colors you'd like the shoes to be. There are real people behind their contact email who have been helpful when answering my questions in the past.
posted by jillithd at 11:06 AM on September 26, 2016

I sometimes shop for someone who's a 14-15 and I like looking at Zappos because they allow you to sort easily by size (no point looking if they don't even come in your size, right?). Bonus is that you an order a few sizes and return the one that doesn't fit (free return shipping). Nordstroms also carries a number of bigger sizes and even has an extended sizes section on its website here. You can check online to see if they're in stock at a store near you to try on. I've also ordered multiple sizes at Nordstrom with free shipping to my house, and free shipping to return for the ones that didn't fit.
posted by Bunglegirl at 11:22 AM on September 26, 2016

Like Bunglegirl I was going to suggest that you make a point of ordering multiple sizes if you can afford it* - that way it's much more likely that he'll be willing to try them all out.
* and assuming the returns are free or cheap
posted by trig at 11:29 AM on September 26, 2016

Don't try to buy shoes online. Find a shoe store in your city that specializes in larger shoes and go there. Agreed that you want to make sure that you're getting the right width, not just sizing up to shoes that are really too long to get the width you need. That puts the arch in the wrong place. For years I thought I wore a size 13; a few years ago, I found out I actually wear a 10.5 wide. My foot problems basically vanished when I started wearing that size.
posted by kindall at 11:35 AM on September 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I agree with getting his feet measured to determine the appropriate length/width and go from there. My brother has 4E feet (super wide) and would try to size up when he was younger, instead of going for a wider shoe. His favorite brand of shoes (because they actually fit!) is New Balance. They're not hideously expensive, and although some of the models are a tad hideous, I'm not going to pretend I'm young enough to know what's cool to 17 year olds nowadays.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 12:20 PM on September 26, 2016

My feet aren't THAT huge (super wide women's 11). BUT! The custom boots I got from Wesco are simply the best shoes I've ever owned. They're made from a tracing of my feet and a bunch of measurements. When I first put them on, it was nothing short of a foot miracle--I could actually spread all my toes out flat! They are VERY spendy, I'm not gonna lie. But, IME, worth every penny.
posted by mollymayhem at 12:24 PM on September 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Greetings! I have size 15 feet, so while I'm not quite the all-star your son is, here are my tips:

1) Dress shoes. For the high school set, Kenneth Cole makes dress shoes in bigger sizes. You may have to order them online 2 at a time when they appear, but while he's still a kid, these are your best bet... he gets older move to Allen Edmonds. They can make a wide variety of sizes and widths, and I have heard stories (but never tried this myself) that you can go to their facility and they will make custom shoes for you.

2) Athletic Shoes - Oddball shoes has all the sizes, but their styles are very...casual? Which works great as a kid, but will be tougher as you get older. Zappos/Amazon have also been great for finding bigger sizes. Look at all the Size 17 shoes Amazon currently has!

New Balance is also your friend here. They carry really big sizes. I have not bought shoes in a retail store in over 10 years. Most retailers don't go past a size 13; however I do agree with the recommendation that you do your best to get professionally measured.

If you want to deep-dive into the size of his foot, you can go to an Allen Edmonds store and they'll measure his foot, and order the correct size. If it doesn't fit, they'll do a free exchange until your son gets the right pair. Don't go to the guys at Nordstroms, Macy's, or an department store - they don't have any specific shoe training.

Good luck! Let me know if you have any other questions.
posted by unexpected at 12:35 PM on September 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Maybe you could message Nike on Twitter/Facebook and ask them for recommendations given that they outfit so many athletes with similarly sized feet?
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:18 PM on September 26, 2016

There appears to be a Foot Solutions store near your general area and this is where I would head. I (a woman) wear a men's 10 EEEE sneaker and my local Foot Solutions was the first store to ever properly size me and find me shoes for my problem feet. I would drag your lovely son in there and let them properly measure and recommend some shoes. The feeling of having well-fitted shoes is so wonderful! I hope he can get over the self consciousness and get to the comfortable shoes he deserves!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 1:18 PM on September 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nordstrom department store was originally a shoe store. Even though they've been a department store for a long time, they still maintain the tradition of stocking a MUCH wider range of shoe sizes than most brick and mortar stores. I am a woman who wears a size 13 shoe and Nordstrom is one of the few places, online or in store, that carry shoes too big even for my feet. I have to imagine they stock mens' shoes in really large sizes as well. Also, their customer service is legendary... If they don't have it in stock, they can work with you to get you what you need.
posted by Sublimity at 1:42 PM on September 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'll pile on the 'get his feet properly measured' bandwagon, but once you do that I'd recommend Zappos just because you'll get lots of choices and the best customer service that exists in the universe, seriously.

I wear 14s and so can't go to just any shoe store, so when I wanted some Birkenstocks I ordered some at Zappos. When they came, the buckle on one of the shoes was mildly defective, and I figured I could fix it myself, but my fiancé got them for me as an anniversary present, so she called and asked to have them replaced. During the course of the conversation she mentioned the anniversary thing (and that we got engaged on the same day), so the rep:

- sent replacements immediately, they came the next day
- told her not to send the defective ones back
- gave her a store credit for the whole purchase price

So I got two pairs of Birks for 'free' and she bought a nice pair of shoes for herself with the credit.

Zappos is awesome.
posted by Huck500 at 2:14 PM on September 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nordstrom Rack stocks men's 17. (I think the section is labeled 15+.) They have some large-shoe mailing list as well.
posted by hoyland at 4:16 PM on September 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

One thing is that you might need to find a specialty shoe store that carries sizes that large, they are hard to find, but some do exist. I was fortunate and one was only an hour or so away from me growing up. They regularly stocked up to the size 16 or 17 depending on the brand. Another option would be custom shoes from a cobbler, yes they do make custom shoes.

Also, for the ingrown toenails, some can be chronic and there is nothing anyone can do about them with shoes. Even though I I have size 13 EEE foot, even in properly sized shoes I got chronic ingrown toenails until my podiatrist just burned the root of the nail out on the little part of the nail that would grow under the skin. The nail looks the same, but without any ingrown parts. Solved the problem, plus now I can wear rock climbing shoes and not have to worry.
posted by Nackt at 4:22 PM on September 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

My husband is a size 15. He orders his running shoes online and wears either Nike or Hoka.

For work shoes he has had a lot of luck with minimalist dress shoes. Sure they aren't made for excessive walking due to support, but they are perfect for the office or going out to dinner for a few hours. Amazon.
posted by floweredfish at 8:27 PM on September 26, 2016

Seconding Oddball as a resource for mostly-casual shoes. I use them mostly as a resource for "hmm, my everyday shoes are getting a little long in the tooth, I wonder what they have for $30" situations, because they're the only place I've found that has clearance sales on enormous shoe sizes.

You can also get some traction by figuring out which brands run big vs. small. I'm a 15 everywhere except for Nike (17, if they made 17s) and Clark's (14 because they use British sizing). Clark's have been especially good to me (very tall with terrible posture = I abuse shoes), and I believe they carry 16s, which are the same size as a US 17.

As an aside, I also suffered from chronic ingrown toenails when I was your son's age, and it was not a problem that could be corrected by better selection of shoes. No matter what width and size I wear, they still happen, because big feet are weird. Talk to your son's podiatrist! There's a day-surgery you can have done where they acid-burn the nail beds to stop the problem from recurring. I had it done 15 years ago, it hurt for a day, and I've never had another problem since.
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