277142-15815-48-1My knees hurt and it ticks me off. There’s nothing wrong with my knees, but my exercise shoes have worn slap out and the lack of proper support makes my knees hurt. I’m mad in advance over the hassle I’ll have to go through to find a pair of new ones.I am NOT driving to Atlanta for this.

You see, I’m a victim of shoe size discrimination. I wear a 9½ narrow or AA. For some reason, most manufacturers don’t bother to make this size. Of the few that make 9½, even fewer make them in the narrow width. Need a 9 narrow? No problem. Need a 10 narrow? No problem. Need a 9½ narrow? Prepare for a long drawn-out shopping expedition. To add insult to injury, it’s getting worse, not better.

Now, I’m not one of those women who love to shop. Even though my daddy owned a department store and I could shop my little heart out pretty much whenever I wanted, I hate shopping. Recreational shopping, as in “Let’s go to the mall and see what we can find!” is right up there on my list with “Gee, you’re gonna need a root canal for that.”

Shopping for shoes, back before I became a wise woman, would reduce me to tears of frustration. One weekend I tried on 62 pairs of black pumps, and found not one that fit. Multiple shoe salesmen (this was before everything was do-it-yourself) would tell me this brand ran narrow, so a medium would do. Or this brand has a narrow heel. Or that leather will form itself to fit your foot. I walked in Rich’s once, selected a shoe and said, “Do you have this in a 9 ½ narrow?” The super skinny young metrosexual of an associate (they aren’t clerks any more) looked me in the eye, laughed, and said “You’ve, like, got to be, like, kidding me. Right?”

The manager of the Rack Room Shoe store in Athens told me once that there wasn’t a single 9½ narrow  in his store. He didn’t even have to look it up! Once, I got lucky and found my size on a T.J. Maxx rack. Once.

This all makes me all the more mad at Vince Dooley for firing Hugh Durham in 1995. Hugh’s wife, Melinda, had a great little store called Slippers. She sometimes had my size in stock, but if she didn’t, she could always get it for me. I bought my wedding shoes there because she ordered them in my size. She would keep an eye out for shoes that I’d like. The prices were at the upper end of my price range, so I couldn’t buy lots of shoes, but I knew I could always count on Melinda. I bought my daughter’s wedding shoes there. Alas, Melinda chose to sell the store and move to Florida with Hugh, clearly a case of misplaced priorities.

A few months ago, I dropped in Slippers, which is still a cute shoe headquarters in Athens, saying, “I have a serious cute shoe deficit. Help!” The owner, sweet Amy Bray, whom I still think of as the “new” one, told me that none of her manufacturers even make size 9½ shoes, much less narrow ones. She was truly sorry. But didn’t I need a cute purse or belt?

Several years ago, I was in New York for a meeting. Thinking I might have better luck in the Big Apple, I spent most of a day looking for shoes. At one point, a clerk, um, associate, in Lord & Taylor told me, “Everyone knows rich women have narrow feet.” That was her explanation for why I might get lucky in their $600-shoe section. Well, I ain’t rich, and even if I were, I sure as hell wouldn’t pay $600 for a pair of shoes unless they’ll also wash my hose and mix me a nightcap.

Finally, I decided to do some scientific research into the issue. I entered “Why don’t they make narrow shoes?” in the search box for both Google and Bing. The answers I found, all in blogs or comments on blogs were as follows:

Because all women really have wide feet, they just lie about it.

The lasts (form to make the shoes) are too expensive.

They make them, but out of pure meanness, stores don’t order them.

Women with narrow feet are such a tiny minority, they shouldn’t expect shoes that fit.

My BS detector went to work immediately. I don’t know more now than I did when I started. I’m grateful for Lamar-Lewis, our million-year-old downtown Athens shoe store, the one where you take the kids for their first pair of Stride-Rites and where glitzy grandmas can still buy gold house slippers. The selection is limited and the shoes are mostly sensible, but Miss Diane tries really hard to find shoes for me. They’re having less and less luck. And Miss Diane is ready to retire. Things don’t look good.

I have found one American manufacturer, Munroe, that makes good shoes in my size. A bit pricey, but they work for business shoes. My real shoe salvation is Zappos.com. If it comes in a 9½  narrow, they probably have it. Even that isn’t a fit guarantee, so I end up sending most of them back, celebrating the occasional success.

flip flops-1I’d start a petition, but I don’t know which Chinese manufacturer to send it to. I’ve heard that petitions have less impact over there than here. Crazy Paul Broun is my Congressman, so I’m pretty sure I can’t get any relief that way, at least not until Jesus tells him to do it. No way I’m getting foot surgery like those crazy women in New York, so my foot will fit the shoes. It’s supposed to be the other way around! Guess I’m stuck in sensible shoes, buying multiples when I find one that fits. (That’s a lesson I learned from Jackie O. Saves shopping time, too.)  I figure in about ten years, they won’t make 9 ½ narrow shoes at all. Anywhere.

Thank God for flip-flops.

Myra Blackmon

Myra Blackmon

Myra Blackmon lives an eclectic life in Athens, where she retired from her own public relations firm. With a master of education degree she finished at 57 she is preparing to teach an online course at Tblisi State University. She writes a weekly column for the Athens Banner-Herald and coaches a fourth grade newspaper staff at her neighborhood elementary school. Mostly, though, she writes, cooks, grandmothers and dabbles in politics while she seeks the next big adventure.