When the Prince finally returned the slipper, Cinderella instantly said 'Yes,' because she knew from thenceforward she would be able to afford a cobbler to make shoes for her that fit. And so they lived happily ever after—Cinderella, the Prince, and the Cobbler Louboutin.
But I am not Cinderella. I have no Fairy Godmama. I have simply a relentless desire to find a comfortable pair of stylish shoes in just my size. I am a part of that ever-diminishing genus—women with narrow feet.
When I was young, 7N was a standard size for most shoe lines. The classic lasts of the major department stores, such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman, included 7N. Today such shoes have become an endangered species, while their once rare cousin, the wide shoe, has made a comeback and can now be found in increasing abundance wherever shoes are for sale.
As I walk through the local shoe warehouse that, the manager tells me, carries over 22,000 pairs of shoes, I am painfully aware that hardly any of the shoes displayed will fit my feet. Occasionally am I tempted by a bright orange sticker and the letter 'N' on the end of box, but, alas, the letter N is not a guarantee of either narrowness, comfort, nor wearability.
Yes, 7N can be found—in catalogues and stores specializing in shoes for those with orthopedic problems. It seems that 7N has gone from being a major player in the shoe world to a 'condition.' Just as giving birth has been pathologized, so having narrow feet has become a problem in need of a remedy.
I can only surmise, based on the chunkiness of narrow shoes, that designers, with the encouragement of podiatric doctors, have determined that narrow-footedness can lead to a serious lack of balance which must therefore be rectified by providing a solid base to stand on. Shoes for people with narrow feet are clearly designed to keep their wearers from tumbling over.
There are some well-known designers who have bucked the trend, and who do offer narrow shoes—at a very broad price. Stuart Weitzman and Ferragamo, to mention two, do cater to narrow feet—if you want to lay out $200 or more for a pair.
But here's the problem—not all narrow shoes or narrow feet are created equal. Some feet are narrower in the heel, some are not. Some shoes have narrow heels, some do not. And, unfortunately, I have found that price is not a guarantee of shoes in which my feet not only look good, but shoes that I can walk in as well.
It's often hard to discover this before buying. When you can't try shoes on, it's hard to assess fit, and the fact that so few places carry narrow shoes means that those of us who need them must rely on catalogs, e-stores, or experimenting with ways to insert enough padding to pretend that the shoes we want fit.
I have, I admit, succumbed to the lure of a beautiful shoe that I found online. In my closet I have a gorgeous pair of green suede shoes that I would wear if I could do so without excruciating pain. I regard them more as a museum piece than an item of clothing.
Women of all sizes, it seems, have accepted that new shoes mean discomfort—pinched toes, bunions, blisters, sore feet. Oprah Winfrey has freely admitted to wearing her shoes only long enough to walk on stage and then sitting down as quickly as possible. I am talking about comfort in a general sense here, I am not even addressing the ridiculous heights to which heels have gone—that's a discussion for another day.
Perhaps it seems petty of me to complain about the lack of stylish narrow shoes and then gripe about the ones that do exist. But frankly, if I am going to lay out a large sum of money for a pair of shoes, I want them to fit—and that, for me, includes comfort.
I do applaud Zappos.com for not only offering shoes in a variety of sizes—with free shipping on returns for those of us who are hard to fit.
So as I sit here in my lace-up, sturdy, well-balanced shoes, I dream of one day meeting Cinderella's Fairy Godmama, who will wave her magic wand, and I will look down and see myself wearing the most wonderful, comfortable pair of shoes I have ever owned.
Shoes shown by Jessica Simpson, Guess, B.O.C. and ???