The shoe dilemma of bigger-footed gals

By Mir
January 21, 2010

The lovely Amy writes:

I have an 11 year old daughter (5ft. 9in. tall and wears a 12 wide woman’s shoe)……Yes, this is true!

We are not having much luck finding shoes in her size that look like an 11 year old and that don’t cost a FORTUNE!!!

I have looked on the sites like and some of the others that you post on your blog.

She has one pair of bearpaws (boots) that we found in a size 12 that were on sale and a pair of new balance tennis shoes that we found on sale….but as far as a cute flat in a size 12 that doesn’t break the bank, we are not having any luck……she is very picky, also… so that doesn’t help……

Do you know of any sites that have CHEAP Birkenstocks that are CUTE and in a size 12 or European size 43?

So there are three problems here, actually.
1) It’s hard to find shoes in size 12.
2) It’s hard to find shoes in size 12 that are appropriate for a child.
3) It’s hard to find size 12 shoes appropriate for a child that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Let’s see if we can come up with any solutions.

The good news is that it’s a pretty good period of time in fashion to be a girl with big feet. No, really! Ballet flats continue to be very “in” right now, which is great news for those of us trying to outfit our middle schoolers in “nice” shoes that don’t have stiletto heels. [True story: I saw an 11-year-old in 4″ stilettos at my daughter’s last band concert. I wanted to find her mother and slap her silly.]

The bad news—as Amy already knows—is that size 12s can be hard to find under the best of circumstances, and the selection is never as good as it is for smaller sizes.

Amy, if you have the time and the patience, you’re going to find the best deals by visiting your local “off price” stores—TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Ross, Steinmart, etc.—and seeing what they have. The selection will be poor, but the options will be very affordable.

Another good avenue is eBay, if she’s already tried on and fallen in love with something; you may be able to find it cheaper from a seller online.

Many of the deals I post here regularly offer some possibilities:

Right now is having their anniversary sale, and you can take 25% off sale prices with code BDAY25 through January 25th, 2010. When I went to the Sale section and narrowed the results to size 12, I got over 120 matches. (I wouldn’t say that any of the options there are bargain-basement cheap, even with the coupon, but it’s worth a look. Plus you get free shipping and free returns, which is handy when your subject is picky!)

Oh, look— is having their own anniversary sale. Use coupon code BIRTHDAY to take $10 off your $50 order, and like, they have free shipping and free returns. I’m getting over 400 results when I look for sale shoes in size 12., as you’ve already surmised, is great for sales, but they change daily/weekly and it can be hard to keep up with what’s on sale when. (Though I do see an assortment of Birkenstocks on there listed as being on sale, even now.)

Amazon is often a great place to scoop up a shoe deal; right now they have over 100 pairs of sandals in size 12 listed as being 50% off or more.

The bottom line, Amy, is that you’ll need to spend more time, and maybe look a little bit harder, but the deals are out there. I promise!

And please tell your daughter that I’m always jealous of the tall girls, as a relative shorty, myself.


  1. I can totally relate. I’m 5’8″ and wear an 11 (been the same height and shoe size since I was 10). I have the best luck at places like Marshall’s, TJ Max and Ross (basically discount clothing places), since their stock changes so often. I have found a couple cute pairs at, but they’re rare.

  2. amy,
    they have lots of birks.
    you also get a 3 month test walk…fun!
    go under the ‘sale’ tab and you can pick by name brand and size.

  3. Just to throw some support Amy’s way, my daughter is 14, 5’9″ and also wears between a size 11 and 12 wide shoe…and she has to be the most picky person on the planet! Seriously, it is so frustrating I want to have a drink and a nerve pill before we start shoe shopping for her!
    Thankfully, she is a flip flop and tennis shoe kind of girl but we do have the odd occasion I make her wear something a little more dressy. Cato is a good place to look and we alos love TJ Maxx. Soda makes a ballet flat that fits most of the time and sometimes we have luck at Berlington Coat Factory…good luck and know you are not alone…

  4. Another good place for Birks and tennies is Sierra Trading Post. They usually go up to 43 if it is available. Sign up for the email list, they send coupons.

  5. Another place online is, which often has a lot of Birks, Keens, etc.

  6. I know it’s not the most affordable solution, but Nordstrom Rack frequently has ‘large size shoe’ events where they get in special shipments of size 10+ ladies shoes. They are not cheap, but there are bargains to be had on good brands and increasingly I see Keen and Privo and other similar brands. If you live near one, it’s worth checking out in my opinion.

  7. For cheap everyday shoes, just take her to Payless Shoe Source! They carry a large variety of shoes in size 11 & 12’s. (I wear an 11 wide myself and know how hard it is to find shoes!)

    Occasionally I find shoes that I like at Famous Footwear, and if they don’t have my size in stock, they’ll ship it to me for free, and then if they don’t work, I can return them to the store.

  8. I’ve been in her shoes (ha!). Until I was 13 my shoe size matched my age. During high school and college I relied almost entirely on Payless for any “girl” shoes, otherwise I wore men’s shoes. I do not have the time or patience for sifting through places like TJMaxx and the like, so nowadays my shoes come almost entirely from I’ve ordered a few pairs from Zappos or Endless when I was desperate, but I tend to think it’s a sin to pay more than $30 for shoes. 😛

  9. I’m not sure if it would work with shoe sizes, but when I’m looking for something random yet specific, I search on ebay and then save the search. It’ll e-mail you a daily digest sort of e-mail whenever something matching the search is listed. Like I said, I’ve not tried it sizes, though. Good luck!!

  10. I’m a size 11, so I feel her pain. She might try a size 9 and a half or ten in mens’ sneakers. Some cute, trendy things there. Skater shoes and what not. Sandals, too. My size eleven is a men’s nine. Just sayin’.

  11. Go to and click on “women’s”–then on “Women’s shoes”. Then select 12 on the size drop down menu. Finally, sort by “Low Price.” Looking for shoes this way at you (and your daughter) are less likely to fall in love with a pair of shoes only to find that they don’t have your daughter’s size. I just did this search at the website and there a some cute age appropriate shoes in size 12. Good luck.

  12. From my experience as a shoe store manager, some nicer shoe stores will offer deals on their size 11 and up stock IF YOU ASK. There are certain shoe companies that do not allow the stores to pick their own sizes, and instead send a set of pre-chosen sizes, often with the smallest and largest sizes mixed in. Frequently, the sizes 6-10 will sell out and the store will be left with sizes 5, 11, and 12 that they can’t sell and are taking up valuable stockroom space. This may not always be the case, but it’s worth asking.

  13. I share the pain with my size 11s. Another place to try is the plus size stores. Lane Bryant and Avenue often have shoes in size 11 at least (I wasn’t looking for 12s so I don’t remember). I’ve gotten some cute shoes at a good price and if you get on their mailing lists, there are often discounts to be had.

    If it makes any of you feel better, be glad you don’t live in Italy. I walk into a shoe store and ask for a 42 or 43 and they crack up laughing. Tiny footed people in this country, apparently.

  14. I have a 15 yr. old 6’4″ girl with a size 13 women shoe. I feel your pain. She wears men’s tennis shoes and we go to and can find her size in all kinds of womens shoes. Good Luck !!

  15. I also recommend Payless. I wore a 10 as a teen and now wear an 11, and as a tall woman I will only wear flats. Payless has provided me with some surprisingly cute and cheap shoes! Every so often you can get lucky at Ross or TJMaxx. I also check anytime there is a deal there. Surprisingly, you might be able to find something at Walmart or Kmart too.

  16. If there is a Nordstroms Rack, try that too. They have a lot of size 11 shoes.

    Good luck.

  17. They have size 12 shoes too.

  18. Avenue carries shoes up to size 13 wide. I also remember my co-worker having some luck with Birkenstocks at DSW.

  19. If you’re near an outlet mall, you could check if there are shoe stores there. My nearest outlet mall (Which is kind of fancy. For an outlet mall.) has a Clark’s store, an Aerosole store, etc. I have big feet, and there are always a lot of shoes in my size when I shop there. They’re not dirt cheap, but they’re reasonable, and there’s a variety of styles.

  20. I fee your daughter’s pain, too. When I was her age, my feet were the same size (still are). It’s gotten FAR easier. Cheapest option is definitely Payless, but you get what you pay for there. The best in person option I’ve found is Nordstrom Rack, and all the online options I use have been mentioned.

  21. has a pretty wide selection of New Balance shoes in size 12.
    I like to use google shopping too – if she finds a shoe she likes, putting the model/name/size into google shopping will let you find and compare prices across a bunch of stores.
    I also second the idea to try the plus-size stores. Stores like or Avenue or Lane Bryant carry some cute shoes and boots in larger sizes. They put stuff on clearance pretty frequently so you might snag some good deals there.

  22. My daughter is 11 and wears a size 10, and I’m…older than that…and wear a size 10WW. You’ve gotten some pretty good advice so far–I shop at many of those places. The only online store that I haven’t seen listed that I think deserves a mention is They are a primarily a plus size clothing catalog, but they also carry women’s shoes up to a size 13EEEE. I checked the 12W offerings, and they have some pretty cute things–and many on sale right now.

  23. My local Clarks outlet stores often have 11’s and 12’s and many of their styles fit my wide feet even when they arent sized as wide. Especially sandles and flip flops. Also check out an Easy Spirit store if you can find one near you. They will ship to your home free if they dont have it in stock. I knwo you see Easy Spirit and think “old lady” but I was pleasantly surprised. Especially on boots and cute outdoorsy type stuff.

  24. …I just want to say that I think ya’ll are awesome for offering so many suggestions and so much help. That little girl’s BOUND to end up with supercute feet after this!

  25. It’s not always the cheapest, but only carries women’s shoes in size 11 or larger and they have a fantastic selection and customer service.

  26. I found the cutest pair of open-toe flats (I wear 9 1/2 wide) at Lane Bryant. The catalog/website Woman Within carries quite a few wide sizes as well.

    What I want to know is did WIDE feet become a PLUS SIZE thing?

    JCPenney has some shoe styles in wide too.

    When I take the time to fill out the survey on my Target receipt I always suggest they start carrying wide-size shoes.

  27. I don’t know if it would work too well for finding your daughter some shoes, but for your eBay buying in general:

    1. Something that might be worth trying is searching eBay for listings that have main key words misspelled in the title. Sites like (, etc) will search ebay for common misspellings of keywords you enter.

    Most searchers will never see these misspelled listings, reducing the competition and most likely ending price.

    Ebuyersedge also gives you the option of saving your favorite searches, then sending you an email when an item is listed matching one your saved searches, giving you a jump on other potential buyers. as mentioned above, eBay also gives you the option of saving searches, but only sends out one e-mail at most per day. The item could already be gone by the time you get the e-mail, it’s listed as a ‘Buy It Now’.

    This works best with ‘Buy It Now’s, but is also effective with auctions.

    2. Whenever you send a question to a seller, use the “Ask a question” link that is on a page of another item they’re selling that you’re not interested in.

    Maybe send the seller an offer to end the auction early. All they can do is say no.

    3. If you bid on an ebay auction, use a sniping service (, etc.) to avoid bidding wars, and hopefully save some money by not drawing early attention, and not giving manual ‘nibbling’ snipers a chance to react.

  28. Oh, I so feel your pain. My age and shoe size was the same from age 5 to 12. Good news…she’s probably done growing foot-wise so paying a little more for classic styles she might occasionally wear for a few years could make sense.
    -Payless for cheap once-in-a-while or trendy one-season shoes. Oh bless their made-in-China hearts, they rescued me from the agony of wearing old lady SAS shoes when I was in middle school (the only non-heeled size 11s and 12s my mom could find for me in the mid 80s). Now there’s a character-building experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone!
    -Shoebuy with a coupon for brands she has tried/knows will fit (though returns are free so this isn’t written in stone)
    -Local independent shoe stores. I know of two in my town that sell twelves. One is a warehouse type store and they shelve all of their 12s together regardless of style. It’s nice to be able to see everything that might fit at once instead of wandering through the aisles of adorable shoes that are inevitably not even MADE in size 12.

  29. I second the notion that if her feet have stopped growing, you might want to invest in some higher quality shoes, although at age 11 she might not quite be there.

    I wear a 12, and I have never had as many choices as I do now. There’s a lot out there, compared to what there used to be.

    I’m not sure when wide feet became a plus-size thing, but Lane Bryant’s socks always fit me, and many others just don’t. Avenue, if you have one, carries very reasonably priced 12W shoes, some of which are really cute.

    Payless used to work for me, until I got old enough for my body to require some comfort and support in my shoes.Now I don’t bother.

    Do look at men’s shoes. Some of them will work very well–particularly athletic shoes–and in my experience, it’s the only way to buy Birks. They don’t seem to have the cuter “women’s” styles above a 42. When Costco gets Birks in, they usually have the proper size and a decent price. and are both good sources. So is Nordstrom. Learn to work the sales at the regular store, and I’ve found some cute stuff at the Rack.

    I have found shoes on eBay–but rarely.

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