Do you struggle to find small shoes, UK size 2s or below? If so, this guide is to help you. You may be baffled as to why you can't get shoes easily, or you may just want advice. You may know some or all of it.
This guide explains some of the problems and offers some solutions.I have no commercial links to any particular retailers. To keep on the right side of EBay I have not mentioned any actual names of retailers here. Retailers can go out of business or alter their practices at a rapid rate.
HOWEVER, I am always happy to answer email questions about my current favourite sources for small shoes ... message me via the EBAY 'contact seller' button for the latest retailers. I cannot respond to comments via Facebook, sorry.
I try my best to keep on top of the best sources for size 2s shoes in the UK. Add me to your favourite sellers, as I sell all my spare shoes.
I wrote this guide having had size 2s feet since I was 11 years old. A friend recently told me that her daughter's feet have stopped growing at size UK1.5. So I wanted to share my knowledge, such as it is, with this young person, so that she can avoid having some of the frustration and annoyance I have had over the years.
Here are ten points to make life for little feet a little easier. It's almost all I know about how to shop wisely for shoes in size 2s and under. I intend to write another guide on SLIPPERS for small feet very soon. If you're short on time, the advice sections are in Bullet Points at the end of each numbered section.
Please do e mail me if you have found this guide helpful or if you wish to share any of your own little feet experiences.
1.What's all the fuss about? (Why are there no small shoes?)
Does this sound familiar: 'We get much more demand for bigger shoes than smaller shoes these days!' This, from a stroppy shop assistant. I just sighed.
It gets harder and harder to actually choose any shoes in a UK2. It's as if people with small feet have to take what they can find to fit, when they can find it, and be grateful.
According to the British Footwear Association, 27% of the female population have feet that are between a UK size 1 and a size 4.5. Only 21% of the female UK population have feet between a size 7 and a 9+. This latter group of women may have bigger feet than us, but they must also have very loud voices to make their plight heard.
So what makes it hard for those of us with UK2s or smaller feet to buy our shoes, even with the advent of E bay and the worldwide web?
Here is a rundown of some of the problems and some suggested solutions.
2. Sizing and inconsistent EU/UK equivalents for small shoes
OR: Why have our local retailers stopped stocking size 2s?
Firstly, it's a matter of demand. As Niall Campbell states in his 2002 paper for the British Footwear Association:
'Fierce high street retail competition has reduced footwear prices, squeezed specialist retailers who used to offer a wide range of fitting and forced surviving retailers to concentrate on their best selling sizes, styles and fittings.
...Consumers with a particular minority need -eg extra narrow- would represent a worthwhile number of potential sales for a retailer except for the fact that they are spread thinly across the whole country. If they all lived in the same area the local retailers would do a roaring trade in that specialisation.'
This does not, however, mean that the women with small feet have disappeared. On the contrary, we are here in large numbers. Perhaps we should bind our feet in rags and walk the streets until we bleed to make our point.
Secondly, its a matter of inconsistency of sizing between EU and UK equivalents. I'll give you an example of this. I have several pairs of Spanish shoes bought 5-10 years ago. They fit my size 2 feet perfectly. They are clearly stamped as a size EU 35. However, last Winter, I tried on several pairs of 35s in high street shops and found them to be much too big, more like a size UK3. Similarly, I have tried on size 34s and found them to be too small. I have some sympathy with retailers who assume that 35 means a 2, like it used to, when something has clearly changed.
Mathematicians will confirm that at the smaller end of the scale, an increase of half a size is proportionately that much more significant for little feet, so this small difference matters a great deal to us. This is why many EU35s are just like boats!
So here's my first piece of Advice:
- When buying shoes, TRY before you BUY, if at all possible. This is because UK versus continental sizing is no longer reliable
- 35 many well mean a size three these days
- Know both your feet's exact length and width measurements in centimetres (draw round your feet on a flat, solid surface) and
- Measure your favourite shoes inside and out, so that you can buy over the Internet with confidence.
3. The publicity for and about small shoes.
In recent months, I have noticed an increase in the amount of articles, features and promotion of sites and shops for small shoes. The articles are full of advice; they list suppliers, sources for shoes and internet shops. As far as they go, I applaud them warmly. It is about time the plight of petite-footed people was known about, and it's about time that those of us with little feet shouted louder about it. We are a great potential market. So let's make it known that we need shoes, we like shoes and we WILL buy them if they fit.
However, there is often the mistaken impression amongst fashion editors that SMALL equals a size three or four. We must get them to recognise that small shoes means size 2 or below.
One word of caution: some of the small shoe sites and shops recommended in some of the major magazine and internet articles may only stock just one or two pairs in size two and under, among hundreds of other pairs in stock. So don't be disheartened. Also beware of inconsistency in understanding what a size 2 actually means(see above.)
So here's advice no.2:
- SHOUT! Write to your newspaper's fashion editors. Give the writers of shoe articles feedback on small feet issues, so that their next piece is informed by YOUR concerns
- Speak to all the shoe shop assistants about the issues
- Lobby buyers and nag independent retailers to seek suppliers of your size. Their reward will be your custom in their store.
4. Internet Sites for Small Shoes
We all hope that the various internet sites will be the answer to all our problems in finding small shoes that fit. In general, Internet small shoe sites fall into two categories: the OOH AHH WOW category, and the NO! NO! YUK! category. However, even in the WOW category, all is not always wonderful for size 2s and below. Impressive websites and pictures often make me excited at first; but when I try to buy I am often disappointed. It seems that many of the more fashionable styles are (how strange!) out of stock or sold out in my size. It is often the case that such companies only stock one of each size, and if you miss it, it's gone. Call me an old cynic if you like, but I am sometimes sceptical about whether these sites stock many size 2s at all.
High pricing is another challenge those of us with small feet have to face. We are a captive market, and suppliers do expect us to pay more because they know there are only a few places we can go. Gloria Hunniford, a well-known shoe lover, said that her mother always told her she should: 'spend as much money on your shoes as you would on your bed, because you are either in one or on the other!' We can't all afford to do that.
Taking a long time to arrive and expensive postage costs are other problems to contend with. This means we have to plan our purchases well, well in advance, particularly if it's for a wedding or posh event. One recent site I discovered does however offer COLLECT PLUS, which is free for us. Two well- established internet small shoe retailers have physical shops in London which are worth a visit.
On the positive side, some of the websites which currently advertise on e bay are actually run by women who also have small feet. They know the issues. Before you buy, e mail them or phone to discuss your needs. Look for sites with a good returns policy, fashionable shoes, of good quality leather. But above all, ensure you have a good, clear understanding of their SIZING scales, and their RETURNS policy. You should always, unless you are a gambler with money to squander, try before you buy! Internet sites based in China can also promise a lot....but their sizing can sometimes prove to be pure fiction.
Therefore, here's advice no.3
- Don't pin your hopes on Internet sites to guarantee a pair of shoes for a special occasion, as small sizes sell out fast, and may not (in my experience) even exist in the size you want
- Ensure you have a clear, SHARED understanding of how shoes can be returned, and understand their sizing policy
- Refer to your foot template (see earlier advice) at all times when buying small shoes on line
- Nag the companies to stock more of the more fashionable styles in small sizes.
5. Bespoke or Made to Order Small Shoes
In the past I have been scared of this option because of the cost and associated snobbishness attached to the whole concept of bespoke shoes....In desperation, I have looked at it again recently. If you are going to invest a three-figure sum, it HAS to be right!
I have found two super Internet sites I am happy to pas on to you, which allow you to design your ideal pair of shoes on line, customising fabrics, leather, fastenings and heel heights. One of these is in Australia but mails worldwide, the other is London based.SORRY BUT AS OF AS OF MARCH 2016 THE LONDON SITE HAS BEEN TAKEN OVER BY THE AUSTRALIAN SITE... grrrr! They have nice graphics to allow you to play around with colour and shape, but there are two sticking points: are the sizes reliable? and what on earth do they think we can afford?
Many companies will make a last or mould to fit just your feet alone, and hand craft a pair of shoes that is tailor-made for your personal size and width. This can be an expensive option. It usually involves a costly, one-off payment for your individual last. This last is then re-used for each subsequent pair of shoes you buy. So, you really have to be committed to that one maker to go back again and again, in order to make the initial investment worthwhile.
So, if considering bespoke small shoes, you must choose your company wisely. Look for a website with several styles you like, and enough flexibility to ensure you can get good variety from them. Visit their shop in person if at all possible, ring them up, speak to them to see if you feel comfortable with their approach.
This option does mean that you may have to attend the workshop in person for lasts and measures to be made of your small feet. You might also consider that your feet and taste in styles may change over time. However, if you have particular needs for your small feet, say, if your feet are particularly wide or narrow, or you suffer from arthritis or bunions, bespoke shoes may be the answer for you.
I looked into this option in 2007 for my Mother (size 2, arthritic, bunions, wide feet, narrow instep). I was thrilled to find one company in the UK that specialises in Orthopoedic footwear. This does not sound particularly fashionable, but read on. I found they offered a huge choice of leather, colours and styles in boots shoes and sandals. Their styles were really good (did not put my elegant mum off at all!) and they seem very friendly, down-to earth, and willing to try to accommodate those who live some distance away. Their prices seemed far more accessible than many of the bespoke makers I had seen. This alone made it an attractive choice.
- If you need specialised footwear in a small size consider a bespoke maker to get the comfort you need
- Be aware that a bespoke pair of small shoes is an expensive initial outlay that you need to evaluate carefully
- Be aware that even with this option, your foot shape may change over time
- Research your bespoke maker very carefully; ensure you like enough of their styles and their approach, to make it worthwhile, so as not to waste your money.
6. Inventive Option: Dance Shoes for Little Feet
Oh yes! Deep Joy! Size not even an Issue!
The best secret I can share with you, especially if you dance, is to have a pair of small dance shoes made for you by a reputable firm. These small shoes are less expensive than the bespoke option, and can be made with outdoor soles too. A good friend recently wore a pair of super, handmade glittery salsa sandals to get married in. They looked stunning!
Choose a company whose website has lots of good, clear pictures, and plenty of variety of styles and materials. Ensure that they make dance shoes and sandals in a very wide range of colours and designs. The fact that you may be a size 2 or under should not even be an issue for them. Ideally, they should be contactable by phone so that you can discuss your needs in person.
My favourite company works from a template of my feet and will create whatever combination of heels, straps and soles I desire...funky, glittery, plain, dazzling, spiky heels, flared heels or flat! I have three pairs of dance shoes and one pair of outdoor shoes from the same firm. They do take several weeks at busy times, but it is WELL worth the wait. THEY ALSO MAKE MEN'S SHOES!
- At the time of writing, handmade Small Dance Shoes cost between 85-95 GBP for women
- Dance Shoes may be an excellent choice for small feet if you need something for a special occasion, but....
- If you want to wear them out of doors you must request leather or Polyurethane soles (dance shoes have suede soles)
- You may have to wait up to six weeks for delivery, so plan ahead.
7. Cheap (and sometimes nasty) option for Small Feet : Children's Shoes
Does it annoy you when people say: 'Oh you have such small feet.... you are so lucky, you can buy children's shoes! ' ? Fine if you want to look like Barbie or smell like a rubber factory!
Children's fashion shoes are not always made with style and quality in mind. The materials are often very cheap: plastic and polyurethane variants make your feet perspire, and eventually, no matter how much foot spray you squirt inside them, they will smell. Teenage fashion shoes, especially in the big chain stores, are rarely made of leather or made to last. I find this shocking, as children's vulnerable soft, growing, bones need the best support and protection.
Furthermore, in a strange phenomenon, children's shoe sizes do not always correspond directly to adult's shoe sizes. If you think you are a ladies UK size 2, you may find yourself having to try on sizes 1,2 and 3 (33,34,35) in children's styles before you get a pair to fit you. I do not know why this is the case, but be prepared for lots of trying on.
Even worse, one famous high street continental shoe shop, which has trendy children's shoes in small adult's sizes, has also recently decided to stock 33 and 35 but not 34s!!!!! What's going one here, then?
For those of us with size 2s and under, children's shoes are our cheap, disposable option to get at fashion fast. Not for us the joys of being able to buy cheaply at N** L**K or PR*M**K....However, the big supermarkets and the above mentioned high street retailer, are always worth a look right at the beginning of each season. because they can be trendy. Size 2s and 1s tend to sell out very quickly, so look sharp. You may even find some pairs in LEATHER!!! OOOHH! Should we be grateful?
- The occasional pair of children's shoes can be a handy addition to the wardrobe for those of us with Small Feet
- Beware of sweaty polyurethane materials
- Also be aware of a tendency for children's sizes not to correspond with adults' sizes
- I have found that children's shoes can be oddly heavy (I think it's the cheap materials).
8. Small Shoes in the Sales and Vintage Small Shoes
My elderly aunts used to have no trouble getting their shoes. This was in the days when Size 2 and under was considered normal. Some vintage size 3s will fit us, because sizing standards have changed over the years, and that's also good news.
Some 'old' shoes (now called retro or vintage) in Size 2s and below still find their way into charity shops. If they are in good condition, and you LIKE THEM, buy them. Vintage is chic, now, thank goodness. However, foot specialists will caution you not to wear shoes that have been worn in by others. Shoes adopt the shape of the wearer, and you can affect your gait and foot shape by wearing shoes that have been moulded by others. There is also an issue of hygiene to consider: always spray your secondhand small shoes with an antibacterial spray before wearing.
There is a myth that those of us with size 2s feet and under are 'lucky in the sales!' This is less the case, as fewer shoes in our sizes are being made these days. Sales bargains are becoming harder and harder to find. The bigger London department stores are worth a look, but prepare to do battle with the many Korean and Chinese women who also have tiny tootsies. Similarly, don't be tempted to buy something outrageous just because it fits.
Closing down sales of older, independent retailers are often worth a rummage. Old stock can find its way out of dusty corners, and fashion recycles itself enough for us to wear 'Vintage' with style these days.
- Avoid the temptation to waste money on impetuous buying of outrageous styles in the sales just because they are small
- Do look through the old stock for small shoes at closing down sales
- Buy vintage small shoes with care, and use antibacterial spray liberally.
9. Small Shoes Local to You
Search and search to find local, independent retailers, and cultivate them ruthlessly. Sadly, many have been squeezed out by the big high street chains who are not interested in anything below a size three. Remember that in spite of the internet, buying in person is still the best option for those of us who could be a 33/34 or a 35, depending on who made the shoe. Also remember that the independent retailers are more likely to stock your size and survive if they can count on your REGULAR custom.
Some of the continental shoe makers who make shoes in size 2s and below, will be happy to liaise with your local retailer to try to supply them with small shoes to suit your needs. I have found two such continental makers which have bilingual Italian/English websites with good pictures of their ranges. They respond well to e mails, and have tried to help me. I bought two pairs of fabulous leather brogues, pink and turquoise, as a result of this collaboration.
Many continental makes start from a size 2 as a matter of course, so when you go on holiday, it also pays to stock up on your small shoes.
- Phone the independent retailer before you make a special trip, to see whether they have any size 2s. This avoids a wasted journey
- Cultivate your local independent retailers and reward them with your custom. Make sure they are aware of what your needs are for the coming year to prepare them for their buying trips
- Stock up on shoes when you go abroad; budget extra money for this, and take an empty suitcase.
10. Finally: Keeping informed about small shoes and fashions
There are some excellent specialist shoe websites and magazines for all us shoe fiends to find out what's hot and what's not. They are not (all) especially for those of us with small feet, but on those days when I am only fit for fluffy slippers, I take comfort in a surf around these sites just to keep myself informed. The negative side of this, is that these sites may often feature THAT PERFECT SHOE....but it starts in a size 4. However, there are frequent discussions about the challenges of buying for small feet, and a good sharing of information.
- Be prepared to be a bit frustrated that the latest catwalk styles are not available for your small feet...then
- Write to or e mail these sites and complain! Remember, the more noise we make about being size 2 and under, the more likely we are to be heard.
I leave you with a Little Feet anecdote: I was out with the girls at a very posh bar. My friend, who is a midwife, looked down at my feet and gasped. I thought she was admiring my super, sparkly suede Accessoire sandals with Swarovski crystals. But no. All she said was, 'I'm glad I don't have to deliver you!' Apparently, there is a direct correlation between the size of your feet, ladies, and the space between your pelvic bones for when you have kids. If you are pregnant, small feet can mean a tough job getting the baby out because of the small pelvic space. Just when I thought I knew it all about having Small Feet.