Some Small Sense

Shopping experiences and store reviews by a very petite woman. Indeed, it sucks. 4'10", 87 pounds, and full grown - is it a surprise I have trouble finding clothes?

April 19, 2007

Growing Trend Towards Larger Shoes

do you ever shop for shoes at lord and taylor? the smallest pumps i can find on their website is a size 6. some come no smaller than a 7. i notice this is also true for nordstrom and ann taylor loft. have you ever done a blog posting about the sudden unavailablility of sizes smaller than a 6? whats going on? it seems that overnight average became something like a 9 and anything smaller than a 6 has become a rarity. have you found the same thing to be true?

- Gail W.

Hi Gail! Thanks for writing me. The shift towards larger sizes and the disappearance of smaller ones is frankly no surprise. As people get larger and taller, their foot size grows too. According to a Slate article published a few years ago (ironically centered around the problems of finding large sizes), "at the beginning of the 20th century, the average American woman wore a 3.5 or a 4; by the 1940s she was strapping on a 5.5." In 2004, it was an 8.5. And the decision whether to stock a size is a function of following the trend - it's simply not economically sound to waste shelf space on all those small shoes when fewer and fewer people are going to buy them.

It's curious that you specifically mention online shoe sources - which are usually better stocked than bricks-and-mortar stores. Of the many reasons I buy online, shoe size selection is definitely high on the list. Someone else had recently informed me about Ann Taylor Loft's decision to get rid of their smaller shoe sizes. To be honest, I've also never shopped at Lord & Taylor. However, I haven't noticed many other retailers cutting smaller sizes yet for their online selection - but it's only a matter of time.

Certainly, it makes sense that physical stores don't carry smaller sizes - it's not worth it to the store to waste shelf space on the shrinking percentage of the population who still wear these sizes. There are notable exceptions as well - I was lucky enough a few months ago to find a bargain at Kenneth Cole because the smaller sizes were both in stock and on sale. Most stores only carry down to a size 6 - but haven't yet cut their online availability (thank goodness!).

If you're looking for particularly small shoes (less than size 5), Short Persons Support, has a listing of specialty sources. I freely admit that I haven't used any of these sources, since I'm luckily still able to find shoes at most retailers. Any readers out there who have?

Nordstrom's in particular is known for carrying small sizes in stores. Have you also tried the outlets? I've definitely seen smaller than size 5's in DSW and department store outlets. Lastly, let's not forget the children's department - for casual shoes anyway!

Good luck - it only gets harder as the years pass!

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Anonymous Meisje said...

Funny you should post this entry today because I've been suffering from shoe envy. A couple of my friends recently bought shoes in a style that I love (retro mary jane pumps), but it's so hard to find them in my size, 5 or 5.5 depending on the designer. About two weeks ago, I purchased a really cute pair of Charles David shoes from but I had to send it back. 5.5 was too big at the heel and the comfort factor was nonexistent. I have a 2-yr-old pair of strappy pumps from Kenneth Cole that are 5.5 and they fit me perfectly -- though I've seen notes on some sites like that say they run a half size small. I also have a pair of Skechers granny boots (surprisingly VERY comfy!) that are 5.5. Both of these pairs were bought online, because stylish "grown up" shoes in small sizes are definitely getting harder and harder to find in brick-and-mortar stores. I have no real problem finding sneakers, though. Stores usually stock lots of Chuck Taylors (my fave brand) in boys' 3/women's 5.

Aside from the sites I mentioned above, also has a decent selection on small sizes, both online and in their stores. features a line for juniors where the sizes sometimes go down to 5. You just have to look a little harder and dig a little deeper.

From my earliest memories of going shopping with my mom, I've always had this problem of not being able to find shoes in my size. It was always an unpleasant, all-day chore. And I remember that Macy's was always out of the question because the smallest size in women's dress shoes was 6. These days, personally I think that another reason why it's getting harder to find small sizes is because everyone like us is buying them all up the moment we get the chance!

April 19, 2007 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

with average shoe size now at 8.5 or 9, a woman wearing a size 12 or 12.5 shoe is now just as close to the average size as i am with my size 5's. that amazes me.

April 19, 2007 10:51 PM  
Blogger jj said...

I find it surprising that Gail mentioned Norstroms. They're one of the few stores that have shoes down to a 4. In the stores you have to wait for their twice yearly "special sizes" event (below 5 and over 10). But they'll special order for you, *if* the manufacturer makes shoes that size.

And that's a big if. It's not the store's fault, but many manufacturers now don't make shoes below a 5.5 or a 6. And I've noticed at least one brand that engages in size inflation, I'm usually a 5.5 or 6 and their 6 fits me like a 7 in other lines. :-/

Thank god my classic Vans slip-ons will always come in kids sizes!

April 20, 2007 1:08 PM  
Blogger CynthiaC said...

I find it interesting that while a woman's average height hasn't gone up that much since the beginning of the last century, her shoe size certainly has! I'm pretty sure that the average woman in 1900 isn't all that shorter than the current 5'4"/5'5", yet her shoe size was a 3.5/4? I'm 5'2" and a "small 5"/big 4.5. That's small even for an Asian girl my height!

April 20, 2007 4:20 PM  
Anonymous Gene said...

In this category men are in the same boat as women: to my knowledge, American shoe sizes are, like women's clothing, calibrated to nothing. (At least American men's clothing is supposedly based on inches).

I would suspect, however, that men have the opposite incentive as women: to feel like their feet are bigger. You know what they say about men with big feet... (they have big shoes)

April 20, 2007 5:53 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I just wanted to say that I am 4'10" (technically 4'10 and a third, say i'm 4'11" and my driver's license says I'm 5') and about 78lbs. I eat a lot, especially for my size, and I honestly don't fluctuate much in weight. I am 22 years old, and at the cusp of graduating college, I am fearing the search of business clothes or a more mature wardrobe.

Until now, I have gotten away with wearing abercrombie kids' ripped jeans (size 12 slim) and kids shoes. I wear a size 2-2.5 in childrens and anytime I need a decent pair of heels, I have to shell out $100 for size 4 at nordstrom. Even many of those are loose, but it's a gamble i'm willing to take.

Just wanted to let you know, it could be worse. ;)

April 22, 2007 5:06 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Hey Jennifer -

Indeed, it could be worse! I've noticed that girl's jeans have gotten longer in the inseam - perhaps to help those 12 year old girls have long enough pants to wear with heels??? In any event, it helps us slimmer types that are shopping in the wrong department to find things that aren't too short for our waist size!

April 23, 2007 12:10 AM  
Anonymous deelirium said...

Jennifer, I'm totally with you. I'm 95 lbs and about size 4.5 shoe and it's been nearly impossible to find business pants and high heel pumps.

If you're lucky enough to have a Nordstrom's Rack nearby, their shoe department will be your best friend. It's the only brick & mortar store I can find dress/work shoes that actually look good and aren't $100.

As for pants, I've found my luck at Nordstrom's Rack (again), Forever 21, Deb, and maybe a few other low-quality juniors stores. And the tailor is my best friend, of course.http:

April 24, 2007 2:29 AM  
Anonymous stacey said...

i can totally relate. my girlfriend's 7 year old daughter is a full shoe size bigger than i am and i'm a size 5.

April 26, 2007 4:13 PM  
Anonymous nancy said...

yeah the shoe thing is going to be a huge problem. average size will probably be 9 within the next several years so stores will not bother stocking size 5s. they'd be more likely to sell size 12s, as someone else said above.

April 26, 2007 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Becky said...

I'm a size 5/5.5 (depending on the brand) and I find eBay to be a great shoe source. There are a few good storefronts that sell new shoes from department stores a season later. GothamCityOnline and GothamCityExchange are my favorites. (besides, the fact that they are such small sizes means you usually can get them at a significantly lower bid.)

May 02, 2007 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm a size 5 shoe which is the same size as my 7 year old cousin. actually she was only 7 last month and i was given the assigment of surprising her with cute new shoes. why? because she didn't need to be there to try them on. i tried them on myself knowing that if they fit me they would fit her. it definitely felt a bit weird being used to size shoes for a 7 years old but what can you do......

May 03, 2007 4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh my god you're able to share shoes with a 7 year old? what am i saying, i'm a size 5 shoe also! wow are these kids growing up big these days or what? a 7 year old can fit into my shoes? sigh.......anyone else as uncomfortable with this recent height increase in the younger generation as i am?

May 19, 2007 11:33 PM  
Anonymous heather said...

i see this trend with my nieces. the 10 year old is now up to a size 10 women's shoe and the 13 year old is a size 12. they cant believe that i only wear a zize 6. they think that's tiny!

May 30, 2007 9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

size 4.5 have been reclassified as a childrens size and i've heard it won't be long till size 5s have the same fate. thats why stores have stopped carrying them.

May 30, 2007 10:39 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Unfortunately, I don't think children's shoes have caught on to the more "mature" styling that children's clothing has. Mary janes and girlie shoes it will be....

Or am I wrong?

May 31, 2007 12:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no you are correct amy. i know from shopping for my nieces that buster brown who used to only make their shoes as large as a 3.5 now make up to a size 4.5. in fact some of them run large and i've been able to fit into them (i'm a size 5). it's quite frustrating to be able to find buster brown shoes that fit me but not nine west shoes that fit me. and i'm afraid its only going to get worse amy. don't you agree?

May 31, 2007 9:33 AM  
Anonymous stacy said...

so so true amy. i've noticed some size 5 equivalent shoes in childrens stores like the disney store. scary. i'm a size 5 as is my 7 year old niece, and i've been buying her shoes as gifts recently because i can use my own foot to test if they will fit her.

May 31, 2007 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ugh. i would feel weird trying on shoes for size for a 7 year old. how tall is this kid? i'm so sad about size 5s. they're really getting super hard to find aren't they? sigh....

May 31, 2007 5:27 PM  
Anonymous stacy said...

my 7 year old niece is 5ft tall for the person who asked. she'll probably be taller than me in heels by the time she's 8.

June 01, 2007 4:07 PM  
Anonymous samantha said...

found this online. we're doomed....

"The average shoe size in the US for women is now a 9 with 30% of all women wearing a size 9 or larger. When looking at women 25 years old and under only, average size increases to a 9.5"

June 10, 2007 11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

its actually misleading to say that some shoes still come in a size 5 because even the ones that do are only made in limited quantities. its not often that you will find them in the store when you need them. i'm getting tired of having to try on size 6s and then go home and order the size 5 online. anyone else have the same problem? is it like this way in NY amy?

June 23, 2007 4:56 PM  
Anonymous natalie said...

oh my god. i came across this post online and wanted to share it asap. this is truly frightening to me. thoughts?:

"Yeah, my mom is really short too. She's only like around 5ft4. Women used to be so much shorter in her day. Ugh. I'm just so glad that I'm tall. Can you imagine being only 5ft4 in today's world? All my girlfriends are at least 5ft7 and most are at least as tall as me and i'm 5ft11. My mom says there were hardly any girls as tall as me when she was growing up and that they would never dare to wear high heels. what?! how crazy is that? Even my 6ft2 girlfriends are out at the mall in their platforms. Which reminds me, my mom is only a size 7 shoe! lol. I was already that size in the 3rd grade! Thanks god i am not a shrimp like she is. Not sure I could handle it. And my friends would never let me hear the end of it!"

June 26, 2007 11:10 PM  
Anonymous Kirsten said...

^^ that is scary!!
I'm 4'7" and I only wear a size 1 in childrens shoes. I have the hardest time finding sneakers that don't have disney princesses or a black dress shoe that isn't a mary jane or shiny with a big pink bow. My girlfriends all say they're jealous of me because kids shoes are so cute, but I'd like to see them go 1 month having to shop in the kids department! I have a suit that fits, but no shoes to wear with it- and the worst part is, I'm going to be a bridesmaid and I'm not sure the bride realizes I'm going to have to shop in the flower girl shoes!

July 05, 2007 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i work in a shoe store and i'm amazed at the shoe sizes of kids today. this weekend i had an 8 year old girl who is a size 7.5 women's shoe (i'm a 5 by the way). and i can tell you how many teenage girls are now a size 10 and larger. most of our clientelle is early 20s and under and right now are biggest seling women's shoe size is a 9.5. when did this happen and what's going on?

July 15, 2007 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks to my friend for pointing out that my foot is closer to the size of the average 5 year old girl than to the average adult woman:

average shoe size 5 year old girls: size 12.5 = 7 1/4 inches.

me: size 5 = 8 5/8 inches

average adult woman: size 9 = 10 inches

August 13, 2007 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Mary J said...

4'7 and size 1 shoe?? Wow, you are the size of a 6 year old girl. Whats it like to be shorter than all the little kids that walk by you at the mall?? I'm 5'9..thank goodness

March 03, 2009 5:43 PM  
Anonymous bsg said...

I used to wear a size 5 but the last that the manufacturers how use for size 5 is bigger than it used to be (I'm 49). So now I take a size 4 or a 4.5. Occasionally, depending on the brand, I can wear a size 5. This frustrates and irks me and I've written to various shoe companies complaining about it. I mean, what do they think happened to all the petite women with small feet born before 1985? We are still here with our small feet, trying to find shoes that don't cost over $100 on the internet. And the limited selection we have is annoying also.

So if you think size 5 is hard to find, try having to look for size 4!

April 13, 2011 8:10 AM  
Blogger Hello said...

I wear a woman's 7-8 and my step-daughter who is 9 years old wears a shoe size of 9-10 and she's only 9!

I was in shock at this but apparently this is the trend.

May 18, 2011 4:27 PM  

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