The misery of being Mrs Big Foot: Newsreader Kate Silverton (size nine) says it can make life agony
The evening had been a fantastic one. I’d danced the night away at a club in London and now my boyfriend and I were trying to get home.
We’d left it too late to catch the Tube and all the taxis we tried to flag down were taken, so we decided to walk the few miles back to my flat instead.
Big mistake. For I was wearing the fabulous new high-heeled boots I’d bought earlier that day. They hadn’t had my size — a far-from-dainty nine — which wasn’t an unusual occurrence.
Well-heeled: Kate Silverton wearing a pair of glitzy slingback sandles in a comfortable size nine
But I was young, had a date and desperately wanted something to wear, so I forced my feet into a size eight and fooled myself into thinking they fitted.
We were halfway home when I began to realise something was seriously wrong. I’d lost all the feeling in one of my feet, so the poor guy had to gallantly give me a fireman’s lift the rest of the way.
We got there eventually, but by then, my big toe was so damaged it remained numb for the next six months.
Today, I have come to terms with having big feet, but I still cry inside when I spot a beautiful pair of heels that seduce me into a store because I know that, inevitably, once inside, I will probably be told that they only go up to a size eight.
I was 20 at the time and thought it was worth the agony.
Then, as now, fashionable footwear only ever went up to a size eight, and I can never recall a time when finding shoes that fitted was an easy task.
So it was with a smile that I read an interview this weekend with Jane Winkworth, founder of the shoe company French Sole, in which she said she’s noticed women’s feet getting progressively bigger.
She says her latest collection will address that with shoes to fit women with larger feet.
It’s about time. For the past 20 years or more, I have sat on the sidelines when it came to fashionable footwear.
At 14 I was already a size eight, and while my school friends delighted in wearing the latest styles, I was still in Clark Classics or — horror of horrors — boys’ shoes.
The only time I could afford to join in was when unisex shoes such as Kickers and Converse became trendy, although they were hardly boy-magnets — something that was obviously a key consideration for a teenager at the time.
Slip ons: Kate wore a pair of men”s shoes underneath her wedding dress when she got married
It seems any memory I have associated with the size of my feet is an embarrassing one. When we used to go to the store to have my feet measured I would look away; I didn’t want to know how much they had grown.
To my consternation, it not only appeared I had huge feet, but one of them was also a full half-size bigger than the other. I was surely doomed — something the shop assistants confirmed with a sympathetic look and an apology for not having anything in stock.
Embarrassment followed embarrassment.
A trip to the Harrods’ sale with my mum should have been fabulous, but it ended with me rummaging around on the bottom rung of a rack in the men’s shoe department, searching for a vaguely feminine pair of loafers to wear.
All the men were looking at me wondering what on earth I was doing.
Even at university in Durham I was the odd one out.
Taking part in a fashion show, one routine required the student ‘models’ to wear high-heeled, thigh-high boots (it was obviously a boy who choreographed the routine) and everyone took on the challenge with relish.
I, however, cringed, knowing it would be nigh on impossible to find anything resembling a sexy boot in my size.
So I resorted to a trip to Newcastle and a well-known transsexual shop where, with a great deal of embarrassment on my part and bemusement on theirs,
I found myself asking if they had any boots in a size nine. I left empty-handed and ended up walking the runway in flats while the girls around me trotted up and down in ‘kinky boots’.
Today, I have come to terms with having big feet (I’m 5ft 10in and my parents always sweetly reassured me that I would fall over if I had small ones), but I still cry inside when I spot a beautiful pair of heels that seduce me into a store because I know that, inevitably, once inside, I will probably be told that they only go up to a size eight.
Thus, I resort to flats and trainers a lot — even then, I often end up in the men’s department. I hanker after the day I can buy a pair of trainers with some pink in them.
Still, sometimes having the same size feet as most men comes in handy. It certainly did this time last year when I got married.
As for my little girl…well, she’s already showing signs of taking after me. Her feet are already too big for her sleepsuits
London faced its heaviest snowfall in years, and as I emerged from St Bride’s Church on Fleet Street, my rather delicate and beautiful ivory satin shoes by Emma Hope looked set to be ruined in the slush.
There was a hasty search to find something suitable for me to stand on while we had photos taken and a friend loaned me his size nine loafers. It was the one time I was glad to be able to wear them and it’s one of my favourite photographs.
Another upside is that during my pregnancy, my midwife told me women with larger feet tend to have easier labours as their pelvis tends to be bigger, too. I am not sure I would describe my daughter Clemency’s birth six weeks ago as ‘easy’, but it gave me a chance to see a positive side to my size nines.
However, it also brought with it another problem when I read that after giving birth, women could find their feet have gone up a whole shoe size (apparently Denise Van Outen went from a size five to a size six after the birth of her daughter).
The thought of having to find decent footwear in a size ten was not a pleasant one.
So a few days ago, as I pulled on my favourite kitten-heeled boots while getting ready to catch up with some BBC colleagues for the first time since having Clemency, I had a brief flash of panic.
It would be the first time in months that I had worn high heels and I was terrified they wouldn’t fit. It might sound strange but I can’t describe the relief when they easily slipped on and zipped up.
Kate Silverton chose a pair of sturdy flat-heeled boots for a walk with husband Mike Heron on their first outing with baby Clemency after she was born
As for my little girl…well, she’s already showing signs of taking after me. Her feet are already too big for her sleepsuits.
I suppose by the time she turns 18, having size nine feet will probably be quite normal as the research shows that women are, indeed, getting taller and their feet bigger, too.
But at present I can still find shoes I like only in places such as Emma Hope and Russell & Bromley.
Both stores carry beautiful shoes in larger sizes, although still not in every style. They also come with a designer price tag, so my purchases are rather more considered, shall we say, and I do a lot of sale shopping.
It’s then that I realise I am not alone.
During sale time I’m often greeted by empty racks in the larger shoe sections, with assistants confirming the small and larger shoe sizes are the first to go.
I used to get so frustrated that I started to entertain the idea of designing shoes myself as it seems the only way of finding anything vaguely feminine and with shoes that really fit. But perhaps it won’t have to come to that.
High Street stores such as M&S, Topshop and Debenhams, along with French Sole, appear finally to be taking note.
So I hope in the future my daughter can walk proudly in whatever size shoes she takes and, unlike her mother when she was young, wear shoes that make her feel like Cinderella and not one of the ugly sisters.