I was sure I was ascending the stairway to heaven. This was the address for Angels for Shoes (how apt! Cue the choir of angels) …the shoe shop for big-footed girls. As we pushed open the door, I took a hopeful, anticipatory breath. This place must surely be the solution to my foot problems…!?
I was 14 years old and on my way to boarding school from the tropical turmoil of Papua New Guinea. For two years, I had been wearing shoes too small for my feet. This meant a cycle of ingrown toenails which easily infected in the heat and dirt of a third world country. It was excruciating…. almost as bad as the embarrassment I felt about my shoes. Perspective, right? For teenagers, being able to wear what the others wear is disproportionately important. I’d been wearing my jelly shoes from the last time we’d gone on leave, two years prior. When the plastic had popped under pressure from my toes, we went to the Trade Store and found some men’s karate shoes that fit me. It wasn’t shoe heaven.
Mum had done some research and found that there was a store in Sydney for people with larger feet. It was the store I was about to enter. Angels. We knew that I would need casual shoes and something for chapel. The school uniform shop stocked T-bar boats, and men’s sneakers would suffice, so they weren’t on the shopping list until we got to Melbourne. But I had in mind a cute little pair of ballet flats and some pointy toed, kitten heels. Everyone was wearing those.
The store was packed into a tiny two rooms. There were massive shoes everywhere. Orthotic bunion friendly lace ups, garden gumboots, shiny patent high heels, mother-of-the-bride shoes in oyster, blush and pewter. I craned my neck for the door that would lead to the cool shoes. There wasn’t one. My breath rushed out in a disappointed sigh. “Oh.” I murmured. Mum rallied, brightly suggesting I try various things. She rifled through the sale racks and emerged triumphant with a thick heeled teal court shoe, the kind your grandmother might wear to the CWA annual general meeting. With a hat.
“-these are fun!” she said. I plonked down on the padded chair to try the ‘fun’ shoes on. We emerged an hour later, with three pairs of motherly shoes that fit my feet perfectly. A pair of black patent heels (“Classics!” the shoe lady had chortled), the ‘fun’ shoes that I would never wear and some square heeled pearl ivory wedding shoes. I resolved that somewhere out there, someday, I would find some shoes that I love.
I’ve never lost the yen for a great long shoe. I love shoes.
And when I find shoes I love that fit me, I am a goner.
Fast forward thirty odd years. My twelve year old’s feet have just grown beyond the size range of most shoe stores. This week, she has her best friend’s Bat Mitzvah to attend, so finding her some appropriate footwear is our new mission. Sometimes, you can find flats that will fit a size 11 foot in places like K-mart or The Warehouse, but I think it is time for her to have a pair of leather shoes that feel good. So we’re off to the store that actually does house angels, a store that truly warrants it’s own angel choir. Willow Shoes. This Long-Foot-Nirvana stocks everything, from the podiatry friendly Frankie4 (orthotic shoes have come a LONG way) to funky hot pink leopard brogues. I am certain we can find my girl exactly what she needs. I have in mind these sweet little flats, but I’ll be letting her choose.
Willow are online and deliver around NZ and Australia, so if you are across the ditch, or not one of their NZ locations, check out their website. Gorgeous, gorgeous things! The variety always boggles my brain! So much choice. I recently wore their shoes for a shoot. Heaven indeed! So amazing to model in shoes that fit rather than squeezing into whatever stunt shoes are in the studio. Nothing makes you feel more like an Ugly Stepsister than squishing your feet into a Cinderella slipper. How amazing are these heels with the blue metallic heel. Swoon! You can see the whole shoot here, but I’ll be talking more about that on the blog soon.
Thank you Willow, for giving me happy feet. And for being there for my baby girl in our quest for better footwear.