The next time you cop an L on a hyped sneaker release, spare a thought for those who never had a chance in the first place: the Bigfoots. Access to larger shoe sizes – 13 and up – remains a challenge for customers and retailers alike, but the tide is slowly shifting for the small minority with massive feet. Here’s how the situation looks currently.
Until fairly recently, men’s limited-edition sneakers generally ranged from size 7 to 12, with the sporadic inclusion of 13. Size 14 and up? In most cases, forget about it. This is most acutely felt with sneaker collaborations – even if it seems like dozens drop every week, a considerable portion of the market is missing out.
Tom Shepherd, who wears US13 and 14 shoes, knows this experience all too well.
‘Plenty of my favourite shoes never came in a 13, so I had to grab a 12. I’ve tried everything: removing the insoles, stretching them with steam and shoe trees, and taking them to a cobbler. At the end of the day, it never really works.’
However, the power of collaborations can provide for big-footed fans.
‘Most of the solebox x New Balance collaborations came in a 13, which were definitely some of the most desirable pairs for me. They were rare as hen’s teeth, but eventually, I got lucky and found someone willing to part with them. Another pair I was surprised to find after all these years was the END. x Saucony “Burgers”. I never saw anything above a 12 for years, but one day they just popped up on Facebook!’
Similarly, the Sneaker Freaker x Saucony GRID 9000 ‘Bushwhacker’ was officially only made up to size 12, news of which sparked a small furore on the accompanying forum thread, recalling ‘Quaz’, who wears size 13.
‘Thankfully, Woody reached out via DM, said there might be a few larger size 13 samples, and asked if I would like a pair. Obviously super thankful and jumped at the chance. I’ve thrashed them, so it’s hard to make out, but the tag even says “SAMPLE PAIR”!’
To help himself and fellow big-footers source sneakers in elusive sizes, Shepherd co-founded TrainerExchange12+, a Facebook group dedicated to helping himself and fellow big-footers find the elusive sneakers that fit their size 12-plus feet. However, just as brands are slowly increasing production of larger sizes, resellers are now latching onto fringe pairs that would usually be obtained by genuine big-footed buyers.
‘One notable shoe lately has been Tom Sachs’ NikeCraft General Purpose Shoe. The size 13 is often a good $100–$200 more expensive than smaller sizes, which is really disappointing as the purpose of the product was for it to be readily available and easy to get your hands on. So far, I have had no luck.’
‘I think mainly the increased scale and anonymity of StockX and others like it put a stop to Facebook groups as it just became easier to make a quick buck and stay anonymous.’
Size 13 sneakerheads may occupy the upper end of the median market, but people who wear even bigger sizes represent an outlier that still needs to be catered to. Brothers Seth and Zak Langaker founded Oddball after years of being fed up with the lack of shoe retailers accommodating their size 16 feet.
‘When we started back in 1997, there were only a handful of companies that made the larger sizes and even fewer places that actually sold them. Back then, we had to beg and plead to get shoes made in the big sizes; now companies are more understanding that people are getting bigger and that bigger shoes really aren’t all that odd any longer,’ said Seth.
‘We have 10-year-olds whose bodies haven’t caught up to their foot size all the way up to 80-year-olds who are still looking to keep their feet outfitted in the latest and greatest.’
‘We’d love to have more limited edition stuff. The big companies just don’t make much in the way of the limited sneakers above a size 14 or 15, and that’s frustrating. We fight for new products like this all the time.’
While companies like Oddball continue servicing a specialised customer base, boutiques are also looking to expand their assortment to cater for larger-footed sneakerheads, but it’s not necessarily that straightforward. As Brendan Mitchell, co-founder and buyer at Up There, explains,
‘We receive a lot of products packaged by our suppliers. Meaning the supplier will come to us with a given product in a pre-determined size run. This happens regularly with limited-release products. This almost always excludes size US14 and often 13 as well. In terms of inline products, if it is a key story for our business, we will offer the size 14 – if it is available to us.’
There’s an economic consideration from suppliers when it comes to manufacturing bigger sizes.
‘Brands and collaborators want to see sell-through, so there is always a risk to them, if a 14 is on offer, that it won’t move as quickly. The other part of this is that the US 9–11 market is so big that if a shoe is only allocated a certain capacity at a factory level, it makes sense to serve those middle sizes and keep that proportion of the market with an equal share of available units.’
While it seems retailers have their hands tied when it comes to accessing bigger products, they’re doing what they can to lace up more of their customers. In turn, signalling higher demand for size 13-plus shoes will hopefully help ramp up supply.
‘We are always asking brands to offer all half sizes (7.5–12.5) as well as 13 and 14. Increasing the capacity to produce these sizes in “limited” products will hopefully see further consumers interested in our niche. How this happens from an operational and logistic standpoint is a question for the brands!’
In the meantime, Mitchell shares some exciting news.
‘We can confirm that, when available to us, all Up There colabs moving forward will be available in US14.’
If you’re a Bigfoot and are new to buying and collecting sneakers, here’s a quick rundown of where to score larger sizes. The major brands typically carry size 13-plus for many inline (general release) products, namely in running and basketball shoes. Nike and Jordan Brand offer some of the most abundant selections in big sizing – going up to size 18 in some styles – while New Balance, ASICS and adidas readily go up to size 14 and 16 in performance shoes. As far as casual models and limited editions, Bigfoots will be fighting for small allocations for a little longer.