Bigger feet a growing shoe problem for UK women

LONDON Thu Aug 4, 2011 1:23pm EDT

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Demand for larger shoe sizes is growing among women -- but big-footed females are ashamed of stepping out in their shoes, according to a survey by British department store Debenhams.

The study questioned 1,000 women with size eight (U.S. 10.5) or nine feet about their shoe buying, with 82 percent admitting they are ashamed of their shoe size.

Over half of the women said asking the shop assistant for their size was the part of shoe-shopping they found most uncomfortable, and 36 percent said they hated taking their shoes off in public.

"Buying shoes online can be a tricky feat which is why we decided to ask women why they were shopping behind closed doors. We were surprised to learn a case of cold feet was behind it all," Carie Barkhuizen, Debenhams spokeswoman, said in a statement.

The problem is not uncommon as average female shoe size has increased to a size six over the last 10 years, and demand for size nines has triggered an 80 percent increase in stocks at the department store, Debenhams reports.

The change is attributed to women's feet becoming broader rather than longer - experts believe this may be due to an increase in average body weight.

But big is not necessarily bad, as shoemakers begin to adapt fashionable show designs for larger feet, with celebrities Nicole Kidman, Michelle Obama and Paris Hilton sporting larger footwear on the red carpet.

"High fashion shoes such as stilettos in larger sizes have to be made much stronger with sturdier load bearing points, able to cope with greater levels of stress and wear," Barkhuizen. "The materials and techniques now available means that the majority of shoes can made strong and comfortable enough in larger sizes which would have been unimaginable just 10 years ago."

(Edited by Paul Casciato)

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