Illustration by Sam Woolley

My feet are big. Not in a potentially good way, the way that might grab the interest of an NBA scout. Or in the way that might set a woman to wondering. No. My feet are wide.

I wear a size 11, width 4E. I can get away with a 2E, but it’s not ideal. According to this handy chart—for big and tall men, goddamnit—that means my foot is three-quarters of an inch wider than yours, a normal human male’s. My foot is an entire 15 percent wider across.

This is not enough to get me a job in the circus, but it is enough to ensure something that has probably never crossed normies’ minds: I cannot wear most shoes. Think of any hot sneaker, or sharp loafer, or even rain and snow boots. They do not make them in my width. (Nike has relatively recently released some sneakers that come in 4E, but please trust that they’re not the Nikes that you’d ever want to buy.) When I see the kids lining up for new releases, or basketball players shilling their signature models, I know that I am looking at a world of which I can never be a part. Coolness is forever paraded before me, and denied me.

There are a small number of companies that do make nearly all their shoes in extra widths. That list of companies is grim. I wear, and have worn since middle school, exclusively New Balances and Rockports. Who wears those shoes? Dads wear those shoes. I have been a footwear dad since I reached puberty.

The world is not made for me. I have never had dress shoes—which I must buy a half-size bigger just to be able to physically put on—that aren’t perpetual agony. I went bowling this week and I am a chafed, blistered mess. I couldn’t even have a proper punk phase because I couldn’t fit into combat boots.

Advertisement

I am sure there are solutions to my problems. I am sure there is an entire community out there of wide-footed men, who share their questions and provide answers and give each other the support denied them by an industry that’d pretend we don’t exist. I can’t join them, because that would make this my identity. And I do not want to be a Wide-Footed Man. I just want to be a man, who has many unique and humanizing qualities, one of which is my wide feet.

And so I suffer, quietly. You see me, and you don’t consider my plight. You cover your children’s eyes to shield them from the sight of my New Balance 515s. I’ll never be one of you.

I guess Asics makes extra-wide shoes too? No, I’d rather be dead.