I thought I had heard it all, but even my mouth dropped open a few times as I read the responses to my recent customer survey.
A total of 210 responses meant a great cross-section of experiences and reflections so huge thanks to everyone who took the time to participate. The lucky Lesley K. and Ally R. each won a $50 voucher for The Shoe Garden in the random draw.
So let’s look at what shocked me…and yep, that was mostly related to what people (family, friends, shop assistants) had said.
Many respondents described how they had been told to “wear the shoe boxes” as their only hope of finding shoes that fit. Others were told they had a “good grip” on Australia, “should pay land tax” or were frequently called “Flipper” or “Ronald McDonald”.
Other comments included:
“No, we have nothing so huge,” from a shop assistant when asked for a longer size.
“A friend once said I have feet like a gorilla. I haven’t forgotten that remark.”
“Lucky they had two cows the same colour to make your shoes.”
“Maybe you should wear men’s shoes.”
“In my uni days, a petite friend used to love to slip her fully shod foot into my shoes and show peers. It was funny, but I could have done without feeling like the village freak.”
“Why can’t you squeeze into a 10?”
“I was sat on at high school so another student could take my shoes off and laugh at not only the length of my foot, but also the width.”
“As a kid I was called ‘Goofy’. When I swam competitively another mother complained that I was cheating because my feet were so large … I don’t know what she was thinking!”
“Wow, what huge feet for a girl. We don’t stock anything in your size.”
While some did say they hadn’t had anything negative said to them about their feet, the majority shared comments, many from years ago, that clearly had an effect on them. I have always found the same in the shop too: women get quite emotional when sharing some of the not-so-nice things said about their feet.
I found it particularly sad to learn that many believed their foot length affected not just their fashion sense, but their self esteem.
In fact, 23% of all respondents said the size of their feet had affected their self esteem with 55% saying “maybe” and only 22% saying “no”.
The responses skyrocketed when talking about shoe size affecting fashion sense: 53% said it had, 31.5% said “maybe” and only 15.5% said “no”.
As one woman said: “When I was a teenager, other teenagers and young women would imply that larger sized feet were not feminine and therefore I was less attractive to men…I have not had to put up with that as an adult but it is one of those experiences from adolescence that I have never forgotten.”
Another said: “Certainly when I was younger. I could only get boys’ shoes to wear at school and ugly ‘nana’ shoes for good. I have wide feet which is more the problem, I think. I just loved getting my first pair of court shoes from The Shoe Garden this year – they have a buckle and are amazing – and at aged 57, it was a long time to wait for that style.”
Other comments included:
“My big feet have made me a fashion outsider.”
“Only having to wear ugly or very old shoes (because that’s all there is in your size) can ruin an outfit and therefore your confidence. Or shoes inappropriate to your outfit or the place you are wearing them to can be embarrassing.”
“It use to (affect my self esteem) when I was younger (teenager to mid 20s) but not anymore. Unlike your weight, feet size is genetic and out of your control.”
“Shoes and outfits should go together and suit personality, mood and figure. When you can’t find things that suit; sometimes you don’t buy new stuff, or go for conservative choices.”
“Most definitely. I often have to plan outfits (especially for special occasions) and have developed my overall style around my footwear. I often wonder if I would dress differently if I had smaller feet!”
Happily, there were some positive comments too but they were in the minority.
“My now husband (we’ve been together 27 yrs) said to me very early in the peace when he saw me hide my feet- that he loved my feet because they were a part of me.”
As for finding shoes that fit (before The Shoe Garden, of course!!), 14% said it was “mission impossible”, 51% said it was “extremely hard”, 29% said it was hard and 6% said it was “alright”. No one said it was “easy”!
Add into that equation shoes that fit AND are gorgeous, and the numbers changed significantly: 46% said it was “mission impossible”, 41% said it was “extremely hard”, 11.5% said it was “hard” and 1.5% said it was “alright”. Again, no one selected “easy”!
As for sizing consistency comparing shoes to clothing, 44% said “both are bad” with 38% saying shoe sizing was better than clothing and 12.5% saying clothing sizing was better than shoe sizing. Just under 6% said both were good.
I was particularly grateful for the enormous amount of positive feedback I received too. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
“I’m happy now that I have found The Shoe Garden. It has taken the stress out of shoe shopping for me.”
“The Shoe Garden has been a blessing. It is a joy to go shoe shopping there.”
“I would die if The Shoe Garden ever closes.”
“Thanks for giving people with hard to fit feet choices in beautiful shoes … a real gift of hope.”
“Your shop is the best! Wish it was around when I was a young one and so glad it is around now!”
“Well, all I can say is THANK THE STARS for Carol at The Shoe Garden!!!”
Of the 210 people who responded to this survey:
23% were size 10
40% were size 11
27% were size 12
10% were size 13+