6 Shoe Designer Secrets for Women Wearing Large Size Shoes

1/ Why you can never find color or exciting style in your size 10 and up

I design shoes for a living and I understand your frustration when shoe shopping for your size.I used to be size 11 for most of my life but after having my second child, I advanced to a full size 12. This discovery was not met with joy. Having struggled to buy size 11 for years, moving up to size 12 meant well-fitting shoes would be nearly impossible to find.

Becoming a shoe designer was my dream. Even being an insider, I realized that providing exciting styles for women’s shoe sizes 11 or 12 was the last thing on any of the shoe buyers’ minds.  Shoe buyers overspend. Then, they need to cut back. Fabulous colors - the different, the bright, the red, the exciting - are the first to go when buyers need to cut back.

2/ Then goes the size!

Obviously, they are not cutting from the “middle” of sizes 8-9 (which, by the way, is not the middle!). But they are cutting the extended sizes - small and large sizes.The selection we, the large footprint women, are left with is “safe,” “items”.  By the time they polish and massage their allocated “to spend” money, we - the plus shoe size women - are left with only a shadow of fashionable, barely trendy and definitely basic black styles to choose from (if any at all).

3/ Why large shoe companies do not think about large shoe size women’s comfort and fit

Let’s zoom in on the reason why, for most businesses, large sizes are not a priority for them with regards to their investing time and attention to detail. Buyers are pressured to deliver Last Year sales numbers at least, but truly, they are expected to beat the LY numbers year after year! It is this focus on profit over quality that makes buying for large sizes so risky. What if a buyer is left with large sizes on hand? We are minority after all.

4/ How regular size shoe businesses’ practices and development affects large shoe size businesses’ fit and comfort

Let’s focus on the sample size. Ever since the 1950s, women’s shoes have been sampled in size 6. Petite little shoes were created for the purpose of correcting, perfecting and sales. Size 6 was the base to grade up all other sizes.

Only about 5 years ago, most companies converted to sample size 7 to address modern women’s proportions and larger sized feet. When we grade to size 7 down, we only grade 3 sizes. Not a big deal, it is hard to affect fit or function.  Now, let’s move the needle up, and grade shoes to size 12.  

The little Cinderella slipper now has to get enlarged to size 7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10, 10.5, 11, 12 - 10 sizes up!  What was cute and proportional at size 7 changes at size 12.  What was a low, comfortable heel is no longer low.

We, the large size consumers, have to accept a different look, different fit and less comfort.

 5/ How geographical location of shoe factories affect the fit of large size women’s shoes

The location of factories plays a major role in determining how large size women’s shoes should fit. Asian women are built smaller than lets say average Western women, and most women’s shoes are made in factories located in Asia.  Asians genetically have shorter legs, arms, bodies, height and smaller feet.  In my decade plus of trips to factories, I have worked with pattern makers, fitters and models in factories. Sample shoes were made in size 7, grading by computer. We never discussed how to grade larger sizes and how it would affect the fit.

Instead, I often heard that such and such may not work in large sizes, detail will not look the same on large sizes, heel will be taller, pitch will be different and overall everyone feared the ginormous proportions more than the discomfort caused by changed specs. Nobody in my 15 years of experience questioned how this design change would affect fit at size 11 or 12. No one was asking, “How will this heel look in size 12; how will this pitch or platform work in size 10 and up?” These are questions that must be addressed.

Months after sampling, I would get my “special orders” from the factory, and these monstrosities never fit. The lasts were always too wide, shafts of boots could hold both of my calves, and the pump heel always slipped; finally, the arch support was not there to support my body at 5’10.”

6/ My European birth - the heritage of shoemaking.

Having traveled to Europe at least once every years, I scouted large shoe destinations and landed on my favorite brand of comfortable shoes: APIA. It was not a surprise that the owners of APIA had been my good friends. I purchased APIA shoes in 4 and 5 pairs at a time, always in fear I would not find shoes as comfortable in the US.  I realized, after a decade of wearing these amazing, classic staples of a woman’s shoe closet, that there is a secret to Italian Shoes - the heritage of shoemaking.

The immaculate attention to building comfort from scratch, devotion to the original handcrafted way of making shoes and determination of preserving the Italian way of producing high quality fashion drew me in.  I realized why my Italian shoes fit so well!

Italian handmade shoes are the only acceptable option of women’s shoes to be comfortable, fitting well in larger sizes.

Italian technicians and shoemakers understand the proportion and the physique of making larger shoes fit exceptionally well. With more than 100 years of the industry, they know every trick to making average shoes look unique, comfortable and indispensable.


Designer Monika Kusinska


With more than 15 years of experience designing for women’s fashion brands, award-winning shoe designer Monika Kusinska-Paez launched Autograf New York in 2014. Driven by her personal endeavor to find well-made, comfortable shoes in uncommon sizes in the United States, Kusinska-Paez decided to bring the luxury of high-quality, Italian leather shoes stateside. In 2000, she attended Parsons School of Design with a concentration on footwear, and later designed for women’s shoe brands including Ann Taylor, Fossil, Lucchese and Camuto Group.