Big Feet in a small shoe country

Ever had someone stare at your feet? If you’re a foreigner wiht slightly bigger feet than normal and living in South Korea, you can probably relate. In Western countries a shoe size bigger than EU39 or US 8.5 is nothing special, but in Korea it’s the size reserved for giants. 

Do big feet girls have a foot in the door of any shoe store??

Whenever I try my luck and ask the shop assistant if they stock shoe size 265 (EU41), they look up at me with a look on their face like I just told them I peed my pants and then they look at my shoes and up at me again and say, “265??!? No, no, no, no!” or they just grin and try to avoid the awkward situation by pretending to be busy.  Seriously? It’s not like I’m Donald Duck or Cinderella’s sister or somethin’. 

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Turns out, Koreans have seriously smaller feet than most westerners.

When I walk past shoe stores and see all unique sneaker designs and cute kicks, I sigh… All those prettiest ones are only made up to a specific size. For “monster feet” people like me, our best bet is to look in the men’s section where we might find some unisex looking sneakers or a pair of couple shoes (Korean couples like to wear matching shoes).

Mind you, I am starting to relate to Cinderella’s sisters who desperately wanted to wear that pretty glass shoe, to the point they considered cutting off their toes. But then again, who needs glass shoes anyway? What an impractical and dangerous design for busy city girls.

For the last two winters, I’ve invested in a good pair of sneakers (found in the men’s section) and just walked them to death until the next pair. 

“Sooo….are you telling me that I will have to go about barefoot in Korea?”

Not at all! There is hope! While the struggle to find big shoes in Korea is definitely real, there are a few awesome solutions. 

1. Buy Online 

There are various online shops with a vide variety of shoes. Pros – you have a lot more to choose from and it will be delivered to your front door! Cons – you can’t try it on and it could be a gamble whether the shoe would fit you or not. Kind of Cinderella situation. You can find a measuring chart here. 

Online shops I would recommend: Amazon, G-Market, ASOS.com, youbyeolna.com. 

2. Zara

Zara sometimes stock bigger sizes. If you see it, buy it! They tend to run out quickly. Pro – they are pretty. Con – you pay for the prettiness. 

3. Doc Martins

Doc Martins can look cute on girls, too. If they’re your vibe, you can look for them at ABC Mart. Might have to search in the couples section. 

4. Facebook Groups 

Many foreigners come to Korea, shop a lot while they’re here and then don’t have enough space to take everything home when they go back. Thus, you’ll often see shoes being sold in expat groups on Facebook. Sometimes they might be brand new shoes someone bought online, but wrong size. You can find some great deals in groups like; Expat Women in Korea, Daejeon Peeps, Daejeon Women, Women of Daegu, Busan Women, Expat Women in Korea Buy and Sell and many more. Just search your city’s name. Some people might even be willing to ship shoes between cities. Pro – could be cheaper than buying online. Cons – limited in terms of style, size and availability. 

5. Travel Shopping 

When I travelled to the Philippines, I was finally liberated and could do shoe shopping without getting any stares from shop assistants. Since Korea is close to so many beautiful travel destinations, English Teachers in Korea like to travel around when we get the chance. Next time you travel, remember to buy shoes. Pro – new exotic kicks that fit. Cons – might weigh down your luggage on your way back. 


On a positive note, here is what I realized from being a big feet girl in a small shoe country. 

  1. Whatever doesn’t fit you, don’t try to force it, but keep your head up and keep walking. 
  2. People who leave big footprints, can’t be forced into the molds that fit most of society. 

Your feet might be bigger than what people are used to here, but don’t let it trip you up. Just find the pair that fits you and then show them how fiercely those big feet can walk. 

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