The Girl with The Big Feet

At seven years old I was chubby and pigeon-toed. No one wanted me on their team during a game of kati. I was slow at ducking. I was mostly the helper, fetching the ball when it went out of bounds. My siblings made fun of my feet and everyone called me Sherry Boxy. I didn’t like it one bit.

My dad would get tired of buying me new shoes every term as I outgrew them so fast. Faster than my brothers.

To make matters worse, my centre of gravity was completely altered by my feet, and I would keep falling over, cutting my forehead on pavements. I even rolled down the stairs once, after losing my footing. I have the scars to show for it. And if you stand very close to me you can still see some of them.

The orthopedic recommended I wear my shoes chiko-leko for some time so my feet would re-adjust. The only shoes that allowed chiko-leko –without pinching my toes- were safari boots. Signature brown, but my pops would dye them black.

And that’s how I remember primary school: Chiko-leko safari boots. Other girls had the right school shoes. Some even had a cute ribbon on their shoes. The right shoe went into the right leg, and vice versa. I was the different, awkward and there began the long arduous journey to self-acceptance.

In class six boys were excited about that Science topic: Reproduction. I was taller than most of them. They’d giggle at a diagram of the vagina, and I thought they were too naughty for my liking. We had an ugly brown school uniform, and every girl had cornrows. My only 2 close girlfriends grew breasts quicker than I did.

Boys would hit on them, and place mirrors under their skirts. I don’t remember any boy showing that kind of interest in me. I was not a girly girl. I walked like a boy. My voice wasn’t soft. The only girlish game I could stand was cha mama; otherwise I preferred riding bicycles and climbing trees. Or maybe those boys just weren’t digging the chiko-leko vibes.

Then in class 7 I lost the weight. I still had no boobs, but a rounded bum was looming in the distance. A boy named George was also looming, dropping hand-written notes on my desk, and gifting me with chewing gums –appealing to my adolescent affections via my taste buds.

Still, being different is what I knew best. I was always in my own bubble. I had imaginary friends. I talked to them when my brothers didn’t want to play cha mama with me. My shosh would think I’m mad, and would say to my mom, “Pelekeni huyu hospitali aangaliwe.”

I wonder what she’d say about my big feet when she went back to the village.

I’ve never been too hot about my feet. They’re long and slender, and my toes have an unusual slant. It’s hard to explain the shape of my feet, really. It’s one of those things to which you say: “You have to be there to witness.”

I’ve always been self-conscious about my feet. Which doesn’t help because I also suffer from social anxiety.

I don’t wear open shoes, and I rarely wear heels –unless it’s a good brand that offers good support. I’m uncomfortable displaying my feet. Most times I just rock sneakers, and when I go shopping I head straight to the men’s section. I own many pairs of men’s sneakers. It’s like shoemakers couldn’t even begin to think of a woman in size eight and a half UK.

By campus I figured I was never going to fit in any circle. I was the square peg, a loner, an out-of-placer, taller than most, reserved, small chested, and no stomach for the social scene. I was in JKUAT, Juja, studying Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

During graduation someone turned to me and said, “Haiya, you were in this school for 4 years?”

I was a day-scholar, and I spent most of those years commuting from Lang’ata to Juja. I tried boarding for one semester, but even then I’d go straight to my room after class. I had no social life to speak of and campus life was just not my thing.

Boys would often knock at my door, and I’d bang the door on their faces.

I’d be like, “Go. What are you coming to do now? Oh, you want me to cook for you dinner? Hit the road, Jack.”

Shish! The audacity.

I was having none of it. Messing around felt like a waste of time. I got along nicely with my class rep, though. He used to help me out with assignments. I think he liked me. But I can’t say I made lasting friendships.

And then there was the hugging business. Why did Uni people hug so much? Like, I was with you yesterday. So why do we need to hug again?

Hugging felt strange and unnatural. First I had to stoop, and then to awkwardly wrap my hand around the other person’s shoulder; it was uncomfortable as hell. Weren’t my feet enough trouble? All eight and a half sizes of them? I’d never been hugged before. No one was a hugger back home.

Campus seemed like a conveyor belt of hugs, drink parties, and meaningless sex, and I found it hard to join the club. We were told Uni would be easier than high school, but it wasnt. It felt like one big rip-off.

Everyone wore full suits in my first year –sons and daughters of rich tea farmers from Eldoret, Kitale, Kiambu, Nyeri… students hailing from as far as Kisii and El Bagon.

Their eyes burned a gaping hole in me when I’d walked in ten minutes, in jeans and a crop top. Even the lecturers would always look at me like I was lost, in the wring class. It was hard to blend in. And it’s equally hard for my siblings too.

I guess it goes back to our childhood days.

We were rarely allowed to play outside as kids. My folks were strict like that. “No TV. Read a book. The TV is for news.”

We’d be allowed to go out maybe once or twice a month. Those days were pure bliss. I never wanted to go back inside. And I didnt want something as frivolous as lunch disrupting all the fun. So I’d carry carrots in my pockets, to munch on whenever I got a hunger pang. You didn’t want to risk it by going back in; otherwise there was a chance you’d be told you’ve had enough fun, and that you should sit tight until the next month. “Thanks for playing, kids.”

In some ways I’m grateful to my parents, because I wasn’t exposed to many things. Yes, I never knew how to flirt (Still don’t know how to ) , or watch porn, but I also didn’t feel any societal pressure weighing down on me. I was okay in my bubble.

I never went to any high school funkie. I didn’t do drama or sports. I wasn’t interested in any of those things. Meeting a boy from the neighboring school -in his shorts, and his corny lines, and his raging hormones- so he can tell you about his funny Bio TA was not my kind of fun.

Besides, what if they saw my feet?

Mike was no exception. It took some time before I let him see my feet. I always went to bed in socks, even if the room was warm and toasty. But Mike was way past that. Things like big feet didn’t matter to him. He helped me get comfortable with myself because he was also comfortable with himself. Also, Mike has far much worse feet than mine. They look like they belong to Shrek.

Right now, though, I’ve given up on finding pretty shoes my size. I’m okay with how I look, with my sneakers and my misaligned toes.

The older I get the less I care about my looks. There are bigger problems in this world, surely. Like school fees and securing a future for our kids.

I still harbor some insecurity. I’m still mindful about my weight. I wouldn’t wish to gain weight again. I got very big after my last-born. And it took three years to shed off the extra fat – 36kgs to be precise.

I’m also afraid of swimming pools. I can’t swim well. I don’t even think my feet would help me paddle better. But I can float and look good in a bikini. (Heeeeyy)

In your 20s it’s hard to ignore your flaws. You get unsure of your abilities. You get thrown out into the world, and you crave to fit in a box, or a circle, or wherever the lights burn bright and the adventures are plenty. They don’t call it the best and worst of times for nothing.

But as you get older you learn to accept yourself. You say: You know what; maybe I’ll never have a petite body, or have the ideal feet, so what? Find your space and be happy in it.

Other people are also less apt to play on your insecurities when you love yourself. Call me Sherry Boxy, and see me smile in a glimmer of nostalgia, and no shame.

My big feet have taught me some shoes will fit. And others won’t. And that’s okay too.

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22 Comments

  1. Cirú
    July 27, 2018 / 5:06 pm

    I saw the title and completely knew where this was going.I’m a Size eight and a half or nine UK and getting just basic office flats has always been a hustle.My entire family has big feet people so it’s a struggle for our household.To make everything worse,I have ugly feet but I think at this point am focusing on what’s working e.g my beautiful bald head,my long fingers and legs,coz these feet can give me major insecurity issues sometimes.Am amazed by your openness about it and your overflow of confidence.You are Amazing Mum and writer.Stay beautiful and blessed.

    • Awiti Ochieng’
      July 27, 2018 / 8:50 pm

      I totally relate.I’m a size 8 too and getting shoes my size has always been a hustle.You know those stalls in town that sell shoes?Yes those one lol…I walked into ine two weeks ago and fitted a size 42 which was okay at the point of fitting…Wee I starting wearing the next day and by midday I can bearly walk,the friction cannot even be explained 😂

      Fortunately I feel secure with my big feet.I adore them 😊

      Anyway try getting shoes from Toi Market Adams or there is a shop in Garden City called ‘Big Feet’.

  2. July 27, 2018 / 5:14 pm

    I struggle with accepting my size 8-9 feet as well as other struggles of being really tall as well 😊
    I’m in my mid twenties and learning to accept my body and persona in all my shades. I needed this. So thank you❤

  3. Joyce
    July 27, 2018 / 6:24 pm

    Iys funny hos something you are so insecure about could be something someone else wishes for.. I am 5’9″ and I wear a size 5 and a half-6 UK size shoe… what is center of gravity to me haha, I have fallen down, twisted my ankle, fractured bones because of my height*feet size “incompatibility” but hey, that’s what makes me special where else will you meet a female giant with tiny feet?
    Thanks for the beautiful article..

  4. Joyce
    July 27, 2018 / 6:26 pm

    Its funny how something you are so insecure about could be something someone else wishes for.. I am 5’9″ and I wear a size 5 and a half-6 UK size shoe… what is center of gravity to me haha, I have fallen down, twisted my ankle, fractured bones because of my height*feet size “incompatibility” but hey, that’s what makes me special where else will you meet a female giant with tiny feet?
    Thanks for the beautiful article.

  5. LisaFlower
    July 27, 2018 / 6:52 pm

    I have had big feet ever since I was little. Biggest in my family. I guess it goes hand in hand with my body (I am a big girl). People always told me that, and it stuck. What they did not know is the esteem issues that go with it. Pretty shoes don’t fit, limited sizes, people look at you funny and the worst, having to wear the same shoes over and over again, because my size is NEVER AVAILABLE. I wish I could afford to go online and shop for my size, unfortunately I am not there yet. I can barely afford the nice ones here. Maybe, one day. Thank you for sharing this. It’s very personal to people like me. I am yet to embrace my flaw.

  6. LisaFlower
    July 27, 2018 / 6:54 pm

    Ready anytime you feel like doing a giveaway 🙂

  7. Peris
    July 27, 2018 / 7:01 pm

    I am reading this and thinking “this is so me’ I also have insecurity issues with my feet. Finding good shoes is a big/huge hustle men! @fashionablestepmum feel free to gift me some of your shoes”.

  8. Awiti Ochieng’
    July 27, 2018 / 8:52 pm

    And the hugging culture is still there in Campus.People want to hug every single time they meet you
    Aaaargh!
    Hugs are misused🙄

  9. Alleko
    July 28, 2018 / 12:48 pm

    OMG! And here I was thinking I’m the only one with big feet problems. Turns out it’s one of the things my partner loves most about me so I don’t feel so insecure anymore.

    Thank you for this 😘😘😘😘

  10. maz
    July 28, 2018 / 6:54 pm

    Well my dad was a solider so you can imagine the household we were brought up in very strict.
    As a family of four sister mum and dad we travelled the world and lived in a bubble went to an all girls school never partied or joined in Sheninighans with boys .never understood mindless hugs
    I was born with a gap in my front teeth and dad thought best to get braces to bridge the gap well alas it cause an over bite .My teeth have always been my biggest insecurity I kept examining them over and over again if i wanted them fixed I’d need surgery.
    Even on my wedding day I was scared of the pictures. As time passed my hubby loves my teeth and every jiggly part after having two kids ..I guess the older you get the more you love what you were given.

    Blessings

  11. Muthoni
    July 28, 2018 / 7:05 pm

    Wow! My spirit animal… I would even skip meals in uni just so I wouldn’t chat up people…. great read! You should speak to these youngins of nowadays who think that even acne is worth splitting hairs over… so much more to life and YOU and your big chica-leca feet are beautiful 😘

  12. July 28, 2018 / 7:58 pm

    I was that loner, quiet and unwelcoming. However, I had pop up replies that people thought were sarcastic. I fought the hugging culture in campus with all my might that people would even pass on the memo to sanguines, “that one doesn’t hug, a handshake will do.” I have small feet, size 4 to be precise.

    Good read.

  13. Diana
    July 30, 2018 / 7:35 am

    Ahhhhh the big feet struggle! It is one I know well. I was a UK size 9 by the time I got to standard 7. I would dream that I woke up & God had shrunk my feet to a dainty size 6. You always get shoes in size 6 & nobody asks aiiii are you sure huwezi vaa size 8?! As if I would just voluntarily choose the large shoe struggle! I have grown to love my large feet with its absent arches, bunions & toe nails that fell off along the way 😊 yup! They have faithfully carried me through life’s journey, adapting as best as they can. I wish when I was younger though someone had taught me how to love my feet. I hope a young girl somewhere dealing with insecurity of her big feet reads this post & the comments & realises she is beautiful just the way she is..no need to try & hide her feet. Also for those who struggle with finding beautiful comfortable shoes in large sizes you may want to check out a brand called shoes of prey.

  14. July 31, 2018 / 12:00 pm

    great read.

  15. Wendy
    August 4, 2018 / 1:05 pm

    It felt like you were describing the shape of my feet and toes! I’m a 6ft, 4″ lady, whose shoe-size is 9 (UK). Living in Uganda, it’s next to impossible finding shoes that fit! I’ve grown to love the whole of me, crooked toes and all… I proudly wear open shoes. If one has an issue with my toes, it’s their problem to deal with, not mine…

    I’ve certainly got my own insecurities but, my toes are not one of them…

    I’ve watched your interviews on YouTube and I’m inspired by how you’ve dealt with, and are still dealing with the dynamics of a blended family. Thanks for that.

  16. Jacquelline
    August 6, 2018 / 12:57 pm

    Such a good read, a proud shoe size 44/45. took me a long time to understand that it is okay to have large feet, be the tallest girl in the classroom. I even started stooping to try and fit in. gaining self confidence surely does go a long way

    • Nelly
      November 10, 2018 / 12:59 pm

      Oh well, I have been reading through the comments and wondering what the size 8-8.5 are talking about. They haven’t met us, have they? Lol. But to be honest, while in high school I thought I was the only girl with big feet until I started shopping for my shoes and I would find bigger ones and the vendors would insist I was an average size according to their sales and I started feeling comfortable.

  17. Anne Muga
    August 24, 2018 / 11:40 am

    LOL on the hugging for no reason . I still don’t see why people hug so freely

  18. Rhoda
    September 19, 2018 / 8:43 am

    Wow!! I have never read a story so inspiring yet relates to what we see everyday
    You are amazing and thank you for sharing your story
    Alot of us suffer with insecurities ,self esteem and the pressure to feet in
    I must say I was energised
    Thank you again

  19. Leah
    October 19, 2018 / 11:35 am

    I relate to this struggle so well.Ihave even googled how to shrink big feet😂 anyway thanks for talking about this and making me feel its ok to have big feet

    • Fashionable Stepmum
      October 22, 2018 / 3:02 am

      hahaha. The struggle is so real. Thanks for reading!

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