Shopping for Shoes in Buenos Aires


This week I broke my only pair of sandals and I needed to look for replacements. Since this was my first time shopping (in the sense of clothes shopping rather than grocery shopping) I didn’t know what to expect; I had some trepidation that it would be like Asia and they would stop making girls’ shoes at a size 39.

I found myself staring at women’s feet in the street, hoping to spot other women with similar sized feet to mine (size 41). It is surprisingly difficult to guess a women’s shoe size just by looking at her feet as she walks by.


The feet that are causing me all these problems

It turns out shoes here stop at a size 40, one more than Asia but still not quite far enough.

This is one of the frustrations of travelling. Eventually things wear out, and if you’re not settled enough to have an address for mail order then you are left having to make the best out of what is available wherever you are living.

After spending an entire Saturday trudging around the shops only to come home empty-handed, I decided to go back on Sunday and try on some size 40s. Sandal size is more flexible than shoes and I thought it might turn out that I could cram my feet into a size 40. However it turns out that, although in theory they sell shoes up to size 40, they don’t tend to stock that size (the female assistants were generally sympathetic about it but the male ones tended to sneer and laugh, as if they couldn’t wait to text their mates and tell them about the strange foreign woman with the huge feet who couldn’t conjugate her verbs properly).

All this means that I still have no sandals.

Well at least I wasn’t looking for clothes. Argentina has laws demanding that shops stock a full range of sizes (by this they mean British sizes 10-20, or US 6-16). However the shops still refuse to do it, and in reality a size 38 (that’s British 10, US 6) is the biggest size you can expect to find in most fashion shops. Most of the clothes you come across are un-sized, or have a vague small/medium/large label. Large would maybe reach a size 40 (British 12, US 8), if they happen to have it in stock.

I wouldn’t mind if, like Thailand or China, the vast majority of women come within these sizes. However a quick look in the street will tell you that this is far from true of Argentina.

The Argentine Independent claims that 75% of women in Argentina can’t get clothes to fit them in the shops. That’s not (necessarily) overweight women but women of normal proportions, women who are taller or have bigger feet.

It’s not surprising that there is such a high instance of eating disorders (only Japan beats Argentina on the eating disorder front).

Anyway, no amount of diet and exercise are going to make my feet any smaller. Luckily the other clothes I brought with me are still holding out well. I’m beginning to think I shouldn’t have been so keen to throw the broken ones away; it might have proven easier to get them fixed than to track down new sandals in my size.


The new sandals

Postscript:  I originally scheduled this post for Monday, but pulled it after the sad news.  My rambling on about the banalities of my life in Buenos Aires whilst the world got to grip with the death of David Bowie seemed somewhat inappropriate.

In the interim, I have managed to track down a pair of sandals in a size 40.  They rubbed my feet a bit (because they are a size too small), however I am confident that I can beat them into submission given a bit more time.

2 replies »

  1. Oh Sarah I feel your pain! I laughed out loud at the thought of you looking at every woman’s feet. I can see a niche in the market as well. Shall I come over and we open a shop selling proper sized clothes!!!! We’d make a fortune 😎 I hope the sandles are duly being broken in. Sad news indeed about David Bowie! He played a pivotal role in my teenage years! Such an icon and shapeshifter ……. Sad days indeed. Hugs my friend xxxx

    • Yes don’t think I haven’t thought of the business opportunities this offers😄and yes strange days indeed. I have felt very homesick this week, as if I should be in Brixton or somewhere.

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