I'll never forget my lowest shoe moment. The owner of a trendy Oakland shoe store made me crawl around her stock room looking for shoes in my small size.

"We don't really order 5 or 5-and-a-half anymore," she said, staring at my slender feet. "But you're welcome to check out whatever inventory we have in the back."

Think having big feet sucks? Try having Cinderella feet. As a size 5-and-a-half, I've done everything from stuffing multiple insoles into shoes and wearing ridiculously thick socks to be able to wear a too-big size 6. Even after having a baby and watching my feet widen ever so slightly, I'm still more comfortable in a size 5-and-a-half.

What's more, the buzz among shoe buyers is that, thanks to evolution and obesity, size 5 and 5-and-a-half are getting the boot. The result? More and more casepacks will come in the new standard, sizes 6-to-11. It's only a matter of time before finding shoes gets even harder for me.

Luckily, there are some manufacturers and retailers for whom extended footwear has become a brand distinction.

  • Nordstrom. With two extended shoe size events a year and exclusive partnerships with designers like Sam Edelman, Nordstrom might be the only department store dedicated to making sure size 5s walk in style. www.nordstrom.com.


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  • Zappos. Any website that lets me search by shoe size without ever once crawling on my knees gets my business. The free shipping and uber-easy return policy also helps. Also try Piperlime. www.zappos.com; www.piperlime.com.

  • Nine West. They've been making a nice assortment of heels, flats, and boots in my size for decades. I know they fit and the price is always right. Plus, they have outlets stores. www.ninewest.com.

  • Paolo. Designed in San Francisco and made in Italy, these shoes are the pinnacle of style and comfort. They're not cheap but it's an easy way to delve into the European shoe market while supporting a local designer. In fact, anytime I've traveled abroad I skip the cheap souvenirs and come back with a pair of something fabulous. Argentina and France have been particularly good to me. http://paoloshoes.com/

  • Custom-made. Consider it. Your dream shoes. Any heel. Any color. Any material. Just like custom bags and jeans, many sites offer this service now, and the cost is less than you'd think. www.shoedesignstudio.com; www.shoesofprey.com.