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The teenager couldn’t find shoes for his height of 23 feet. Strangers gave him money for a custom pair.


As Rebecca Kilburn gave birth to her firstborn son, she recalls the obstetrician saying something strange but true: “These are the biggest feet I’ve ever seen on a newborn,” he told her and her husband.

The doctor took a closer look after delivery.

“I wouldn’t buy baby shoes for those feet because they don’t fit,” Kilborn recalled after the birth of his son, Eric Jr. Kilburn, in 2008.

“It was the best foreshadowing of what we ended up going through as we got older,” said the mother of two, who lives in Goodrich, Michigan.

Now 14, Eric Jr. is 6ft 10in and wears a size 23 shoe – which Kilburn has learned is virtually impossible to find in stores or online.

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With his soles, he surpassed NBA great Shaquille O’Neal, who wears a size 22. Even Shaq wore big shoes for the NBA, where the average shoe size was 15.

For non-professional athletes, the average shoe size for a man is 10.5, which is about 11 inches long. Meanwhile, Eric Jr.’s size 22 shoes (which he now wears, but no longer fit) measure nearly 17 inches from heel to toe, his mother said. Besides having wide feet, Eric Jr. also has flat feet, which makes it even harder to find shoes that fit him.

“I was almost terrified of the growth of his feet because it was so hard to find shoes,” Kilburn said, adding that many standard shoe stores didn’t sell anything above size 14. day, the family sometimes found larger sizes. in some factory outlets.

Eric Jr. comes by his tall size naturally. His mother is 6-foot-2 and his father, Eric Sr. Kilburn, is 6-foot-5. He has grandparents and great-grandparents who are almost 7 feet tall.

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“We knew we weren’t going to have a little kid,” Kilburn said, adding that her son had been tested for endocrine disorders and other medical issues, and his doctor confirmed he was healthy. “The size is just normal for us.”

But being that tall can be painful.

There were times, his mother explained, when her son had to wear Crocs — including during the winter months — because they couldn’t find any other shoes that would fit. Finally, the Crocs must also be tight.

“He just wants to be comfortable,” his mother said.

Eric hasn’t owned winter boots in the last five years and recently put his feet in a pair of size 22 Nikes that family friend Kara Pattison found at a factory outlet a year ago for $29.

“My daughter and I started looking everywhere we went for big shoes for Eric,” said Pattison, whose 14-year-old son is a good friend of Eric.

Pattison — along with Eric Jr.’s extended family — called countless shoe companies to inquire about larger sizes, but they were unlucky.

“A lot of companies just said ‘no’ to me,” Kilburn said, adding that his anxiety had increased recently, when Eric Jr.’s size 22 shoes became painfully tight.

His son was also worried.

“I started to really freak out when my 22-year-old got really small on my feet causing blisters and such,” said Eric Jr., who has had six foot procedures for ingrown toenails, and gotten permanently remove two nails.

Eric Jr.’s height is limited in other ways as well. Finding clothes that fit him can be a challenge, he doesn’t fit in toy cars, and he can’t do some amusement park rides because his height is over the limit.

“It’s difficult in many ways that you don’t even necessarily consider,” Kilburn said. “He handles it very well.”

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In a desperate effort to find shoes for her son, Kilburn – who is a professional glass engraver, while her husband works in a management position at Detroit Diesel – discovered what she thought was the only option available: shoes custom-made by an orthopedic specialist, priced at $1,500 a pair.

As she and her husband decided they had no choice but to pay the price, she said: ‘As a mother, I also think, how is he going to navigate adulthood when he does not have what he needs at his disposal? him?”

Considering Eric Jr. continues to grow and will need many more shoes over his lifetime, at $1,500 a pair the financial toll would be overwhelming.

Pattison offered to start a GoFundMe page to raise money to buy a few pairs of shoes. At first, Kilburn was hesitant to ask for help.

“Beckie is a person who doesn’t want to make her problems someone else’s problems,” Pattison said, adding that she repeatedly encouraged her friend to allow her to host the fundraiser, until Kilburn finally agreed last week.

In the seven days since the fundraiser began, people have donated nearly $20,000.

The Kilburn family are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, especially from complete strangers across the country.

“I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for the power of media and people sharing, and it’s just wonderful,” Kilburn said, explaining that she’s also received messages from major shoe companies, including Under Armour. and Puma, with offers to be made. Eric Jr. his own custom shoes.

“Every time we see a story like this, we try to take action,” said Max Staiger, global head of basketball at Puma, which makes custom shoes for professional athletes with particularly large feet. . “It’s easy for us to help, and we’re happy to do so.”

Although Eric Jr.’s shoe size is not commercially available, Puma has the expertise and manufacturing capabilities to create oversized sneakers.

A team from Puma will visit Eric Jr. during the first week of April to perform a full foot analysis and take specific measurements to determine his exact shoe size. Then, the company will make several pairs of custom-made shoes for him.

“It’s not going to be size 23 or size 22, it’s going to be size Eric,” Staiger explained. “We want to help and make sure the family is not burdened with anything. We’ll just make sure they have the right shoes and nothing else to worry about.

Other companies, including CAT Footwear, have also offered to make custom Eric Jr. shoes. Additionally, he receives a pair of dress shoes for school dances from an Italian shoe company called Mauri Shoes – although the cost is yet to be confirmed, as the company is waiting to make a mold of his feet.

Money from GoFundMe will go towards these shoes, as well as those of an orthopaedist, which Kilburn is still considering buying, so his son has options to choose from – a luxury he hasn’t had since. many years.

“My son is ready not just for now, but for his future,” she said, explaining that the money that was raised will be used for her son to buy shoes as he continues to grow in the mountains. years to come.

“I’m going to have shoes that fit me well,” said Eric Jr., who can’t wait to get proper shoes to play in. his favorite sports, including basketball, football and track and field. “Just having shoes that fit me is nothing short of a godsend.”

“It eased my fears for his future,” Kilburn said. “I’m so happy he’s confident from head to toe.”

She decided to pay it forward by creating a Facebook group called Big Shoe Network, so other families who are also struggling to find shoes can come together and help each other.

“I can’t even tell you the incredible amount of support we got,” Kilburn said. “It just filled my heart and made me want to help other parents in a similar boat.”

Within days, nearly 1,000 members had joined the group.

“It’s something I’ve felt really alone in for so many years,” Kilburn said, adding that 2BigFeet, the company she buys Eric Jr.’s socks from (he can’t fit in his shoe selection) was offering a discount code to group members. “It’s this whole community that I never knew existed, and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and blessings.”

“I don’t want it to end there either,” she continued, explaining that she plans to start a group to support people with big feet and organize fundraising events and fundraisers. shoe collections. “It becomes more than just about us.”

“My despair was replaced with hope,” Kilburn said. “Now I want to give that feeling to others.”


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