CANTON, Mass. – Finding shoes for the nation’s tallest man takes more than a trip to the mall; more like a trip across the country.
Igor Vovkovinskiy flew to Massachusetts on Thursday from Minnesota so shoe engineers at Reebok could try to custom build shoes strong enough to support has massive frame.
He’s 7 feet, 8 and one-third inches tall. Technicians estimate his shoe size at somewhere between a 22 and 25 – sizes impossible to find at the mall.
Vovkovinskiy’s 16 foot surgeries in six years have left him a virtual shut-in. All he wants, he said, is shoes that fit so he can get outside, walk his dog, and enjoy his life.
The damage to his huge feet came from wearing shoes that don’t fit, said Vovkovinskiy, of Rochester, Minn.
Medical insurers, Vovkovinskiy said, have ignored his pleas for help in paying for proper-fitting shoes and did not bother to respond to numerous letters from physicians “stating that ‘it’d be a lot cheaper to make shoes that’d fit his body than to keep having surgeries.’ ”
Vovkovinskiy said his only shoes have no traction, making it “suicidal” to leave his home, particularly in wet or snow conditions.
Vovkovinskiy was at Reebok headquarters in Canton on Thursday for a complex shoe-fitting that involved, among other things, custom pressure-mounting equipment, imprints in bio-foam, a powerful three-dimension scanner to map the shape of his feet, calipers to take precise measurements of length, tape measures and a handful of technicians.
Reebok says it’s building the shoes at a cost of $12,000 to $20,000. It has helped Vovkovinskiy before and hopes to again, the company said.
The size of Vovkovinskiy’s shoes depends on measurements such as the length, width and distance from his soles to the top of his feet. Those measurements are particularly tricky with Vovkovinskiy because he has unusually shaped toes and feet because of his numerous surgeries.
Vovkovinskiy, 29, is originally from Ukraine, but at age 7 moved with his mother to Minnesota for treatment of his condition, known as pituitary gigantism. He was 6 feet tall at the time.
His plight forced Vovkovinskiy to launch an online campaign to raise $16,000 to pay for a custom-fit new pair of shoes. He said he expected to take more than a year to raise the money, but social-media sites and news reports fueled interest from donors and he was able to raise the money overnight.
Then Reebok called, offering to help him again for free. Vovkovinskiy says he plans to use the money he raised online to set up a shoe fund for life.
“That means everything from boots in the winter to sandals and then, once I start applying for jobs, dress shoes,” he said. “I’m so overwhelmed by people’s generosity. I’m so thankful.”