CANTON, Mass. (AP) — 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.
“Every time I’ve had surgery and the wound began to heal up, wearing these same shoes, or the previous shoes that I had, would just open the wound right back up,” Vovkovinskiy said as technicians prepared equipment at a basketball arena for the shoe-fitting.
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 that from physicians “stating that ‘it’d be a lot cheaper to make shoes that’d fit his body than to keep having surgeries.’”
Vovkovinskiy says his only shoes have no traction, making it “suicidal” to leave his home, particularly in wet or snow conditions.
“I haven’t been able to go for a joyful walk for six years now — that’s something that I’ve missed and I know my dog has missed,” he said. “I look forward to just going for a walk with my dog, just walking around the neighborhood.”
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.
It will take the company up to six weeks to create prototypes for Vovkovinskiy to try out. Then, they’ll fine-tune them to produce proper-fitting shoes.
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.
Vovkovinskiy said his life changed when the series of surgeries started. That forced him to spend about three years on bed rest, during which time his muscles weakened and he gained weight.
“Living the last six years has been a nightmare basically,” he said.
Shoes that fit will get him outside and make a huge difference, he said.
“Basically, I’m a prisoner of my own house, even though I am medically cleared to walk,” Vovkovinskiy said. “Where am I going to go with shoes that are painful?”
The 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.”
He is already looking forward to window shopping, going to the mall and even venture out to do things that friends talk about on social Websites.
Those simple wishes are rather ambitious for Vovkovinskiy who says he hasn’t been able to fit in a normal car for about 10 years and “traveling by airplane is just terrible.”
“I’ve always had difficulties but, yeah, I try to make my life as normal as possible,” he said. “I try to do everything that everybody else does.”
Rodrique Ngowi can be reached at www.twitter.com/ngowi
More Related Stories
- Illinois' fracking and coal rush is a national crisis
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Kaitlyn Hunt refuses plea offer, will go to court over high school relationship
- DHS admits "impossible" to control 3D-printed guns
- Journalists file suit against Manning trial secrecy
- Russia: Syrian regime ready to talk peace
- Report: Nearly a quarter of all Americans struggle to afford food
- Ted Cruz against the world
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- 2 men arrested for endangering commercial aircraft
- Oversized load blamed for bridge collapse
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Iran hackers aiming at U.S. energy firms
- Lawyers release data in attempt to discredit Trayvon Martin
- Anonymous rallies behind Kaitlyn Hunt
- Bridge collapse: Part of "aging infrastructure"
- Mistrial in penalty phase of Arias case
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Interstate 5 bridge collapses north of Seattle
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11