High school freshman with size 23 feet getting custom shoes from PUMA, Under Armour
DETROIT – Eric Kilburn Jr. is getting a shoe deal and he’s not even a pro athlete.
He's a 14-year-old kid with feet that hurt from wearing size 22 shoes that are too small. Now, after media reports of his mother's desperate search to find him shoes that fit went viral, he will be getting proper footwear.
“It’s crazy,” Eric Jr., a 6'10 high school freshman and JV football player, said. “I mean, I am going to be in comfortable fitting cleats and shoes and I am astounded at the doors this has opened for me. I am excited to see where this goes. Thank you.”
Hometown Life, part of the USA TODAY Network, first reported the Kilburns' struggle in a story on March 16. Other media outlets have since written about the family's plight.
His mother, Rebecca, can’t stop crying after hunting for the past year to find shoes to fit her son.
“It’s been overwhelming,” she said. “I have been this puddle of emotions, all of them good… It’s the coolest thing to be able to say we did it! He has shoes! I am not usually a crier, but I have been in a constant state of happy tears…We are so grateful.”
The outpouring of support has been non-stop since last Thursday, with social media shares, phone calls and emails from as far as Asia and South America.
Among the companies offering to help the Kilburns are Under Armour and PUMA, both of which have already scheduled representatives to come to Michigan to begin fitting Eric for shoes. Both will arrive within the next two weeks.
Under Armour Senior Director of Footwear Development Robb Cropp has scheduled a visit and will scan the biggest pair of feet the company has ever made shoes for.
"We are in rareified space, there are not that many people in the world in these sizes," Cropp said. "We had to help. We know the importance of sports to kids and their development."
Max Staiger, head of basketball operations for PUMA, said extreme sizes like this come with basketball players and although he had only seen perhaps two or three players in a size 23, the company can build custom shoes for Eric after measuring his feet.
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“There is no mold size for this, because it’s such a rarity from a mass production perspective,” Staiger said. “What we will make looks and feels like a normal shoe, with just a little tweak. ... We’ve done this before with no issue at all. $1,500 for any pair of shoes is almost insanity, I don’t care what size it is.”
That is the price the Kilburn family had been facing to have one pair of shoes custom made for Eric through an orthopedic specialist. The cost is not covered by medical insurance despite Eric suffering numerous foot issues and injuries from wearing shoes that are too small or the wrong kind in which to play sports.
The estimated time for the manufacturers to custom make Eric Kilburn shoes will be between 4-8 weeks. Cleats may take a little longer, Cropp said, but will be in time before football practice starts.
In addition to basic sneakers, basketball shoes and football cleats, the Kilburn family will continue to work with Mauri, an Italian company that makes dress shoes in larger sizes so Eric will be able to have appropriate footwear for school dances, as well as weddings and his graduation in a few years.
The Kilburns are overwhelmed with the support and are looking to pay it forward. Rebecca has formed a “Big Shoe Network” group on Facebook after many parents have told her they are having the same issue finding shoes, starting around size 15.
She realizes that while Eric’s shoe size may be unique, the sense of desperation by parents to find what their children need is the same.
“My heart feels like an anvil has been lifted off it,” Rebecca said. “I would like to give that same feeling to another parent.”
Reporter Susan Bromley wears a women's size 12 running shoe. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for stories large and small. Follow her on Twitter @SusanBromley10.
This article originally appeared on Hometownlife.com: Eric Kilburn Jr., with size 23 shoes, sees PUMA, Under Armour step up