Reporting Holly Wagner
ROCHESTER, Minn. (WCCO) — The tallest man in America happens to live in Rochester, Minn. Igor Vovkivinskiy is a towering 7 feet, 8 inches tall.
“When we came to the United States from the Ukraine, I was almost 7 years old. At that time I had already surpassed my mom in height. I was already 6 feet tall.”
A tumor in his pituitary gland is to blame for his height. Now 29 years old, his dramatic size is record-breaking, and when it comes to footwear, he’s off the charts.
“Nobody makes my shoe size, probably for six or seven years, I don’t even know what my shoe size is.”
Vovkivinskiy says he’s down to a lone pair of shoes with little to no support left and no traction.
For a guy who’s had 15 foot surgeries in the last three years, it’s put him in a challenging situation.
“Not having shoes has basically handicapped me, partially,” he said. “It’s been pretty depressing at times.”
The residual pain from those surgeries makes it difficult for him to stay on his feet at times, so he moves around the house in a motorized wheelchair.
He’s taking college courses online instead of on campus. And he doesn’t spend time with friends like he used to.
“I try to avoid thinking about what I could be missing with shoes,” he said.
Vovkivinskiy says a pair of shoes with proper support would change his life, would help him lose weight he gained during bed rest and gain back the muscle he lost.
But getting a new pair of shoes will be a feat.
Seven years ago when a German cobbler made him three custom pairs of shoes he wore a size 26, but his series of surgeries have physically changed the shape of his feet.
“Both feet are different.”
Vovkivinskiy says he’s contacted several shoe companies and only heard back from Reebok. He says he was told it would cost $15,000 to have shoes made for him, money not in the budget for this college student.
With the encouragement of his friends, he started a web page and started collecting donations.
“I am amazed and pleasantly surprised, shocked at how generous people have been to me,” he said.
Two weeks in, $2,700 later, and bolstered by a lot of supportive messages, Vovkivinskiy feels he’s one step closer to a better fit and a better life.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do first when I get that pair of shoes,” he said. “I have so many things I want to do, just a simple walk.”
WCCO contacted several shoe companies about Vovkivinskiy’s story. We did hear back from Reebok. A company spokesperson says they are planning to help him, and will have more details in about a week.
Click here to visit Vovkivinskiy’s website.