How Does America’s Tallest Man Buy Shoes?

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.


One Comment

  1. pink says:

    I agree. It’s also called MN NICE, Redwing shoes are FANTASTIC

    1. Joe says:

      Sounds like a win win

    2. Jim Dea says:

      That reporter next to Igor looks like my Beagle and my Great Dane. When they play, my Great Dane puts the Beagle’s head in her mouth completely! IIt’s like her head disappears.

  2. Sue says:

    The Vikings could use this guy.

    1. Nammers says:

      And how do you know HE paid $75 for the shirt. It could have been donated to him or he could have purchased it at a gargage sale or at a second hand store.

    2. Cj says:

      you are truly an idiot….can you afford a $15,000 pair of shoe. And you contradicted yourself….if you are trying to say he is spending too much on a shirt, dont say he can get the shirt 60 bucks cheaper someplace else, which he might have done and would shoot your “he can afford a pair of shoes” theory down the tubes.

    3. nathan says:

      I’ve bought Ralph Lauren shirts for $3 at Goodwill.

    4. somepeopleskids says:

      Uh how the hell do you know he didn’t buy it at Kohls, genius? You’re obviously the ‘Dope” Think before you talk next time

  3. Reggie Lynch says:

    Red Wing Shoe has made Igor some foot-ware already… The “big” problem in his case, is that the shape of his foot has changed. The “foot form” whuch is called a last, wouldn’t fit him anymore. Generating a new last is the big stumbling block here. Even if they ordered a new set of lasts in his foot form, they might be a one-time use item, as his foot shape may change again….Last creation is a spendy proposition !! ….???Maybe make a wax “one-time last ???

    1. Truth is tough says:

      I get what you are saying — would it not be for now more cost effective to have an old fashioned cobbler create a couple of pairs ?
      I have a friend in Montreal who has a foot that was badly mangled in a mine accident. Reconstructed several times but still “odd”. He is in same shoe (pun folks – 😉 ) and has had to have them done there. Think he said $1200 or so – not an ortho shoe but comfortable for him and affordable. His foot changes in time with calcium and other things that are involved.
      What a time for RedWing or another company to say he’s what we can do and then let someone else work out the rest. A Win-Win and Win for the company/person to play 3rd party. Think youtube or whatever.
      Let’s go folks – let’s figure this out and get that 3rd party somehow.
      We can build a stadium for the Vikes but cannot help out a guy like this …. please don’t say that’s the fact or I am humiliated to death

  4. Truth is tough says:

    Holly’s a cute lil’ toy doll and lucky this isn’t the Hunger Games eh lol

  5. Sheila says:

    Actually there is a place called White or White’s Boots. You draw your foot and take measurements around and up and they will make boots/shoes to fit your feet and they have a lifetime warrenty (will rebuild them). I believe they are out west)

    1. Steve in Texas says:

      YUP…… Whites is the way to go….
      I had a pair for almost 8 years, the only reason I stopped wearing them was that my house burned to the ground.

      1. 8644 says:

        Sorry to hear….

  6. Martha says:

    His shoes are special because he doesn´t have a standard size. Each foot measures different, because he went through 16+ surgeries. It is very difficult for him to travel and he will need 2 seats for airplane. The only way he can have his shoes made is with a 3D foot scanner and this equipment is real expensive to use.

  7. Ed Olson says:

    He seems like such a nice guy. Why do we want to buy him shoes from China,
    when Red Wing Shoe Company is just down the road? He lives in Minnesota, lets get him some Minnesota made shoes!

    1. dave says:

      minnesota assembled shoes. most redwings are manufactured in china and assembled in redwing plant accross the country. very few of the boots and shoes red wing sells are 100% made in america anymore. sad to say.

  8. cheryl hastings says:

    I did some looking online last night and i found
    they are affordable and i emailed her she emailed me back.
    Thanks for your interest in my custom made shoes and boots. Making shoes for that fellow would be the same as making shoes for anyone else—I would just use more materials. I make shoes based on foot, ankle and leg measurements rather than size. I’ve made very large shoes before and added a 15% materials fee to the price. Thanks for passing on my information to interested parties. Warmly, Sara McIntosh, Master Cobbler.


    Custom Made Footwear

    studio by appointment:

    4723 N Winchester

    Chicago, Il 60640

    773.334.2248 [o]

    312.608.6788 [c]

  9. J D FROM ALA says:

    Wow, what a wonderful outpouring of offers for help.

  10. Joe Blough says:

    They should get Goodyear or Firestone to make this guy a pair of shoes. It’s gonna take more than just an ordinary shoe construction using more material to make something durable for him.

  11. Dan says:

    I have an idea. The University of Wisconsin – Stout is located only about 1 hour from Rochester. They are a polytech school that has the tools and machinery needed to design and create products made of foam, plastic, rubber, etc. Combine this with the schools fashion design program and you have all the components and capabilities needed to make a shoe. This would be a great collaborative senior project or capstone type project and the students could churn out multiple pairs of shoes for this man to own. Just a thought, but I think that if you got ahold of the right person at the University that this would idea would be a shoe in😉

  12. teaisstronger says:

    The Chinese probably have his size in stock. Give the Chinese embassy a call.

    1. 8644 says:

      Sad, but true….

  13. IvanK says:

    If I owned a shoe company, I would jump at the opportunity to make this fellow a closet full of shoes. Geez, the publicity alone would be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Just think the attention you would get if you placed a pair size 26-28 pair of shoes on display in your stores!

  14. angelcarver says:

    here we have it folks! living proof big foot exists and stuff

  15. Kat says:

    In every crowd, there’s always a stupid moron who can’t simply stick to the topic, but who has to turn it political – in either direction. Grow up.

  16. Strange says:

    He has money for a motorized wheelchair, but not shoes? Seems a bit odd.

    1. Praiseun2Jesus says:

      THe motorized wheelchair was probably covered by insurance.

    2. Sam says:

      The problem is that no one makes shoes his size. Now days, motorized wheelchairs are virtually free through insurance or special medicair programs. For whatever reason, insurance may not cover a new pair of shoes for him.

  17. Andrew P. says:

    Seriously Ryan, shut up. This story does not need to be politicized. People like you bug me because I’m a conservative GOP’er, and you make us all look like f***ing idiots.

    Besides, your “evidence” regarding Obamacare is based on a YouTube video.. Great, thanks. I don’t agree with it either, but I use the language of the law as my evidence – you use YouTube. (Nobody ever lies or has an agenda on the internet, right?!?)

    Fool. Poor Igor just needs some shoes, and you turn this into something political. Additionally, you’re kind of a d**k. Either A) you have $15k lying around, and are unwilling to give it out unless the recipient accomplishes something that is impossible for one man to accomplish, or B) you don’t even have $15k available, and therefore you are a false-promise making liar. Which is it, amigo?

  18. Joe Moe says:

    This looks like a semi-scam. He has a brain and a pair of hands. He ought to be able to figure out how to build his own shoes and shoes for all the world’s other acromegalics at $2000 a pair.

  19. Richard_Iowa says:

    How about this? Could someone make a cast of his feet. Then find an engineering firm, or university, that has a 3-D printer and make an exact copy of his feet, and use that to make his shoes. Seems like it should work.

  20. Eddie says:

    Why doesn’t he learn how to make his own shoes? That’s what I would do.

  21. Stephen says:

    He should setup a page on then we can all help him out!

  22. steve5150 says:

    This guy is tailor made for a shoe commercial. I am shocked that some company hasn,t already jumped on the idea.

  23. Jroy says:

    This is what happens to comment sections when stories get linked by drudgereport

    1. conserveobserve says:

      We said Mitch. Miss no opportunity to demonstrate the logical conclusion of socialist policies. You’re an American to admire.

      1. conserveobserve says:

        Really sloppy of me……”Well said Mitch”

    2. Beth says:

      Igor raises more than $17,000 when stories get linked to by Drudge.

  24. transgenic452 says:

    Only in the US would a custom pair of walking shoes cost $15,000.

    I would also wager boot makers would be far more capable of constructing an appropriate piece of footwear. There are lots of them in multiple states and many do quality custom work at reasonable prices.

  25. realfan says:

    He is one in 300 Million. he has a problem which he must solve, Thes BS that the system will adapt to the individual problem is disgusting. Sorry fellow, hope you can find someting to use as shoes.

  26. lwayne says:

    A pair of custom boots can be made for about 1K in Texas at many places. I bet one of those Mexican craftsmen could make them for a lot less than 15K and could make them to fit him.

  27. beazr says:

    The shoe companies can write off this as charity. Shame on Reebok and Nike for not jumping in. They certainly don’t pay 15 grand to the 10 yr old making the shoes. Not even in a year.

    1. jukemanin says:

      They also have to pay someone to beat the kids to keep them working, You need to include all the costs, like bandages and Ointment.

  28. jukemanin says:

    15K for a pair of shoes, something is not right, I smell a scam, maybe a get rich scheme; I doubt Dorothy’s ruby slippers cost that much.

    1. dr says:

      , you’d better have some deep purse strings to match these mint condition ruby red slippers, the first pair of which has become available for sale to the public. According to a statement, Profiles in History already place the pre-sale estimate between $2 million to $3 million. (However, will — or could — it surpass Marilyn Monroe’s equally iconic white dress, which sold for $5.6 million back in June?)

  29. Jesus says:

    Though shalt not bear false witness. Afraid to post your name in fear of judgement?

    1. Martha says:

      Yeah Jesus is right! why don´t you give your name IJ? You don´t know Igor, I do ! and he is a special person he has helped many people, he has helped me! If you don´t know him pleasse don´t make your ignorant comments. Here just can comment the people that has donate and wants to help him because he deserves it. And if he want to use his money for vacations it fine for me !

  30. Max17 says:

    Surely a podiatrist out there knows SOMEONE that makes custom shoes. And I don’t understand why he can’t have inserts made to make most any custom shoe work for him. OK, that may be wishful thinking. I have feet problems and will be praying for this young man.

  31. jamasol says:

    Really the begging has gotten to be a little much already. Shoes didn’t used to exist but people managed to walk anyway. The idea that he can’t lose weight because he doesn’t have the right shoes is asinine. if shoes are a medical necessity his insurance show cover it.

    1. somepeopleskids says:

      Good thing you know how insurance companies work. Too bad 80% of the time they don’t pay for medically necessary surgeries, you really think they’re gonna pay for his shoes? Lol get real

  32. Gayle says:

    Shouldn’t people give to the shoe company in his name and not the guy in case it’s a rip off?

  33. Greg says:

    As someone in the orthotic proffession I have casted dozens of people for custom shoes over the years. It’s not rocket science. There are quite a few companies out there that just make custom shoes. Companies right here in America. Reebok or Nike are BIG companies that are in the business of making thousands of shoes, not one pair. A good pair of custom shoes shouldn’t cost more 800 – 1000 bucks.

  34. Richard Thornton says:

    I wonder if he will have health care under republican rule?

  35. Smince says:

    The Mythbusters just proved in their latest episode that, among many other things, you can make a fairly decent pair of shoes out of duct tape. Uber cheap and infinitely repairable.

  36. Pakkratt says:

    Slip a mini cooper on each foot!

  37. vargas says:

    Just say that the shoes are for birth control and I’m sure Obamacare will cover it!

    1. jukemanin says:

      True That.

  38. Russ says:

    Too bad he’s white, or else Oprah or Obama would have maybe done something for him. No good helping white folks though…

  39. Charles says:

    I’m all for people pitching in to help…but honestly, I’m really disappointed in the shoe companies. Any one of them should be paying him to be part of an advertising campaign…and they should be giving him shoes for free. It would be nothing for their balance sheet…but definitely a great story!

  40. KJ says:

    Why was this guy let in the country? Only healthy should be allowed. How many dozens of surgeries have the taxpayers covered?

  41. Wm says:

    I really have doubts that any pair of shoes could cost $15k to make. Reebok is gouging here.

  42. alex says:

    Yup one more for the medicade rolls.

  43. Brian says:

    I cannot believe these shoe companies could not help this guy out, especially companies like Rebook, Nike, etc… They have no problems spending well over 16K to pro athletes, but cannot help this guy out?! Corporate Greed at it’s worse.

    1. Martha says:

      I agree with you Brian, I like your comment.

  44. Obama says:

    This guy is a scam artist and has been doing it for many years. He was caught ripping of members of several forums at the same time. I am a member of one of those forums and remember the incident well. When he was approached about how he was asking for money at other sites since he had already received donations for more than enough to buy shoes he got angry and verbally insulted the people that had just donated thousands of dollars to him.

    This site is aiding a scam artist. Makes you wonder if they do any vetting of the stories they run as a simple internet search for his name should have shown he is a scammer.

  45. JAY says:


  46. Jerry says:

    I’ll make you a pair for only $14,500 give me a call.

  47. justin says:

    too bad he’s not a black NBA sports star thug.

    Companies would be giving him thousands of dollars worth of stuff.

  48. mile says:

    would not even know where to find a canvas sewing needle now a days,,..guess no homemade convertable top repairs tents or>>>>???????/shoes…….???????????…Nike rip offs….. very nice garage apartment Igor..!

  49. mile says:

    so far weve got canvas sewing needles, and recycled tire, garage work,..2.45 …. style,..were working on it…!

  50. mile says:

    and forgot ..a little advise…stay away from the doctors Igor..!

  51. Kimberly says:

    Red Wing Shoes has helped out Igor in the past and posted today about their history with him and their willingness to help again:

  52. Brian says:

    Good luck Igor and good job Red Wing Shoes (again)!!!!!

  53. Timothy McKay says:

    I am a shoemaker specializing in hand-made custom-fit leather shoes, made from all US made materials.

  54. Akkuschrauber Makita says:

    Generally I don’t learn post on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to take a look at and do so! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thanks, very great post.

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