WEST TOWN — Tanya Herbert had never been able to fit into any women’s shoes, let alone ones that were stylish and comfortable.
Herbert is 6-foot-9 and has size 18 feet, and until recently she was forced to wear shoes designed for men that she ordered online.
“I was using men’s shoes and trying to manipulate them and modifying them and doing different things in order to try to have feminine shoes,” she said.
That all changed last year when Herbert, a Houston resident, began documenting her footwear challenges on TikTok. Within a few months, videos about her trying to fit into a whole range of shoes starting getting attention.
“I started a shoe-finding journey on TikTok, trying to find some shoes last year, in 2022. And then had a video that went viral. And a whole bunch of people started reaching out to me,” Herbert said.
Herbert posted more videos and has attracted a lot of media attention, including from Guinness World Records.
With Herbert’s right foot measuring just over 13 inches long and her left foot coming in a bit shorter, Guinness made it official in November: She has the largest feet of any woman in the world.
“It was awesome. It was amazing. It was cool. I thought it was something so unique. And I was so excited to get it,” Herbert said.
After Herbert started gaining popularity on TikTok, people reached out with ideas for how she could find stylish women’s shoes, she said.
One suggestion was Mohop, a Rockford- and Chicago-based company that makes custom shoes, jewelry, ceramics and other goods using algorithms and digital fabrication technology. All of the brand’s products use 100-percent vegan materials, such as a high-end nylon.
Started in 2005 by Annie Mohaupt, the company designs each individual component of its shoes, allowing it to custom build a vast range of sizes.
In 2021, Mohaupt and her partner, Justin Walker, opened a boutique called Mohop FabLab, 1659 W. Chicago Ave., to showcase their goods and host workshops.
The company has long tried to make more “inclusive” footwear, including shoes for trans women, Mohaupt said.
But Mohaupt had never made a shoe as big as size 18 before — until connecting with Herbert last year. For Mohaupt, it was an opportunity to help someone out while testing the methodology and processes she’s fine-tuned for years.
“Somebody tagged us [on TikTok] and we reached out to her. I was like, ‘I want to try this’ and see if all these algorithms and processes we had developed would scale up that big, to like, literally the biggest size,” Mohaupt said.
After getting measurements from Herbert, Mohaupt designed and made a wedge for her. When that was a success, the company took on a new challenge: a 4-inch high heel.
“She told us the length and width of her foot, so I tabulated that into the formula that we had created, and it worked,” Mohaupt said. “It really just felt like the ultimate proof of concept, because we’ve been working on this for so long, really like kind of undercover.”
Herbert received her new high heels late last month, and she plans to wear them out to church and other events. The extra 4 inches puts Herbert at 7-foot-1, making her — at least while wearing the heels — the world’s tallest woman.
“When I first put it on, I felt really tall. … It was fun. I was like, ‘Oh, this is so cool.’ They were very cute. And I just loved them,” she said.
The heels are just the beginning of a larger collaboration between Mohop and Herbert.
Mohaupt and Walker are designing and manufacturing a whole range of shoes for Herbert, calling her their “ultimate fit tester.” The company can now manufacture up to 128 unique sizes, Mohaupt said.
“We have lots of samples, and then we can dial it in from there. If [customers] have something really unique about their foot, like a large bunion or just some unusual shape to their foot, we can accommodate that too,” Mohaupt said.
Herbert said Mohop’s shoes have been an empowering force after a lifetime of having to settle for clunky, bland footwear.
“It’s amazing. I love to try to match my outfits to my shoes, and I just want to build up a shoe collection,” Herbert said. “Other women can go to shoe stores and find shoes … so it’s awesome to have that opportunity to have different shoes for different outfits like other women can do.”
Mohop’s West Town boutique is open 12-7 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays.
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