When Jor’el Bolden was born, his feet were so big that his mother couldn’t find baby shoes to fit him.
He wore only socks on his feet during the first few months of his life, said his mom, Tamika Neal.
Now 16, he wears a size 23 wide shoe and has one lone pair of shoes that his family found on eBay. The shoes are pretty tight now, making it hard for him to get out and have fun.
Finding shoes to fit the 6-foot-5, 380-pound teenager is quite the task, his mom told USA TODAY Thursday night. His family got lucky when they found the pair he has now.
“We’re doing the 22s but they’re small,” said Neal, who lives in Independence, Missouri, about 10 miles east of Kansas City. “(The shoes are) tight on his feet so we need a bigger size.”
Shaq called! Michigan teen with size 23 feet surprised by NBA legend after sharing shoe story
The teenager would love to be able to wear Jordans, Air Force Ones and other kinds of Nikes but it’s just not doable due to his size, his mom said.
The teen said his struggle to find shoes has been “torture.”
Recently he wanted to see a movie with his cousin and couldn’t because his shoes would’ve hurt his feet too much, he said.
“I have to wear the shoes that hurt my feet,” he told USA TODAY Thursday night. “Everytime I go out to walk and stuff it hurts my feet.”
Teen’s struggle to find shoes started at birth
Bolden was born at 7 pounds, 14 ounces and measured 21 inches long, his mom recalled. He was born with pretty big feet anyway, his mother said.
“We could not find a baby pair of shoes that would fit him because his little foot was so fat,” his mom said.
As he got older, it was a little easier to find shoes for him because his cousin wore the same size, his mom said.
“He would hand down his shoes to him and they would be in good condition,” she said, adding that her nephew also worked at a shoe store and would buy him shoes too.
“Probably the first six years of his life, I didn’t have to worry about it because my niece and nephew took care of that,” Neal said.
It wasn’t until her son was about 11 years old that finding shoes became an issue again. As a preteen, he wore a size 10 or 11 in men’s.
What’s next for Jor’el?
Neal said she is a single mom and does her best to provide for her children. Not being able to meet her son’s basic needs and find shoes bothers her.
She started a GoFundMe to raise money to get him more shoes, she said. As of Friday morning, the family has raised nearly $10,000.
“I really am grateful and thankful for those that have really shown up for us and shown out,” she said. “It most definitely has been a blessing during this time to see people pull together and really show up for us.”
Her son likes to draw video game and cartoon characters, he told USA TODAY. After talking to a local business owner named Titus Ozell Golden, he may take up wrestling, boxing and more.
Golden is also based in Missouri and runs Ozell Brand, making shoes and cleats. Golden reached out to the family and plans to get shoes made for the teenager.
“I’ve just got to get his feet measured,” the teen’s mom said.
From there, they’ll get the teen shoes that fit and hopefully, he’ll have more freedom.
Not the first size 23 teen struggling to find shoes
Bolden’s quest for comfortable footwear harkens back to a Michigan teen who had a similar struggle, and ultimately got help from Shaquille O’Neal to get shoes that fit.
Eric Kilburn Jr., who at 14 years old had size 23 feet, saw his football season ruined by a sprained ankle. His mother, Rebecca Kilburn, would begin a search for comfortable shoes.
The family’s search got the attention of a million of readers, the 7-foot-1 O’Neal and shoe companies like Under Armour and Puma.
A million readers, two shoemakers, Shaq: How a teen finally got shoes for size 23 feet
Finally, after a fairly lengthy process, Under Armour donated four pairs of custom-made cleats and two pairs of SlipSpeed training shoes to Goodrich High School, which in turn gave them to Eric. (The donation followed state athletic guidelines and ensured he can maintain amateur athlete status.)
“I got my cleats before conditioning practice and it was an immediate difference,” Eric said at the time to Hometown Life, part of the USA TODAY Network.
“It’s insane how much more traction I got. It’s mind-boggling.”
Contributing: Susan Bromley, Hometownlife.com
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Teenager with size 23 shoe struggles to find footwear that fits