Perhaps you've heard of the never-ending search for Bigfoot, the elusive, hairy humanoid that some people swear they've seen tramping through the brush in the northwest United States.

Well this just in!: Bigfoot is everywhere across the country.  There's proof of it in those floor-level mirrors at the shoe store.

We've often told you that Americans are getting fatter, thanks to fast-food diets, larger food portions and the ever-increasing amounts of sedentary time people spend in front of their TVs and computers, at the expense of exercise. And along with a frightening rise in obesity-related diseases like diabetes, one of the consequences is bigger and bigger feet.
A century ago, the average American man wore a size 6.5 shoe.  The average American woman, a 4.5.  Today's averages are four sizes larger!  Our feet are one full size larger than they were just 15 years ago.

Podiatrists point out that our heavier weight is literally collapsing our arches and flattening our feet.

According to industry sources, some of the most successful footwear companies anticipated the bulging of Americans' feet and brought out successful new lines of products.  But big shoes are not exactly high fashion.  Many style-conscious women, especially, insist upon squeezing into shoes that are far too small.  That invites a whole new set of foot problems.  

"Call it vanity; call it pride; call it painful," the Sacramento Bee newspaper wrote.  

Most large-size shoes still have an industrial look and feel.  As Jennifer Howard wrote in the online magazine Slate, "A lot of retailers apparently cling to the idea that the big-shoe buyer is either a fashion-blind biddy with corns or a hard-luck case who couldn't afford expensive shoes."

To which a Slate reader replied, "I'm perfectly happy to shower my money on the few retailers who care to stock my size in styles I would actually want to wear."

Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.