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Reebok to craft custom-built shoes for nation

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Hum    6,930

America?s tallest man has America?s biggest sore feet, but Igor Vovkovinskiy?s toe woes may soon be at an end ? Reebok is stepping up to shoe him, with custom-built Size 26 sneaks that make Shaquille O?Neal?s famous 22s look like ballet slippers.

?I haven?t been able to go for a normal walk for six years now,? said Vovkovinskiy, 29, a 7-foot-8.3-incher from Minnesota.

Vovkovinskiy?s big shoe-shopping problem ? an inability to find proper-fitting boots ? has left the Ukraine native plagued by foot problems that required 16 surgeries.

But Canton-based Reebok heard about his plight and reached out to Vovkovinskiy, who was raising money through a social media campaign. Yesterday, the athletic footwear firm started the process of custom - crafting what the shoe wizards say will have to be Size 26 kicks. Reebok will foot the entire bill, estimated at $12,000 to $20,000.

Reebok flew him in for a series of foot measurements, Biofoam imprints, 3-D scans and pressure tests.

?The most expensive pair to make is the first one, because we have to do trial and error to get the right shape, the right fit and the right feel,? said Ambrose Hayes, Reebok?s head of mens sports development. ?This is a very technical process. Igor has had very specific medical issues.?

Reebok flew in pressure-sensing gear from Germany and had Vovkovinskiy videochatting with biomechanics expert Tom McPoil of Regis University.

Brockton-based Jones & Vining will make a last ? a plastic foot form ? around which Vovkovinskiy?s sneakers will be shaped. For Bob Albert, who?s toiled in the custom last business for 29 years, they will be the largest he?s ever made.

?It?s going to be a challenge,? he said.


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