For as long as Igor Vovkovinskiy can remember, he's had one pair of shoes.

Vovkovinskiy, the tallest man in America at 7 feet, 8 1/3 inches tall, has struggled with shoes that rarely fit his size 24, 10E feet. But on Thursday, he received three custom-made pairs from Reebok, the Canton, Mass.-based athletic shoe company, and tried them on at the Rochester Athletic Club.

"Wow!" he said, smiling and trying to wiggle his toes in the black pair with "Igor" on the front, back and soles. "It feels so good, like I'm walking on pillows or mattresses."

After meeting with Justin Kittredge, of performance basketball shoes with Reebok, who carried the shoes in three duffel bags from Massachusetts, Vovkovinskiy knew who he'd show first.

"My mom," he said.

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"This is the first time in my life that I have a choice in shoes," Vovkovinskiy said. "They look like they come right off the shelf, only better."

Life changing

Vovkovinskiy says the shoes are life-changers.

"I'm going to be able to go to the store for groceries or the hardware store if I need to fix something at my mom's house," he said.

Kittredge said a replacement pair will only take about six weeks to make, much of the time would be for getting the materials and colors requested.

"I might have to get a polka dot pair," Vovkovinskiy said. "Any special days for my mom, I'd wear those, she loves polka dots."

Kittredge laughed.

"You call, we'll make them," he said.

Maybe his favorite pair will be the Minnesota Timberwolves color pair. Vovkovinskiy said he might save those to wear to a T-Wolves game.

The shoes carry his name, as well as a Ukrainian national symbol, the Tryzub Cross. Kittredge gave Vovkovinskiy a number of size 8XL Reebok T-shirts with the design as well.

Vovkovinskiy came to Rochester in 1989 to have Mayo Clinic treat a tumor on his pituitary gland that was accelerating his growth. He's been in Rochester for 23 of his 30 years. He's continued treatments ever since. Surgeries on his feet have left them misshapen, and he experiences pain regularly, he said.

Developing the shoes

The shoes were in the works for nearly five months after Kittredge met with Vovkovinskiy in Massachusetts. The two men first met via social media early this year after Vovkovinskiy had started a website, Facebook page and Twitter account to ask for donations in order to pay for custom shoes. When Reebok heard about the situation, they offered to create the shoes for Vovkovinskiy free of charge, Reebok officials said.

In May, Vovkovinskiy traveled to Reebok headquarters to go through a series of tests, measurements and evaluations so Reebok could create custom shoes for him. Along with the visit, he talked with a design team, because as Reebok officials said, "he wanted his shoes to look cool as well." The visit included a fitness meeting with Reebok trainers to learn about how Reebok could help Vovkovinskiy bring fitness back into his life, Reebok officials said.

Over time, the pain has slowed Vovkovinskiy, and he's gained weight, pushing 430 pounds. He'd like to be back down to 350 pounds, and the new shoes give him hope he can be his old active self.

"For so long it hurt to have shoes on," he said. "Every day I was in pain. I want to be active again and walk. I can barely walk two blocks now. Before, I could walk two miles."