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Feet, shoes and happiness!

So for the last 10 years or so, I've been on a desperate search for shoes that would make my feet happy. I exercise a lot, have a pretty healthy and active life style and my feet were holding me back. When we go to Europe, we walk anywhere from 10-20 miles a day. I'm under 60 and on our last national park trip, I actually hiked the last 3 miles of a hike in my socks. I was carrying Chacos which I thought would make my feet happier, but didn't help, my daughter was carrying my hiking boots which had me close to tears. No pair of shoes would magically fix my feet which honestly when you look at them, don't look much different than anyone else's feet.

A friend convinced me to go back to a podiatrist or orthopedist, yet again. Dr did a CT and said my feet problems are a collection of a bunch of small issues that work together to make my life miserable and I was referred to place to get orthodics and ugly shoes. (in short, a high arch, wide, but "short" feet, 2nd toe a bit longer than big toe and a few other issues. Basically I was walking on about 25 % of my foot, if that) I delayed going for the orthodics because who wants ugly shoes? Finally, I took my work out shoes and a couple other pairs of shoes to the orthodics place (covered at 80% by my insurance) The person I worked with looked at my shoes and moved the metatarsal pad that I had purchased at a running store and already there is a huge difference, and I don't even have the orthodic yet. His recommendation is to wear my Birks at home, and my running shoes with the orthodic or the Birks where ever it makes sense, and then wear my other shoes/sandals within reason.

I don't mean to bore you all, but, honestly, I'm a changed person. There have been quite a few posts about searches for comfortable shoes. Tonight, I won't be taking Advil at bedtime. Please, travelers, if you have been searching for the magic shoe to make your feet happier, consider talking to a well respected orthopedist or podiatrist!

Posted by
4151 posts

Amen, jules! I started wearing orthotics decades ago after years of charging around on marble floors (lobbyist, not tourist) in Clark's Wallabies (R.I.P.), which were comfortable, ugly, and eventually flattened my arches. I'm on my third set of orthotics now, I wear them all the time except for Birkenstocks at home. I was never as prodigious a walker as you are, but I was closer to it in younger days. My feet definitely get tired, especially in museums, but the pain is mostly gone. Rockport World Travellers work for me (whether or not traveling), with New Balance for the gym -- both with orthotics. I'm four years into the current orthotics and ready to move to another set if and when my feet call for them.

As an experiment, I'm going to bring a pair of compression socks on my overseas trip next month, not just for the flight but for days when foot fatigue sets in early. I don't know whether they'll help or not but I do know that frequent changes of footwear, including socks, help keep feet happy. I'll also bring a pair of soft rubber sole inserts (to go on top of the orthotics) for more variety.

Maybe we can start a Me Too Movement for handsome but painful feet! ;-)

Posted by
447 posts

Glad you found relief. It's so hard to enjoy a trip when you hurt. Worst part of shoe and feet issues is you buy a pair and, expensive or not, you never know if they'll work til you've spent too much time in them to return.

Posted by
2400 posts

Glad you've found a solution to your feet problem. I started wearing orthotics about 5-6 years ago and they've made a world of difference. Yes, my feet are tired at the end of a long day if walking. But I no longer have the awful pain I used to experience.

Posted by
3280 posts

Yes, cj-traveler, that is what was happening. Shoes seemed like they would work. I'd wear them around the house etc., and would decide to keep them only to have the shoes be another fail after a couple mile walk. I feel like I wasted a bit of money when what I really needed was a determination of exactly what my feet needed.
Dick, on my upcoming trip, I'm throwing in a third pair of shoes, super light and cushy, teva sandals, thinking mostly for a slipper type thing to throw on at the end of the day or for just short walks, to give my feet a break from my more "substantive" shoes.

Posted by
7604 posts

So happy you’re finding relief!

As the owner of a pair of horrible feet I completely sympathize with your need to find what works for your feet!

I was having some pain at the base of the toes on one foot and tried adding Pedag metatarsal pads. Made a huge difference! I tried the slip on Strutz brand but they were too tight around my foot and took up too much room in my shoes. I’m in Paris now and the Pedag’s seem to be doing the trick with increased walking and more stairs than usual.

I also use Sue Hitzman’s MELT Method foot treatment balls and that helps with recovery. I always bring them with me on trips to ward off any kind of plantar fasciitis flare. They are a bit expensive but I’ve used them for maybe 4-5 years and they help my feet.

I am also helped by Correct Toes toe spacers but I know they don’t work for everyone.

I’m so happy the person you consulted was helpful!!

Posted by
447 posts

One resource i find helpful is the footsmart website which allows you to search by foot ailment as well as style, color, etc. I haven't bought from them but use their suggestions for brands that might work for my plantar fasciitis.

Posted by
3280 posts

What Dick made clear is that there is difference between tired feet and painful feet. I have been getting these sharp pains in the ball of my foot, and sometimes a foot so swollen that I couldn't get any foot wear on properly. At the end of a hike, when we are generally going downhill, its just pound, pound, pound on the poor foot.

Thanks Pam, for the specific recommendations. I have been all over Amazon trying to buy metatarsal pads and there are MANY options. It is hard to sort through them. I'm getting close to my trip and want to buy some. An important thing about metatarsal pads, I was putting it in the wrong place! I thought I should put in under the swollen place to provide some cushion. And isn't that where the metatarsals are anyway, haha? What I found out, is that, at least for me, it needs to go back closer to my arch. It totally changes the physiology of my foot. With the pad, my toes are caused to pull down and make more contact with the ground, giving me more area to walk on.

CJ-traveler, I looked at the Footsmart website. Too bad I did't find that long ago. They show very clearly where a metatarsal pad goes! Theirs are incorporated into a complete insole, but it clearly shows where the pad goes.

I hope this conversation is helpful to folks that are struggling like I was. What I'm really trying to drive home, is that if you are spending a lot looking for the magic shoe, search around a bit for a professional to provide some guidance. And keep searching until the problem is resolved. I had been told I had a Morton's neuroma. Maybe I did when this started 10 years ago, but I don't any more. This was something else (called capsillitis) and it needed to be addressed differently.

Additionally, it is not always "all or nothing". Perhaps wearing an orthotic 24/7 in a heavy soled shoe would be the best, but I do get significant relief with wearing it part of the time and for the rest of the time making smart choices.

Posted by
2575 posts

Plantar fasciitis 10 years ago resulted in expensive and ugly shoes with orthotics and a night brace for a year. I have learned orthotics need changing every couple of years, but not all orthopods are the same. Some overdue the build ups and over time can be worse than the 'problem'. I am transitioning out of orthotics to a brand of shoe I seem to be able to wear on their own. I was wearing them with the orthotic that was actually giving me more pain (in the back rather than feet). I may go to a different provider, but given the cost of orthotics (I think my last were over $700 and had to be altered 4 timed) I am reluctant. My insurance doesn't even cover half that.
All this to say, trial and error and that things can change over time.
I like the consideration of using compression socks for leg/foot fatigue. I'll add that exercises and stretching (ankle rotations, etc), elevation (even Sarah Murdoch does this every evening) can help with foot care. I like to try and find places with actual tubs for a soak each night as well.
We all can benefit from good assessments for pain and for some reason, feet are the least cared for and the most abused in out day to day. It could be our reluctance for a different shoe look, but Europe is way ahead of us in nice looking practical footwear....we just have to be prepared to pay for it.

Posted by
244 posts

Two years ago I went to the foot doctor after years of bunion pain, and received the same type of suggestions. Plus, the recommendation for surgery. As an active teacher, the selfish side of me did not want to take the time out of my summer for recovery, so I went to a local store specializing in custom orthotics (NOT covered by insurance, but worth every penny). I wore them constantly for a few months and no pain. They've strengthened my arches so much that now I wear the in just a few of my shoes and not all the time. Of course, I cleaned the closet and got rid of any shoe that had no arch support and now take the time to seriously evaluate each shoe purchase. That means the cost of my shoes have gone up, but the ones I buy are high quality and my feet are very happy! No need for surgery now.

Posted by
6536 posts

My wife has terrible mid food arthritis on a joint on top of her feet. The doctor prescribed a set of custom orthodics and Alegria brand shoes.

We were unfamiliar with Alegria shoes, but Belk has a full department selling that show in their local mall store. They're a hard bottom rocker shoe, and we see nurses, female physicians and others that have to stand on their feet excessively wearing that brand. So far, that's the only shoe my wife can stand to wear.

Mid foot arthritis often requires a fusion of the bones--requiring plates and screws and being off your feet completely for 7 + weeks. I would think the gait of someone after the surgery would be different. My wife's putting the surgery off as long as physically possible.

Posted by
3280 posts

David, I know a few people that just love the Alegria shoes. If fact, the receptionist at the orthodic clinic I went to was wearing them. I also like that many of the styles are quite fun.

Posted by
3280 posts

Maria, my orthotics will be about $600, but I'm fortunate to get 80% covered by insurance. They cover adjustments in that cost, though. Is it worth shopping around for a different provider?

Posted by
7604 posts

Jules, what I’ve done with the Pedags are to affix them to one pr of regular insoles and just swap out the insoles. I wear only Altra Zero Drop ( works for me and not everyone) so the one insole fits them all (four pr right now). I was worried that would not work between the 2 pr I’ve brought on vacation but so far so good. I brought a spare pair of the Pedags in case something happened. They seem really adhered and are OK after Day 4 in Paris, lol. You know what kind of walking I’m doing!!

I went by the videos on the Correct Toes website for placing them and I suspect they are how your foot person positioned yours. Not as a cushion but behind a bit so you get some toe spread.

Posted by
2575 posts

Jules, my insurance provider is through work. In the end, it balances out with loads of 100% coverage for what I need the most. If I wasn't dissatisfied last time, price wouldn't have mattered, but it has caused some reluctance. I may actually be better off seeing the foot specialist rather than just buying more orthotics. Those visits are free.

Posted by
432 posts

I don’t care a fig about fashion, I wear the shoes that allow me to enjoy life. For me, that’s Altra: huge toebox, super cushioning, lots of room for appliances if necessary. I swap between metatarsal inserts from Cadence and Nike.

Posted by
4 posts

This step becomes longer from below and shorter from above. This increases stress on the structure of the lower foot. My sister has this problem, unfortunately. When I tried to help her, I came across https://perfectshoesforyou.com/best-running-shoes-for-bad-knees/, which had some valuable information for us. Shoes should have three basic properties. Friday Movement: When you squeeze it from side to side. Resistance to twisting. Shooting insole: the use of prefabricated or custom orthopedic appliances in your shoes. A removable insole greatly simplifies the use of orthopedic appliances.

Posted by
3280 posts

linkstream, that's a great article, thanks for providing a link. Bogiesan, thanks for the recommendations. I found an overwhelming number of metataural pads on Amazon. Nice to be able to narrow it down.

Posted by
16579 posts

I use non-custom orthotics (memory-foam with arch support) made by Aetrex. They were recommended to me by a full-service shoe store that had me stand on an electronic pad, which confirmed my supposition that I have a higher-than average arch and need some sort of auxiliary arch support. The orthotics have worked well for me as long as I use shoes with cushioned soles. My one trip with hard (though thick) soles left me with plantar fasciitis, which took a long time to clear up.

But I think Aetrex has different styles of orthotics, and I don't know how a customer could independently choose the right one.

Posted by
69 posts

I have wide short feet also. Keens have a large toe box. The Keen sandals I got in 2008 are still in good condition and I've worn them are 4 European trips for both hiking and sightseeing.

Posted by
18 posts

Fabulous!

I'm 72, play tennis socially and competitively, singles and doubles and have been wearing orthotics for about 30 years for Morton's Neuroma - tumors on the nerves between the metatarsals - my feet are in virtual constant pain of one level or another . . .I discovered this when I started playing tennis all those years ago - I've had two surgeries to remove the tunors, but both times they've grown back - UGH!!!

Headed to England, Hungary, Czech Republic and France later this month for about 12 days - WITHOUT any car reservations...

I'm trying to break in the boots I bought from Thursday Boot Company but living in Hawaii, my feet HATE shoes (unless I'm on the tennis court) - it's not fun trying to prepare for this trip. I'm hoping it will all work out.

Just wanted to add, regarding foot pain:

I found socks at Cabela's that have some compression - they say "Ascend" on the sock and are described as hiking socks on their website. VERY comfortable! Not real thick either, which is better for the boots I bought. I've found that having compression on my feet somehow alleviates some of the pain. Bombas also has socks with compression and I sleep with their low cut socks every night. I wouldn't be able to fall asleep without them - - - they're the best I've found after years of research. If the Cabela's socks were a low cut design I'd use them for sleeping - they're better than the Bombas. Bombas donates to the homeless; for every pair bought a pair is donated, so that's nice.

Just thought I'd add some info that might be helpful to others -

Posted by
1 posts

I never thought to buy them, as it caters to the "sporty" crowd, but Puma with the thicker soles have served me well. It took two weeks to break in (I had to take them off sometimes to rest my feet), but now I can have them on all day.

Trekking poles for hiking also have relieved some pressure. There are many kinds, at Dicks. Or consider EarthTrek which are the trekking poles designed for foreign travel.

Either way, it's possible that some shoes take longer to break in.

Posted by
1866 posts

Jules, I have been following your thread and just wanted to applaud you for sharing your success. I have been fortunate to not have experienced Planter Fasciitis or other foot issues. If I ever do I would take your advise and seek treatment from a savvy Podiatrist. I walk about 5+ miles daily and upwards of 15 miles or more when traveling. There is nothing better than happy, healthy feet!

Posted by
3280 posts

Thanks Janis for the kind words. We returned from Italy about a month ago. We do so much walking. I feel its the best way to see a city. My feet did pretty well, but I've discovered its still going to be a work in process. My next step is to try compression socks for walking during my travels and work outs. I appreciate some of the suggestions that were made. To me, this is so important. I would be so sad to not be able to walk long distances on vacation.