Getting the Upper Hand on Foot Pain

By Audi, Already Pretty Contributor

Today I’ll be discussing my ongoing battle with foot pain caused by Morton’s neuroma, and what I’ve learned about it so far. I’ve included a resource list at the bottom of the post for convenience.
……

About 13 years ago I started noticing intermittent pain in the ball of my right foot. Generally it would feel as if the bones between my third and fourth toes were cracking together, and sometimes it was more of a stabbing or burning sensation. Eventually the pain became more frequent and started cropping up in the left foot as well, and recently I decided to take serious action and get it under control. It started with research which led me to conclude that I had Morton’s neuroma, a hypothesis that was confirmed when I finally saw a podiatrist.

A neuroma is an inflamed nerve, and a Morton’s neuroma occurs between the third and fourth metatarsals. When you walk, your first three toes and the last two toes move up and down in groups; at the junction where this movement occurs, the nerve in between the toes can become pinched and eventually thickens. I suspect that my condition was largely caused by shoes that are too narrow. Until I measured my feet and compared them with a size chart, I never realized I had wide feet. I also have low arches, which explains why many shoe inserts don’t work for me; if they have dramatic arch support, they push into my arches and place even more pressure on the ball of my foot.

Preventative measures

My own research led me to take several actions that are mostly preventative, and using this multi-pronged approach has definitely shown some benefit. Note that most or all of the items on this list will benefit other foot conditions besides neuromas:

  • Acupuncture: increases circulation, relaxes the muscles and ligaments
  • Yoga: The benefits of yoga are too numerous to list here, but the bottom line for neuromas is that stretching, especially the calves, is good. I just have to be careful not to do any poses that cause foot pain, of which I haven’t found too many.
  • Shoes: Since shoes were likely the culprit to begin with, I’ve done the most work in this area. I culled many pairs of shoes that had been problematic and invested in several comfortable, supportive new pairs. More on this later.
  • Inserts: A few inserts do work for me, the most notable being Superfeet. Pricey but well worth it. Neuroma pads can also work, but placement is critical; they belong behind the ball of the foot, not under it.
  • Topical anti-inflammatories: I’ve been treating my feet morning and night with  Traumeel to combat inflammation, and on days I feel pain I use Bio-Freeze for more immediate relief.
  • Toe stretchers: I bought a pair of Yoga Toes Gems, which I keep in the freezer. When I get home I put them on, put my feet up, and relax for 30 minutes or more. I would recommend this for everyone, sore feet or no. It just feels fantastic.
    yogatoes


Gaining control

The podiatrist recommended a cortisone injection to bring the swelling down to a point where I could get it under control and allow my preventative measures to make a bigger difference. I’m not sure why I’d previously been so reluctant to get a cortisone injection; I suppose the thought of being pumped up with steroids must’ve passed through my mind. But when the doctor said that the idea was to, “bathe the nerve with an anti-inflammatory,” suddenly it didn’t seem like such a bad idea. I pictured my poor swollen nerve being gently washed in a river of soothing elixir, and I was in.
I started with the right foot, which is the worse of the two, because the doctor warned me that the area might be sore for the first few days and I didn’t want to be completely crippled by doing both feet at once. The injection itself was no big deal; sort of a pinching sensation that lasted about 15 seconds or so. Because the injection contains a mild anesthetic I felt relief right away; in fact walking back to the car my foot felt absolutely normal for the first time in years. Over the next few hours it developed a slightly numb, tingling sensation much like when your foot falls asleep, but that subsided by the end of the day and in the weeks that followed, the pain was reduced considerably. I’ll definitely be going back for the left foot, but I think it was a good approach to do one at a time.

Rethinking shoes

One of the important things I learned in my research is that shoes with a rigid footbed are ideal for neuromas, because they restrict the movement of the metatarsals and therefore reduce irritation of the nerve; that’s why shoes like Dansko clogs are so frequently recommended for this condition. Thank heavens! I was terrified my doctor was going to tell me that those horrible toe shoes were my only salvation. In that case I would’ve had to swallow my pride and prepare for a lifetime of pain. What, you didn’t think I was going to say I’d actually wear those hideous things, did you?

Just kill me if it ever comes to this.

For a neuroma, the most important aspects of shoe selection are room in the toe box, heel height, and flexibility. I’ve known empirically that wedges work for my feet, but now that I understand the mechanics of the condition, I can see why. Low heels of 1 – 1.5 inches are better than flats because they distribute your weight more evenly between the heel and the ball of the foot, and a wedge-type heel provides support throughout the foot and makes the shoes less flexible than those that leave a gap under the arch. Higher heels can place too much pressure on the ball of the foot, though platforms can work well because they increase the overall height without increasing the angle of the foot. Finally, shoes with ample room in the toe box allow the bones of the foot to spread out and not rub against the nerve as the foot flexes. Keeping these aspects in mind as I shop has allowed me to make smarter choices in footwear.

In future posts I’ll discuss the changes to my shoe collection and how they influence my outfits. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you: if you’re dealing with foot pain, what approaches do you take to alleviate it, and most importantly, what great shoes do you recommend?

Resources

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Audi is a biotech professional in San Francisco, California. Her blog, Fashion for Nerds, was born out of the frustration of feeling as if science and fashion were doomed to be forever divided. Through her blog she discovered she wasn’t the only one who believes that style has its place even in a scientific workplace; over the years she has met countless other women who struggle to prevent their love of fashion from hindering their credibility as technical leaders. Now in her mid-forties, Audi particularly enjoys testing the boundaries of “age-appropriate” dressing and thinks most style rules were made to be broken. Another important influence on her style is the problem of chronic foot pain, an issue which is exacerbated by San Francisco’s hilly streets and one that she is resolved not to let defeat her obsession with great looking shoes.

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48 Responses to “Getting the Upper Hand on Foot Pain”

  1. Sarah

    Reading this has been a breath of fresh air! I have the same problem with my foot, and it is so hard to find fashionable footwear that doesn’t cause excruciating pain. It’s so frustrating to have a closet full of lovely shoes I can no longer wear. Thank you for the tips, and I will be paying closer attention to your shoe choices from now on!

  2. Olivia

    Eww, toe shoes! LOL. I have arthritis on one of me feet due to a surgery I had as an infant. My ankle on that foot is also very inflexible and my foot rolls out. I can handle about a 1 inch heal, but prefer flat, and I’ve found that firmer soles help keep my foot from rolling so much and helps my ankle from feeling tired.

    Last year, I started feeling the beginnings of plantar facsitis because I had been staying home with my children and I was wearing flimsy slippers around the house a lot more. So good arch support is key, and I found a pair of slippers with that.

    Lately, I’ve been only buying Birkenstocks (and their sub-brands) because they fit all that criteria and I know they work for me. I follow Barking Dog shoes, but with a very limited budget I feel safer buying (from ebay) what I know works.

  3. A.B.

    There are some people who love and proudly wear the toe shoes. Saying you dislike how something looks is completely different from calling them horrible and hideous hideous because there’s no value judgement against them. I like the toe shoes, so my fashion sense is horrible and hideous? Not fair.

    That said, I love your idea of putting toe stretchers in the freezer.

    • Laurie

      I wear my toe shoes proudly. I’m glad someone else does too. They are the best thing so far for my type of foot pain. I’d wear them to work if I could.

        • Laurie

          I only wear mine for walking too. I do wear them when I go walking on my lunch break. They’re comfortable, and it’s a riot to see the reactions of the very senior population in the small town where I work. You’d think I had live snakes attached to my ankles. Horrified almost describes the looks I get.

    • sarah

      my pilates instructor recommended the vibram five fingers after the millionth time I rolled my ankle wearing Danskos. I think I will give them a try. Who cares if other people think they’re ugly if they’re great for my feet? Plenty of people decry the clunky appearance of other comfort shoes, like Danskos and Birkis.

    • Audi

      Now A.B., did I say that people who wear toe shoes have horrible fashion sense? No. I expressed an opinion which is in no way a judgement about the shoes themselves, their manufacturer, or the people who wear them. For ME they look horrible, and when it comes to aesthetic considerations one person’s opinion is just as valid as another’s. If you love toe shoes, more power to you! I’ve heard they’re wonderfully comfortable (not for neuromas, however) and are great for running and scaling cliffs and so on. For me personally though, I really can’t see putting them on with a work outfit and cruising around in downtown San Francisco. By the same token, I’m quite certain I’ve worn things that others would call hideous, and if they want to feel that way, that’s totally fine. One can’t expect everyone’s taste to match their own.

      • A.B.

        I was just pointing out how your choice of words could be hurtful to someone reading this article.

        Calling them horrible is attaching a value judgement to the opinion. Imagine asking someone if they like your sweater. Someone answers “I don’t like it.” That’s fine, that’s their opinion, they can go on their merry way. But if they instead answered “That sweater is hideous!” It’s clear that they don’t like the sweater but the added level of it being hideous adds a judgement value to the statement.

  4. Andrea

    Thank you so much for this information, Sally! My husband likely has Morton’s neuroma, and while he doesn’t wear heels, 🙂 I will definitely pass this information along. Best to you!

  5. Cynthia

    The toe shoes actually worsened my Morton’s Neuroma/forefoot pain. YMMV on those. But wearing minimally padded zero drop shoes almost all the time has been absolutely fantastic. I never got to the point where I needed medical intervention for my MN because I figured out what it was and ruthlessly changed my shoe approach almost immediately. I was always most comfortable barefoot and now I have carried that over into my shod life. This morning I ran sprints(!) in shoes with a sole that was only there to protect my feet from the pavement.

    Anyway, I hope you eventually find a strategy that works for you long-term.

  6. Lisa

    I’ve been diagnosed with tendonitis and possible nerve compromise in my peroneal tendon, caused by my extremely high arches. Can’t win for losing, with feet:). So I’m trotting around in Nike Air Max’s, with their little bump on the outside foot edge. And loving the idea of acupuncture.

    I look forward to your insights.

  7. Sandy B

    You and I are on the same wavelength! I have a blog post almost ready to go on shoes and my aging feet! Thanks for the tip on those yoga toes; I’ll be looking for a pair.

  8. Anneesha

    Great and timely post! I have been noticing the toe pain (Morton’s Neuroma) since putting my feet back into real shoes this fall. I’ve had lots of foot/knee pain in the last few years and am doing detective work to figure out the cause.

    I have found that the ABEO/bio (built-in-orthotics) line at The Walking Company store (several TwinCities locations) to be hugely helpful. I even got a super-stylish pair of mid-calf boots from them. Expensive but worth it. Their flipflops saved my casual summer – even felt great at State Fair!

      • JJ

        Hi Sal: A suggestion. Would it be possible to more prominently display — maybe in the headline of a blog post or with a graphic somewhere high up on a post — when it’s a guest post?

        I’ve been confused several times when reading such guest posts on your blog, thinking: “Wait – that’s not Sal’s voice,” then scrolling back up to see who wrote the post.

        It’s not a huge deal – but it’s a bit of distraction and one that I think could have an easy remedy. Thanks.

        • Sally

          I’ll give it some thought, but since the contributor’s name is at the top of each post I’m hoping that folks will just peek at that before diving in! I do highlight guest posts from non-contributors, but since these contributing writers are part of the Already Pretty team I’d love for readers to expect a variety of voices throughout the week.

          • JJ

            If not the term “guest post,” then maybe “contributor” or “contributor post?” Or a little headshot (similar to the ones that run next to the comments) of each author?

            Just a thought.

          • Patience

            Readers who use readers can’t see the byline. I also did not realize this was written by another member of your team.

  9. Linda

    Thanks for these tips, Audi. I’ve had similar-sounding pain on and off, though it never 100% matched the description of a Morton’s neuroma and the one time it got bad enough for me to see a doc, he just kind of shrugged and said “the joint seems to be inflamed for some reason.” (He further said, “I could prescribe an anti-inflammatory and if you take it absolutely faithfully on a schedule, the pain will probably go away in a few weeks. On the other hand, if you don’t do that, the pain will also probably go away in a few weeks.” I chose Door #2 and he was right.)

    I love Superfeet, but they are hard to fit into a lot of shoe types, aren’t they? Had never thought to try yoga. With low-heeled boots, I have had very good luck sizing up and putting in ProFoot “Miracle Mold” insoles from the drugstore.

    I am pretty sensitive to the issue of heels putting painful pressure on the ball of my foot, so I confess that I walk to work (2 miles) in sneakers and choose to believe I am invisible at this time. I bring nice shoes to change into. I do OWN presentable shoes/boots that I could walk 2 miles in and do on weekends, but I’d wear them out so fast if I did that every day.

    • Audi

      Yes, fitting Superfeet or any insole into shoes can be tricky. I either buy half a size up or, if possible, pull out the existing insole first. This is where research can be helpful; try going on Zappos and searching for “removable insoles;” then further refine the results for women, your size, and whatever style you’re looking for. I did a quick search for boots and came up with loads of really cute styles!

      I’m also a recent convert to walking to work in comfy shoes and then changing. Anymore if the shoes meet the criteria of “not terrible” then they’re fair game to be worn for the walk. 😉

  10. Marla

    This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart since developing arthritis in my big toe joint about four years ago due to a prior injury. (To add insult to injury I developed tendonitis in my achilles tendon on the other side shortly thereafter and spent a miserable few months.) It’s been a rough road giving up the shoes I loved and finding what works for me. Dansko clogs are a lifesaver as are Chaco’s. I’ll never wear true heels again, the best I can do is a low wedge and platforms with a slight lift work fairly well. It’s complicated by the fact that I have slightly wide feet that used to be fine with most medium width shoes but now the “bad” foot really needs a wide, which limits my choices further. I found a pair of Softwalk moto boots last fall that fit and don’t hurt and I literally broke down and cried with happiness. I’ve been advised to avoid going barefoot, wearing flip flops or classic Uggs due to needing support, but I’ve found that all three of those result in the least amount of pain for me, since nothing’s touching or squeezing. I’m curious if anyone else has thoughts on the barefoot/flip flop thing. So far walking hasn’t been a problem most of the time since I’ve had luck with trainers and to a lesser extent, hiking shoes. I’ve recently been told I’m now developing arthritis in the top of the same foot and have so far rejected the shot but now reading this post I’m not afraid of it anymore and know it’s a good option for when I’m ready!

    • Audi

      I know a lot of doctors recommend not going barefoot or wearing flipflops, but I also find that those things often work well for me. Personally I think if it feels good on your feet, you should probably keep doing it! Your feet will definitely let you know what works and what doesn’t. For me, it sometimes feels fantastic to pad around the house in socks or barefoot, other times it seems to aggravate the neuroma and it feels better to throw on some flats or slippers for a little pressure relief. The key is really taking the time to tune in to what your body is trying to tell you. If you’re experiencing even mild discomfort, try something else until the discomfort goes away. I try to spend time every day evaluating how my feet feel and seeing if a slight adjustment can make them feel better. The time spent doing this has paid off, and after a few months of caring for my feet in this way I’m now experiencing a small fraction of the pain I had before.

      • Marla

        Audi, I agree with you that if it feels good on your feet, you should probably keep doing it. I have been a lifelong barefoot and flip flop girl, and the very first thing I was told was that was going to have to stop, and I’ve heard it multiple times since. The fact is, for pretty much all daily activities, I can wear flip flops all day without pain, which can’t be said for any of the supportive shoes I own.

  11. K-Line

    OK, haven’t even read the full post yet but, OMG, I have had this happening in my right toe ball lately – the EXACT same thing described – and I had no idea what it was (which is why I was having trouble looking it up). Thank you for posting this! Intuitively, I know it’s about heels and the amount of walking I do (upwards of 8 km a day), which I sometimes do in stupid shoes. Weirdly, the problem only happens when I wear one pair of boots over a few days in a row. And those boots aren’t heels (well 1 inch but that’s not a heel in my book). I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months in runners (well, “walking shoes”) because I’ve really noticed a change in my feet over the past couple of years. They’ve become much less plump, bonier and they’re not as resilient. Ah, yet another joy of aging 🙂

    • Audi

      Yes! The sporadic nature of the pain is exactly why I struggled with this condition for so long myself. I’d have a tried and true pair that was always great and then suddenly the very same pair would leave me hobbling. As you mentioned, wearing the same pair day after day can be a problem, even if the heel is low. What I’ve started doing is to put on my shoes in the morning while I’m getting ready, so that my feet have at least half an hour to acclimate to the shoes and give me an idea of how that pair is going to work on that particular day. There have been a couple times where I felt those familiar cracking sensations, changed my shoes, and have been fine for the whole day.

  12. Monica H

    Thanks for this post Audi! I too have found yoga to be very helpful in protecting my feet. Aside from what you mentioned, it is also one of the few forms of exercise which is done barefoot. I find it very good for stretching and strengthening my feet themselves. Some people recommend weight training in socks or toe shoes for similar reasons. Shoes are great for protecting sensitive feet, but they need their exercise too!

    What I have found is it’s also helpful to have shoes that have metatarsal arch support (right behind the ball of my foot). Pedag makes a self-adhesive metatarsal arch that has made a few pairs of shoes I love work for me much better.

    With heels I’ve learned (for me) it is not the height that matters most, but the shape of the shoe in the mid foot. I have high arches and can much more comfortably wear heels with a curvy arc between the heel and forefoot, compared to ones whose profile is a straight line.

    Sal, fwiw when using the mobile version, the author of the post appears in quite small letters. It was hard for me to find. I always appreciate as well when there is the mini-bio at the end of the post to connect with the contributor as well. Helps me with the context of the post. Just some food for thought!

  13. Lisa

    Even people with relatively problem-free feet benefit from yoga. Back when I was going to yoga regularly, one of my favourite things to do was roll my feet on a 1″ wooden dowel to knead out knots and tension. It worked wonders for my energy and posture and made some poses feel sooo much easier.

  14. Marcy

    There is almost nothing like foot pain to get our attention, is there? Although those of us with foot issues would like to wear fashionable shoes, we quickly get to the point where less pain rules the day! Thank you for your great post, Audi. I look forward to your stylish-but-comfy footwear posts!

  15. Sarah P

    Have you tried Orthaheel? I don’t know if they would work for Morton’s Neuroma, as the arch is rather pronounced, but I’ve had good luck with them alleviating my foot fatigue while teaching all day.

  16. KimM.

    Several years ago I broke my left 4th metatarsal and ended up having surgery for that as well as left ankle reconstruction. I’ve worked for the last 24 years as an RN, on my feet for 10-14 hours at least 3 days per week. My poor feet have taken a beating! I only wear comfortable shoes and have done so for many years. My favorite brands are Alegria and Dansko for work, Naot shoes and sandals, and La Canadienne waterproof boots with a 1-1.5 inch heel. None of these are inexpensive but my feet are worth the cost! It really pains me to see women in their teens to 30’s wearing stilettos and tall platforms for many hours per day. I think they will definitely pay for this later in life unfortunately. And I am also a fan of Barking Dog Shoes; I like her reviews.

    • KimM.

      Several years ago I broke my left 4th metatarsal and ended up having surgery for that as well as left ankle reconstruction. I’ve worked for the last 24 years as an RN, on my feet for 10-14 hours at least 3 days per week. My poor feet have taken a beating! I only wear comfortable shoes and have done so for many years. My favorite brands are Alegria and Dansko for work, Naot shoes and sandals, and La Canadienne waterproof boots with a 1-1.5 inch heel. None of these are inexpensive but my feet are worth the cost! It really pains me to see women in their teens to 30’s wearing stilettos and tall platforms for many hours per day. I think they will definitely pay for this later in life unfortunately. And I am also a fan of Barking Dog Shoes; I like her reviews. Also have to give a thank you to Zappos for their fantastic selection and customer service. I have purchased and returned many pairs with no problem whatsoever.

  17. Rose

    I had a problem with a Morton’s neuroma a few years back but it wasn’t anywhere near as serious as yours. I say that because the podiatrist I saw was habitually late -as in the automatic lights in the exam room shut off twice as I sat quietly waiting to be seen- and once I got the drift of what I needed to do I quit going to see him.

    I found that backless clogs were part of the problem for me and switched to shoes that buckled or tied onto my feet. Somehow that helped reduce the pain. For shoes I’m going to walk in I look for a generous toe area and a comfortable sole.

  18. Chris

    I don’t have a foot problem but I don’t like pumps or narrow toed shoe, or flats. I want shoes of good quality that look good with dresses or pants. So many of the inexpensive imports are of terrible quality and workmanship. If I am forced to purchase imports, at least I want an overseas company who does a good job. I am very happy with a British company named Hotter Shoes. They offer wide widths in most of their styles and colors. Ordinarily, I would select a wide width, but I carefully used their sizing instructions. According to their sizing, I came up normal width. Because their shoes tend to be roomy in the toe area, the regular width is just right for me.

    The prices are not cheap, but I think reasonable for what the shoes are. Please, at least give their website a look. Oh, I have 5 pairs of their shoes. Customer service has gone out of their way on several occasions to help me get what I want.

    They offer decent sales from time to time, which helps with the prices.

    • Audi

      Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve seen Hotter shoes and admired them for their cuteness, but I didn’t know much about the fit and comfort.

  19. Amy

    I have similar foot pain. My go-to brands are Born, and the J-41/Jambu shoes. The Borns seem to last forever, where the J-41s have fallen apart, but they’re so comfy and cute that I just tolerate it and wear them infrequently. I also have occasional luck with Doc Martens, if I add an insole. All 3 brands have relatively infelxible soles, at least a little heel, and a wide toe box.

    Unfortunately it’s tough because often one style of shoe is comfy, but then another style by the same brand is agony.

    • Audi

      That’s why I love Zappos; my strategy now is to order a bunch of pairs and spend several days trying them on at different times of the day and seeing how they look with different outfits. I’ll keep only the ones that feel GREAT under all conditions and return the rest; with foot conditions it pays to be extremely picky about comfort. Zappos is really quick with refunds, so I can usually get the money back for the returns before my credit card bill is even due.

  20. Kirsten@BarkingDogShoes.com

    Audi,

    Neuroma is the oddest feeling, isn’t it? A few years ago, when my RA was in flare mode, I developed a neuroma between third and fourth toe. At the time, MBT shoes were all the rage, so I tried a pair for fitness walking and got some relief from the rocker sole taking pressure off the forefoot. But as my 11 year old son would say, “They’re butt-hideous.” I also tried Kalso Earth shoes with the negative heel. The toe box is wide, arch support good (which also helps to take pressure off the forefoot) and the negative heel keeps the toes at an incline, again relieving the discomfort.

    My aunt struggles with recurring Morton’s Neuroma, even after surgery. She had a formal event to attend a few weeks ago and wore a current styles by SoftSpots called the Salude pump and actually made it through the evening quite comfortably.

    I am going to have to try some of those gel toe stretchers–but I think I’ll have to warm mine up in the microwave for Chicago winters…
    K

  21. M-C

    Why should anyone avoid those cortisone shots that feel so good? Because each injection into a joint has a 30% chance of destroying all the cartilage in that joint. If you thought it hurt before, you’ve got a surprise in store ;-(. And note that they’re often repeated, which pretty soon gives you a 100% chance of being crippled. The main problem though is that cortisone has a huge rebound effect. So the better you feel when you first get it and the worse you’ll feel once it stops working.

    I’m kind of shocked to see only a quick mention of the main reason that you get those neuromas though: narrow shoes. Many women don’t have narrow feet.. and the short-term pain from wearing girl shoes, that don’t look like those hideous toe shoes/danskos/birks (all comfortable shoes look hideous to people with neuromas is my unscientific observation) is nothing compared to the pain from the long-term neuroma.

  22. Stephanie

    Thanks so much Audi for continuing to share your struggle.

    I had similar pain in my feet and even wore custom orthotics for a number of years. However I faithfully did the exercises given me by my doctor. Then I started karate. Found some other exercises from the vibram fivefingers and started those. My feet have never been better. I am more sensitive to shoes than ever before and keep getting rid of those that irritate me in any way. Currently I do wear the toe shoes though I struggle with styling them. Finally decided that the happiness and health of my feet was more important. The biggest benefit I get from the toe shoes is biofeedback. Since they are more like gloves they started making me more aware of what my feet are feeling much earlier. I have Minnetonka moccasins I wear as well as several minimalist flats. I have found the more flexible the sole and less padding or support the better my feet do.

    Honestly the most difficult thing I do is gardening minimalist soles make it difficult to step on a shovel sometimes. I also have a pair of hiking shoes that are thin soled and flexible but have stability along the outside. Making it easier to hike without turning an ankle but not bothering my feet.

    • Audi

      You know, the whole discussion of toe shoes is interesting, because as I understand it they were really designed for sports and therefore shouldn’t need to be styled at all (I’m a firm believer in not having to worry about your outfit when you’re exercising). But I wonder if the manufacturer will key in to the fact that many people are using them as street wear, and start coming out with some styles that have a shell across the top, which would still allow the toes to move freely but cover up what’s going on underneath. It would be such an easy fix, I’m surprised it hasn’t come out yet (or if it has, I haven’t noticed). As activewear I’m all for them if they solve foot issues, but I can’t see putting them on with any of my work clothes and not feeling like I was a very out-of-place hobbit.

      I’ve been wearing the Dansko Veda style for gardening and just kicking around on weekends, and so far they’re great. They basically look like a sneaker but with the same dense, thick heel of the classic clogs. They lace up for a more customizable fit, and the insole can be removed and replaced with an orthotic. You might give them a look.

  23. Kristen

    Have you heard of Katy Bowman? She has a blog and has written a couple of books, one of which is all about foot pain. A neuroma might be a different set of circumstances (and disclaimer: I haven’t read her books), but in her blog she talks about a lot of things you mentioned, from stretching your calves to having enough room for your toes to spread out. Her focus is on whole-body alignment and she is pretty extreme in her approach towards attaining that, but I think she’s got some very interesting viewpoints. My husband has a lot of foot issues and he started wearing some barefoot style shoes and I’m considering doing the same. It’s hard to find cute, work-appropriate ones, though. I’m certainly not going to wear those toe shoes! 😉

  24. Tabie

    Toe shoes..the best thing that ever happened to my feet during work outs! LOL and mine only have 4 toes, try that on for hideous!

  25. Poppy Buxom

    Audi, I’m sorry to hear about your foot problems. Lisa, too!

    Age isn’t doing my feet any favors. They’ve always been on the wide side, and now they’re getting wider. I prefer a rounded toe and a roomy toe box, and have had my best luck with wide-foot staples like clogs, Birkenstocks, Saucony running shoes.

    I don’t have the same problems as you two, but maybe these ideas can help for getting you more room in the toe box for dressier shoes. For some reason, wide width shoes seem to be available for expensive shoes and super cheap shoes (Payless, Target) but nothing in the middle. I wish more manufacturers made C and D width shoes. I just discovered that I can get Ferragamo shoes in a C width on Bluefly–bought two pairs and they are FABULOUS.

    Amongst regular shoe companies, I’ve had good luck with Cole Haan, J Crew, and Stuart Wietzmann. Also, motorcycle boots coming into style has been wonderful.

    I’ve purchased shoes from Arthur Beren, and if I lived in San Francisco, I’d be there trying on shoes right now. They have a ton of comfortable styles.

  26. Nadine

    Hi Audi,

    I’m a loooong time fan of Fashion For Nerds, so I’m jazzed to see you here as a fellow contributor!

    Thank you for all the comfy shoe resources! I’m also in the process of swapping out my delicate, higher heeled footwear for wedges and supportive flats. I don’t know if it’s aging or the fact that my body isn’t used to this hilly Bay Area terrain, but I cannot walk the streets out here in heels. With all the beautiful scenery I want to walk everywhere, so the shoes have got to change.