How to Find Shoes for Your Weird Feet

How to Find Comfortable Heels | CorporetteA lot of women have problem feet in one way or another — wide feet, narrow heels, fallen arches, bunions, weak ankles, size 11, size 5, etc, etc, etc. I’ve gotten a few questions from readers and I thought it would be an interesting discussion — how DO you find comfortable heels and shoes?  We’ve talked about comfortable heels before (of course; it’s one of our top posts!) but not specifically about how to find comfortable shoes. (Pictured: Buzzfeed had a fun guide to shoe storage earlier this year…)

I have a few ideas, but I’m curious what resources the other readers may know about…

- Shop within shoe families. If you have one shoe that you love, see what other brands that manufacturer makes, because odds are good that the last will be similar. Annoyingly you sometimes have to do a bit of digging — for example, even though I know that Børn and Isolá shoes are made by the same manufacturer (HH Brown), there’s no sign of that on the Børn website. Investigate all of the links on the website (clicking the “Retailers” link on Børn’s site brought me to a more B2B product page talking about HH Brown orders); ask your shoe salesman; read the blog.

- Find a good blog (or even a blog post) about your foot problem.  I’ve recommended Barking Dog Shoes in the past and I’ll do it again now — I’ve combed through their multiple posts on the best shoe brands for bunions as well as narrow heels many times.

- Look for specialty retailers.  I think Lisa from Privilege (who recently got married; congrats, Lisa!) calls them “Shoes That Don’t Hurt” stores, and every city has them — stores that specialize in problem feet, such as Eneslow’s or Tip Top Shoes here in NYC to my mom’s favorite store in Cleveland, Lucky Shoes.  In today’s day and age I would think of these as ways to get started rather than the final word — you can go in and try on a bunch of different brands, see how they’re made, talk to the sales person about your feet (they may immediately put a name to a problem you didn’t even know you had but explains why you’re having problems with your shoes), and more.  If you’re happy with the selection in the store (or someone who vastly prefers to try shoes on in the store), then that kind of store is going to be your favorite place.  Personally I prefer to research things, order them online, and then just send them back if I don’t like them.   Online you can find some as well — Comfortology (for general comfort shoes) to Barefoot Tess (for larger sized shoes) to Alonai (for smaller sized shoes).  I think it bears emphasis that not every problem foot needs to wear ugly “comfort shoes” or orthotics — but it may be vastly easier to start there, and then identify what you like/don’t like when you compare the “comfort shoes” to the general shoes you used to buy before.  Some trade offs you may be willing to make — comfort, price, style — and some you won’t.

- Know your search options.  Zappos offers a special link for “wide shoes,“so does Online Shoes and many others.  Sometimes the product recommendations on the page can also help you discover new brands.  If size alone is your problem, ShopStyle lets you comb through multiple retailers while allowing you to filter by size (4-14) as well as heel height.

Readers — how do you find comfortable shoes for whatever shoe problem you’ve got?  Word of mouth? Research? Investigation?  Endless try-ons?  Do share…

Comments

  1. Idk I think I’m screwed regardless. I’ve researched several different types of shoes. Seen a podiatrist. I need orthodics but I’d have to shell out $$ to get them specially made for various flats I wear to work. I don’t do heels because my feet are weird and all the pressure goes on my 2nd toe rather than the big toe. And I’m 5’11″ so i dont want to deal with being 6’1″+ Basically I’ve tried every shoe and I don’t think my feet will ever be comfortable unless they are cushioned in a comfy sneaker. I do need to try heel/arch inserts. I guess I’ll see how that goes. For now the work shoes I found are bearable.

    • Have you tried Aravon shoes? They are too wide for me but might work for you? Can you give examples of work shoes that you find bearable?

      • Lady Harriet :

        I really like Earthies. They’re pricey, but cheaper than orthotics. I wasn’t impressed with their low-heeled sandals, but I own a pair of their pumps that are amazing, and the flats they make (really more of a covered 1-inch wedge) look good too. The arch support is better than any brand I’ve tried except Birkenstocks, and the pair of pumps I have distribute my weight evenly over the whole foot, instead of just my toes.

        Actually, all the truly comfortable shoe brands I’ve discovered have come from a friend who also has bad feet, although she has different problems than I do. I have very high arches and heel pain, but also unusually-shaped feet. My feet are short, but extremely wide in the front with average-width heels. Ideally I’d probably wear size 6.5 WW, but the brands that make that size don’t have the support I need, so my shoes are usually too long for me. A few years ago I culled all my terrible cheap shoes that were way too big for me–I had ones as large as 9.5, just because I was so excited to have found something that fit the width of my feet.

        It’s also helped me to visit a “shoes that don’t hurt” store and try on lots of different brands. I discovered that most comfort brands don’t have enough arch support or padding for me, which would have taken ages of buying and returning online to find out otherwise. There are generally better deals to be had online, but there’s more hassle. At this point I won’t buy online from anywhere that doesn’t give me free return shipping. I can’t afford to have my small shoe budget eaten up mailing back shoes that don’t fit!

    • My insurance covered orthotics. Check with yours. At the least, if they are prescribed by a podiatrist than the orthotics should be flex-spending eligibile if you participate in an FSA program. I think the cost was around $300–I know that sounds like a lot, but they can last for years and years and having comfy feet is priceless.

      Also, I only wear my orthotics in sneakers. The podiatrist gave me these blue foam “half-insert” thingies in my shoes size that I can slip into loafers or other flats. Cost of the inserts were maybe $30ish. Those alone help a lot.

      • Bargain hunter :

        This is a shot in the dark, but anyone have a recommendation for a good orthotics maker in DC? I’ve had two pairs so far, one of which was wonderful and one of which was so uncomfortable I could barely wear them. (Same prescription/order from a doctor, for whatever it’s worth. I had to go elsewhere to get them made.) The place where I got the wonderful ones is (of course) out of business now. They were blue and a bit spongier (?) than the typical harder ones I’ve seen. Any ideas?

    • I was really reluctant to shell out the $400 that my orthotics cost, but they are worth their weight in gold. It takes a few days to notice the difference, but now I notice that I have calf and foot pain when I don’t wear them. I wish I had discovered/used them before I went ahead with my bunion surgery (though I am still glad I did that).

      • Baconpancakes :

        How do you know you need orthotics, without going to podiatrist? My legs and feet hurt pretty much all the time, but I thought that was because I wear cute shoes instead of practical ones and walk a lot. (I have incredibly high arches)

        • My orthotics are prescription orthotics (not covered by insurance, but covered with Flex dollars) so I had to get them from a podiatrist–I also wouldn’t recommend doing otherwise anyway.

          Honestly, if your legs and feet bother you all the time, you should probably stop wearing shoes that make them hurt. My problem was at least 50% genetic, but exacerbated by wearing less-than-good-for-me shoes (but still, not crazy ones, just ones without a lot of support) for years.

          Trust me when I say this: you don’t want to have foot problems…or foot surgery. Whenever I see women in ultrahigh heels on the subway, I can only think of how badly they’re messing up their feet and calves. Ballerina flats without support are almost as bad for you. You’ve only got one set of feet/legs–treat them nicely and wear supportive shoes whenever you can!

          • I’m the same way. I think my problem is somewhat genetic, but bad shoes don’t help at all. I try to keep my cute, unsupportive flats limited to going out on weekends because then I’m only in them for a few hours.

        • Delta Sierra :

          Baconpancakes – me too with freakishly high arches. One thing that really helps is New Balance Jo Jo flip-flops around the house. They have very good arch support. Also, I NEVER go barefoot anymore. Always have something on my feet that supports the arches.

    • My orthotics were covered by insurance too. I have plantar fascitiis in one heel, and bone spurs in both (fun!). The podiatrist took x-rays of both my feet, gave me custom orthotics (which fit in most sneakers that have removable insoles), and shots of steroids to reduce the swelling. Doing this also helped a nagging knee problem (duh) AND prompted me to wear better, more supportive shoes 85%-90% of the time.

    • lucy stone :

      Get orthotics! It’s so worth it. I have a pair for flats and a pair for heels and love them. My insurance covered all but $100, if I remember correctly.

      • Well, I need orthotics, but the problem is my feet are mostly in pain when I’m wearing work shoes, never when I’m wearing sneakers. I feel like a million bucks in sneakers. So I’d need orthotics to fit multiple pairs of flats I own.

        For work, I wear the JCrew Cece flat which has an internal wedge. They aren’t the most supportive but the wedge keeps me from being flat on the ground. I’ll try inserts with them. I also have some Born flats, Dr Scholls (which I should find and resume wearing). I bought Rockport w Adidas adiprene and Cole Haan flats w Nike Air, however they are not heavily in my rotation due to the coloring but I should make an effort to insert them into the rotation.

        • My orthotics are designed to fit into flats. They don’t work for all flats–mainly b/c they raise your foot up a bit so it makes it easier for them to fall out, but you can play around a bit. Prescription orthotics are very, very thin–and I can wear the ones I wear with flats with sneakers as well! Also, some flats have removable soles (Munro, some Clarks).

  2. I wear size 11 narrow shoes and have weird feet to fit – very narrow heels, low instep, and wider forefeet. I’m also very tall so I prefer heels of no more than 2 inches high. However, shoes that are completely flat tend to make my feet look like boats. I also have bunions, so shoes with pointy toes don’t work for me.

    I shop online, only from places with free returns – such as Zappos and Nordstrom (not Online Shoes). I return most of the shoes that I order. I’ve also learned to shop early in the season, as most places only get one pair of shoes in my size and when they sell out they are gone for good. So I shop now, in late August, for fall/winter shoes. As Kat suggests, I also keep in mind certain brands (Clarks, Naturalizer) and styles (rounder or squarer toes) that tend to work for me. I can often get boots in medium width to fit me if I wear thick socks. Pumps, flats and sandals are much more difficult as my heel is so narrow that I tend to walk out of shoes. Mary jane styles or styles with lacing help with that. My biggest issue is finding shoes in my size that don’t look frumpy. I like the barking dog shoes for fit suggestions, but the shoes she picks are just not my style. I’m eager see what other suggestions are out there.

    • Anon! We could be sisters! I am 6’1 with a very narrow heel and walk out of shoes, and it is difficult finding shoes that fit. I too wear a lot of mary jane type shoes and shoes with ankle straps just to keep my foot in! I find Clarks and Aerosoles are best for me. Have you tried Monroe America shoes? They are expensive, but I find they have a lot of styles that work. I also find success at DSW since they have so many to chose from and I am able to just try them on myself instead of trying to get a salesperson to spend hours with me. I too am anxious to hear what others have to say about this!!

      • Anonymous :

        Shoe triplets! (Except I’m an 11.5.) I also return a lot of shoes, and go in with the expectation that alterations will be needed. I bought a shoe stretcher off of Amazon and have mole foam and mole skin to adjust as needed.

        • Mom of big footer :

          My 10-year-old has size 10-10.5 narrow – any thoughts from you all on places for age-appropriate shoes???? We do Clarks, but she doesn’t like the browns and blacks…

  3. I lower my standards. To me, “comfortable” means “does not actually make my feet bleed (much)”. If I limited the world to “looks reasonably nice” AND “actually fits”, I’d have to get all my shoes custom-made, with a custom last.

    Which, I mean, I’d love advice on, but I’m guessing is way out of my price range right now. If anyone’s gone the custom shoe insert route, I’d love to hear how that works too (and how to find a manufacturer who gets that I want to wear cute shoes worn by thirtysomethings, not comfort shoes to address medical problems).

    In the meantime, I shop exclusively at web sites that let me filter by width (mostly amazon), plus occasionally Nordstrom (the only bricks-and-mortar with a chance of selling things that fit). And I pay attention to which styles do and don’t work in my compromise sizes. And when I find a brand that works, I get pretty loyal. (For my narrow feet, Sofft and Cole Haan are good intersections of attractive/come in AA widths/reasonably comfortable. AA isn’t actually my size, but in the right styles it doesn’t make my feet bleed (much), so it’ll do.)

  4. This might be a basic question, but every time I try a shoe with a heel, I get gigantic blisters on my heel. If I wear slingbacks, I’m okay, but ballet flats, pumps, anything with a back will immediately cause friction. Tennis shoes don’t cause blisters, but I will rub out the material inside the shoe fairly quickly.

    I’ve tried sizing down, in which case I get a blister from the top of shoe digging in. I’ve tried sizing up, in which case I get a blister from the shoe slipping. I’ve tried the cushiony heel inserts, but those rub or curl as well.

    Is this a common thing? Is this a ME thing and I need to see a podiatrist? It feels silly to go to the doctor because I’m afraid she’ll just say “Then stop wearing shoes with backs.” Anyone have experience with this?

    • Have you tried using moleskin the first few times until you break in the shoes? Or look for shoes in suede or soft leather that will give a little?

    • Yup, this happens to me. For me it means the heel of the shoe is too wide (my heels are a lot narrower than my toes). Slingbacks and sandals work for me because they can be tightened; mary janes and anything with a high vamp work because they keep my heels from moving around so much. Narrower shoes work, though I can rarely find anything narrow enough, and of course then chances are they’re too narrow in the toes, but sometimes they stretch over time. (You might also be able to get them stretched; haven’t tried because, like I said, as long as my feet aren’t bleeding, I call it a day.)

      The cushiony heel inserts don’t work for me either, as I destroy them (or more likely their adhesives) from all the rubbing.

    • Oh, and I JUST found out that the Cole Haan Air Talia wedge has a narrow enough heel that it doesn’t blister on me in a AA (except a little bit when I was breaking it in; normally I have to find a AAA to avoid heel blistering in a style like this, and, well, good luck with THAT). Spendy but revelatory. Try it in your normal size and see if it helps?

    • Wildkitten :

      I always have to wear blister band aids the first few times I wear new shoes. They’re awesome.

    • This happens to me all the time, with pretty much all my shoes. I buy medical tape at the pharmacy (near band aids and gauze and stuff). The tape is clear so you can’t see it, and I tape up my heel where I know the shoe rubs, and it stops the blistering. It’s so amazing and its super super cheap (like $3 for a roll that lasts months). It doesn’t affect the fit of my shoes like those heel insert things, and I don’t have to buy new when I get new shoes. It has really changed my shoe life. (Though this comment may be too late for anyone to see.)

  5. Oh man. Not very weird feet here, but post pregnancy my feet are definitely 10.5 (no longer 10). I really can’t bother with shopping for shoes in actual stores, because the odds that they have anything in my size, let alone the shoe I want, is almost nil. Why does everything jump from 10 to 11? Is 10.5 really so rare? I cannot complain about this to my mother, who is still appalled that she gave birth to someone with such big feet.

    So I just shop Nordy’s or Zappos, where I can sort by size and not bother looking at all the beauties that don’t exist in my size.

    • Try shoes in European sizes, or Cole Haan in size 11 (which to me is more like a 10.5).

    • Yeah, 10.5 is like a freaking unicorn. My sister’s regular size is 10.5 and it is such a struggle for her to find shoes her size. ;oP many shoe manufacturers don’t even MAKE them. Just FYI, DSW also allows you to search by size online, if you are looking for sale shoes to fill in your shoe wardrobe.

    • A Nonny Moose :

      Ha this is one of my biggest concerns about getting pregnant. I’m already an 11 to 12. If I gain a half size for each kid I have (my mom did) I’ll end up with a size 13. Ahh!
      I wish there was an 11.5 size.

      • Baconpancakes :

        Ahhhhh! No one reminds you of that! Stretch marks, yes, b00bs drooping, yes, but feet growing isn’t something you hear about as much! I’m a 10, and I know I’m on the upper end of shoe sizes for women. I’m grateful I can find most styles in 10′s, and I will be so sad if I size out of cute shoes after babies!

        • Ha! Honestly, reading about some of the other issues people deal with when buying shoes makes me think finding the 10.5 unicorn isn’t so bad. Cole Haan actually makes some 10.5, as does Ferragamo and Naturalizer (those two are rarely used in the same sentence, but I have both under my desk!). Nordstrom Rack is good for trying on new brands and seeing how they run/if they make 10.5. And then some 10s run big, and some 11s run small…

          FYI, on the pregnancy front, the issue is really how high your arches are. Your feet don’t really grow, they just spread out when the pregnancy hormones allow your joints to soften/stretch. I tried to prevent it with custom orthotics that fully support my arches, but I have really high arches and my feet got bigger by just a smidge. I didn’t consider that they will get bigger again if I have another kid! Oy.

          • Yup – 10.5 are unicorn in cheaper (usually US centered) brands. You have to go more expensive if you want the half sizes above a 10.

            So, look for big 10s, small 11s, and 10.5 on sale. Or, if you just need sneakers, try the men’s department. A women’s 10.5 should probably be about a 9 in men’s sizes.

          • Not in law :

            How much your feet grow may also depend on how much weight you gain.

    • I have very W-I-D-E feet — not big feet, but wide feet. My dad says that when I was a baby, all of his freind’s called me Daisy Duck, b/c I was just learning to waddle and my feet kept me from tippeing over!

      It is NOT to dificult to find shoe’s for me, but sometimes the very styleish shoe’s simply do NOT come as wide as I would like so I just squeeze into them. Mom says I need to look out or I will get BUNNION’s but so far so good. Dad says that my wide feet is genetic, as is my now wider tuchus, and they both come from MOM’s side of the family. It seem’s that every time some less attractive family trait is brought up, it turn’s out it is NEVER from HIS side of the family, but each time I hear about it, its from MOM’s side, and Grandma Leyeh is alway’s the original source of the information.

      Rosa, on the other hand, has very normal/slim feet, so she can wear almost any shoe. Also, she was a ballerina as a young child, but gave it up long before she decided to get MARRIED and have kid’s. She still does alot of ballerina thing’s, and dad loves it. He does NOT like it when I try to imitate, b/c I am more clumsey, even with my duck feet. FOOEY!

    • Nine West, Ann Klein, and Naturalizer consistently carry size 10.5, but they won’t have them in stores. However, sometimes they do have styles that zappos won’t have, so it’s worth it to check on their specific sites too.

      Occasionally you might be able to get an 11 and make it work through cleverly placed inserts. You’d want to put them under the ball of your foot, and not at the heel. My father-in-law works at a shoe store for the hard-to-fit and he’s been able to do this for me with some shoes, but it’s usually boots or mary jane styles.

    • Zora is right. 10.5 is a unicorn of shoes. I have had the best luck at Nordstrom’s Rack, where there is actually a section for size 10. 5 shoes! It’s the size manufacturers often skip.

    • I wear an eleven and am petrified of this happening. On the plus side sizing at the upper range is reallllly all over the place– often 10.5s or even 10s fit mow even though I am measured as 11, so maybe there will be something that will fit post pregnancy. Also, try Talbot’s for 10.5s.

  6. Oh man, I’m excited for this post.

    Clarks Ryla King shoes have worked out very well for my narrow-heeled, wide-toe boxed, old-lady-feet-on-a-30-something feet. Link to follow!

  7. For shoe size issues (not necessarily medical problems), don’t be afraid to modify your shoes. Experiment with all the different insoles you can buy from the drugstore (thickness & types of material will effect shoe fit & comfort), add moleskin in places that cause hotspots or blisters, use heel grippers (esp. useful if you have wide toes & narrow heels). Try all of these things in every combo — each pair of shoes will need its own modification. You can do quite a bit to make shoes fit better. And consider taking shoes to a cobbler — toe boxes can be stretched up to half a size on leather shoes, & extra holes can be punched on straps to make things like slingbacks more/less snug.

    Also, wear hosiery! This gives an additional barrier between the shoe & your foot to ease rubbing & absorb moisture (which can create all kinds of problems). If you have a lot of foot problems, stick with natural fiber hose, such as mostly cotton tights or socks.

  8. I have a very narrow heel, long toes, and very high arches. Instead of having to find every shoe in a narrow width, I just only look at/buy shoes that have a strap, ankle strap, or high vamp, so that they will stay on my feet, especially when dealing with heels. And I add an insert or an arch insert to pretty much every pair of shoes. I buy them in ‘bulk’ from Amazon to get discounts. But I am also lucky in that I work in a nonprofit, so I can wear casual flats a lot of the time to work. I only have a few weeks a year I have to wear heels, so I have one pair in black, one grey, one brown, and that covers my needs for heels for the year.

    Brands that work for me: Indigo by Clarks, Born, Sofft, and some Bare Traps flats. But again, even in those brands, ALWAYS a mary jane or ankle strap or lace-up style shoe. Although I did just find some Audrey Brooke moccs that fit my heel, so I might start trying out their other shoes.

  9. I wear a 10.5N…you cannot find that size in any store. Even Nordstrom. An at Nordstrom on-line, the choices are frumpy. My 2 go-tos are Arthur Beren Shoes for Stuart Weitzman and Ferragamo. Price-y, I know, but worth it in terms of quality and style. I also have good luck at Marmi for Vanelis. I take good care of my shoes, keep them on shoe trees and have them re-heeled, re-soled as needed. I have some Ferragamo Varas that are 10 years old and still look good. So my problem is not so much comfort as fit.

    • DC Wonkette :

      My grandmother is a 10 quad and the only shoes she could ever find are Ferragamos (which was a dangerous example as a child)…

  10. Size 11 feet here, after being a solid 10 for years. (I bet it was the meteoric weight gain I experienced 2.5 years ago.) I love DSW, since I get free shipping both ways. In store, they have a decent (but not always great) selection of size 11. I find a ton of stuff on their clearance rack.

    I also have really wide calves, and of course, hate stretchy tall boots (I at least want the real-looking , if still fake, leather). My favorite brand for tall boots has been Bare Traps from DSW, since the shaft is like 16″-18″ wide. But a good pair of no-heel, flat riding boots (black!) still eludes me.

    (And I’m not a shill for DSW. I just find myself shoe shopping there the most often.)

  11. Diane Lockhart :

    This post describes me — I have VERY finicky, difficult-to-fit feet. First, I have bunions combined with a narrow heel. I have heard them described as “duck feet.” I also have a hammertoe on my right foot which requires a lot of toe room. Finally, my right foot is half a size larger than my left.

    All of your suggestions are good — especially Barkingdogshoes dot com. Kirsten’s blog has been a lifesaver. She also has a Facebook page that she posts on and you can get additional tips on shoes and sales. She will answer specific questions as well if there is something special you are looking to find.

    For my duck feet, I have learned that European fit shoes are my friend. For some reason, they are cut wider in the forefoot and narrower in the heel. I have my brands that work, although sometimes only certain styles. They include Munro (wide only), Beautifeel, Naot, Cobb Hill, Rieker, Ecco, Dansko, Taos, Ara, Gentle Souls. I found a wonderful store (Sole Comfort in Newport Beach CA) that specializes in hard to fit feet and they have introduced me to many new brands and styles I never knew about before. Find a local shoe store that specializes in comfortable shoes. Even the Walking Company can work, although their selection is more limited. Nordstrom’s also has a fairly good selection, sometimes just online.

    Sandals are so much easier to wear than closed toe shoes. Pumps are almost impossible — something with a strap like a t strap, ankle strap or mary jane keeps the shoe on my foot.

    Trial and error works best. I order online with impunity from places that offer free shipping and free returns. You have no idea how many shoes I order and return. But once I find a style that works, I will buy it in several colors.

    Finally, in addition to orthotics, I have discovered that yoga can help your feet. My gym has a class called Yoga Tune-Up and they do all sorts of stretches for your whole body, including your feet. They use these yoga therapy balls that help pinpoint an area. There is one exercise where you stretch your toes open — this helps me with my bunions, which squeeze my toes togther. Google Yoga Tube up and there is a whole website on this and the therapy balls.

  12. Diana Barry :

    I don’t wear heels to work – I have a standing desk and developing bunions and it just isn’t comfortable for me to wear them. I have a bunch of flats from Cole Haan (only after being stretched), Minnetonkas, Nine West. My heels for dressy occasions are Cole Haan (stretched again) and Naturalizer.

    I found that my feet grew 1/2 size (from 8.5/9 to 9/9.5) but also grew wider while I was pregnant. HOWEVER, this is through 3 kids – they went up in size but then stabilized.

  13. AttiredAttorney :

    There are some sprinkled above, but could I just ask readers for links to your favorite pair of comfortable, conservative/work appropriate shoes? Extra points if they’re a pointy-toed flat.

  14. My feet are two different sizes. I always wondered if I should post a personal ad looking for a lady with the opposite so we can be life long shoe friends….

    • Check with Nordstroms. I believe they will allow you to purchase one shoe in each size – or at least they used to.

  15. Boy of boy–this is an important topic. Bad back=no heels; bunions the size of mountains=tricky feet; plantar fasciitis=need rigid bottom shoes. My solution(s–still in progress) have been (1) custom inserts–sorta work but not completely, (2) FinnComfort shoes (cork insole that mold to feet)–these are incredible–they have *saved* my feet, cured the plantar fasciitis–but they are really ugly (or hipsterish?), (3) Taos sandals (again, ugly–but workable), (4) Merrills–not as good as the FinnComforts, but workable, particularly on cold, wet days, (5) Fitflops indoors as slippers (never, ever go backfoot), (6) Teva hiking sandals for, well, hiking and the bench. got these initially when hiking the Grand Canyon–almost as good as the FinnComforts and a heck of a lot cheaper and (7) when absolutely necessary, Arche flats for dress (with insert for arch).

  16. too many typos! I meant: Fitflops for barefeet, Tevas for the beach (although maybe judges use these hidden behind benches?)

  17. I am actually a 10.5 E So, I order shoes from a 10E or EE to an 11D since 10.5 is nonexistent in most shoes, and definitely most shoes in wide!

    I agree with finding brands that work, shopping early, and paying full price. I also will buy a second of the same shoes in different color if I like them. I’m actually now considering buying a second pair in the same color (like black) because once I find a pair I like and then they wear out I want to cry!

    A lot of the comfort brands have 95% ugly grandma shoes and 5% cute or at least simple shoes. So, be prepared to look at a lot of uglies.

    I like Hush Puppies and SoftSpots.

  18. Sadly, I have to strongly recommend against Barking Dogs.

    After reading reviews elsewhere for many of her picks and seeing they had the lowest ratings in every category, I surmised she is only in it for the money. She gets those shoes for free to promote and gets paid for the clicks.

    It took me a minute to figure out how she could write such glowing praise about shoes that there would be 50 comments about extremely low quality, poor fit, shoddy workmanship, etc.

    Extremely disappointing.

    • Sally,

      That is exactly what I try to avoid doing–giving glowing praise for a craptastic shoe. Can you provide an example of how I’ve done that in the past? Yes, it is my job and I do make money (GOd forbid), but I do a lot of research into customer reviews, my knowledge of problem feet (I have rheumatoid arthritis and it has affected my feet–bunions, hammertoes, hallux limitus at times).
      Kirsten

    • Diane Lockhart :

      I have to respond to the suggestion that barkingdogshoes, written by Kirsten, is “in it for the money” and suggests poor quality shoes based on that motivation. I do not think that taking the “few minutes: that you said you spent simply looking at her site, seeing a few shoes that you do not consider to be good quality and then seizing on negative comments online, provides a sufficient basis to reach that conclusion. I have been following Kirsten’s blog for a number of years. She addresses a wide variety of foot problems and suggests a wide variety of shoes at different price points, both expensive and more moderately priced. Obviously not every shoe works for everyone. Not everyone can afford Ferragamo’s or Stuart Weizman. Not all of her suggestions work for me but I have to say she has suggested many, many shoes that I have bought and loved.

      My view, based on reading her blog and facebook page and several lovely interactions with her online (she answers questions as well) is that she is genuinely trying to share information that may help folks with problem feet find shoes that work for them and which are fun and stylish as well.

      While everyone is entitled to their opinion, my experience and that of many folks who post on this site (and thanks to their recommendation, led me to Kirsten’s site) is contrary to the views you expressed above.

      • I'm Just Me :

        +1 to Diane Lockhart

        I have gleaned very valuable advice from BDs, in terms of fit and suggestions for brands to try.

  19. Size 6 narrow. Apparently the only people who have feet my size are 100 years old because I have a really hard time finding stylish shoes. I’ve learned that there is no such thing as a sale price for my shoes. Usually only one pair is stocked so I have to buy them when I see them at full price or they are gone.

    I’ve learned to read reviews religiously because if a shoes is touted as running really narrow I can occassionly get a medium to work if I use a bunch of heel grips and/or drugstore insoles. I adore shoes with straps. Ankle or heel straps can be tightened up to keep shoes on my feet, and the strap on Mary Janes keep me from walking out of the shoes.

    • AlaskaLaw :

      Size 4.5! Shoes used to be really, really difficult but I discovered that Cole Haan Air Talia Mid Pump in a size 5 ran small. I told my children there could be no college for them, and bought three pairs. They are the perfect height, they are incredibly comfortable and the black pump while not super exciting is classy and goes with everything. I managed to get one pair in black suede though and it’s gorgeous. That “Air Nike” technology really works!
      For the tiny footed among us, Norsdstrom sells shoes 4 and 4.5, as does Zappos.

  20. SV Tech girl :

    I have another foot issue that I could use some help with chemotherapy induced neuropathy. My shoe size is small – standard size 6M, but footbeds must be absolutely smooth – no seams or textures, heels must be low or flat, and the shoes must breath really well so my feet don’t heat up. Cushioning underneath is a help too, but not if it comes at the expense of texture on the foot bed ( as my Jambu sandals do – so they only work on “good days”). I have a pair of Born black flats that work if the weather is not warm (otherwise my feet heat up and things get very painful), a pair of HelleComfort low heels that are dressier and very comfortable all day (but not exactly what you’d call conservative work appropriate shoes to go with a suit). I have a pair of Dr. Scholl’s gel inserts that help sometimes to make other assorted semi-work appropriate shoes tolerable. I keep an ice pack with a fluffy cover in the freezer at work to cool my feet off under my desk – if things get bad I put the pack on a foot rest and put my feet on the ice pack.

    I am hopeful that when the weather cools down and I’m off the medication the neuropathy will get better, but I have to get through this first and realistically acknowledge that my feet may never be quite the same ever again.

    • Delta Sierra :

      Take a look at shoes designed for diabetics. Also socks – there’s no seam at the toe, and so no rubbing. I have very sensitive toes and have worn diabetic socks for years. They can be expensive, and hard to find, but worth it not to have sore rubbed-raw toes.

  21. I’m interested in people’s recommendations for “Shoes That Don’t Hurt” stores in the DC area. Nordstroms is the only one that I know who has shoes for narrow feet. I generally do Zappos.

    I’m at 9.5 narrow with toes mostly the same length. Nice to hear that I’m not alone.

  22. Delta Sierra :

    Recently I found some ready-made orthotics that exactly suit my feet. http://www.zappos.com/powerstep-pinnacle-blue?zfcTest=fcl%3A3

    So now I buy shoes and boots that have removable insoles. Swap them out. The orthotics can be trimmed with scissors the fit inside pretty much any shoe, but they raise my heel, so they’re not much use for ballet flats. Oh well. Better than before, when the plantar fasciitis was just. miserable.

  23. Hah, I wear ugly-esque shoes per comfort to work every day. Trotters loafers, Dr Scholls flats, and surprise! Target sells flats with comfort arch support. Those are my favorite. They don’t look sleek, but they work for my wide-toe, narrow-heel size 6.5′s.

  24. I have a narrow foot and rely on Nordstroms and Marmi. I like Munros – a bit pricey but they hold up really well. Superfeet makes good insoles and a variety for different activities and sports – even for cycling shoes. You can find them at REI and elsewhere.
    I developed plantar faciiatis 23 months ago and now have a bone spur too. I wore a boot 24-7 for six weeks, and I do the exercises, ice it, run it over a tennis ball, have given up sandals and going barefoot, etc. and would do just about anything at this point to get over it. Two months ago I got custom othotics ($450 – not covered by insurance) two months ago. They help some, and I’m sure I’ll be wearing them the rest of my life. I may try a new podiatrist next. My advice: don’t try to get by with medium width shoes even with inserts – spend the money and tolerate the frumpiness for narrow shoes that fit. If you develop plantar faciiatis, don’t ignore it.

  25. Talbots has wide and narrow sizes online but you can try medium width shoes on it store to see about length and then order from the catalogue in store and get free shipping.

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