Confoot be gone!
July 27, 2009 7:55 AM   Subscribe

What can I do now to never get "con foot" ever, ever again?

I am a sci-fi fan and every year go to a large number of conventions, with the biggest by far being San Diego Comic Con International.

I just returned from my 4th and, for the fourth year in a row, I feel like I have no feet; rather, I am simply walking on bloody ankle-nubs.

I don't know if it's the walking at the con, or the standing (there is far more standing than walking), and I don't know if it is the uneven terrain of the outdoor standing or the hard-ass floor of the convention itself, but every year by Sunday I am limping.

I am overweight, but I have several think friends who also suffer from horrible con-foot at SDCC.

For those unfamiliar, let me describe the symptoms/sensations. When I went, I was happy, normal, no foot pain. Over the course of five grueling days of being on my feet 18 hours a day I have:

*Blisters on the bottom of my big, middle, and 4th toes
*the entire bottom of my foot is much rougher and feels tougher than it did before the con
*My feet throb when in resting positions, approximately with the pace of my pulse.
*When standing my feet feel like someone has a voodoo doll of me and is lighting matches under its feet.
*My ankles are sore and at the worst of it feel like they might give out.
*The toenails of my fourth and pinky toes are very sensitive.

ALL of the pain is devoted to my feet and ankles. I have no hip, knee, or other leg pain.

I have worked hard over the years to try and play with different shoes (crocs, high tops, work boots, etc). This year I wore two pairs of shoes, alternating on days, which prevented some of the horrible blistering of years past, but still the problem persists.

To add: I have had a fairly bad instep all my life, so even my day-to-day shoes usually have some form of ankle support. My day-to-day shoes look like these:

and I wore a pare of those at the con, as well as some high-top Nikes.

I am starting a fitness routine, but I'm wondering what I can do to make my feet and ankles not hurt this badly at future cons. I have thought walking/treadmill would work (I want to have cardio anyways to lose weight) but I don't know if an hour a day five days a week will help prepare me for five eighteen hour days, nor do I know if walking will help with the standing.

But I'm tired of being the slow guy on the 3rd day of the con, and a virtual cripple on the 4th and 5th. And I'm tired of hurting for almost a week after.

Help me Mefites...I have 51 weeks. How can I prep?
posted by arniec to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's a combination of bodyweight, underdeveloped muscles, and very long periods standing.

To be honest, this seems like the perfect motivator for a fitness routine, in that you have a concrete goal (strengthening your leg muscles, tendons and ligaments to reduce or eliminate pain for a known future date), rather than a vague, neverending goal of 'keeping fit'.

If you're doing your routine in a gym, you'll probably want to work on developing your calf and thigh muscles with weights, step trainers, that kind of thing. You might also want to look into hiking steadily increasing distances, which will, if done right, toughen up your feet, increase your stamina, help you lose weight and get you out into some very pretty nature.

Some kind of low-impact exercise like cycling or swimming could also be good for the cardio aspect and to let your knee joints etc be built up without putting direct strain on them.

Finally, you might want to do some kind of exercise or workshop to work on your posture and how you carry yourself, perhaps yoga. Most people stand really badly, and don't even realise they're doing it. It's possible to stand and walk for long periods without crippling yourself, but the way many people hold their bodies makes it really easy to hurt muscles, cause blisters and create all sorts of needless aches and pains.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:11 AM on July 27, 2009

Exercise, for sure. But I'm not very heavy, & I thought my feet were going to fall off during a recent walking-all-day trip.

Frequent breaks help a lot.

But I thought I remembered a device that would help; it took me a while to guess the name of it. Here you go: seat stick
posted by amtho at 8:23 AM on July 27, 2009

Changing your shoes won't help one bit if you don't undertake an exercise regimen- what you're experiencing is most likely a problem of stamina rather than foot shape. I'm always surprised at how wiped out I am after a single day at a convention, because you don't pay attention to how much ground you're actually covering, and there's usually not a lot of convenient places to sit and rest.

Also, stay hydrated, and make sure you're taking in electrolytes.
posted by mkultra at 8:38 AM on July 27, 2009

You can prep by getting into better shape. Losing weight and running or walking regularly to build up your muscles is really the best way.

I know: sunlight, exercise, healthy food - a nerd craves not these things. But for the sake of your feet and your health, do it.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:38 AM on July 27, 2009

The right shoes will help. You need shoes with a very hard and inflexible sole. If you can hold the shoe in your hands bend it in half (heel to toe), then that is too soft.

I did some research and checked with doctors before a trip on which I knew I'd have to spend most of three weeks walking through a mix of urban and jungle. I was worried about my pansy city-boy feet, which sometimes get a dull, flat soreness on the bottom after only one long day of, like, shopping. I could pick up a blister from two straight days.

The suggestion was as above: a very hard and inflexible sole, and ideally a shoe that can be strapped tightly to your foot so that it doesn't slide/wiggle around, causing blisters and such. I ended up with classic hippie-style Birkenstock sandals (with backs) strapped on very tight, and I was amazed at how I could stand and walk for days on end, asphalt or dirt, climbing over both drainpipes and baobobs without a problem.

It worked so well that when I got home I found a pair of actual non-sandal shoes that work the same way but with work clothes, and wow. I've been an infinite-walking machine ever since. I'll collapse from four days of dehydration before I get sore feet now.

(Which, by the way, is more advice: stay hydrated.)

51 weeks is time enough to find the perfect shoes.
posted by rokusan at 8:46 AM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah...I was teeny, fresh out of collegiate gymnastics when I first started working comic conventions, and my feet still felt like you've described. Seriously, I weighed half what I weigh now, was in good enough shape to backflip through the entire pavilion, wore rational shoes, and it still took a few days to recover from the shows like SD.

The biggest issue is that you're standing/walking on concrete, and concrete is very unforgiving.

Take regular breaks. Sit down, drink a coffee, read one of the books you just bought. At night, soak your feet in cool water with epsom salts. It really does help.

But realize that your feet are going to hurt. They just are.

Now, imagine how much pain those poor costumed girls in high heels feel.
posted by dejah420 at 8:48 AM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can get the same problem walking all day on concrete. In my shop I lay down anti-fatigue mats in front of my benches and saw which essentially eliminates the symptoms. Obviously you can't lay the mats down everywhere at the convention but I have seen guys who couldn't afford enough mat cut out shoe sized pieces of anti fatigue mat and spray glue them to the bottom of their shoes. Apparently works pretty good once you get used to lifting your feet a little higher while walking.
posted by Mitheral at 9:01 AM on July 27, 2009

I get this sometimes at library conferences. While I think getting used to more walking [i.e. exercise in between now and then] is a good idea, there are other things you can do in the meantime.

- good shoes, people have touched on this. If you wear shoes that give you blisters, do not put them back on until the blisters have healed
- put your feet up when you can, elevate them and take off your shoes [good for skin, good for circulation]
- have an evening footcare routine that involves some cotton socks [or barefoot], maybe some moisturizer [good for callouses] and elevating. Be kind to your feet. Epsom salts are also awesome.
- bring a first aid for feet package that includes band-aids, moleskin, first aid cream and some other stuff [I'd suggest some peppermint foot cream which smells good and feels good on achey feet] and tend to your feet in the eveningtime to head off any incipient blisters or raw spots.
- bring extra pairs of socks that breathe well. If you get sweaty feet change socks partway through the day. Carry a ziploc to put sweaty socks into so they don't poison your bag, and rinse them and dry them in the hotel sink at night. Sweaty socks can rub raw areas into your feet if you've already got sort of bad-fitting shoes.

If your nails are sore it may be that your shoes are a little too tight. Walking definitely WILL help with standing and losing some weight will definitely help with food and especially ankle pain. Good luck, it sounds like a good motivator and reasonable timeframe to work on this for next year.
posted by jessamyn at 9:10 AM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

My wife has worn these shoes, which are designed to be worn on hard floors, but I think you need to work into them slowly, because they can be strenuous. I'd see what a podiatrist says about them for you.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 9:15 AM on July 27, 2009

Custom orthotics?
posted by kestrel251 at 9:28 AM on July 27, 2009

There are some good tips in this thread, including jfwlucy's tip to raise one foot up when you can, and switch feet.

I second Jessamyn's suggestion to have a footcare routine, or maybe even get a couple of professional pedicures. I get a thick callous on the base of my big toe that I can't seem to get a handle on myself, but with regular pedicures it disappears. If I let it get out of control, it actually hurts to put any pressure on that toe.

Anywhere on your feet where there's a callous, plantar's wart, corn, etc., is going to be exacerbated by a lot of standing or walking so take care of those beforehand. Keep your toenails as closely trimmed as possible.

I also recommend having 2 or 3 pairs of shoes and alternating throughout the day. And running shoes are the worst things ever for walking or standing - not enough cushioning. Something I've heard of but never tried is that you can put antiperspirant on your feet to prevent sweating and blisters.
posted by peep at 9:58 AM on July 27, 2009

Wool socks. Really thick ones designed for hiking... get a good brand, and they won't be itchy or hot, just really, really comfortable. Cotton and synthetic dress socks or athletic socks will either chafe, or get damp and cling so the shoe chafes through them, and offer no support or cushioning. Wool slides nicely when it needs to, and cradles when it needs to, and is cushy enough to conform and protect while absorbing some of the impact of your footfall.

Also, get in the habit of walking, every day. Park at the far end of the parking lot, go for a stroll in the evenings (for me, this pairs up exceptionally well with NPR - All Things Considered and Marketplace. Excercise the brain and the bod at the same time with a pleasant activity.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:40 AM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

You didn't say how often you take breaks off your feet; that's crucial--even the Hands on a Hard Body people get breaks. The Seat Stick mentioned above (although not that particular one, since it has a spike on the bottom) or a backpack with a built-in seat (assuming that you can find a square yard or so of reasonably clean floorspace) are good alternatives for impromptu resting or standing-room-only panels.

And--this may be hard to admit--if you're literally on your feet 18 hours a day, simply accept that you can't do that any more. I was actually a little younger than you when I found out that, for example, I couldn't ride a Greyhound bus all night and still be in decent shape for an all-day seminar the next day. No point in making it into a death march.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:53 PM on July 27, 2009

One thing to consider if walking and standing still causes you pain after getting better shoes (I also recommend the same things as rokusan and Slap*Happy above), is to check whether you have problems with your posture or stride that are causing you issues.

I have a natural tendency to turn one foot inwards when I'm walking and after spending a week walking I would start having burning pains on my soles. Getting better shoes helped somewhat, but what really helped was following the suggestions of a podiatrist (sports medicine variant) whom I saw for other reasons to be mindful of my stride and foot position.

Following her suggestions doubled the distance and time I could walk comfortably within a couple of weeks. That, combined with wearing appropriate and well-fitting shoes made a huge difference in the amount of time that I could spend comfortably walking on cement or other similar really solid surfaces.

Also, for a somewhat different recommendation, tai chi is great for improving posture, balance and all the other things that make for comfortable standing. It will help improve how you move generally, which can only help your ability to withstand the relative rigors of con.
posted by corprew at 1:13 PM on July 27, 2009

Trivia suggestion: Someone once asked the Queen how she managed to stand on a reviewing platform for hours without suffering. Her answer was that she moved her foot slightly so that she was standing on one foot while the other was rotated up so that only the toe was touching ground. I've checked news film over the years, and, yes, she does it, but you really have to look as it's hardly noticeable. She also does the rotate so she's putting pressure only on the heel.

Also, nthing the wool socks, well padded shoes and foot care goodies to go with. I prefer well fitted shoe with a padded, flexible sole in a material that breathes like leather or plain canvas rather than synthetic anything that makes your feet sweat. And, talc or foot powder if it's hot.
posted by x46 at 1:14 PM on July 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Smartwool socks, thick. Ventilated shoes, such as amphibious trainers (the kind with a lot of mesh) with a decent insole. If you can find a spot of grass somewhere go out and stand on it barefoot or in your socks regularly. Morning, afternoon and night shoes. Wash feet and change socks between each. I know it feels like time's a-wastin' at cons, but honestly, you need to take about a half hour minding your pinkies about every 3 hours I would say. Go, sit on your grass with your knees bent so your feet are flat on the grass, drink some, enjoy the sun and air, and plan your next moves in the center.
posted by Iteki at 1:52 PM on July 27, 2009

A lot of waitstaff, nurses, people who work in grocery stores, and other people who stand all day on concrete or hard surfaces wear SAS Shoes. (At least, here they do... maybe different in non-Texas places.) They are not attractive, and they are not cheap. But, I can vouch that they are miracles -- you really can stand and walk all day, on concrete, and not cry at the end of the day. And they last forever. I checked, and they have a modest selection of men's shoes.
posted by Houstonian at 2:29 PM on July 27, 2009

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