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July 29, 2010 9:34 PM   Subscribe

Help me take care of myself in a job that requires several miles of walking per day.

I've recently started a new job which involves a lot of running errands on foot. At first it seems like nothing because the relevant off-site locations are within a half mile or so. Then 4pm rolls around and I realize I've been on my feet all day and walked probably 4-5 miles (not even counting small distances like desk to copier to file cabinet and the like).

By the end of my very long shift, I am in a lot of pain. In addition to foot pain, my legs get sore, my knees and hips ache, and my lower back hurts as well.

This is a temporary gig, but I need to find a way to manage these demands on my body between now and November.

What I'm thinking:

* A pair of good walking shoes seems important. Should be stylish and appropriate for summer (I have good boots for when the weather gets cool). Sadly, crocs and big puffy white athletic shoes are not among my options. I've been wearing Toms, if that gives any indication of what my aesthetic needs are.

* Are insoles worth pursuing?

* I used to practice yoga but haven't been in the habit lately. Would going back to gentle hatha be a help or just another exhausting physical chore?

* How much of the pain is just my body getting used to something which is perfectly healthy? Will it get easier?

* Is there anything I can do throughout the day to make it hurt less? Posture exercises? Conserving the number of steps I take? How do other people deal with being on their feet all day?

Things to know:

My feet are generally OK. I take an exceedingly average shoe size and have lived up till now wearing any shoes I please.

The problem seems to be the repetitive impact with concrete rather than falling arches or anything like that.

I am relatively fit and in my late 20's.
posted by Sara C. to Health & Fitness (53 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
My one tip is that Tom's are just not going to cut it for being-on-your-feetness like you describe. I also struggle with the balance between having ultra-awesome footwear and being comfortable, but in the end non-screaming feet win out. I would recommend checking out Danskos. Yes, they're a little clunky, but some of their styles are cute enough, and remember, they're work shoes, no one's going to judge too hard. These are the kinds of shoes that chefs and nurses frequently wear and they REALLY should know how to take care of feet (and all that's attached to them). I also want to reassure you that most likely your body will get somewhat accustomed to this. Try doing some stretching in the morning and some at the end of the day to help your muscles out.

Also, the silver lining is that you're getting tons of exercise in while at work! You are being paid to exercise!
posted by Polyhymnia at 9:40 PM on July 29, 2010

Superfeet will make a big difference. I started using them when I managed a skate/surf/snowboard store chain. They were so confident that they would improve the fit of footwear that they'd let us cut them to size and they were willing to take them back if the customer didn't want to buy them. They're not cheap, but I never sent a pair back and I've probably bought a dozen pairs since working there.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:42 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I'm a walker and Toms are what I wear just to sit on the couch.

I would seriously recommend investing in something like a pair of MBT shoes. They are absolutely hideous, but they are bar-none the most comfortable things I've ever had on my feet, and from head to toe a day I spend in my MBT shoes is the best I can possibly feel. Mine are ridiculous athletic styled shoes (which I bought on clearance, they were a discontinued style) but they do come in more professional and more stylish models.

MBTs are expensive, and for a temporary job the expense may not work for you, but I have no experience with the less expensive knockoffs (Skechers, Danskin, etc).
posted by padraigin at 9:43 PM on July 29, 2010

Yoga will help! Especially the hip openers. Having open hips will help you lengthen your stride (and stride more easily) which will result in fewer steps taken to cover the same distance.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:46 PM on July 29, 2010

I've found some cute but well padded flats from Born before (their stuff varies from very cute to very fug).

You probably will get used to it somewhat over time though. Oh and stretching will totally help.
posted by grapesaresour at 9:52 PM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: I don't want to be rude or seem like I'm rejecting any advice out of hand but "absolutely hideous" is really not an option, at all. Period. I work in a creative field where, like it or not, appearance is important. The work I'm doing involves stopping in at high-end businesses in upscale neighborhoods. A pair of Danskos in an unobtrusive color might fly. MBT's won't. I need something that can at least pass as a street shoe.

I've been wearing the Toms because it's what I've got that is seasonally appropriate and, until this particular gig, had worked well for me in similar jobs the past. I'm obviously fine with buying new shoes, but they need to be appropriate shoes.
posted by Sara C. at 9:53 PM on July 29, 2010

Best answer: Good shoes will probably make a difference, but a couple other things:

-In the jobs I've had that required a lot of standing and walking, there was maybe a month-long physical acclimation period. A lot of the soreness will probably start to subside soon.
-If you're not staying hydrated enough, you'll feel more achey than you would otherwise. Drinking water constantly might help some.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:54 PM on July 29, 2010

Best answer: Oof, those shoes are not appropriate for a lot of walking. I walked 4 miles daily to and from my last job, and after trying many brands, I found Onitsuka Tigers to be, far and away, the best sneakers for walking I tried--they're very lightweight, breathe well, but have good arch support. I'd try a bunch of good walking/athletic sneakers. If you can wear sandals, good walking sandals--try brands like Clarks, Eccos, or Naturalizer. Keep in mind that any shoes will need a good few days of walking to be broken in properly. Band-aids specifically made for blisters make a significant difference for me in terms of healing time and successful callus build-up.

Frankly, if you're wearing canvas slip-ons, you should be able to get away with sneakers or other shoes that actually give your feet decent support. And good foot support is key, as I learned as a supermarket cashier who was on her feet all day years ago. Keep a pair of more professional shoes in the office/under your desk to change into if you feel self-conscious about how professional you look.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:00 PM on July 29, 2010

You might want to google nurse's shoes. They are designed for people who are one their feet all day.
posted by Bonzai at 10:00 PM on July 29, 2010

(Oh, and lest you think that Tigers have to be in bright, day-glo colors, these would probably look nearly indistinguishable from "real" office/dress shoes if you put black laces on them.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:03 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yoga has helped me, in the past, in dealing with muscle and achey joint pain -- but I think it primarily helped because it got my muscles stronger and thus better at keeping my joints/bones in alignment, and better at absorbing the impact of movement. (IANAD and certainly not an osteopath; that's just how it seemed to me, and made sense based on what I do know.)

You probably don't need to (and don't want to!) go back to doing a full hour of yoga, but you probably can incorporate some basic postures that will help you stretch and rebalance during the day. Stopping and doing a forward bend to down-dog to child's pose flow will probably feel *really* good.

I think that your suspicions are correct in regards to question #4 -- this *will* get easier over time, your body just needs to build up to it. But if you don't get a damn good pair of high impact friendly shoes (these are cute!!) you're going to injure yourself first. Barefoot running movement be damned, you cannot walk on concrete in thin little shoes.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 10:03 PM on July 29, 2010

Look at Merrells too. My fashionista medical resident sister loves these.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 10:06 PM on July 29, 2010

Unless you have some sort of physical problem, you should get used to it.

If you're wearing shoes that don't have much cushioning and want to continue wearing them, then cushioned insoles can help a lot. They made a big difference when I was on my feet for six hour shifts on a hard floor. Ballet flats? Ow. Ballet flats with insoles? Mostly OK.

They're not as comfortable as a shoe that's comfortable in the first place, though.

The most comfortable pair of shoes I bought recently are Soft Walks. They're at least, if not more, comfortable than my Dankos, which really are clunky. Their site isn't working for me right now, but I think the pair of gladiator-styled sandals I got there are nice looking, if a little bit too last month's trendy.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:07 PM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: I can do casual shoes - it's not so much that I need to look "professional". But I can't wear something that is meant for the gym, or typically worn by nurses or construction workers. I need "real" shoes.

And as I've said, I'm happy to buy some more appropriate shoes. I simply have some fairly strict criteria about what constitutes appropriate.

PhoBWanKenobi - I have a pair of Onitsuka Tigers! Frankly I don't find them all that comfortable (maybe mine are just a little past their prime?), but you're right that they're an improvement over what I've been wearing. Maybe I should try them, even though I break out in a sweat just looking at them these days.
posted by Sara C. at 10:08 PM on July 29, 2010

If you can find a break room or a spare moment somewhere unobtrusive, I find that if I can recline or lie in a position where my feet are elevated above my heart for a few minutes it restores my feet a little bit. It's a good opportunity for a little foot massage too.

I'm also a big fan of stretching the Achilles tendon and other basic athletic stretches for the legs, don't know how much of that you do.

If there are any points where you regularly stop for prolonged periods on your feet during the day, for example standing in front of the copier or filing cabinet, it might help to put little squares of carpet or carpet scrap there to stand on. I think they also make special puffy or rubber mats for this too.
posted by XMLicious at 10:09 PM on July 29, 2010

One of the bummer things about Tigers is that they do wear out pretty fast, so it might be time to invest in a new pair. Some of the styles have mesh tops, too, which help with circulation. Really, I wore mine to walk in Florida and I was okay--they're pretty well-ventilated. If you can get away with it looks-wise, wear those short white cotton socks under any non-sandal shoes you wear--it makes a significant difference with sweat, moisture-wicking, and keeping cool.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:11 PM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: Suggestions of Danskos, Borns, and Merrells are duly noted! Will hopefully try some on this weekend. I have a pair of Merrell sandals. It's funny you mention them, because the day I wore them this week was the only day I didn't come home needing an aspirin. I will probably try to stick to those or my Onitsukas until I can settle on something really perfect (the sandals don't go with everything, and the sneakers will need to be replaced soon regardless).
posted by Sara C. at 10:14 PM on July 29, 2010

Are slides/sandals acceptable? Worishofers -- aka German orthopedic granny shoes -- are super-hip right now. I personally think all the styles are unacceptably goofy looking except the 251, which is A) the single most comfortable walking sandal I have found in years, and B) stylish enough that I wear mine to work at an art museum several days a week, and get complimented on them constantly.
posted by scody at 10:16 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Will it get easier? - Yes, it'll get easier.

How do other people deal with being on their feet all day? - Basically, by getting used to it.

I don't have specific recommendations for shoes. (I'm male, and jobs I've had that required me to on feet all day also required work boots.) But those things look painful. You need thicker soles. You need new shoes ASAP.

Keep in mind that your feet swell while you're working. So buy shoes that feel a bit big and roomy for your feet and are a bit larger than your regular shoe size. Otherwise, shoes that seem to fit nicely in the store will hurt when you're working in them.
posted by nangar at 10:24 PM on July 29, 2010

Oh, and if you do get the Worishofers: they tend to run small, so you may want to get the next size up. Also, the Endless site is out of stock in a lot of different colors/sizes right now (presumably because of the Slate article last week), but since you're in Brooklyn, it sounds like there should be local retailers that you could check out.
posted by scody at 10:29 PM on July 29, 2010

I've switched from Danskos to Ariats, which are similar construction but have lighter, more flexible soles. I put insoles in them sometimes, or just gel pads on the ball of the foot. They are somewhat expenive, but I have one pair that's three years old, in use constantly and just now showing signs of wear.

Also agree with the Born suggestion. Mephisto makes nice walking shoes too, but most of the dress options are very expensive.
posted by BibiRose at 10:29 PM on July 29, 2010

Posture for sure. If you're on your feet that much, almost certainly a good deal of time is also spent simply standing still. Fix your posture so that your hips don't rotate into hyperlordosis, and make sure your shoulders, back and head are in alignment. Search for Alexander Technique, Esther Gokhale and Pete Escogue to guide you on these points.

Second, I'm a big believer that footwear engineering is no match for the genius of evolution. The more padding in your shoes, the less you use your body in its natural range of motion. Consider the extremely goofy looking Vibram fivefingers shoes, which offer protection from dangerous surfaces, but encourage you to walk naturally. If those are just too damn goofy for you, consider getting some kung-fu shoes, which are even more minimalist.

[I still wear my Rockports to work (office environment, can't get away with goofiness), but if my feet are hurting at the end of the day, the best feeling is just to take the darn things off and stroll around barefoot for a while. Soon as I get home, my feet are bare and remain that way until I go to work the next morning.]

Yes, it'll hurt a bit getting adjusted to a proper posture (and I imagine your feet will feel rough for a while too if you go the minimalist route). I've only recently started paying attention to my posture, and my mid-lower back gets tired pretty easily from maintaining my spine in the correct position. But after five seriously bothersome and painful years of dealing with sciatic pain in my legs, that pain is disappearing FAST. And my back is definitely getting the hang of it.
posted by holterbarbour at 10:42 PM on July 29, 2010

How do other people deal with being on their feet all day?

I had a retail job where I was on my feet for 12-hour-long shifts (yay getting paid in cash in the West Village.) I'm an inveterate pacer and you weren't allowed to stand still, so I can safely say I was walking for at least ten straight hours each shift. After a while, I didn't notice anything unless I accidentally dehydrated myself. It'll get easier, so don't make an immediate compromise on style. No matter what sort of shoes you're wearing -- hell, I wore Chucks (which was stupid) -- your feet will acclimate.
posted by griphus at 10:48 PM on July 29, 2010

How about some 'vintage' New Balances? Kind of a hipster staple, and even the classic ones are super comfortable and designed for walking/running. You're also going to just adjust to the extra walking and will feel better soon.
posted by one_bean at 11:01 PM on July 29, 2010

One thing to consider might be fancy custom orthotics. They are spendy if your insurance doesn't cover them (~$400 or so, I think), but they can make a giant, GIANT difference. I'm fairly certain that mine are the reason I'm not suffering crippling hip dysfunction in this pregnancy like I did in the last one.
posted by KathrynT at 11:01 PM on July 29, 2010

I vote for the insoles/orthotic shoe inserts, especially if the shoe appearance is important. You can ignore the "Buy this brand of shoe" advice and split your attention between the insole comfort and shoe style (of course, some basics like toe box and heel height are still necessary). If you manage to find a more comfortable mass-produced insole, that's the cheapest option. The plus side is that you can reuse your insoles in other shoes.

Also be sure to wear good socks if you're going to be on your feet all day to control circulation pooling and the like.
posted by Ky at 11:40 PM on July 29, 2010

For my recent trip overseas, I went hunting for "walking shoes that don't look like walking shoes". I ended up with a pair of Merrils, which whilst not perfect, could be walked in all day without pain. I also looked at Colorado and Ecco, and a few others, and considered anything that had a removeable insole that I could change for the stupidly expensive insoles that I bought for my running shoes.

In the short term, can you take a second pair of shoes to work and change them at lunch time? Or keep some sneakers around for the particularly long trips?
posted by kjs4 at 11:56 PM on July 29, 2010

Seconding Merrells; I love their Encore Mary Janes, can walk in them all day with my little flat duckfeet. Bonus: the insoles slip out right out if you want to replace them with something else and the entire shoe can be tossed into the washing machine. Try them on in person though, they run about one size large.
posted by jamaro at 12:06 AM on July 30, 2010

I'd say 'a bit strange' would be a better term than 'absolutely hideous' to describe the looks of many pairs of MBTs. Also, the strangeness is all in the shape of the sole, which is what people see least when the shoes are on you rather than on the wall-rack in the shoe shop. Maybe don't dismiss them until you've tried a pair on, at least.

Plenty of other good suggestions here, of course. A bit of yoga to loosen up in the morning sounds like a very good idea, and just doing a wee bit of stretching now and then during the day would probably help too. Also--and I apologize if this sounds slightly mystical--walk by lifting your knees. Very good way of 'organizing' your body so you don't clump your feet down and/or carry unnecessary tension in thighs, hips, lower back.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 4:05 AM on July 30, 2010

I bought some Naturalizer shoes for my recent-ish travels where I walked for hours through cities every day. They were comfortable from the start (no break-in). The pair I bought were flats, and had rubberised soles (click on the 'Casual' option on the website for pairs in that sort of style"). Soooo comfortable, I prefer them to my runners. Also - wear good socks. My feet feel less tired when I wear good quality socks (I do merino in winter.. well, actually even in summer except on days of extreme heat).
posted by AnnaRat at 4:16 AM on July 30, 2010

Not exactly related, but: are you carrying a bag or purse with you when you walk around? I've found that the longer I walk, the more it matters what I'm carrying and how. I don't have an ergonomic-but-stylish bag recommendation at the ready, but wanted to throw out the possiblity of that being a factor.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:19 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

What about vans (with laces)? I have a pair of light blue vans that I love, and that are really comfortable. Pros: they are a wider than some other shoes and have a thick sole, and they won't break the bank. Also, easy to find in BK right now.
posted by Shebear at 4:32 AM on July 30, 2010

I had the very same issue when I had a job working in a lab where I had to be on my feet working at a counter all day, which led me to buy metallic silver Birkenstock Gizehs. They take a few days to break in but after that you can walk all day and be comfortable. I think they look good enough to wear into upscale boutiques (at least better than MBTs...)
posted by telegraph at 4:36 AM on July 30, 2010

Don't know if these are in your style range, I've been told they look like old man shoes. New Balance MR933. It's my favorite.
posted by glenno86 at 4:39 AM on July 30, 2010

A lot of teachers I work with wear Aerosoles. Non-hideous and they're on their feet all day.
posted by dzaz at 5:19 AM on July 30, 2010

I'm going to agree with the Dansko suggestion but upgrade you to Sanitas. Sanita used to make all of Danskos products for them but then Dansko decided to make their own shoes and the results are not nearly as good. I think a lot of the Dankso styles now are hideous and not nearly as comfortable.

Also, I can't support this but apparently SAS shoes are making the hipster scene in a similar trend to the Worishofers. These are the lace-up comfort walking shoes of your grandmother's dreams. Hipsters are weird.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 6:02 AM on July 30, 2010

I'm going to give the opposite advice of a lot of the people here, and say that (assuming that your current shoes fit well and aren't squishing your toes) your shoes are fine and you just need to allow your body to adjust. You'll notice that most advice trends towards more support, more padding, and more structure, and if that works for you then more power to you.

All that structure and padding, however, doesn't correlate with lower injury rates for runners (I don't think it's been studied for walkers), and may or may not be helpful for you. If you have healthy feet and are just getting tired from the extra walking, I think you should add in the yoga (for flexibility, posture, and injury prevention), keep doing what you are doing, and just make sure you are listening to your body so that if you start crossing a line from just getting tired to actually injuring yourself, you can catch it early.
posted by Forktine at 6:05 AM on July 30, 2010

It could not only be the shoes but what you are carrying. If you carry a computer case or business case, try to get a rolling pack instead of carrying it on your shoulder. I can tell you that when walking long distances, the cause of most of the pain is the extra baggage I carry.

Otherwise try walking on a more forgiving surface. Pick a route walking on asphalt, crushed stone or grass. Using a bike is becoming acceptable for business uses. Maybe even a Segway?
posted by JJ86 at 6:32 AM on July 30, 2010

Keen makes a ton of well supporting cute shoes. Mrs. Advicepig owns many many pair of them. So do I. Superfeet will improve any shoes you can slip them in. I don't use them in Keens, but do in pretty much every other shoe I've got.

Stretching the achilles tendon and hamstrings makes a huge difference for me. It's worth trying.
posted by advicepig at 6:55 AM on July 30, 2010

Merrell, again.
Also Privo (made by Clarks).
Maybe Sofft.
Even Teva, maybe -- they actually make cute (cutish) sandals now.

Seriously, there are LOTS of very cute, comfortable shoes now. LOTS. You absolutely need something with arch support and cushioning. Zappos sells all the brands I mentioned, and a lot more. You can order like 10 pairs on a credit card and send 9 back.
posted by kestrel251 at 7:27 AM on July 30, 2010

I second (or third) the SuperFeet recommendation. I bought some brand new light hikers from REI right before a summer-long trip to Italy and bought SuperFeet inserts to put in them. I walked seemingly non-stop over all kinds of terrain (including multi-day hiking in the Swiss Alps) for three months. I didn't so much as get a blister. Now, was I occasionally sore from all the walking? Yes. But, someone else also mentioned the key -- keeping hydrated!

Make sure you're having a glass of water an hour when you're on the move and keep some snacks -- handful of nuts, fruit roll-up, energy bar, etc. And, you're probably new and wanting to do everything fast, fast, fast. I'd be the same way. Slow down here and there. Give yourself three sit breaks a day if you can -- even three minutes followed by some light stretching would be rejuvenating.

You've gotten lots of advice on shoes -- you'll just have to go try some out. I think almost everything here would work in a designer/creative office. (I say this coming from an Architecture firm environment.)
posted by amanda at 7:43 AM on July 30, 2010

I can personally vouch for Merrell; I've also had good luck with trainers (I had a pair of good-looking Diesels that were awesome for my on-my-feet-all-day job -- the Tigers seem similar).

Though I haven't tried them myself, I'd also suggest taking a look at Camper. Their aesthetic is similar to Toms, but their shoes seem better cushioned.

One more note: if you have any kind of ankle problems, I absolutely would not recommend Dansko clogs. These clogs are great for standing for long periods of time (I used them very happily when I was working as a cook), but not so great for walking. The big wooden sole makes the shoe prone to rolling -- it's very easy to twist or sprain your ankle. When I tried to wear my Danskos at a retail job -- walking around, turning, pivoting, going up and down stairs, etc. -- I sprained my ankle twice. YMMV.
posted by ourobouros at 8:47 AM on July 30, 2010

Otherworldlyglow is speaking the truth. My adorable, much younger sister has been wearing hideous SAS shoes just like my grandmother. She also wears Cosby sweaters and acid wash leggings. She is a model and works at a hip vintage store, so I assume she knows what the kids are doing these days. I support none of this, but if the hipsters let you get away with comfortable hideous shoes, so be it.

She needs to get off my lawn.
posted by artychoke at 8:51 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hate shoes, but if I absolutely have to wear them when I'm being active I wear Ariats. But you know, the shoes that work best for you will be different depending on you. I have really high arches and narrow feet, and Ariat shoes & boots tend to work really well for that. Other horse riders I know with wider feet tend to like Danskos or Blundstones, IIRC. (All of the three do make shoes as well as riding boots of various kinds; I have two pairs of shoes by Ariat.)

I know someone with really flexible feet with high arches who only wears Naturalizers.
posted by galadriel at 9:20 AM on July 30, 2010

Ooh, thanks for the Sanitas tip otherworldlyglow! I'm a Dansko wearer but I've thought they're not as good lately but had no idea why. Shoe shopping this weekend!

(I'd also like to chime in with my experience re: standing vs. walking in Danskos: great for standing, not so good for walking for longer distances or over longer periods of time. YMMV.)
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:53 AM on July 30, 2010

Just chiming in to agree with people about socks. I'm on my feet a minimum of 8 hours a day and when I couldn't afford nice new shoes, I went and bought socks with arch support. Holy crap they make such a huge difference. I was pretty miserable in my shoes and bought the socks at target for like, 4 dollars for a 3 pack and that was probably 10 months ago and I'm still wearing the crappy shoes, but with no foot pain. I know you don't want socks because you think they'll make you too hot, but just get some super thin ones with the little arch support band in the middle and thank me later.

Oh, and also agreeing with the people who told you Danskos suck for walking. It's true. Also about the ankle rolling. Not fun.
posted by evilbeck at 10:16 AM on July 30, 2010

4-5 miles throughout the day is a lot of walking, but as a young person with no foot issues, it wouldn't be enough to make me run to Merrells or Danskos or the various types of orthopedic-looking clogs. This is opinion, but I just don't think those companies make anything that can pass for anywhere near 'stylish.'

My perfect-world daily wear shoes would be something like these:
Frye Carson Ballet
Cydwoq Traction
Cydwoq Naked

These are a little sportier, but still really cute:
Adidas by Stella McCartney

(No disrespect to those who prefer functional walking shoes, just wanted to throw a few more options in since you mentioned that you work in a creative environment and need to keep up appearances.)
posted by ella wren at 10:48 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have problematic feet -- flat, wide toebox, narrow heel, huge bunions -- and have become a huge fan of the Dansko Marcelle. Very comfortable, very hip looking, lots of compliments. (I have them in black patent leather -- red patent leather was a little too "Follow the yellow brick road" for my taste.) I find them OK for walking and have had no problems with ankle rolling. (That said, I did experience the ankle rolling in a pair of Dansko Mila slides, so I don't wear those on walks of any distance.)

If you go with the Danskos, check out their online factory seconds outlet for deals.

This blog
has a lot of love for the El Naturalista brand, and so does the woman who teaches my Pilates class. This style is my teacher's favorite. She has two jobs (she also works for a landscaper), and she says they're comfortable for both moving around and for periods of standing.

Like Danskos, El Naturalistas are a bit spendy, but the blog I referenced above will tip you off to sales. (And if neither Danskos nor El Naturalistas float your boat, the blog offers other suggestions for comfortable and stylin' shoe styles.)
posted by virago at 11:29 AM on July 30, 2010

Virago beat me as I was too lazy to go to my closet and check the brand name of my most comfortable pair of shoes ever. I'll second the recommendation for El Naturalista. More comfortable than Dansko's (at least the style that I have, which is like a wedge heeled pump). The interior/foot bed is treated with tea tree oil or something and you can wear them without socks and they never seem to smell. I've had mine for a few years now and they hold up well. I've gone through periods where I've worn them fairly regularly, but haven't worn them in awhile. Time to dig them out of the back of the closet!

I do think that flat shoes, be they Toms, ballet slippers, or flip flops, do not offer enough cushioning between the sole of the foot and hard surfaces, be they concrete slab floors or sidewalks.
posted by kaybdc at 12:11 PM on July 30, 2010

Am I to understand that wearing the absolute most comfortable (however ugly) shoes for walking, then slipping into nicer looking shoes (maybe something you can literally slip into without tying, etc.) before entering the fancy gallery/office/building you're going to, is not an option?
posted by ViolaGrinder at 12:23 PM on July 30, 2010

Best answer: I spent years of my life walking 5-6 miles most days. As a few people upthread suggest, this is what we're built for. You'll adapt to it. Walking is much, much easier than standing for comparably long. You will, of course, need shoes that don't hurt your feet -- there are some good suggestions here, and trial and error will reveal more over time -- but you probably won't need the kinds of specialty shoes that are designed to help people in all-day stand-up jobs. Good socks help too, but I'd be lying if I claimed I didn't sometimes just go without in warm weather.

Metroid Baby and others are right about carefully choosing a bag to carry. That's at least as important as your shoes. You don't want to be constantly hoisting a shoulder or two up to your ears. And the people who mention drinking a lot of water are right too. (You'll get to know the reasonable public bathrooms on your circuit.)

I miss those days. I like lots of things about living where I do, but getting around by car really doesn't agree with me. Enjoy it while you're being paid for it!
posted by tangerine at 12:24 PM on July 30, 2010

Response by poster: Hi there everybody!

These are all really great responses! In fact, there's so much good advice here that I don't know where to start in terms of picking Best Answers.

A few things:

I went to DSW this afternoon to start contemplating new more comfy walking shoes, and I found lots of options. I didn't have time to do the whole shoe shopping song and dance, but at this point I know there are lots of comfortable and work-appropriate shoes out there within my price range.

The idea about a more comfortable/ergonomic bag is a good one. I've been carrying a small, light, tote around throughout the day because it's easy to stow envelopes or small packages that I need to pick up or drop off throughout the day (which is usually the reason for these errands). I have to carry my laptop to and from the office every day, though (also a first for me), and was already thinking about a new bag which would make that easier on my back. It sounds like a good bag would kill two birds with one stone.

Another interesting idea I thought up while reading this thread: a bike. I have a bike at home, which I'd like to start riding to work. I'd been concerned about the ability to do that every day, because the hours are so long. However, what might work would be to ride in early in the week and then leave my bike at the office to use for errands. You guys are going to make me a rockstar among my coworkers!

Other great ideas mentioned are yoga and stretching. Made Of Star Stuff's mere mention of a down-dog to child's pose sequence made me start feeling a little better... I'm not sure if there's a private place at the office to do that, but I can definitely try. If not, doing a little yoga at home in the evenings is probably a good idea, as well as figuring out where I can fit a class into my schedule.

Thanks again for the advice! By November, I am going to be a walking machine.
posted by Sara C. at 5:12 PM on July 30, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, and I forgot to shout out to the folks who gave advice about insoles! I'm definitely going to pursue Superfeet.
posted by Sara C. at 5:14 PM on July 30, 2010

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