I'm learning to walk, but I ain't got shoes.
August 31, 2010 5:56 PM   Subscribe

Can you point me to shoes that won't cause me to slip, fall, and die?

I don't know what the hell is wrong with me. I'm slipping everytime the ground is wet.

I need shoes for walking in an urban environment. Sometimes hilly, sometimes not. But elevation doesn't seem to be a problem as I fall on flat paved surfaces.

I had a pair of casual Dr. Martens that I kept slipping in, so I started wearing my Saucony Hurricane XI that had about 10 miles on them.

I slipped so bad one time that I stumbled 20 feet before catching myself. I was all proud of myself until I realized everyone was staring at me. It was funny...kinda...but not at the moment. I knew I had a problem.

So I went to Rockport and bought a pair of their casual shoes that look kinda athletic, but are brown. Rockport XCS is line they are from. The salesguy said this would solve my problem, but he could have just been making a sale. Nope. Slipping all over the place.

I'm good when the ground is dry, but as soon as its wet, I'm close to slipping everywhere.

Some more info:
I grew up in and lived in very rainy areas and never had a problem before.
Everyone around me is walking around normally. They aren't taking deliberate steps when the ground is wet, like I am. Running shoes, casual shoes, high heels, everyone is walking fine...except me.
No, I am not affected when the ground is dry.
I have recently lost some weight (walking a lot), but don't seem to have a balance problem.
This has developed over the last few months; less than a year, but more than half a year.

Do I need athletic shoes, walking shoes, dress shoes, casual shoes, orthopedic shoes, what? I used to wear a lot of heavily marketed shoes (Nike, Adidas, skateshoes)but kinda stopped once I had ethical concerns about their manufacturing. I never had a slip problem then.

I'm willing to try stuff because its kinda rainy here.

So, if anyone can recommend a type of shoe, or a type of sole that I haven't tried but would work here, my body and self-esteem while walking would be really grateful.

Oh yeah, if you have any questions or need any info, go ahead and ask as I will be monitoring this thread.
posted by hal_c_on to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen a doctor about this? Because it kinda sounds like you should.
posted by jon1270 at 5:59 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't think you need new shoes.

First of all, you should go see a doctor and make sure there's nothing wrong with your equilibrium. If the diagnosis is clean, then you need to engage in some kind of regular movement that will help you be more graceful in your body. Tai chi, yoga, anything like that would help you.
posted by micawber at 6:01 PM on August 31, 2010

Sneakers and hiking boots have more traction than other shoes. But maybe you have a medical problem. I don't know why it would just manifest itself when the ground is wet, though.
posted by dfriedman at 6:02 PM on August 31, 2010

The exact same thing happened to me. I did go to the doc, who gave me a basic neurological exam. He didn't see anything obviously wrong with me so told me to go home and then come back if it happened again. Right after that, i bought a pair of Sanita clogs. I haven't slipped since, and it's been several years. (I do wear a variety of shoes now, so I don't know what the hell the problem was.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:06 PM on August 31, 2010

Nthing go to a doctor. Balance problems, slipping, and tripping were all things that I started doing more often when I became symptomatic for my neuro problem when I was a teenager. I hope it's just a shoe thing, though.
posted by phunniemee at 6:21 PM on August 31, 2010

I find North Face trail running sneakers to be really grippy (I notice the extra grip going over wet rock, but it should be the same on wet pavement)... But really I think if you are slipping in normal shoes when other people are fine, it's probably not the shoes.
posted by anaelith at 6:22 PM on August 31, 2010

Maybe some floor cleaning product from your house or workplace is getting on your shoes and making them slippery? Or something else slippery?
posted by procrastination at 6:22 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]

Five Ten (and Garmont, and other companies--Five Ten are the ones I've owned, though) makes hiking shoes with rock-climbing style sticky rubber (Stealth Rubber is probably the best-known brand, but Vibram and others also have sticky formulations). It's also possible to get river-guide sandals with this same kind of rubber. If none of these are your style, it seems like there might be skateboarding shoes available with it as well.

As others have said, though, I don't know that these kinds of shoes will solve your problem.
posted by box at 6:25 PM on August 31, 2010

I swear by Keens; I started getting them in Boston for the black ice and slush, and continue to be a devotee in Seattle for the wet cement hills.

If you're fancy, Fluevogs tend to have beautifully grippy rubber soles, but they require a fashion commitment to pull off.

I've always been clumsy and had a hard time keeping my balance on slick surfaces though. Sudden changes in personal equilibrium can point to a variety of physical issues that you might want to check out. It could just be something like your weight change, or maybe stress, but if a pair of Keens doesn't keep you on your feet you should get checked out.
posted by Mizu at 6:31 PM on August 31, 2010

Response by poster: Oh boy. I did my absolute best to move this thread away from "see a doctor", or hobbyist diagnosticians.

Here are more details. Had it been a balance/inner ear/neurological problem I would have had:

1. Occassional vertigo-never
2. Falling or feeling of falling-only when I slip
3. Occassional light-headed-never
4. Vision problems-never
5. Disorientation-never

It seriously isn't any of those. I appreciate your concern.

Also, its on WET ground. Never dry. ALWAYS wet. Thats the only time it happens.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:36 PM on August 31, 2010

If the doc says there's nothing neurologically wrong, see if you can get a local shoe repair/cobbler place to put Vibram (a brand of) soles on your favourite shoes. There should be several different lines for different shoe styles and degrees of gripiness. Or go look for shoes with Vibram brand soles.

/son of a (former) cobbler

I'm also kinda wondering if there is something (like a tree with drippy/misty sap) that you might be interacting with, coating the soles of your shoes, which solublize with water into a low friction film. Maybe the next time its wet out, spray the bottom of your shoes with a degreaser (and rinse them off), and see if you still have a slippage problem?
posted by porpoise at 6:37 PM on August 31, 2010

While seeing a doctor did not come to mind to me, I did wonder if you have a particular gait that makes you more prone to slipping. Do you tend to shuffle your feet along, or do you pick up your foot fully off the ground before you take your next step? Do you land with your heel or with the ball of your foot? I think having a good rolling gait will probably diminish slippage, as it should minimize the chance of causing the water barrier that leads to hydroplaning and slipping.

Also, what kind of surface are you walking on? Some are just slipperier than others! There were some paver tiles in front of a building I often went to and from, and I slipped what felt like an unreasonable amount of times on those. My current apartment has marble tiles in front, and that is a minefield when it is wet. Flat smooth soles are the worst.
posted by that girl at 6:46 PM on August 31, 2010

1. It still sounds weird to me: developing relatively quickly, happening to a much greater degree than with other people, etc. Okay, it only happens on wet ground (a situation with a lower threshold to instabiity), but that doesn't mean it's not a physical problem. Aren't you "hobby-diagnosing" yourself as fine by ruling out everything, anyway? I would argue that you may think you know all the possible causes of such a problem, but I sincerely doubt that you actually do unless you're a doctor. That is what we pay experts for. (I've been down that path of "diagnosing myself as fine" before, and it's even more unwise than getting things checked out, because the consequences can be serious, if you don't have to go into debt to go to a doctor.)

2. I'd look into shoes that others have mentioned with less of a thick sole rather than more of one.

3. I'd consider a martial arts class--my balance was pretty bad as a kid, but it improved vastly when I started taking kung fu classes.
posted by wintersweet at 6:47 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

(If you've already seen a doctor--and I would have gone to a second one if I saw one and s/he failed to help, because I last year encountered a doctor who missed out on the signs of kidney stones, for crying out loud--then sorry.)

If it's just one of those things, then I suspect the more freaked out you get about it, the more likely it is to happen. Maybe visualizing yourself walking normally would help, and something like yoga to help with relaxation.

(The last time I tripped badly I a) was really stressed and b) couldn't stop thinking about how awful it would be if I tripped and dropped the cupcakes I was carrying. I not only tripped, they went flying! Over a railing and down two stories! SPLAT! So now I try to redirect thoughts like that.)
posted by wintersweet at 6:53 PM on August 31, 2010

I would definitely look at a de-greaser or something for your shoes, as a reasonably low-investment thing that might have a big impact.
posted by Lady Li at 6:53 PM on August 31, 2010

Craft project for the next time you're bored:

- Two pairs of $5 canvas sneakers from big evil department store
- One asphalt shingle from big-box hardware store
- Tube of Barge cement from the same
- Roll of skateboard grip tape
- Box cutter

Cut slivers out of the shingle and grip tape to match the tread pattern of each pair of sneaks - at VERY least the ball of the foot and the heel area. Affix with Barge Cement (the shoe repair goo de resistance!). Take each pair out for a quick boogie the next time it rains. If it works, you have looooots of leftover materials to deck out your existing shoes!
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:06 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hate me if you will, but tripping can be an early sign of MS.

Also: might be overkill, but you could try some approach climbing shoes--ie shoes made for climbers not on the climb, but as they scramble over rocks to get to the climb. Something like this.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:39 PM on August 31, 2010

FWIW, balance problems can be more than inner ear. Only experiencing difficulty on wet ground doesn't rule out a physical issue.
posted by galadriel at 7:48 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Chaco sandals are very nice and grippy. You can get them with vibram soles. Now if they only had a reliable cobbler so I could get my orthotics working.
posted by jadepearl at 7:51 PM on August 31, 2010

I still think you should see a professional of some sort. Since you said slipping and not tripping or getting dizzy and falling or anything like that, I didn't think it sounded neurological or inner-ear related even before you clarified. However, sidewalks aren't that slippery even when they're wet. I'm wondering if there's something about the way you walk (the way you shift your balance from one foot to the other etc.) that is the issue. Something mechanical, not neurological. Obviously the effects of a mechanical problem would be magnified by poor conditions. I would think about seeing a podiatrist or such and having your gait analyzed.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:57 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Something's getting on your shoes. What are you using to clean the floor? Stop using it and try something else. Also, I'm going to second the Sanita clogs. They're designed for restaurant kitchens and nothing is slipperier than a restaurant kitchen floor.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:03 PM on August 31, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all your help...well most of you.

1. I will definitely look into vibram soles, climbing shoes, and all the other suggestions. Im putting them on the phone and will go to town checking them all out. I really appreciate it.

2. Here is how i expect a doctor's visit to go:

Me: Hey GP, i slip when its wet outside...some people on the internets told me i have a neurological condition.

Doctor: Correct me if im wrong, but isn't your partner a neuro...

Me: Yes, i understand that you work with her also, but her diagnosis of "you don't have a neurological condition, you have a dork condition" wasn't good enough for the Internet people.

Doctor: Well did you tell the internets people about your partner, because it is absolutely their business. Also, Would you mind not wasting my time anymore.

Me: Ok, Ill see you next week when i ask the internets people for umbrella recommendations, and they diagnose me with Lhassa fever.

Again, thanks mefites.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:10 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've found some of my best hiking boots are crappy on wet asphalt. The high treads grip well when you're on dirt or something for them to grip into- but on concrete it's just less surface area to give friction. Strangely enough, sometimes sneakers with small treads have worked better for grip for me in the past. Easiest way to test would be trying your shoes on wet tile.
posted by yeloson at 12:11 AM on September 1, 2010

I am going to suggest perhaps you should be grateful for people offering advice before you get your new shoes.

My roommate used to slip everywhere in rain and snow but he walks in a sort of strange way. He ended up wearing cleats (or maybe it was climbing shoes.) and in the snow/ice, he wore these things that attached to the bottom of his shoes and they worked well.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:15 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have not purchased any myself, but my daughter was happy with Shoes for Crews -- which trade heavily on their non-slip soles as a feature -- when she worked in the food service industry.
posted by thatdawnperson at 11:07 AM on September 1, 2010

I'll just note that several people suggested that it is possible to have a physical cause that is NOT a neurological issue (and speaking from very close-at-hand experience, going to your allergist when you can't breathe well because you actually have a pulmonary embolism is a great way to not get diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism--speaking only with a specialist is not always a good thing, and is part of the very self-diagnosis that I think can be terribly dangerous). And that's all I have to say on the topic. :/


Internets People
posted by wintersweet at 12:01 PM on September 1, 2010


I'd suggest:
Go back to the Docs, clean the soles, and then give them a swipe with some really gritty sandpaper to improve traction, and wear thick socks with them tied up quite tight.

Then, if you've fallen over a few times, you might subconsciously be walking more 'warily', and by 'warily' I mean *lightly*.
This is one of those intuitive, *wrong* things to do. Think of brakes on a car - if you press your soles more firmly to the pavement, you'll get better grip. So really stomp around for a bit and see if that helps?
After I wrote that, I re-read the bit about you losing some weight - I suspect that that, combined with a bit of subconscious 'walking carefully', that might have been enough to throw off a suitable walking pattern.

For advanced - Martial arts like Judo are awesome because they teach you how to *fall*. Who gets into fights, really? But falling? We all do that.
The confidence in feeling like you probably won't break something if you fall, helps you walk more confidently, and ergo, fall less.

Secondly, try walking from your navel. Y'know how we usually have the perception that our 'consciousness' is behind our eyes? Well, really, we have sensory perception all over bodies, and our brain could be in our bellies and it wouldn't make any difference to us. But, if you imagine kinda 'sinking' your awareness into your belly, like you're driving your body from there, it's a good mental trick for most people to lower their centre of resistence in their body, and increase your stability.
If you think of 'driving from your belly', people tend to sink down in the knees and hips, like they're carrying a greater weight, and move forward in a slightly more whole-body way, belly/body/head rather than just 'head first', and that all improves stability.

Note: I'm not an expert, just less of a klutz than I used to be. And oh boy, was I a klutz. Cheers!
posted by Elysum at 4:39 PM on September 1, 2010

Do you typically wear a backpack while you're walking? Weight in a backpack will put your center of gravity a little 'off'. Your recent weight loss could also be making your proprioception freak out a little.

You might be able to handle this just fine when the ground is dry, but wet ground lowers your threshold for slipping, as a couple of people mentioned earlier. I thought of this because I often wear a backpack and it's no problem... but the last time I squatted down with a heavy pack on, I tipped the F over onto my back like a turtle. That was amusing for the passers-by.

The next time it's raining, try walking without a backpack and see if you're any more sure-footed.

Additionally, give yourself some more time to adjust (neural plasticity-wise) to your weight loss. And yoga/strength training/whatever couldn't hurt, either.
posted by oceanmorning at 6:00 PM on September 1, 2010

Teva and Keen are my go to grippy shoes...I am kinda a Keenaholic.
posted by futz at 6:30 AM on September 2, 2010

Definitely look into a custom orthotic. Had similar walking difficulties for years and they made a difference. The software they use to analyze your stride could help find the source. Side benefit was the orthotic made it possible to wear a wider variety of shoes comfortably.

FWIW, I noticed this problem after losing a significant amount of weight. I've been this weight now for several years, but I still feel like I'm tripping over my own feet on occasion. The big problem for me is I became extremely anxious about and that hyper awareness only made matters worse.
posted by Lorin at 8:38 AM on September 2, 2010

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