Winter boots for freaky feet?
November 16, 2010 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Winter is coming fast, and I have two freaky feet that are making it difficult to figure out how to boot up.

I have one foot that is sometimes normal and sometimes swells up to elephantine proportions (foot and ankle). Sometimes I can keep it down but not always, and is generally worst at the end of the day when I'm heading home.
The other foot is amiss in its own way, with Something Wrong causing me intense blinding pain after a 20-ish minutes of walking. Luckily, I rediscovered Birkenstocks this summer and can walk without pain as long as I'm wearing my Birk sandals or mules (the mules keep me decently shod even when the other foot turns into a rogue elephant).

I had the painful foot last year, but I was working from home so I just sucked it up on the rare occasions I had to go out. Now I have an office job and will be going out in the snow every day, with an occasional elephant foot to manage as well.
I'm assuming I'll get Birkenstock inserts for whatever I find, but the old winter boots will in no way be able to handle Bigfoot so I need new ones. But I have no idea what I can reliably get my feet into every day!

So I need boots that:
1. Can fit Birkenstock inserts, so wide and high inside.
2. Can handle sometimes-normal, sometimes-huge feet and ankles.
3. Are real winter boots with a decent tread and warm. Decent tread that can handle ice and all flavors of snow is non-negotiable. I can compensate for thin boots with socks if I have to, but socks generally make the swelling worse (the swelling is most likely circulatory in nature, and when the foot is swollen socks exacerbate it).

Ideas? It's most likely going to start snowing within the next few weeks and I don't relish walking through it in my open-back mules!
posted by L'Estrange Fruit to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe something similar to Uggs? They're pretty roomy and could accomodate your big foot-- you could even shave down some of the wool lining. You'll need to waterproof them for snow and they might look nasty after a winter, but they're certainly comfortable.
posted by acidic at 7:13 PM on November 16, 2010

When your foot swells, does it escape the confines of your socks? and does it max out at a specific size?

OK, so I've got two ideas that I've seen in action that you should be able to modify to work:

1. not so massive foot swelling days:
Get a pair of sorrels (or other winter boot of choice. Sorrels are just decent, last forever, and have that massive tounge in front that makes getting them on and off easy, Some are more stylish than others- I've got a pair of black caribou's that have lasted a good 8 yrs of heavy winter) one size bigger than your usual foot. put your comfy insoles in them. this + thick socks int he morning will let you wear the boots properly when your feet are non swollen. On the way home, when your feet have slightly swollen, put on a super thin pair of ski socks on the bigfoot and take out the insole. This will keep you warm, but give you a little bit more expansion room.

2. massive foot wants to take over the world days:
Wear warm winter boot+ insole on good foot. Now for the big foot, buy a cheap pair of mens rain boots that fit your foot at it's maximum. buy XL men's ski socks. Combine super thin sock, with waterproof boot. This foot will be significantly colder, but it'll keep you dry and mobile.

(my mom does #1 for high arches/wide feet, and I helped a friend do #2 when he broke his leg in winter and had to figure out a way to keep the soft cast dry, and his leg warm)
posted by larthegreat at 7:18 PM on November 16, 2010

My first thought was Naot -- foot bliss, removable insole -- and it looks like they have some boots that while not exactly winter boots, might suit if you were not out for a very long time (traction's good, reviewers saying "warm"). Do not totally discount your mules -- I have a pair of sheepskin mules and I slop around my neighbourhood in them all winter unless the snow is really quite deep; can you do loose woolly socks?

Have you seen the sort of giant sock-ish things meant to line boots -- like these wellie warmers?
posted by kmennie at 7:28 PM on November 16, 2010

Sorels. Something like this this or this. I have these from 3 couple years ago and walk the dog miles in them all the time. They are very warm, have fantastic tread and are good for walking in snow. Like slippers but with better soles! Plenty of room for insoles too.
posted by fshgrl at 9:05 PM on November 16, 2010

Seconding the Sorel's. I have the men's version of these and I can tell you there's all kinds of room inside.. They're massive and awesome.
posted by Glendale at 3:41 AM on November 17, 2010

I have some experience shopping for a nice lady who also is a member of the wily forest Canadian Freakfoot species. Left to their own devices, her feet are four sizes, two in the morning, and two more at night.

There are two different things that might work for you.
#1. A boot you can get into in the morning that will fit and restrict, that you will keep on your foot until you get home again.

#2. A boot that is adjustable enough to fit small feet in the morning and big ones at night (or one of each).

FootSmart is a good place to start. They ship to Canada and have a search-by-condition feature that lets you look at what they recommend for you based on their list of common foot problems. I found a few that might be suitable. Everything I link below meets the wide width, removable insole/deep footbox, and good tread requirements, and all but the first qualify as super adjustable and genuine winter boots.

Propet makes a walker shoe that qualifies as a #1. If your foot is small in the morning, the stretch part of this shoe will still fit, and it offers enough compression to keep swelling down in the day. It's more shoeish than bootish, so it might not be to your liking.

This Wanderlust boot is a good #2 -- it has a wide toebox, is available in a variety of widths, and the instep is nonrestrictive above the toebox. It has a soft fabric pleat throat and ankle, held by hook and loop, and a removable insole so you can put your stuff in. These Toewarmers too.

This one is a higher shaft with a zip front and room for your insole. Depending how big your instep is in the morning, it might work for you.

These look nice, but might not be as forgiving at the ankle. These are super-deep, but not as cute.

Potentially frightening additional suggestion: Crocs have a fuzzy lined wintrish item that is flexible rather than adjustable, but I don't know if it works with your other requirements. They do a nice insole for people who want the comfort without the visible horror, and an actual not-so-bad moccasin-style boot. For wide widths, go with their men's sizes. They don't ship to Canada, so you'd need to find them in a store.

Freakfoot shopping tips: If you're going to look at Zappos, search extra-wide (WW) and then find your own width (W or WW) among the options you get -- that will help rule out most of the non-winter, non-insole-friendly boots. If you're shopping for Sorels, look at the men's boots, as their women's sizes are medium width only. Avoid Easy Spirits -- they're shallow and will accommodate neither a swollen instep nor an insole.
posted by Sallyfur at 7:46 PM on November 17, 2010

I'll second Footsmart as a place to find shoes for problem feet. But I'll also strongly urge you to get to podiatrist about them both. Birks are helping your sore foot, and that's great, but I'll bet getting a real expert to figure out the problem and help you to address it will be better for you in the long run. I have completely weird feet and I'd be crippled (not an exaggeration) without my custom orthotics.

The foot doc may also be able to help you figure out how to manage the foot that swells, too.

Good luck--I know how hard it can be to find footwear that actually works, when you're outside the mainstream.
posted by Sublimity at 5:30 PM on November 18, 2010

Thanks everyone!

The boots wouldn't stay on all day, just to get to work and then go home. Mules are not a possibility up here in Canadia where one can easily, in normal winter conditions, have to walk a block in a foot of snow to get to a ploughed sidewalk.

Uggs - checked them out tonight, insanely expensive especially with a winter sole. And the cheap versions will so not be usable in real snow and ice, the soles are terrible.
Sorrels - look too low at the top of the foot; I wandered the stores this evening and tried some styles like that and it was no go, but if I can find a pair of actual Sorrel's in the vicinity I'll definitely try them out.
Bigger shoes and liners, very interesting.

larthegreat: when it swells, the top and ankles swell so much I can't get much past my toes into a regular shoe. The ankle swelling will happen both in and out of the sock with a nice welt at the elastic.

Sallyfur: thanks for your extensive advice! It's gotta be #2 - up here people cover their boots in snow on the way to work, leave them at the door and then wear work shoes around the office. I'm not willing to gamble on buying something over the internet - I've got six pairs of shoes around the house that were previous gambles, I've got to be able to try them on. On the plus side, the Wanderlust boots look great and I might be able to find some locally to try on. Maybe the Toewarmers too (I'm not much for cute and liked the last one best ;)

Sublimity: I asked my clinic doctor for a referral to a podiatrist and he flat-out refused on the grounds that it's "fake medicine." Don't get me started on this guy, ugh. I've had a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis with zero treatment offered, but it's more likely a morton's neuroma (the fasciitis diagnosis was delivered in literally five seconds without so much as touching my foot so...). Trying to find a more useful/helpful doctor is on my to-do list.

Thanks again everyone - you've given me some great ideas to help me in my hunting! Good thing too, got a couple of snowflakes on my nose on the way home. Brr!
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:06 PM on November 18, 2010

Got to the stores last night.

Sorrels, Wanderlust, Toewarmers: not wide at all, at least not for my feet. I have very small feet (size 6) but have let them spread out to a more natural width so I'm kinda ducky. Even the Wanderlust boots marked with a big "W! Wide!" were painful just trying them on.

But as I wandered with sore squashed feet through the aisles I remembered your recommendations for men's shoes and LO! Men are allowed to have wide feet and big ankles! Hallelujah! The store didn't have a lot of choice (no men's Sorrel's in small sizes), but the very smallest pair of men's/boy's Nevada's (Sears house brand) I could find were perfect - a bit too big all around, so room for inserts or big socks, and I could actually move my duck feet from side to side a bit instead of feeling like I should get a couple of toes lopped off.

Just in time too, woke up this morning to a lovely rain/snow storm in progress.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 5:58 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

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