Looking for a sole-mate.
July 11, 2013 10:25 PM   Subscribe

Upcoming event where I will be on my feet 8-14 hours a day. Need footwear recommendation. Surface will be concrete/thin carpet. Looking for advice on where to shop, and what to shop for. Have access to Seattle and its suburbs.

Do not want recommendations for things I can only get online. I want to go to a store to try them on and look at multiple options before buying. Would prefer recommendations for specific shoes and where to find them or good places to shop that would have several styles to choose from. (DSW was a bust, seemed too fashiony and flimsy). Size 9.5 women and toes seem a teeny bit wider than average.

Part 1: Socks. Should I try to find something like hiking socks to prevent blisters? Complication: my calves are large and anything higher than ankle socks are too tight and painful, give me a muffin top on my calf and leave red sock lines in my skin. I do have some hiking socks (liners and wool socks) but they have the above problem and are too warm for 8-14 hours in 90-100° F weather. So should I aim for finding shoes that work with regular athletic socks or should I look for special socks?

Part 2: Shoe criteria in order of most important first (though all these are of concern).
-Comfort: I'll be wearing these 8-14 hours a day for 4 days straight and I'd like to not want to cut my feet off at the end of each day.
-Style: I prefer things with style. Sometimes that means sleek/professional and sometimes funky or eclectic, but as an example: definitely not Velcro white walking shoes. I have an aversion to white rubber soles
-Toe Protection: I've seen a lot of cute shoes with fabric or mesh over the toes. I'm going to be moving and hauling things and be in crowded areas where people might step on my toes. I'm thinking a more structured leather or rubber area over the toes would be better than fabric/mesh.
-Price: preferably under $100 but could stretch to $200 if they are classic looking and well made enough to look good for several years.

My current hiking boots are not good for this due to size (hair too small) and age/being worn but I had been planning to wait for next year or the year after to replace them. Would a new pair of hiking boots work for this purpose? If I could combine the two needs into one purchase that would be ideal.

Part 3: Post Purchase. How do I break in new shoes/boots? I have 4 weeks.
posted by HMSSM to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Part 1: Socks. Should I try to find something like hiking socks to prevent blisters?

I have worn elastic bandage around my heels and the back of my calves with hiking boots and that has kept me from getting blisters. You can get this at most any drug store.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:34 PM on July 11, 2013

A new pair of SmartWool socks will offer amazing cushioning. They come in ankle and micro lengths. I know that you can find them at REI, probably most running stores and possibly places like Sports Authority or Dicks?

They may not be sturdy enough for your needs, but the Skechers GoWalk line is supremely comfortable. They're very lightweight and cushion-y, and can be worn without socks if you want.

I would not go with a new pair of hiking boots since you probably won't have time to break them in adequately. Also, someone is inevitably going to recommend Dansko clogs-- I would just note that these also really need to be broken in.
posted by charmcityblues at 11:07 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

It took me a single day of walking around a big city to break in my pair of Frye boots. You can try them on in lots of stores around the city. They'll cost you $$$ but they'll last ages, be timelessly fashionable, and are definitely the most comfortable boots I own. I hauled my butt all over Paris in those for a week and didn't get a blister, and I have loads of foot issues. They have lots of different soles and shaft heights and so-on so you can find the one that's right for you, that will fit big cushiony socks and your excellent calves.
posted by Mizu at 11:23 PM on July 11, 2013

You might want to try clogs. Sanita and Dansko are the two I am familiar with. Romax in downtown Seattle will have them, as will The Woolly Mammoth and /or Five Doors Up in the U-district. I personally think Danskos are cuter and Sanitas are more comfortable.

Alegria shoes have also been extremely comfortable in my experience, but I don't know who carries them in Seattle, I've gotten mine from Zappos. Most comfy shoes I've ever owned, right out of the box.

I have issues with Dansko --the heels on most styles are a bit too high and they aren't as stable as they could be --but having to be broken in is not something I've ever experienced with them. They are comfortable immediately. And at the risk of being fighty, I own 2 pairs of Fryes and while they are the cutest things ever, they are still not comfortable for more than 2 hours after months of wear. I call them the Cute Pain Shoes. But maybe I have weird feet.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:31 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Came in to say Alegrias -- they carry them at Romax downtown.
posted by KathrynT at 11:53 PM on July 11, 2013

I have this pair of Ariat Sutter shoes, they are the bomb!! Mine are black and absolutely love them. They fit true to size with room in the toe box. I wear them with a pair of SmartWool Micro Toe Socks. I have stood on concrete for 15 hours straight, zero pain in feet, legs and back. May people have complimented me on these shoes; more than a few wanted the name of the manufacture and style number. The quality is top of the line.

I wear toe socks because I used to have problems with corns between my two last toes. It was so painful. Wearing toe socks has cured all of my foot problems.
posted by JujuB at 12:10 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I recommend uniform stores. Specifically the ones that your local police use. I bought a pair of "cop shoes" from the local mom and pop uniform store and they are wonderful. Shiny as all get out and total comfort compared to "dress shoes" from a regular shoe/apparel store. No "break in" period was needed. Best of luck!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 1:11 AM on July 12, 2013

If you'd like something a bit more on trend, there are a lot of nice shoes in the crepe-soled 'creeper' style out there at the moment. Chunky, comfy, super cool and great for hoofing around town. A lot of them are very youthful and funky but you can find them in more classic styles if you shop around. Look at Doctor Martens at the higher end, although these may take some wearing in.

Good quality cotton socks should be fine as long as you're not covering huge distances.

Pro tip: if I needed to stand around over a number of days, I'd swap between at least two pairs of shoes to let them dry out between wearing. It's far more comfortable and your shoes last longer that way.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 2:15 AM on July 12, 2013

I worked a 15-day event, mostly standing for several hours every day. In the off chance that you will be confined a good chunk of the time to one 20x20 space, I recommend you tackle the floor issue too! Cannot recommend enough buying a pack of those gray padded floor squares for about $20. Piece them together in whatever configuration suits the space. In the case of standing mostly in one place, take it a step further and get a gel mat like the kind some people have in their kitchens. These are real leg savers. Also in such a situation, if you have a table to hide things, take a small chunk of 2x4 to stretch your calves.

As for shoes, ditto Elizabeth's suggestion on rotating the shoes and having more than one pair. Also a note on Danskos: I bought my first pair last fall and they have a lightweight line that is significantly lighter than the original--look for the asterisk on the sole. Big difference.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 3:05 AM on July 12, 2013

I know it's not fashion-forward, but get some real work boots. Timberland or what-have-you. You're at work, so a solid work boot says, "I know how to dress appropriately." Yes on the Smartwool - you can get some tall ankle socks that will come up just over the boot. And get some Superfeet insoles. They turned a pair of junk steel toes I used to have from "God my feet hurt" to "Huh, my feel still feel pretty good" overnight, even with an accumulated debt of foot pain from not having them.
posted by notsnot at 5:18 AM on July 12, 2013

Go to Nordstrom and have them measure your feet and discuss exactly what you need the shoes for. Your feet don't stop growing, so your size may have changed. Also 9.5 is a weird size, Nordstrom will have LOTS to choose from.

They'll be able to see your feet, understand if you have flat feet, or high arches, or a high instep, and they'll bring shoes that are appropriate for your exact foot. Also, they stock a ton of things that go into shoes to make them comfy.

I have high arches and high insteps, so I need lots of structure in my shoes for them to be comfortable. My sister is flat footed and she wears a completely different kind of shoe. I like Keds because they have arch support, she hates them because it feels like a bump on her foot. She loves Converse because they are completely flat. They KILL my feet after about 5 minutes. Every foot is different, even your right v your left.

If you have some good money to spend, look into the Cole-Haan shoes with Nike technology.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:37 AM on July 12, 2013

If you are going for taller socks, I'd suggest going for men's or "plus size" women's socks since they tend to fit more generously in the calf. Also, n-thing that SmartWool socks are amazing, and the wool socks from REI are pretty good.

They are hard to find, but try to find a local "full service" shoe store where employees are really taught how to fit shoes.

You might also want to check out a New Balance store since they carry other shoes besides sneakers.

Are your hiking boots leather? If so, and your feet didn't grow too much, then you might be able to get them stretched.
posted by oceano at 6:56 AM on July 12, 2013

nthing decent socks being part of the solution. Smartwool has worked great for me in the past.

Take moleskin and a needle with you to your event because if, despite your best efforts, you do actually have issues you'll want to fix them fast before they spin out of control into raw spots or blisters or, worst case scenario, burst blisters because those could ruin days 3 and 4 rather quickly.

Also: baby powder or talc in your shoes will cut down chafing/moisture issues. Don't overdo it but it's a win-win for most situations.

Regarding breaking in shoes... um.. wear them? If you were talking hardcore, all-leather leather hiking/army boots I've heard from soldiers that would say to wear them in the shower but that doesn't seem to be the right path, so to speak, to follow here. Don't do this unless you're absolutely sure it's right for your shoes. I didn't get the impression you were talking about these kind of shoes, but you did mention hiking boots. Decent hiking boots could suit your needs if you're not going to look out of place wearing them. My experience has been that they'll take a bit longer to break in but will last longer than other alternatives.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:25 AM on July 12, 2013

If you go towards work boots, my experience with people in industrial settings (power plants, paper mills, refineries, etc) last pointed towards Justin boots as the most loved with regards to comfort.

Nothing against Wolverine, Timberland, Red Wing, or what have you... those are also quality boots, but I heard from various sources, my dad amongst them, that Justin boots were commmmfy. Mine are still in my closet and I can't disagree. The worst thing I've experienced in flooring/standing on stuff is metal grating on walkways in industrial settings and my Justin boots made 12-18 hours shifts survivable.

Again, all this is presupposing that you're ok with looking a bit like a train engineer or a member of a biker gang... but dang they're good work boots.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:31 AM on July 12, 2013

Clogs! Dansko! Sanita! (I've never had to break them in.)

But most of all - no matter which shoes or boots you choose, try to buy two pairs and alternate them. Each shoe, no matter how comfortable, will touch/squeeze/embrace your foot in a different way. Switching to a second pair - either switching each day, or switching halfway through a day - will do a lot to help your comfort levels.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:32 AM on July 12, 2013

Here are some brands I like that fit your criteria for shoes. I'd look for stores that carry them near you. Many of these shoes tend to be a bit over $100, but I have pairs that have lasted really well (multiple years with a lot of wear).
El Naturalista: There are 4 stores in the Seattle area. They use natural rubber in their soles, which can make the shoes a little heavy, but they last a long time, and are really ergonomic. They tend to be a little off-beat looking, which could be either a plus or a minus, depending on your aesthetic.
Born. Nice looking, comfortable, good support, durable. Several stores in the Seattle area.
Earth: Earth shoes tend to be constructed a little low in the heel, to encourage good posture--you sort of end up rocking back in the shoe a little. Not everyone likes them, but some people *love* them. Worth a try. Several stores in the area.
posted by pompelmo at 9:36 AM on July 12, 2013

Best answer: How many hours a day are you standing currently? It'd greatly ease my anxiety level and increase my enjoyment of an event if I had "trained" for it by doing some 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 hour walks beforehand (so buy shoes/socks asap and wear them many times).
posted by at at 4:52 PM on July 13, 2013

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