please hope me find a pair of shoes
September 8, 2014 8:29 PM   Subscribe

I have super high arches, a wide toe box, constant pain in my foot, and a weak ankle. Do you have any recommendations for a somewhat stylish but not-quite-formal dress shoe I can wear to work with slacks or khakis and a button-down shirt? I'm pretty butch and usually wear a leather loafer in a men's size 7.5 / women's size 9.

I've been having pain in my right foot & ankle for over a year (basically ever since I got back from my aborted thru hike attempt on the AT). Went to the doc late last year, who said it was tendonitis. Went back again a few months ago, because the pain was constant and had gotten worse. She sent me to an foot & ankle orthopedic guy, who took xrays, said nothing was wrong besides a tight calf and high arches, gave me a pair of Arch Rival inserts for my high arches, and sent me to PT for 8 weeks.

I've been wearing the inserts and doing my PT exercises faithfully and they haven't been helping. The only things that help are icing it constantly and staying off it as much as possible. Two weeks ago I was sitting at my desk and my ankle popped twice - so loudly my coworker asked me about it. It didn't hurt or anything, but it swelled up pretty badly, and the arch is super tight & twitchy. When I told my PT about it (visit 5), she suggested that I make a followup appointment with the ortho ASAP, instead of 2 months out as originally planned, and she wrote a note to him about it (same healthcare system).

The followup ortho appointment was today, and the guy was a real jerk through the whole thing. He said he didn't think there was anything wrong with my foot or ankle besides my high arch causing pain on the outside of the foot. He is ordering an MRI, "just in case there is something surprising". (Side note: I'm now terrified that the MRI won't show anything is wrong and he will totally write me off). He told me that I need to get new dress shoes, because mine were essentially just a piece of leather wrapped around a sole. I asked what shoes he recommended, and he said he didn't recommend any specific brand, but that I needed to find a shoe that wasn't bendy and had lots of cushioning. I am so freaking miserable I don't care if he was a jerk, I'm willing to try new shoes if it will possibly fix the problem.

tl;dr - Can you recommend a specific pair of shoes that worked for you? Or - if I have to gather my wits about me and visit an IRL shoe store - what do I ask for and how do I know if it's the right shoe? (Feel free to reply very specifically, like I am a forgetful three year old).
posted by wearyaswater to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Take a look at Born or Dansko. Very supportive, comfortable, and casually stylish.
posted by erst at 8:35 PM on September 8, 2014

Response by poster: Budget: $150. Also, I could probably get away with a conservative (not colorful at all, black or brown) pair of sneakers, if needed.
posted by wearyaswater at 8:37 PM on September 8, 2014

Best answer: I don't have foot issues, but I do love a sturdy work shoe.

My husband and I are both really digging Cole Haan brand lately. I picked up two pairs of oxfords (closer to this style) from Nordstrom Rack and he picked up a couple pairs from DSW Shoes. Mine have a really nice, cushy insole.

These are a bit out of your price range, but I'd keep an eye out at local shoe places.

They have tons of men's oxfords too. I think an oxford or lace up will be much more sturdy than a loafer or slip on and will be very close to a tennis shoe since they lace up and have a thick, sturdy sole.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:57 PM on September 8, 2014

Best answer: I also have a wide toe box and high arches (although minus the ankle woes) and most of my shoes are from Cole Haan and Sofft. Cole Haan has lots of oxfords and loafers that would probably work for your style, both in men's and women's; Sofft is a little more femme but has some flat loafers and things.

My approach to shoe buying is to buy six pairs or so on Zappos, make an initial cull based on comfort out of the box, and then to wear the finalists for half an hour or so while doing something sedentary in a carpeted room, which tends to bring out fit issues that aren't readily apparent on the first run, like a strap that's fine at first but then rubs in a funny way.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:02 PM on September 8, 2014

Your feet sound like mine! I live in my Sanita clogs (these were the old Danskos -- when Sanita's patent expired, Dansko took the design and moved their manufacturing to China, and I've been unenthusiastic about them ever since). The arch supports are high, the toeboxes are wide, and they're profiled so that you rock forward on them as you walk, rather than having to flex your ankle with each step.

But -- and this is a big but -- clogs can also be a HUGE ankle hazard if you're clumsy like I am. If you step on the side edge of the clog, you can roll off the corner and your ankle will turn. One time (but only once in my ~20 yrs of wearing them) I managed to tear the tendons on BOTH sides of my ankle in a roll. The dr was agog: it was worse than a break. It's only ever happened once, but you should know it's a hazard....

Anyway, if you go the clog route I'd recommend going to a comfort shoe store to try them on in-person with the help of a sales rep who knows how they should fit, because they should be quite loose -- it's a different fit from other shoes.
posted by Westringia F. at 9:02 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of my relatives has feet and ankle issues. She swears by Ariat Paddock boots. They are not exactly what you asked for, and they're on the edge of your budget, but they offer great support, and will last a good long time.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:09 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I feel you -- I've had pain due to tendonitis for four years. I think your best bet is to go to a store that caters to troubled feet (i.e. that carries shoes that accommodate orthotics) and try a bunch of things on, because staff can give suggestions. IME almost no regular stores and few brands carry shoes with rigid soles, which I guess you need. Stores like this are often affiliated with podiatrists' offices. (Don't worry, you can buy the shoes and not feel forced into getting custom orthotics, but it's worth considering if it's something you can swing; I still do PT on and off, and have found my pain more consistently reduced -- not eradicated -- with the addition of custom orthotics.)

I'd suggest getting something with laces, which allow you to optimize the fit. I would guess you might be advised to get something with rear foot support (and think caution around clogs is wise; many are quite heavy, too).

You might get lucky, but I'd keep footwear fashion hopes low. I sincerely hope this won't be you, but I'm only now at the point where I can wear a kind-of pretty flat for eight hours. I've basically lived in a pair of boots (in a combat style) and a pair of oxfords for a few years now, because they're the only things my foot likes.

Remember that tendons take a long-ass time to heal, and the impact of walking doesn't help. I also found that staying off it was the only thing that helped for a long time, and even now limit time walking (and suffer when I don't). I still do PT on and off, and find it does help address the (now-chronic) pain.

Best of luck with the MRI, and of course the shoes.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:13 PM on September 8, 2014

Here are your shoes. I have extremely messed up feet -- all the problems you have, plus a couple more -- and these are what I bought for myself when I had worn regular shoes to walk a few blocks downtown the other day and was almost in tears -- and they are amazing. Plenty of room for orthotics, even with a high arch!!
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:26 PM on September 8, 2014

Best answer: you want something designed for people who have to stand all day. They're usually over-engineered to avoid causing these kinds of problems in the first place, which means they're great for people who have those kinds of problems.

Danskos are a good recommendation, and what my mom recommended(and she's a chef, who stands all day). I'd also look at stuff like shoes for crews.

Literally, go to zappos or something and look for nurse shoes. Those are the kinds of shoes you want.

You need to narrow your list down from "shoes designed to support people standing all day" to ones you like the look of, not try and work backward from shoes that look ok to find ones that are supportive enough.

If i was starting from zero on this hunt, i'd probably just start with danskos and shoes for crews. Maybe order a pair of each.
posted by emptythought at 11:06 PM on September 8, 2014

Oh, and a bit i forget until after i hit submit...

When i was a barista and a teriyaki jockey the most comfortable shoes i had were clones of, and then eventually just actual lowtop doc marten work shoes. something like these and the awesomest insoles you can find will likely rule for this. I really think the shoe here is like a bike seat, and the insoles are like the bike shorts. On good shorts, most of the cushion and support of the "seat" is in the shorts anyways. Buy something with a solid sole and some cushion to it and get really good insoles.

If i was about to go stand and walk all day and possibly into the night at a big protest or something, i'd be down at my storage unit digging out those old docs. I have fucked up knees and an iffy back, and i could stand and walk all fucking day in those things.
posted by emptythought at 11:11 PM on September 8, 2014

You want the Barking Dog Shoes Blog which has reviews on shoes for problem feet.

Shops that stock shoes that fit orthotics will have shoes that fit your requirements. Custom orthotics have really helped my feet, they might help yours.
posted by poxandplague at 3:23 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for your answers. I just placed a ginormous Zappos order, and hopefully will find something that will work.
posted by wearyaswater at 7:13 AM on September 9, 2014

I'm sorry to hear about your pain. With the winter months coming up, have you considered a fashionable boot such as the LL Bean Katahdin or Red Wings? I know these are WAY outside your price range new, but if you like the look you can often find them on ebay.
posted by rebent at 8:04 AM on September 9, 2014

Loafers have basically no support whatsoever. It's totally worth it for both foot health, bodily comfort AND butch gender identity to have kickass shoes!!! Definitely try a bunch on and refine from there. Cole Haan is very supportive and some of them have Nike air technology in the soles -- they are awesome.

One trick: it's better to rotate your shoes if possible. Let them air out a day between uses and it'll make them last much longer. If you can only afford to purchase one pair now, save up and get another pair and then rotate between them.

Also take this opportunity to get really nice socks. Black trouser socks from Smartwool will make you happy and keep your feet breathing, even in the summer and winter.

Another option you might like, maybe down the road: Clark desert boots. Super comfortable with a wide toe box and they look great with almost everything. They come with that central seam or without it. Get them in dark brown and wear them with grey, brown, khaki etc., or get them in black for use with black and grey. Both colors look good with dark denim as well.

If you want to try another pair of insoles, I highly recommend the Superfeet line. Their insole for high arches has a billion great reviews around the web.

Going forward, this is my recommended dykey/butch shoe closet suggestion, if you can swing it:
- one pair of Chukka boots (like the Clark desert above, but search for chukka on Zappos and there are a million versions)
- one pair of oxfords or other lace-up dress shoes
- one pair of Merrell casual shoes (for casual outfits and weekends)
- one hipster/cool pair of street sneakers - preferably in black so they go with more things

Obviously that can be built over the course of a year or two, and requires you to have some of your current foot woe figured out. But great shoes TOTALLY help with foot pain and feeling great about your outfits/fashion!

Best of luck. Feel free to update here and we can give additional ideas once you've tried on the shipment of Zappos headed your way.
posted by barnone at 9:27 AM on September 9, 2014

Response by poster: Update: I ended up with a pair of cole haan oxfords, a pair of chukkas, and a pair of shoes for crews. Thanks for all the great suggestions!
posted by wearyaswater at 10:30 AM on September 28, 2014

[whistles] Super handsome choices!!! Nice shoes change everything. Hope you love them!

Try to buy a new pair of shoes every year, and swap amongst all of your options. Not wearing a pair every day allows them to last much much longer than they otherwise would. Make sure to treat them well in the winter (I put special shoe wax on all of my leather shoes, as I live in a slushy/rainy climate and this prevents them from getting soaked and covered in salt) and they'll treat you back just as well. Nice job!
posted by barnone at 12:37 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

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