need shoe recommendation for greenhouse/horticulturist
April 27, 2016 8:06 PM   Subscribe

Mr. BellaStella works in a greenhouse. He stands in water a good portion of the day. For years he's been getting cheap Walmart shoes, which last about a month, if he's lucky. About once a year, he'll get an incredibly inflamed big toe, sometimes necessitating a trip to urgent care. He wears cotton crew socks with his shoes, so his poor feet are just fermenting all day.

Here's where it gets tricky. I have suggested water shoes, or sport sandals. He was not enthusiastic. The sandals were declined because he also works with mulch, and balks at having to pick mulch out of the open spaces of sandals. The water shoes are a possibility, but are pricey, and he wears 13 wide, and he is seriously PICKY about his shoes. Boots are out, too hot and heavy.

What we are looking for are shoes that will hold up to being wet, and worn hard. Some decent support/insoles, and fast drying (we do have a shoe dryer) are important. I am willing to pay a bit more to get him shoes that are not going to cripple him. He works 10 to 12 + hours a day, for 9 months out of the year. So, what kind of shoes are we looking for??
posted by LaBellaStella to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wool socks for starters. What about garden clogs of some kind? What do his co-workers wear?
posted by Beti at 8:14 PM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I know they are a visual abomination, but I wear Crocs in my greenhouse of bog plants. They come in no-holes style, they have a nice big toe box, and my plantar fasciitis-afflicted feet find them very comfortable even at the end of a long day.
posted by jamaro at 8:16 PM on April 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

If not boots, what about some sort of work shoe? They'll keep the mulch out and Danners will last I have two pairs of Danner boots I wear almost exclusively. They are great for my problem feet.
posted by Beti at 8:18 PM on April 27, 2016

Throw away all of the cotton socks! Immediately. When I wear cotton socks, my feet get swampy even when I'm not standing in water. Get some foot powder, and use it. Change socks at lunchtime, reapply foot powder. Get some decent waterproof shoes that fit well--I prefer trail-running styles; Keen makes some good ones that tend to be sized a bit wider than others. But really, I think the socks are the main problem here, not the shoes. Any decent-fitting waterproof shoe with a mid-day sock change and foot powder will solve this problem right away.

(Waterproof shoes are a tradeoff--since water can't get in, moisture and sweat also can't get out. If he weren't standing in water, I'd say avoid the waterproof stuff, but in this case, I think it's needed.)
posted by tybstar at 8:37 PM on April 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

As Beti says, I would strongly recommend changing socks, as cotton is basically the worst ever for the environment you are describing: it holds water, dries slowly, promotes chafing, feels very clammy when wet, and is thus the perfect breeding environment for both discomfort and microorganisms on your partner's feet. Slightly different scenario, but I switched out all of my cotton socks for merino blends this past autumn and I'd never go back, especially for exercise/sweating/wet environments.

In changing socks, I'd recommend going one of two ways. First, consider a sock with a high percentage of merino wool (70% or so). In this category for me, Icebreaker and Darn Tough have been especially good in my experience: they're soft, don't feel clammy, are naturally extremely odor-resistant, are washable, and come with lifetime guarantees (seriously! Darn Tough actually encourages you to try to wear them out! And they've honored the guarantee when people have hiked thousands of miles in them and finally made a hole!). The other option would be a merino blend sock that also includes quick-dry wicking material (often polypropylene) and usually nylon which helps avoid blisters from friction on wet feet. My favorite in this category has been Bridgedale, which also has a guarantee (3 years maybe?). The advantage of the blended version is that it typically dries more quickly than a higher proportion of merino and also it can help avoid blisters a bit better. Disadvantage of the blended is that it smells more readily (polypropylene in particular can reek after a day, while mostly-merino stuff can often go improbably long periods of time without stinking (days of hiking, etc.). Other will have shoe recommendations that will be helpful, I'm sure, but changing the cotton socks is a must. Certainly for health and comfort reasons, and financial ones too I bet - while the upfront cost of merino socks is far higher, the lifetime guarantees will in the end mean that it will be cheaper for you.
posted by ClaireBear at 8:39 PM on April 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry, but my opinion is that your husband needs to change his stance on shoes NOW.

That inflammation of his foot that keeps sending him to urgent care is a mini-version of trench foot, also known as 'immersion foot'. It can lead to complications such as soft tissue ulceration, cellulitis, and tissue necrosis.

No amount of sock changing is going to help him if he's literally standing in water, and water shoes aren't a good idea because his feet are still going to be immersed. He needs to get over the whole boots are too heavy thing and do the right thing for his feet. The only correct answer here is rubber boots.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:10 PM on April 27, 2016 [33 favorites]

I wore bogs-type neoprene + molded boots for farm work, and they've held up great. And n-thing better socks.

What do his co-workers wear?
posted by momus_window at 9:24 PM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yep. I am not any kind of medical anything but I have heard (at length and in detail) about trench foot from someone who had a very bad case of it. (Caused by a couple days of work during a flood with inadequate footwear.) It is serious business, extremely unpleasant, and not something to mess with.

Waterproof boots are appropriate personal protective equipment for work in a wet environment.
posted by asperity at 9:28 PM on April 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Waterproof boots don't have to be "hot and heavy." Hikers wear lightweight waterproof boots all the time.
posted by xyzzy at 9:32 PM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Any footwear with eVent breathable waterproof fabric will keep his feet dry from moisture inside and out.
posted by little eiffel at 10:20 PM on April 27, 2016

I agree that rubber boots are going to be his best option. With good socks - smart wool or some moisture wicking socks, and pants tucked in, they will be so much more comfortable than standing in wet shoes and socks all day. They really can be comfortable - when I'm doing research in the tropical rainforest, I hike 8-12 miles a day in rubber boots I buy from Walmart. I've not once gotten trench foot!
posted by ChuraChura at 4:37 AM on April 28, 2016

I meant to say, they also make fancy and comfortable rubber boots, so don't think he's limited to cheap ones. I had a friend with molded gel inserts in her boots that were more comfortable than my regular shoes.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:43 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another vote for rubber boots. I spend half my time doing fieldwork on muddy riverbanks and the other half in the greenhouse; my Muck Boots are not heavy and are super comfortable for long, hot days.

My dad, who is boot-averse, uses the ankle height Muck for gardening/greenhousing, and there is also a shoe version. Maybe one of those would work?

(Also, another vote for wool socks.)
posted by pemberkins at 4:55 AM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

I wear Dunham Exeter hiking boots to deal in horrible winter conditions. They are a lightweight hiking boot with a Gore-tex liner. They also come in a low version, which is also Gore-tex lined. The low versions are essentially just a shoe. Neither wear like hot, heavy boots, and both have a breathable, waterproof membrane. They're quite supportive, but better yet, they come in widths (I wear a 4XE - the struggle is real). I have linked to amazon, which looks to be the best deal to get them.
posted by jamaal at 5:07 AM on April 28, 2016

Maybe he could use something like this deck boot? I have worn a similar style working on boats and at an aquarium that often had wet floors. Mine had crappy arch support but could be improved with insoles. The sweatiness of the rubber was minimized by the short and wide open shaft (better air flow than a typical rain boot). I like a good waterproof gore-tex hiking boot for walking through occasional puddles, but for standing in water I think rubber or vinyl is a better bet.
posted by Jemstar at 7:13 AM on April 28, 2016

These Native boots (the non-fleece version) are super lightweight and waterproof.
posted by ghostbikes at 7:44 AM on April 28, 2016

The gardening shoes that pemberkins mentioned are relatively light and ideal for a greenhouse. I had a pair that I wore more often than one should wear gardening shoes --they're comfortable. My sister, whose job is like your husband's, wears them for work, too. They're discounted at this site -- $52 for men's Muck gardening shoes.
posted by Francolin at 9:01 AM on April 28, 2016

Chiming in to say this is really, really important, and he's playing with fire as it is. Feet are incredibly important, trench foot is nothing to sneeze at, and the price of a good pair of boots/work shoes and socks is nothing compared to infection from lack thereof.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:09 AM on April 28, 2016

Depending on how deep the water is, these gardening clogs might work (and are super comfortable). They are waterproof, relatively lightweight, and have a cork footbed that will provide support, which is key since he's standing all day.
posted by dizziest at 11:27 AM on April 28, 2016

LA Sportiva makes lightweight, waterproof hiking boots. They are not inexpensive, but they are a lot cheaper than losing a foot. Your husband needs to get over what seems like a childish and foolish aversion to proper footwear. Good luck!
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 1:38 PM on April 30, 2016

All the outdoor workers in Australia wear Blundstones. They aren't cheap, but extremely durable and comfortable, and I think quite good looking for a work shoe. A pair of the rubber boots or gumboots would seem to meet your criteria.
posted by amusebuche at 4:09 AM on May 1, 2016

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