Plantar Fasciitis: work shoes
July 4, 2021 4:09 PM   Subscribe

My foot hurts. I’m blaming my work shoes. I need new work shoes.

I work in horticulture and need a shoe for the summer. I walk a lot. I also use shovels fairly frequently so the sole of the shoe must be sturdy. It doesn’t need to have a safety toe (steel/composite). I would like something that isn’t too heavy. I would also like something that has breathable mesh. I am not interested in waterproof shoes for the summer.

I wear women’s size 8.5 but also end up getting men’s size 7 because women’s work shoes aren’t as numerous or available as men’s.

I’m in the USA. I can’t afford incredibly expensive shoes as I beat the crap out of them.

I probably want a breathable low hiking shoe? I think?

My foot hurts a lot help me move in the direction of making it better. Thank you.
posted by sciencegeek to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It would help to know what area of your foot is hurting in making a recommendation, but one thing you might try if your current shoes work for you except for the hurting part is to try a replacement insole. I use Superfeet insoles which helped me with pain in the ball of my feet, but I believe they work for plantar fasciitis as well.
posted by Aleyn at 4:20 PM on July 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

Was the plantar fasciitis diagnosed by a podiatrist? If not you may want to see a podiatrist for a professional opinion.

Sometimes, a new set of insoles can help, else, you may need custom orthotics. I buy Spenco insoles from Amazon. They were recommended by delivery drivers (UPS, Fedex, etc.)

Most mesh shoes I see are for walking or running.
posted by kschang at 4:28 PM on July 4, 2021

Crocs cured my plantar fasciitis. I like their Kaydee flats as work shoes.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 4:28 PM on July 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry I can't personally vouch yet but but I recently decided to buy a pair of sketchers memory foam work shoes to help with my (metatarsal/ball) foot pain, based on low(ish) price, rave reviews from friends and long-term positive experience with the brand.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:35 PM on July 4, 2021

These claim to be breathable AND nearly indestructible with steel toe. Never tried them, but prices seem to be somewhat reasonable.
posted by kschang at 4:43 PM on July 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

And some earlier suggestions on PF, but not work shoes.
posted by kschang at 4:45 PM on July 4, 2021

Response by poster: I’ve already deployed Superfeet insoles.

I’m not looking for shoes you wear in an office environment.

I need a mesh hiking style shoe.

I do not want it to be pink and my experience with shoes designed for women is that they are not as durable as those designed for men. Sexism sucks - buying work clothing etc isn’t fun as a woman.

The indestructible shoes do not work with a shovel as they do not have a rigid sole.

I haven’t had a chance to speak to an MD - the pain is significant amd I need to be at work on Tuesday.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:52 PM on July 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Are the shoes you have big enough that they still fit correctly with the insoles in? My plantar fasciitis acts up badly when I wear shoes that I thought fit but are actually slightly too small, along with shoes that don't quite have enough height to accommodate Superfeet insoles and my arches (basically, for me I've sadly aged out of being able to wear Chucks ever again, because there's no way to make insoles fit).
posted by augustimagination at 5:00 PM on July 4, 2021

Asics sneakers work well for me, but that’s not what I’m here to recommend. My wife just bought me some Feetures PF socks, and they’re incredible. My feet have felt great regardless of what shoe I’m wearing. They’re pricy, but I guess not as pricy as an expensive pair of shoes or orthotics.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:02 PM on July 4, 2021

Yeah, I've tried to use a shovel in regular sneakers, felt the top edge of the shovel thru the sole, and been sore from it. I've also had hiking boots that left me sore after shovelling.

Might look at water shoes. I have a pair of Merrill water shoes that are fairly breathable, are close toed, and have a sole that might be sturdy enough for shovelling, these.

I also have a pair of those "indestructable" shoes above, and... "no".

Chacos have very sturdy soles that I might find acceptable for shovelling. Maybe Keens.

I've seen, but never tried, kevlar insoles, also steel shank insoles.
posted by at at 5:56 PM on July 4, 2021

I spent a summer roofing while dealing with a horrible case of PF. You've got my sympathies.

First, night socks. Get them ASAP. Strassburg socks are the name brand but there's plenty of cheaper alternatives on Amazon and the like. Wearing night socks will likely make a bigger difference than what you have on your feet during the day.

For actual footwear, you definitely need something stiff for the PF as much as the shoveling. Looking around my working-outside collection, my favourites are: LL Bean Gumshoes, which have a steel shank and last forever but are also heavy and don't breathe all that wel; Hi-Tec Ravus Vent, which are cheap and ugly but work well; and Crocs clogs, the kind they sell as workplace shoes.

Finally, I took naproxen in the mornings and did tons of stretches with a golf ball. Good luck.
posted by ZaphodB at 6:13 PM on July 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

Merrell and maybe Keen was my thought too. The Keens that I’ve had have had sturdier soles than my Merrells, though that may be related to the specific styles I’ve had. Overall I’d be worried that if you’re already using Superfeet and those haven’t helped enough, getting better shoes might not do much. (What kind of shoes have you been wearing?)

I also have plantar fasciitis and while I haven’t tried this, I’ve heard about something called “low-dye taping” (named for a Dr. Dye who invented it; the name is confusing) which might be useful for you in the interim. It’s a whole process where you put non-stretchy tape on your feet in a specific way to provide extra support. If you google there will be a bunch of links/some youtube videos about it.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:19 PM on July 4, 2021

I know you have your Tuesday deadline, but if at all possible, if you're able to find a shoe store with a knowledgeable person to help you get your fit, that's what helped me with my PF.

If not, the one takeaway I can share with you is what I was told by my local shoe salesman (and my PF improved dramatically in the months afterward).

"The biggest mistake I see is people who buy for "comfort" in the store, specifically getting soles that are too soft. Soft soles feel better in the short term, but they allow the feet to roll from side to side too much, often aggravating the PF."

So I was recommended to get a show that felt one degree too hard, and then that gave me the support I needed.

The Merrill "Moab" series is what I ended up getting, and it helped tremendously.
posted by jeremias at 6:27 PM on July 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I’ve been wearing a discontinued model of keens.

My non-summer workbooks are redwing and timberland. Most of my sneakers are ASICS.

I’ve heard that the changes made from the original Moab to the Moab II are not good.

I can’t wear shoes that have openings like sandals.

I’ll probably end up making do with sneakers for the first part of the week and trying to find a local shoe store.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:06 PM on July 4, 2021

Superfeet insoles in my "outside" boots, plus wearing smooshy Teva flip-flops indoors, cured my plantar fasciitis. It took a couple of months though; PF takes time to heal. :(
posted by heatherlogan at 7:43 PM on July 4, 2021

I have tons of foot problems. I bought a pair of Merrill Moab 2 mid hiking boots, they are breathable and sturdy and I don’t need insoles in them or anything. I chose a men’s seven and I usually wear a women’s 8 1/2 wide. Wore them hiking right out of the box.
posted by gryphonlover at 7:45 PM on July 4, 2021

I can't help with work shoe, but I will fully second the need to wear something indoors when you're not working. In my experience, it doesn't need to be too supportive, but going barefoot indoors equals pain when plantar fasciitis is involved.
posted by mollweide at 8:21 PM on July 4, 2021

I just started seeing a podiatrist for my flat feet. He says New Balance walking shoes are best for everyone (but admittedly kinda ugly), and for casual wear, Chacos or Vionix. Skechers are OK to wear around the house, he said, but not for a lot of walking out and about.

I've had PF in the past. Good, supportive shoes are key (like you've realized), don't go barefoot ever, and put water bottles in the freezer to roll back and forth under your feet when you get home. Golf balls work, too.
posted by jhope71 at 8:31 PM on July 4, 2021

I’ll second ZaphodB’s suggestion of the Hi-Tec brand. I have the V-Lite Flash Force Low and it is an extremely lightweight, breathable hiking shoe with a stiff, thick sole. The link is to a pair at full price but you can usually find them on sale for closer to $70 at sports or feed stores, and mine have lasted me about six years and hundreds and hundreds of hiking miles. Good luck, plantar fasciitis is no joke.
posted by stellaluna at 8:55 PM on July 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've had my share of mild PF. I'm going to make a suggestion that might be outside of the scope of the question (I'm not 100% sure if 'work shoes' is a particular Thing; if so, my apologies!)

I used to wear Bates 8" Side Zip boots while hiking and backpacking. They're super light, breathe well, and go on and off super quickly, and have a women's version. They're intended for on-your-feet work (EMT, warehouse, military), but can read a little military/"tactical". I used to make other hikers compare one shoe's weight to the trail/hiking shoe they had on; they were always quite impressed. I'd get about a year daily wear out of mine. The only thing I'm not sure about is the shovel performance: I remember the soles being somewhat flexible, and I don't have a pair handy to test.

PF is miserable--here's hoping you find your footwear soon!
posted by dft at 9:19 PM on July 4, 2021

For me the thing that made the difference was the superfeet insoles. After than the actual shoe doesn't matter so much as long as it fits (and I have extra wide feet so fit is whole thing).

So any quality hiking shoe or boot should do the trick. I lean toward a boot as I find the SF insoles elevate the heel slightly and the shoe comes off my heel a bit at least with my Merrell Moabs.
posted by VTX at 9:26 PM on July 4, 2021

Have you considered Carhartt? They make sturdy work clothes. They also make (or sell) shoes/boots for men and women. Here is a link to the women's inventory. There are two hiking type shoes there. Here is a link to the men's.
posted by AugustWest at 10:57 PM on July 4, 2021

For after work, consider Oofos sandals, which brought such relief when I had PF. I compared it to Kuru, and Oofos was much better for my feet.
posted by Spokane at 12:43 AM on July 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

Birkenstocks really help my plantar fasciitis. When I need to wear non-Birkenstock hiking boots, I use their insoles, specifically, Birko Balances.
posted by kingless at 2:41 AM on July 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

Try to find a shoe store that works with doctors to find the right foot gear for diabetics and the like. They are more likely to have a good solution than a store only interested in fashion.

I've been getting shoes from Orthofeet. They have special insoles built in, but they aren't cheap.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:12 AM on July 5, 2021

^^^I've heard that the changes from the original Moab to the Moab II are not good.

If you're talking about the WP version, reviewers at Run Repeat, an ad-free athletic shoe review database, agree with you. Over a hundred people reviewed this shoe, and "a considerable number" disliked the Moab II WP's long break-in time, lack of adequate ventilation and poor waterproofing. Sounds like a recipe for hell with the kind of work you do.

A suggestion: The Kujo Yardwear Yard Shoe, made by a relatively new Michigan company Kickstarted by a guy who's done lawn and garden work for years.

In a January 2020 roundup on the Gardener's Path blog, a reviewer said the Yard Shoe is called "a 'hybrid' work shoe because it combines the durability and water resistance of a work boot with the flexibility, light weight, and ventilation of a sneaker." (The company has since added the X1 Landscape Boot to their line.)

I can't personally vouch for the Yard Shoe, but there are a lot of positive reviews on the company website, FWIW.

If the Yard Shoe sounds like something you're interested in pursuing, you can:

1. Order it from the company (although they seem to be back-ordered in men's 7/women's 8.5).

2. See if there's a brick-and-mortar Kujo Yardwear retailer near you.

3. Order from Amazon. They currently have the Yard Shoe in black with black trim in your size, and although I try to avoid making extraneous purchases from Bezos, anyone who gets judgmental about someone buying needed work gear from the behemoth can go jump as far as I'm concerned.
posted by virago at 11:46 AM on July 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

My PF was cured by wearing *completely* flat shoes with a wide toe box. Years of crippling pain gone in 2 weeks. Was able to throw out my orthotics.

One of the issues with flat, minimalist shoes is that they generally have thin soles (3mm to 5mm). I love MukiShoes and some Vivobarefoot shoes, but they both have thin soles for sure. You'll feel that shovel.

The thickest-soled minimalist shoe I've found so far are Feelgrounds. They offer a knit or mesh option. The knit is slightly waterproof -- the mesh are not. With the mesh, you can literally feel the breeze blow through. (Mukishoes linen line you can also feel the breeze but too thin for your purposes.)

I have not used them with a shovel but my bike has very odd pedals with a painful bar in the center which I feel with all minimalist shoes except the Feelgrounds.
posted by dobbs at 3:00 PM on July 6, 2021

Oh, and I should add that I also walk a lot. 12 - 15 miles a day, mostly on cement.
posted by dobbs at 3:01 PM on July 6, 2021

Response by poster: I ended up with Merril Moab II vent for work and a pair of Oofos flip flops for home. I also got night socks but haven’t used them yet.

Pain is decreasing and I’ve been ok at work.

Thank you all for your ideas.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:48 AM on July 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

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