“Dorothy, please. A lady never admits her feet hurt.”
--Marilyn Monroe (as Lorelei Lee) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
I know there are folks who can’t understand why anyone would wear uncomfortable shoes. If you’re one of them, you might want to stop reading now in case your head explodes. I recently admitted to some lady friends that when my feet get bashed up from sandal straps or what have you, I’ll just slap some concealer on them and keep on truckin’. This was met with horrified amusement. Yes. I wear MAKEUP ON MY FEET SOMETIMES. That’s the kind of person I am. I’ll understand if you never speak to me again. It’s the same reason I can’t look at people who wear those weird monkey shoes with the separate toes. Ew.
So yeah, I love skinny little straps and shiny buckles and rope-ties and leather...and I also like cute shoes. Zing! I was going to title this post “how to keep fabulous summer shoes from hurting your feet”, but considering I constantly rotate my footwear in an ongoing attempt to just hurt different parts of my feet each day, that title would be terribly misleading. (My husband, who hears a constant colour commentary about my suffering, is pretty much convinced that all my shoes are made of piano wire and cheese graters.) So it might be better to think about “minimizing shoe-related foot agony”. Accurate AND catchy!
You might think heels would be the worst culprits, but honestly, I’ve had some harmless-looking flats in my time that inflicted Inquisition-like levels of pain after only an hour or two. So one has to be prepared for pain! Gird your insteps, bitches: it’s time for battle.
Your Tender Tootsies Toolkit
1. Shoe inserts (heel grips, ball-of-foot cushions, gel insoles, strap liners and so on)
Obviously, you should be buying shoes that fit. Take it from me, those suckers are not going to magically feel BETTER once you’ve paid for them. If they hurt in the store, they are not your friends. But sometimes we make mistakes—or a shoe does fit properly, but as you walk, you discover a little wiggle room at the heel that causes a blister, or your foot slides forward and your piggies get squeezed through the peeptoe like beef through a grinder. The right shoe insert can ease the pressure in tight areas, or snug up the slippy bits. There’s about a million of these things at the drugstore now. I even used a pair of velvety soft thin ones in a pair of flat sandals that were utterly pain-free EXCEPT for a seam that ran right under my big toe. After ten minutes, it was annoying. After two hours, it was like walking on a knife-edge. Dr. Scholl to the rescue!
2. Blister block and cushions
One used to have to procure one’s blister block at stores for runners. (Runners are those people in the weird shorts who hop up and down at stoplights and never look like they’re having any fun. Poor buggers.) Luckily, now Band-Aid and lots of other brands make these easy-to-use sticks. You just smear a little on the area that gets chafed, and theoretically at least, it will cut down on the friction and stop blisters from forming. But while it certainly can help, it can’t work miracles. (I’m looking at you, nude slingbacks!) The other thing to watch out for is that blister-block goo attracts dust and dirt, so a stroll in the city can give you a serious case of “castaway feet”. (I like to carry a mini-pack of baby wipes in my handbag during the summer months. You never know when you’ve going to need to have a sponge-bath in a public restroom.)
If you’ve already got the damn blister, then you know the pain of changing band-aids every five minutes as it twists up under your shoe and does three-fifths of fuck-all. Band-Aid makes a blister-healing bandage that actually stays on, provided your feet are clean and dry (none of that blister-blocking goo, in other words). Once, I had one stay on for DAYS, even with walking and swimming and showering. Warning: these things are stupidly expensive. Stupidly! But if you’re walking a lot and every shoe you own is tearing your foot to ribbons, you’ll thank me.
3. Surgical Tape
Okay, I haven’t road-tested this yet, but I can assure you that I will, since this kind of weirdo self torture is right up my alley. Try taping your third and fourth toes together, say the crazy ladies over at the Today show. Apparently, this aligns some muscle or some damn thing…look, who gives a shit, as long as it works. And I don’t have to tell you this trick is only for closed-toe shoes, right? Don’t be like the sad lady on the bus wearing Spice-tone knee-highs with white sandals.
One good way to get your shoes broken in a bit is to wear them for short stretches of time around the house. But sometimes you don’t have a week—you’ve got to wear those suckers to a party tonight, and you just know you’re going to be standing up, drinking sangria, then dancing…so time is of the essence. Get a thickish pair of sport socks (the thickest that you can wear and still get into the damn shoe). Wet them in cool water and wring them out as best you can. Then jam those soggy sock feet into your shoes and do something fun like whipping up a batch of raspberry jam or homemade meth. The moisture and the added thickness should help stretch out the naughty areas of your shoes. This only works on leather or cloth though. PVC ain’t gonna stretch, no matter what the unctuous shoe seller might have told you. I guess you could also take shoes to the shoe guy for stretching…but I stopped bringing my shoe guy too-small shoes, because he thinks I’m an idiot.
Under “socks” I must also make a brief mention of these “sock liner” contraptions that are everywhere these days. Here’s my tip: DON’T EVEN BOTHER. I’ve bought several different kinds at price points from H&M right on up to Hue, and they all do the exact same thing. They slide right off my heel and migrate towards my toes within three blocks of leaving the house. I feel like a little kid whose socks are all bunched up in the toe of her snow boots. Also, no matter what, they show and look matronly. Only wealthy Japanese teenagers can get away with looking like a grandma. Oh, and actual grandmas. Carry on!
5. Ice bags, ibuprofen, Polysporin, Epsom salts
Sometimes all that’s left to do is recover. Stay home. Soak your feet, watch a movie, wear slippers. I like to put in my pedicure separators to stretch my toes out, but lotsa hardcores swear by Yoga Toes. If you do have to go out, there’s always concealer...