I have always had problems with my feet. My little toes blister with even the slightest pressure against the side of a shoe and the skin on my heels cracks and bleeds with the slightest rub. I have had an operation to remove a Morton’s neuroma, and had both ultrasound treatment and platelet-rich plasma injections for plantar fasciitis. And if I stand still for more than a couple of minutes my feet ache – like toothache.
All of which is a nightmare for someone whose life revolves around travelling and walking! There have been countless walks where I have literally hobbled back to the car in a sea of pain, and thought “Why on earth am I doing this?” But then there are so many more beautiful places to explore …..
Fortunately, after many years of trying different types of footwear, orthotics and other foot products, I have found a few things that help. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will never have completely comfortable feet, but at least I can enjoy a walk in less discomfort than I used to, whether it is in the mountains or a city.
If you have similar foot problems, here are some products that have helped me and that you might like to try.
Shoes for Travelling and City Breaks
FitFlop changed my life – literally. For me there is nothing else that compares – walking in them is actually therapeutic (for a while at least). It is the way they are moulded and ‘give’ (in a spongy kind of way), but still manage to fully support the arches. They distribute weight evenly over the foot, so there is not too much pressure in any one area. I wish they had been around years ago.
Not all FitFlop shoes are the same – they come with different footbed types. Because I like a wide fit and a lot of cushioning I prefer the original Microwobbleboard models. Anatomicush is also wide and comfortable (for me), but not quite so cushioned. Shame about the silly names……
Supercomff and iQushion are a little narrower (but still quite roomy) and less spongy underfoot, but still worth trying. See this page for more information about the different types.
FitFlop initially became known for their toe-post sandals, but I personally prefer something more secure, with either a soft back or a back-strap, especially when travelling. Fortunately there are loads of models to choose from.
Although they may seem really expensive, most models are beautifully finished inside with no rough seams or ridges to cause problems. I find that they last for ages – even with my sweaty feet. And because they are so supportive they don’t need any extra arch supports or orthotic footbeds – which can sometimes cost more than the shoes you put them in!
Oh, how I wish they made walking boots…….
If I want something a bit more conventional or classic, the Hotter wide fit range is usually my second choice.
Hotter shoes are beautifully soft and well made, and usually comfortable straight from the box, or at least after a wear or two. They don’t have thick spongy footbeds, but they do nearly all have removable insoles which can easily be replaced with orthotics or arch-supporting insoles. I particularly like the Nirvana.
There is a very wide range including sandals, shoes, boots and some rather elegant heels – great for dinner in a smart restaurant.
Another great thing about Hotter is the non-slip sole on some of their boots and shoes. It doesn’t look particularly impressive, but if, like me, you are nervous of slipping on ice, it is by far the best I have found. Just the job for winter city breaks.
Footwear for Hiking
After a lot of trial and error, I have found that trail-running shoes are the best option for stony tracks and trails (though I am definitely not built for running!) I like Asics, and wear the model below, which is gore-tex lined (click on the image for further information).
This has a beautifully moulded sole, with loads of cushioning for the heel, but still fully supports the arches. Its outer sole copes really well with rough tracks and has great grip. And the shoe is incredibly light weight – great for both walking and packing! I find it is all I need for walking that is not too ambitious in dry conditions. And it doesn’t need an insole or orthotic.
Of course, if you are tackling high mountains or moorland bogs you will need walking boots. I have never found a pair of walking boots I have been completely comfortable with (and I have tried dozens over the years). The brands I have had most success with are Meindl and Salomon, which seem to fit well on feet that are wide at the toes but quite narrow at the heel. I’m afraid it really is just trial and (sometimes painful) error finding what is best for you.
What the boot feels like in the shop can be very different to how it feels after five miles on a steep track!
But if you do find that your feet are not comfortable in your expensive new boots – don’t despair. Some of the options below could make all the difference!
If your feet ache after walking or standing, the first thing I would recommend is trying a stabilizing insole or footbed with built in arch support. I have tried many over the years (I have a drawer full) with varying degrees of success.
One thing I would definitely advise is buying insoles that come in specific sizes, rather than generic one-size-fits-all varieties. Although these can be cut-to-fit, the raised arch is unlikely to be just right for you, and could do more harm than good.
For walking boots or approach shoes, the best I have found are by Superfeet. I like the green ones, which have a medium arch height. Some insoles and footbeds can be quite hard, and I like the extra cushioning in the green model.
For closer fitting shoes, like Hotter, I like Vionic, which are less bulky than the Superfeet. They are suitable for any shoes that have removable insoles, and provide good arch support. The yellow or green varieties are both great.
Vionic make both full-length and 3/4 length versions. Personally I much prefer to replace the insole that came with the shoe with the full-length version. That way you don’t get an uncomfortable ridge where the 3/4 insole ends.
Like Superfeet, the Vionic range is expensive, but they last for ages, and the extra comfort they provide definitely repays the cost. Incidentally Vionic also make a range of shoes which I keep meaning to try – to see some examples follow the link.
If your toes rub together, or easily get corns or blisters, mineral-enriched gel tubes are fantastic. Just cut the length you want and slip them on the toe. Another product that I so wish had been available years ago!
You can get tubes or toe caps. I find the caps sometimes make my footwear feel a bit tight, but just experiment to see what suits you best.
If you have trouble keeping these on your toes, try using Hypafix tape to keep them in place.
The thin, flexible Hypafix tape shown above is also useful for keeping a fleecy dressing in place to prevent rubbing and sore spots.
This can simply be cut to the size and shape you need and placed anywhere prone to rubbing or blistering.
A simpler fix for less bothersome areas is a Compeed anti-blister stick. Just rub this on any areas prone to rubbing to reduce friction.
To prevent rubbing on heels you can also get pads that you stick directly in your footwear – not on your skin.
These need to be applied very carefully to make sure that they stay in place and do not roll up when you put your footwear on, but if applied correctly they do make a difference.
If like me you have foot problems, I hope some of these ideas may help to make your walking more pleasurable!