About ten years ago, after many years of traipsing about in all manner of absurd footwear, my feet betrayed me. I'd had ball of foot pain, discomfort, burning, that sort of thing on occasion through the years, especially after dancing the light fantastic on a pair of sparkling stilettos or hoofing it all over San Francisco from dusk until dawn before taking the BART back home. This was different. It was excruciating. It felt like someone was stabbing my foot with an ice pick. I'd had a massage a few days prior, which was a thoughtful gift from my husband, and I thought perhaps the masseuse had been a bit too enthusiastic. I was incorrect.
I spent the rest of the week at a trade show limping, wincing, and hoping no one noticed that the formerly fabulous Madge was feeling far less than fabulous. When I got home and the pain persisted, I visited a podiatrist. This is when this shoe lover found herself facing a most unfortunate reality.
My second toes are longer than my big toes on both feet, but for some reason this is more of a problem for my left foot. (Paging Daniel Day Lewis.) Normal feet distribute the pressure from walking and running evenly, but all of my body weight had been pressing down on the thin long bones of my second toe. After years of this, my long bones were protesting, vociferously. There was nothing they could do.
Nothing? Not a single thing? Seriously?
Wear comfortable shoes.
I tried Birkenstocks, Aerosoles, Kork-Ease, Sofft, Naot, Merrells, Keen, Bjorn, Sanuk...all well made shoes designed for comfort, but for my condition mostly useless. The only shoes I could wear for any extended period of time without pain were Target's rubber flip-flops. Not apropos for all occasions. I went to another podiatrist, same answer. Then another, and another, and yet another. Wear soft shoes, you need cushioning under your foot, and arch support. This sounds simple, but try finding stylish shoes with soft, squishy foot beds that also have arch support. Then I got plantar faciitis, which added another level of complexity to my situation, because I needed more support than the soft soled arched shoes were providing. I have literally tried on every single sandal and comfort shoe at DSW and left without a single pair. I've gone to comfort shoe specialists and purchased obscenely expensive shoes that offered little to no relief.
If you have extreme ball of foot pain, you've come to the right blog post. These are the sandals that have worked for me. They provide arch support, soft foot beds, and some modicum of style. I can wear these for hours without foot pain or with minimal foot pain. No, they're not as pretty as a pair of Jimmy Choos, I'm not going to lie. Still, if not being in immense amounts of physical discomfort trumps looking like Carrie Bradshaw, then they'll do the trick.
You can find all of these in my Margot Potter LIST on Amazon! One stop stylish comfort shoe shopping, huzzah!
Rockport Sandals: I found the pair on the left recently and they are amazing. I have a pair of Rockport boots I wear with insoles in the cooler months, but these are even more comfortable. They have great arch support and a super soft foot bed. I can wear them for hours without feeling any pain. These have man made uppers, so if wearing leather is a concern for you, no worries! Look for Rockports with this specific foot bed, trust me.
FitFlop Sandals: I replaced my well worn pair of the sequin encrusted numbers last summer. They're still going strong! FitFlops are seriously comfortable and the added details make you feel a little less frumpy. I like a thong, but if you don't they have other styles. I have tried the cork and leather slimmer profile versions of FitFlops and they just don't provide the softness and support I need. If your feet aren't as challenged as mine, you may find you like the other styles. Size down a little, I usually wear a 6.5/7 and in these I buy a 6. The only downside if you have thin feet like mine is they may be a little lose around the top of your foot. They do make some styles with buckles you can adjust.
Teva Mush Flip Flops: If you're looking for great day to day upgrade from the rubber flip flop, these can't be beat. I wear them like slippers when I'm home, since walking barefoot on hardwood floors causes me too much pain. The other non-mush foot bed Teva sandals are too hard for my feet, this mush foot bed is the ticket. They also offer excellent arch support, and there's a version with a little wedge and fancier straps. They all come in a variety of patterns and colors to boot. Highly recommend!
Dansko Clogs: I can wear Danskos for several hours without foot pain, more than most shoes, but I still find the foot beds a bit too hard for extended all day wear. For times when I'm not going to do tons of walking or standing, they're terrific. Bonus, they look cute with dresses! I have two pairs of Dansko sandals with pretty details. If you have a half size foot like mine, you will either have to size up or down. I size down to the 6 because my feet are thin, but I can't wear the closed toe/closed heel styles because the 6 is too small to accommodate my toes and the 7 too big so my heel slips. Just an FYI.
White Mountain Sandals: I keep trying their sandals on, and they are most definitely comfy, but I haven't found a pair that looks just right. Too many sparkles? I can't put my finger on it. Depending on your sense of style, these may work for you!
Clarks Sandals: Another brand that makes very comfy and well constructed shoes, but I'm not 100% sold on any style. I am leaning towards the gladiators. These may be perfect for you and I can attest to their comfort!
I've also heard very good things about Jambu, so I tossed a couple into the mix. I love the combination of sporty and strappy they've got going on here. Plus they come in fun colors and are very well constructed.
I am sure there are more stylish sandals that might work to alleviate ball of foot pain. I'm ever on the prowl. If you have extreme ball of foot pain and you've found some shoes you love, please share in the comments below! If you've got another foot condition that presents challenges and you've found some footwear solutions, share below too! Let's help each other out, women. No one should ever pony up their hard earned cash for shoes that don't deliver again!
PS: I've got a great book out right now that has an entire chapter dedicated to fashion after 50. It's a humor book, but I take my fashion seriously, folks. Fifty and Other F-words, check it out!