Whether you are a runner, ultrarunner, adventure racer, thru-hiker, casual walker, or something in-between, you are probably always on the lookout for the right shoe. Maybe one of the magazines you subscribe to has a shoe issue, or occasional shoe reviews. Or maybe you scour the Internet reading reviews or pay close attention to what is written in email forums to which you subscribe. It’s the elusive search for the perfect shoe.
Can there be more than one shoe that is right for your feet? Are there perfect shoes? Christopher Willett went through four pairs of shoes on his 2003 Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike (2600+ miles) and bought them as he went. Wearing size 15 running shoes, he didn’t really have the option of buying from an outfitter along the trail. He would call or use the Internet from various towns along the way and have new shoes and socks sent up trail. He started in Brooks Adrenaline GTS and liked them in the hot 563-mile Southern California section. He wished the next shoe, the Asics Eagle Trail, had a more protective sole but liked the tread. While the New Balance 806s were structurally good, he felt they had a poor tread design and they are the only shoe that he would not wear again. He finished the last 670 miles in the Asics Gel Trabuco V and liked their durability and tread. Would one of the shoes have worked for his whole thru-hike? If they had been the NB 806s, the answer would be no. Probably any of the other three would have worked the whole way, but Chris might have had problems sticking with one shoe given the varying weather and terrain of the trail. Even the most perfect shoe can have small issues: breathability, tread design, cushioning, sole protection, and so on. Each of these issues can make them perfect for one set of conditions and wrong for another.
In reality, there is more than one shoe that is right for your feet. What’s important, regardless of which shoe you choose, is that the shoe fits.
Note: The photo shows part of the display of shoes at Zombierunner, Palo Alto. They have a great store.
Several years ago I met Gregg at Badwater in Death Valley. We were in line to check in at Furnace Creek and I heard the last name. It was the same as an aunt of mine. Turns out we are related.
At Badwater he ran well and finished near the top. Later that year, he and his wife moved to Asia and I had not heard from him – until the other day. He sent an email about running the Spartathlon in Greece. It’s a 246-kilometer (153 mile) race between Athens and Sparta. The Spartathlon aims to trace the footsteps of Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger sent to Sparta in 490 BC to seek help against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. Here’s his email:
I just finished running Spartathlon. It was nearly as hot as Badwater (100.4), ok maybe not as hot as Badwater, but it was far to hot for this race, considering it is normally 86. The race by the way is fantastic; I would highly recommend that you make a trip out there if you get the chance.
So, I took a photo of my feet after the race and thought you might like the photo, being that you are the foot guy. Might make for a good example. The blister appeared to start from underneath the pad of my foot by my big toe. The pressure built up so much that it formed the blister on top of my foot as well – as you can see from the photo. Pretty cool if you ask me. I probably ran with it for 50 miles, since I didn’t change my shoes and didn’t feel like taking them off. They lanced it when I finished… as I was receiving two bags of IV fluid. Haven’t had any problems with it since, although it has taken a few days for the pressure under my foot to slowly recede.
As you can see in the photo, there is blood in the blister. Here’s where you have to be careful and take precautions to prevent infection. I don’t encourage people to lance these on their own, but in aid stations with the right equipment and knowledge, it can be done. When I do it, I always give the athlete the warning signs of infection: redness, warm to the touch, pain, fever, pus, and swelling. If you have a blood blister, be careful.
Really though, Gregg’s feet look pretty good for just having run 153 miles. Don’t you agree?
Life has been busy this past month and I apologize for not posting more often.
As I read the my magazines, I find shoe reviews. As I open emails, I read people’s experiences with their shoes. As I check newsletters, websites and blogs, I read reports and reviews of shoes. And then, of course, there are the ads – everywhere.
The thing is, they all point out the features and benefits of their shoes. Is there one shoe for you? Yes, there is one – and many more that will also work. Some work better than others.
My feeling after all these years of providing foot care is that you could easily slip into a number of shoes and they would work. You read the ads, the emails on forums from other runners happy with their shoes, and you hear other runners in one-on-one conversations recommending certain shoes. Maybe you’re happy with your current shoes and simply want to try out another pair. Or maybe you find the shoes you like have been discontinued.
Everyone wants the perfect shoe – and some people find them. Others try on shoe after shoe, looking for the elusive “best” fit.
You could run a 5K or 10K or even a marathon in many shoes and not have a problem. But move up to an ultramarathon or a multi-day event and you could have problems. A small thing when training or running can be multiplied many times over with more miles and cause problems. When changing to a different shoe, pay attention to any changes in how your feet and ankles feel. Does anything feel funny or seem bothersome? Do you feel a twinge the next day – telling you that something is wrong? At some point, if this continues, you need to consider the shoes. Change back to your old shoes and see if the problem goes away.
Where this affects athletes the most is moving from regular shoes to minimalist shoes or even no shoes (barefoot). Changing to these takes time and a gradual slow process. Wearing minimalist shoes puts added stressors on the feet until they get used to the change. Give it time. Slowly. Recognize you should be changing the way you land on your feet and your overall stride.
There are lots of shoes that will work for you. Give them a try. I bet you’ll find several you really like.
I started running in the early 80’s and bought my first pair of shoes from New Balance. They were a great company that made great running shoes. They still are a great company. The shoes worked and I bought more from them in the following years.
Back then the running footwear scene was dominated by the stalwarts: New Balance, Nike, Adidas, to name a few. The shoes were good, solidly made, and offered in a few different styles. They worked.
Now, we can choose from a bunch of footwear companies that a few years ago were non-existant. It has been interesting watching the new newcomers. My guess is that they saw the trends into running and other outdoor sports and decided to get on the bandwagon.
If you read the shoe evaluations in the popular running and outdoor magazines, these new shoes are quite good. Maybe not all of them, but a many get good write-ups. Runners must be buying some of them, because the companies are still around.
Some of these companies were already making backpacking boots and the expansion into running shoes was a natural move. Others made clothes and the entry into footwear was a bit of
But now we have shoes from Under Armour, a company that makes high end underwear. Here’s an image from their website. I’ll let you be the judge.
Ball of the foot blisters are quite common. Often they are more common when runners change to walking. Let take a look at these blisters.
Challenges with Ball of the Foot Blisters
There are three problems with ball of the foot blisters that make them more problematic than blisters elsewhere on the foot. Look at the image and you’ll see the large amount of area it covers. And yes, there’s blood in the blister section between the big and first toe.
- They often extend up into the skin between one of more toes
- They can spread out to cover a large area side-to-side and further down to the mid-foot
- They can easily tear at the front most area at the base of the toes
Preventing Ball of the Foot Blisters
I have learned several things about preventing ball of the foot blisters
- Keep your feet as dry as possible.
- Pre-tape if you are prone to these blisters
- Check your insoles for rough surfaces and change to a smoother insole
- Make sure your shoes fit and you don’t have a lot of movement of the forefoot inside the shoe
Patching Ball of the Foot Blisters
- Drain any blister, with a slit cut where ongoing foot pressure during the foot strike will expel extra fluid out
- Patch the blister with your favorite product and tape
- Apply tape from up one side of the foot to up the other side – not too high but over the edge
- Use one or more strips to cover the problem area
- Cut a figure 8 out of a piece of tape and apply it first to the forward edge of the tape between two of the toes, and pull it between the toes, securing it on the top of the foot.
The larger these blisters, the harder they are to patch. Try to patch them before they grow into monster blisters.
Here’s a link to a page on FixingYourFeet.com about Taping for Blisters.
These photos are courtesy of Ron Jones and were taken as I patched a runner’s feet at Badwater.
Yesterday I watched hikers, backpackers, and walkers do their best to pick the right footwear out of dozens of possible choices. It was a madhouse.
I had done a foot care clinic at the Berkeley REI store. It was fun with 40 people attending. Rather than 1 hour, it lasted 1-½ hours. They had lots of questions. Good questions. They ranged from neuromas, taping, blisters, plantar fasciitis, toenails, minimalist footwear, barefoot running, and a few others. The guy in the front row ended up with all fingers on one hand tapes (to simulate toes), plus tape on the palm of his hand (to simulate taping he ball of the foot). Earlier I had talked to the footwear sales staff to give them tips on footwear and answer their questions.
So, as I said, it was a madhouse. The store was packed. REI put together a Foot Wear Festival with 12 footwear vendors on hand to promote their wares – and my free clinic.
Adults, teens and children were there to pick out shoes, boots and sandals. The crowd never stopped the whole day. REI staff worked like dogs, assisted by the vendor reps, to bring out stacks and stacks of footwear. I talked to a few folks who had been in my clinic as they tried to pick the best for their feet.
I had told them to buy footwear based on what they wanted to do, the weight of their packs, experience level, and any pre-existing foot conditions. I watched them look at the footwear from different angles, look inside, feel inside, try them on and walk around, stand on the artificial rocks to try different positions, and more. Many were doing a good job.
I had told them earlier that I believe there is more than one pair of shoes that is correct for their feet. Whether picking running shoes, boots, or sandals, there is more than one for you. Pick your footwear based on function and form, and above all, comfort. After walking around the store in them, then take them home and spend time wearing them for several hours. Make sure they feel right and don’t have any rough spots. Then when you are satisfied, wear them outside – and enjoy them.
Feet, Feet, Everywhere Feet. Sometimes you have to just post a quick fun thing. I spent the past four days at the Florida Christian Writers Conference near Orlando. I was on the faculty and taught seven sessions. When I go to these conferences, I always talk about how Fixing Your Feet has done as a nonfiction book.
Even though I teach on a variety of writing topics, I am known as ‘the foot guy.’ At several workshops, conferees asked asked me questions about their feet. Arch pain, forefoot pain, plantar fasciitis, and more. This offers me the opportunity to share a bit of my knowledge with folks that might not otherwise read my book.
I tell them that everywhere I go, I watch feet. I notice feet. Barefeet, feet in flip-flops, sandals, shoes that look comfortable, and shoes that look very uncomfortable. I wonder why people don’t use more common sense in picking their footwear?
Now I am sitting in the Orlando airport, working on my laptop with four hours to kill – and noticing feet. Too many bare feet. Way too many old flip-flops that should have been tossed out months ago. Uggs and other styles that make your feet sweat. And just plain ugly shoes too.
When you travel, why not wear comfortable shoes? More to the point, why not footwear that is good for your feet? If you must wear flip-flops or sandals, how about making sure your toenails are clean and trimmer. Getting rid of your calluses will also help them look more attractive.
MyAirShoes.com is a unique and fun website. The site offers a look at new shoe releases – court shoes, teen shoes, walking and casual shoes, and so on. Some of the shoes are for running. I found the site interesting. I encourage you to check it out.
Their mission is to bring visitors release dates and news about their favorite shoes. Information about Air Jordans Sneakers, Nike Air Force Ones, Reebok Shoes, Adidas Shoes, Converse Sneakers, and more can be found here.
Here is one post. "Now the Nike Air Huarache Quickstrike ACG Pack has been released. This package features three shoes in original colorways from classic Nike ACG models in a combination of leather and mesh. All three pairs have a speckle painted midsole." These shoes are for runners.
I don’t guarantee all these shoes are available where you live, but if any interest you, use Google to find where to buy them, or click on the related links at MyAirShoes.com.
Recently I bought a new pair of casual shoes. I tried them on in the store and they felt fine. Getting home I took them out of the box and set them in my closet. When I went to put them on one day I noticed they really fit tight. Hummm…
What happened of course is when I bought the shoes; I had on a thinner pair of socks. Pulling out a pair of everyday socks the day I was going to wear them for the first time; I grabbed a pair of thicker socks. So I set the shoes aside and forgot about them.
This can easily happen when we buy new shoes or socks. Your socks must match with your shoes for a good fit. We all have our favorite socks and shoes. We tend to pick them first because they are comfortable. But sometimes we buy new socks without thinking about how they will fit into our existing shoes. Going to thicker or thinner socks can lead to problems of hot spots, blisters, cramped toes, sore feet, and reduced circulation.
When you shop for new shoes, take along a pair of your favorite socks. Use them to help determine if the shoes are a good fit. Avoid the basket of shoes the store offers – who know how many feet they have been on and what germs they are harboring.
As far as my new shoes, I need new socks anyway so I’ll get a few pairs of thinner socks. I’ll be happy and so will my feet.
I recently read an article in my local newspaper about shoe collectors. It told of a 19-year old young man who has a collection of, “…an astounding 140 to 150 sneakers.” He is part of a growing group of individuals called, sneakerheads. Many of these collectors are “… so passionate about their shoes that they will wait in line for hours, even days, and pay inflated prices for a paid of rare kicks.” The writer of the article admitted to owning only 20 pair.
If the subject of sneakerheads interests you, you can read more at a couple of web sites I found through a Google search: a page from the Shanghai Star, SneakerWebsites.com, and Midweek.com.
So, being the naturally inquisitive person, I decided my count my shoes. My count? I have two pairs of tennis shoes, five pairs of running shoes (three trail and two road), three pairs of lightweight boots, three pairs of sandals, five pairs of dress shoes and one pair of golf shoes. That’s 19 pairs. To be fair, two pairs of the dress shoes are old and should be tossed while another pair doesn’t fit well. One pair of the tennis shoes is relegated for gardening—same for one pair of the sandals.
Many athletes have a lot of shoes for a purpose. They rotate shoes every day or every few days. Their shoes get a chance to breathe and relax between uses. Good idea.
So, how many pairs of shoes do you have?