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Agony of de Feet


I've been searching for decent footwear, and after two months finally found the answers I needed. I thought I would share some of my experience for the benefit of the rest of you.

I visited a local Eastern Mountain Sports that had an employee who recently returned from boot fitting school. He spent an hour with me figuring out how my feet work. It paid off, since I walked out with two pairs of shoes and some other gear.

First, he showed me how the ball of my foot spreads out more than usual under pressure. Not uncommon, but it means I need more space in this part of my boot. At the same time, I have thin ankles, which means that I need to have this part of my boot to be tight.

The end result of all the above is that the wrong shoes pinch my forefoot a great deal, and practically beg for blisters. If I loosen the forepart of my shoe, however, my ankle wobbles around and I get black toes from my toes hitting the forefront of my boot.

Further complicating matters, I have a long distance between my heel and arch. That means that when I use a good shoe insert like Superfeet, the arch is in the wrong place.

As you can imagine, I arrived at the store rather frustrated.

[See part II below]
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Solution to fit

We came up with a few solutions to the problem:

First, he had me put two surgeon's knots in my laces. One is right above the toes at the second row of laces, and the other is one row of laces from the top (near the base of the ankle).

This isolates the laces into three zones, each of which can have a different level of tightness. The lowest zone is loose for my toes, as is the middle section for the ball of my foot. The upper zone is really tight to lock in my ankle.

They also had a device that looked like an "L" shaped rod. The salesperson explained that I would benefit from stretching out the front end of my boots (where the ball of my foot lies) so there was less friction on the outside of my feet. After a bit of stretching, the boots fit quite well.

First problem solved.
Smartfeet solution

They next had me try out different pairs of Smartfeet while standing on them in my bare socks. Because of the length of my heel to arch measurement, he iignored the size 11 I would ordinarily take and used the 12-14s instead. These worked much better, and I no longer felt like I was standing on a golf ball or a broom stick.

We also went with the lower volume blue inserts. I have a high volume foot, so the green inserts were simply too think to get the best use out of them. As is is, the blues work just fine.
St James' Way - Self-guided 4-7 day Walking Packages, Reading to Southampton, 110 kms
Da Shoes

I was actually dealing with two different pairs of boots.

Asolo Fugitive GTX Boots I first used these during a week long trip to Iceland this summer. They held up quite well in all sorts of conditions, but the fit problems I described above showed their limitations. Now that I have the right set of laces and inserts, they're completely rehabilitated. I've worn them the past few days and really enjoyed them.

Merrell Men's Reflex II Hiking Shoes These shoes are right for my kind of foot. High volume, narrow heel, wide ball of foot. I also need a lot of stability, which these provide. With the right lacing and inserts, they also fit like a dream. I also took the time to waterproof them to give me some extra help this spring on the Camino.
Da sandals

Because of my feet, I've had amazingly difficult problems finding the right sandals.

I was initially attracted to Chaco S-1 because they are orthotic and have fast drying straps.

Unfortunately, the molded footbed are entirely wrong for my feet. I have size 10 feet but my arches are a size 12. That means the arch on the Chacos hits me at entirely the wrong place. this is common for people with my type of feet.

The solution was a pair of Teva Hurricane IIs. They fit my feet well and will dry relatively quickly. I will use these are a backup pair of trail shoes and for town. I'm not entirely sold on whether I will take them in the shower and then walk around town, so the jury will need to wait on that one.

Thank you for this. It sounds as though you have very similar feet to me and the advice you were given will be very helpful when I buy/use footwear.

But what's a "surgeon's knot"? I'd like to try this technique.
St James' Way - Self-guided 4-7 day Walking Packages, Reading to Southampton, 110 kms
well...the point of it is to be nearly impossible to undo...but shoelace is different from surgical string, so it should slip out decently I would imagine :)
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