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You Asked For It:”But they were so comfortable in the store!” | Manolo for the Big Girl

You Asked For It:”But they were so comfortable in the store!”

Yesterday our BR (beloved reader) Tropical Chrome made the following request:

Would it be at all possible if, during shoe month, you could address proper expectations from better shoes? I ask because every time I buy a new pair of good shoes, no matter how well fitted they are for my feet (with experienced sales help at a better name store even!) or how long I test walk them in the store or how comfortable they feel there, I end up with blisters and hot spots when I wear them for real. While I don’t expect heels or dress shoes to be as comfortable as bedroom slippers or sneakers, I don’t expect to be in pain with broken skin after wearing them every time either.Or are all women at this level of pain at the end of every day and no one talks about it? Or do I just have unique feet that change shape after I leave the shoe store?

Solemmetellyou a little story about lasts.

This is a last:

a shoe last by Omelle

A last is the mold on which shoes are made.  This last was most likely used to make this shoe:

Elaine by Omelle

Which, while not my favorite shoe in the world, is by no means the worst of the built-in-sock variety of shoe/sock/bootie (shockootie?)

Some lasts are more foot-shaped than others:

a running shoe lastshoelast

but they will not –and I cannot overemphasize this– be YOUR foot shape.

Your feet, like mine, have lumps and bumps and that weird little scar from the time you dropped a glass on your big toe and all sorts of things that make your tooties your own and that means there’s probably going to be some discomfort  and you and your shoes get to know each other.

See how I said “some discomfort” and not, I don’t know,  “gross oozing pustules of hurtiness“?

That’s because shoes should never do that.

So the first thing we need to do is abandon the idea that we can buy a fancy pair of shoes and wear them for eight hours straight for days on end without repercussions.  Which isn’t to say it hasn’t happened, but don’t place your bets that way.

Here are some handy tips and tricks to keep the blisters at bay:

–Go shoe shopping in the afternoon. This is handy because your feet will be about as swollen as they’re likely to get. Double bonus points if you go when you’ve got the ladybloat. I don’t really have medical science behind me on this one, but I like saying ladybloat and I don’t really want to be the one to tell PMSing women NOT to buy shoes.

Don’t buy shoes that hurt and then be surprised that they do, in fact, hurt. If you find The Best Shoes Ever and they pinch or need to be stretched and you will really and truly have them stretched or fix the pinchy bit (I know some of you say you’ll do this and never do) then buy them, but generally speaking: if they hurt in the store, they’re going to be 10 times worse at home.

Do not be fooled by the tyranny of footsocks. “But they were so comfortable in the store!” Odds are they were so comfortable in the store because you were wearing those little footies. Use them by all means, but a shoe that feels juuuust fine in a footie might feel sticky and grippy and pinchy without them. Just something to keep in mind.

Stretch your shoes. Since I stretch almost all my shoes –I am exceedingly fat of foot and the shoes I admire are rarely offered in wide widths– I own my own set of shoe stretchers. For years I made do with the regular wooden ones (seriously, the plastic ones? Useless) and then finally invested a whopping $40 on two high-heeled shoe stretchers that get right down into the pointed nooks and crannies of a high heel. I’ll never go back.  Be sure to get ones with the little pressure nubs things so you can stretch out your problem points or open up the throat of the shoe.  Skip the stretch spray though. Just use rubbing alcohol. It works just as well.

shoe stretcher

–Practice, Practice, Practice. If you want to play Mozart, you don’t start out playing his 21st piano concerto. You start with “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and work UP to the 21st.  Wear your new shoes around the house –you can wear thick athletic socks to protect your baby feets and help get the leather shaped without hurting you.  Do an hour at a time, then two or three. Then meet a friend for coffee and wear them. If you need to stretch them out, rub isopropyl alcohol on your feet and the inside of the shoes (do a test area first to make sure the color doesn’t run) and wear them until dry.  The night before debuting my famous pink Dior anniversaries, I  slept in them, just to get them molded to my feet.

–Pad. I love the Foot Petals products. I’ve found the best value to be the Stiletto Survival Kit or whatever they’re calling it these days. The strappy strips have been dead handy to cut and place wherever I feel some potential pressure.  The only thing I DON’T care for is the Heavenly Heelz, which work fine for padding other places –the outside of my babytoe so I don’t get rubbed raw– but for actual back-of-heel slippage I swear by the ugly Stalinist gray bastards you get at Walgreens.

–Footglide Skin Protectant Foot Formula. Full disclosure: The fine folks at BodyGlide sent me some of this a few weeks ago after my chub rub article. I haven’t used the majority of the products yet so I haven’t reported back, but I DID use the Footglide last week when I had a long night out with a pair of blister-prone heels.  This stuff is A.MAZ.ING.  It looks and kind of felt like applying deodorant to my feet (which will do in a pinch) and although my feet still hurt, I was blister-free at the end of the night.  It definitely gets the Plumcake seal of approval. Go get you some.

21 Responses to “You Asked For It:”But they were so comfortable in the store!””

  1. The gold digger May 25, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    How long do I give them wearing around the house (i.e., so as not to scuff) before I say, Voila! Comfortable! I do not have to return!

  2. Plumcake May 25, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    @Gold Digger, you know, I wouldn’t buy them at all if it was a matter of them being so uncomfortable that returning them was a possibility. Also, there’s comfortable and there’s comfortable. Comfortable for my little squooshy skimmers is not the same as comfortable. But ultimately it’s up to you. I would start small though. An hour or so the first day, then maybe a day’s rest and then two hours, another day off and then three hours…if you can wear them around the house for five hours I think you ought to be golden. Remember to give yourself some time off though.

  3. TropicalChrome May 25, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    Thank you, Plumcake. I had no idea some of these products existed (which, given my background, isn’t a huge surprise, but that’s another story), and I think at least one of them is going to work perfectly with the pair of shoes I’m currently very mad at.

    It’s also good to know that my expectations of not having oozy blisters at the end of every night isn’t unrealistic :).

  4. Jeni May 25, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

    Does the footglide/deodorant help with foot sweat? I have a few pair of flats that I LOVE but I can’t/wont wear socks with the. They are pretty comfortable, don’t rub anywhere or flop off the back of my foot, until I start to sweat. As soon as my foot gets sweaty they start moving around inside the shoe which causes rubbing not to mention it makes me walk funny!

    I tried adding insoles but that made the shoes too tight. Baby powder/talc powder only worked for like an hour.

    Help oh queen of shoes!

  5. Jessica May 25, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    “Skip the stretch spray though.” Thanks for this little tidbit, I used to work in a shoe dept. and we would stretch shoes for customers(after they were purchased of course) and the older shoe assoc’s always insisted on the stretch spray! Now I can save myself a few bucks at home!

  6. Lisa May 25, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

    One of the posts that should go into your collected volume: “How to Be Superfantastic” by Plumcake. Many thanks.

  7. Tara May 25, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    Also, make sure your feet are properly measured prior to trying on the shoes. My feet are 8 1/2 size in length. However, due to the angle of my arch and the width of my feet, I have to wear a size 9 wide. Therefore, I have to pass up many beautiful shoes and buy for my size. Since I’ve done that, I rarely, if ever, have any problems with blisters, etc. I do have some classics in my closet (love my spectator pumps). But as much as I love the shoes, sometimes I do have to just look. And I’m always sad that the majority of shoes made are not available for my feet.

    Since I do ride horses, I did save my money to get custom made Vogel boots. Now they are absolutely lovely and fit so beautifully.

  8. Abbey May 25, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    Jeni – I get these thin disposible inserts for preventing stink-foot. They’re by Kiwi and they’re called Fresh’ins. I’m a teacher, and I hate wearing socks with my dressy flats (even though I know I should), and they help with the end of the day sweaty foot issue. One pair lasts about 5-7 work days. They’re super thin, and I don’t notice any added bulk.

    They come in packs of six, and I got mine at Wal-Mart. I found them in the shoe department.

    Oh, and I swear by breaking in shoes at professional development. You usually end up sitting for a good chunk of the day, and you get to show off your new shoes to your co-workers.

  9. Sara A May 26, 2010 at 12:40 am #

    So I work at a specialty shoe store and I wanted to add a few points

    -No shoe is going to feel fantastic for all 8-10 hours you will wear it in a day. Most shoes will feel good for about four hours. This is because your feet and ankles can only take that long standing or walking without stopping. Only spending all day everyday on your feet will make your feet go longer without this happening. I work in retail and I wear explicitly comfortable shoes and even then my feet are DONE after about 4-6 hours and it’s torture.

    -If you have a foot health problem like a bunion, plantar fascitis, hammer toes, heel spurs, mortons neuroma or if your foot deviates from the “normal” foot (wide foot, narrow foot, really high arch, really low arch, high instep, low instep), tell your salesperson. Then ask them whether they think the shoe you think is so aesthetically pleasing would work for whatever problems you have and ask them to bring you out things they think could work. Then give them feedback as to what works and what doesn’t. It turns them in to a better sales person and gives you a better idea of what works for you and why.

    – There are limits to what a cobbler can do. There’s only so far that leather can stretch without tearing. There’s only so many pads we can add to a shoe around a tiny foot. Find out what can be changed and what can’t.

    -Don’t get attached to your shoe size. Just like how you can take anywhere from a 16 through a 26 in jeans depending on the brand, your feet maybe one size in Mephisto, another in Paul Mayer and a third in Jimmy Choo. None of this is a reflection on you as a person. It’s the shoe that isn’t fitting your foot not your foot not fitting the shoe.

    -Not all shoes work for all people. When in doubt look for adjustable bits. It will make the search for something that fits much much easier.

    Plumcake: To ease the rubbing on your pinky toe apply this instrument to the part of the shoe that rubs overnight. In the morning remove it and work the leather over with your fingers to ease the bulging.
    http://www.shoeandfootcare.com/p/101-051-00/product-bunion-stretcher-p101-051.html

  10. Leah May 26, 2010 at 1:32 am #

    Good list, but I have to disagree with you on the Heavenly Heelz (oh how I hate that Z). My left foot is slightly smaller than my right foot, so when a pair of shoes fits my right foot perfectly, they’ll be just a tad loose on the left and will rub and blister the back of the foot. The HH are absolutely perfect for taking up that little bit of room back there to make them fit right. I put them in every shoe I own.

  11. Rubiatonta May 26, 2010 at 5:53 am #

    I’m a huge fan of thin leather and foam insoles — even if I’m wearing socks or similar, I can’t abide having synthetic stuff under foot. Too much feet sweat. Ugh.

    It is harder to find the leather goodies than the cheaptastic plastic ones (when I lived in NYC, I could get them at the shoeshine place in Grand Central — in RI, I mail order) — but if you google the brand Tacco, you’ll find lots of places that carry them. I put a pair in each of my often-worn shoes.

    And Plummie, if you like those grey Stalinist rubber heel grippies, you’ll really love the grey suede ones you can get from the places that sell the leather insoles. Infinitely more comfortable, and much easier on stockings if one is wearing them.

  12. g-dog May 26, 2010 at 7:50 am #

    @Sara A – I spent 15 yrs working in research on my feet all day and did find comfortable shoes. There are shoes that are comfortable all day – of course generally they have rubber soles, excellent arch support, leather uppers and are likely not viewed as very ‘stylish’. But they are out there if you need them.

  13. The gold digger May 26, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    g-dog – that is the dilemma, is it not? To find the comfortable, yet pretty shoe. We can put a man on the moon but we can’t solve mankind’s biggest footwear dilemma. Where is the ribbon for that, I ask you?

  14. Jenna May 26, 2010 at 10:02 am #

    Band-Aid (R) Friction Block (TM) stick. I have one at home and one in my desk at work. Cheaper than the FootGlide, and you can find it at pretty much any pharmacy, in the first aid/bandage aisle.

  15. emi s. May 26, 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    Plumcake, this is a FANTASTIC post. This blog is the best place I’ve found for fashion advice for beginners. For example I learned here not to match my shoes to my dress to my sweater (they should go together, but not be the same color) – it’s so great for me to have things like that explained. And posts like this, where you explain how to pick and break in heels are so fabulous – my mom doesn’t really wear heels so she can’t teach me. I’m not a big girl, but this blog is still a must-read. So thank you so much!!

    (and if you or anyone know of any other blogs or websites with fashion advice explained in a similar manner, please share!)

  16. Jeni May 26, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    @Abbey- Thanks! I have not heard of these but I will be sure to check them out.

  17. Abbey May 26, 2010 at 9:33 pm #

    @Jeni – I forgot to mention that I live in Canada, but it looks like they’re available in the US too. They’re sold on Amazon as well.
    http://www.amazon.com/Kiwi-Select-Freshins-Shoe-Inserts/dp/B0010TP3HA

  18. Natalie May 28, 2010 at 2:50 am #

    Band-Aid also makes an awesome blister-block stick – it literally looks like a teeny blue deodorant, and it works amazingly. Instead of shoes sticking on your heel causing blisters, they slip off easily and protect your feet. It’s also widely available, and at Target is super cheap, less than $5 I believe!

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