It doesn’t matter how much money you pay for a pair of shoes, they will eventually hurt your feet in some terrible way. I have outrageously expensive shoes that chafe, rub, and destroy my tootsies. I also have cheap shoes that fit like a dream! There just isn’t a way to definitively tell if a shoe is going to be good to you until you are suddenly very far from home, hobbling along the streets as your feet are being cut to ribbons.
That’s where some of the tools I stock in my wardrobe kit at work come in handy for my personal life. It’s possible to fix almost any problem your shoes can dish out with some pretty inexpensive tricks. (You could also just wear adorably granny-style sandals specifically made for comfort, but that idea makes some of you dudes a little bonkers.)
Chafing, Rubbing, and Cutting
These are the big three most common shoe problems -- and they sometimes occur in concert with each other, kind of like a trifecta symphony of foot pain. The #1 thing I use for shoes that rub or cut into my foot is self-adhesive moleskin, available at any drugstore.
Everyone thinks that moleskin is made to adhere to your skin -- but I stick it right to the shoe itself! Cut a piece to your desired size and use it to line anywhere inside the shoe that is cutting/digging/rubbing your foot.
If the rubbing is a little more serious or in a spot that the shoe puts undue pressure on, use these cushy silicone gel dots to relieve the crushing pain.
You can stick them either right on the part of your foot that is rubbing or onto the shoe itself. The pack above from CVS is great because it comes with a bonus: silicone strips to line shoe straps that are either too big or dig into your ankle.
You can also defeat shoe rub with this handy roll of cushioning adhesive foam. I love it because you can use only exactly what you need.
I swear by this Band-Aid brand anti-friction stick whenever I'm wearing ballet flats on bare skin. It's basically just greasing your foot up like an oiled piglet -- which allows the shoe to glide across your heel instead of grabbing it and digging in. This stuff has prevented a shit-ton of blisters from forming due to wearing crappy shoes.
Obviously it's best to prevent a blister in advance, but once you've got one, there is only one way to treat and protect it -- with Spenco's entire line of 2nd Skin blister care products.
I'm going to stop and tell a little name-droppy story (which I absolutely NEVER do) here to illustrate my unending love for Spenco's blister care products. I had a young Willow Smith guest-starring on a show I designed once. She was polite and lovely as could possibly be. Everyone was happy with my work until 3/4 of the way through the shooting day when the shoes I picked for her started to rub a blister on her foot. Mind you, both of her guardians were present on set that day -- that's both her mom and her dad. They were less than amused that their offspring was being forced to endure actual, physical pain.
I wish I had a way to describe the panic in our producer's voice when he called me on the walkie to alert me of the blister situation. It was a full code red nuclear alert. I grabbed my trusty shoe toolbox and ran to the stage floor. I've never been so thankful for a product as I was that day -- because the Spenco 2nd skin moist pads cool, soothe and protect an active blister in seconds. I sat her down in a director's chair, took off her shoe, scolded it for being "so mean!!" and slapped a Spenco pad on her heel. It worked instantly, she smiled, everyone laughed, and I excused myself to go fear barf in the bathroom. I think a $5.00 bandage very well may have saved my job.
Insoles are the easy answer to making a too-big pair of shoes fit, but sometimes they aren't enough. A self-adhesive padded suede heel grip is perfect for when you are in between sizes or just have one foot that is smaller than the other.
Too small Shoes
If you suffer from shoes that are always just a little too tight, invest in an adjustable wooden shoe stretcher -- they really work, especially when used in conjunction with some liquid shoe stretch. There is even a special high heel shoe stretcher.
Burning balls of feet!
These self-adhesive Tacco brand halter metatarsal cushions blow any drugstore brand ball-of-foot cushions out of the water.
They pad the ball of your foot, a common pressure spot that causes insane burning. They also keep your feet from sliding forward in high heeled shoes.
Leather soles are a sign of a high quality shoe, but they can also be super slippery. You can rough the soles up with a piece of sandpaper -- or slap on a pair of Sur Grip non-slip pads.
I have done some questionable repairs to some pretty expensive shoes with my trusty tube of Shoe Goo.
They are all still holding to this day. I've successfully glued heels that were broken completely off back on with Shoe Goo, as well as filled in the cracks of my rain galoshes with it. It's especially perfect for "flapping sneaker sole" syndrome.
The summertime combo of slippery shoes+sweaty feet is deadly. Use these super thin, self-adhesive micro-suede fabric insoles to absorb sweat and stop sloshing around in your shoes this summer. You just peel and place, trimming the edges to fit your shoes.
Poor arch support/heel pain
The lack of arch support is the thing that always brings me to my knees when I'm wearing super flat shoes (like Converse). These slim fit Orthaheel insoles are the next best thing to proper walking shoes. They are super thin and can even fit in some high heels. I still insist on wearing Converse to work, so I have these in all of them.
For the shoes that the Orthaheel insoles won't fit in, I use these New Balance silicone heel cups. They are especially helpful in cowboy boots, where the hard sole makes your heel start to throb after a while. I cut the sides down to fit them in other shoes.
I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison.