My Quest for the Perfect Shoe
How foot pain and OCD have drove me mad this year
I’ve worked in retail for over twenty years. In the field I chose, I am basically on my feet for my entire shift, and I have tracked myself averaging about nine miles a day of walking. Somewhere along the line, midway through my career, the company decided to switch from tile flooring to concrete flooring. You would think this to be about the same wear and tear on the body, but it turns out, tile flooring actually has some springiness to it, even if you don’t always notice it. As such, since I’ve been working on concrete floors, I’ve noticed some dramatic changes in my body.
At the end of the day now, my feet started killing me. And my lower back and sciatica became a problem. I developed horrible plantar fasciitis and heel pain so that usually before my workday was over I would be limping crazily, lurching around like the monster from Frankenstein and drawing odd looks from customers, random strangers asking me if I was okay. I was recently also diagnosed with heel spurs, the one on my right foot being quite severe.
I do not really have the option at this point to change careers, so instead I began looking for ways to alleviate the pain myself. The most obvious answer to me was to find better shoes. Basically all dress shoes are out of the question. Luckily, I am allowed to wear sneakers. I always had been a Nike fan, but I could not find a pair of their shoes that would hold up to the wear and tear of daily use. If I found a comfortable pair of Nike shoes, my big toe would rub a hole in the fabric within a matter of weeks, every time. Thus began my quest to find THE MOST COMFORTABLE SHOE EVER MADE.
The picture above this article is one I took the other day. It does not even capture all the shoes I have purchased recently, because many of them I have either returned to stores or simply given away to Goodwill. I’d say I’ve purchased at least fifteen pairs of shoes over the past year and a half looking for a pair that wouldn’t leave me in agony by the end of the day. At this point, two shoes have come close to this target, but I have still not been entirely successful. You can imagine my frustration.
Part of the issue here is not only that I am in pain, but also that I have a minor version of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). I’ve had it most of my life. I get obsessed with things, and while I am obsessed with them, my entire mental focus stays on the obsession to a nearly unhealthy degree. This has manifested with my foot pain issue in such a way that while I am walking at work, I am constantly thinking about and analyzing basically every step I take.
I am hyper-aware at all times of how my feet feel in my shoes. It’s insane, I know, but it’s true. I can’t make myself stop analyzing it. It’s entirely possible that this makes my stride and gait uncharacteristically heavy. This probably compounds the problem instead of helping. I’ve tried distracting myself with music and audio books. Doesn’t work. I just have to find a shoe that solves the problem, or I will lose my mind.
Here is a list of shoes I have bought and tried over the past year or so:
ASICS gel venture, ASICS gel nimbus 22, Hoka Clifton 5, Hoka Clifton 7, Hoka Bondi 6, Adidas Cloudfoam shoes, Nike various types, New Balance Freshfoam shoes, Skechers memory foam shoes (various ones), Brooks Glycerin 17 and 18, Brooks Adrenaline 19, Brooks Ghost 12 and 13, Mizuno Wave Rider 24, Saucony Triumph 17, and I’ve just ordered a pair of Kuru Quantum shoes, which are supposedly specifically made to address heel spur pain. I really hope this shoe does the trick.
You can do the math on the expense. This issue is literally draining my bank account.
In my experience, memory foam shoes are worse that other soles made with combinations of latex or rubber, because over time memory foam flattens and loses its ability to absorb the shock or recover. You’ll start a day in shoes that feel wonderful, and end the day walking on bricks. The shoes that retain their sole integrity best are not memory foam.
I know what you are thinking. I should try inserts. I should try this shoe or that shoe. At this point, I have tried just about everything. Yes, I have tried various insole inserts. They don’t really work. Often times they make the shoe not fit right, or they worsen the issue. I am open to suggestions on other shoe types I may have not heard of, but they better have a good return policy, because I just can’t really afford to waste more money.
Having said all that, here are my picks for the top five most comfortable shoes I have tried to far:
- Saucony Triumph 17 — most cushioned shoe I’ve tried. Foot pain begins about hour 7.
- Brooks Glycerin 17 — great cushioned shoe, the foot fatigue took a while to manifest in it. This actually is almost number one, but the sole is just a bit too narrow.
- Brooks Ghost 13 — good option, but not the most cushioned.
- New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 — a lot of cushion, but not particularly comfortable.
- Mizuno Wave Rider 24 — seemed like best option at first, but the wave plate in the sole begins to cause discomfort. Good option if not on feet for over five hours at a time.
I eagerly await the arrival of the Kuru shoes. I am hoping this shoe solves my issue, when all the others have failed. Time will tell, and I will update this report with the results.
In the meantime, I am treating the pain with anti-inflammatory medications. The only other option that remains is to seek surgery for the spur, but heel surgery comes with risks of possible complications, including worse pain or never being able to walk on that foot again. I am extremely skeptical of surgery and don’t wish to pursue it if at all possible.
If you have other suggestions, believe me, I’m all ears.