Features + Lifestyle

Six Solutions for Sore Feet and Shoe Issues

One of the things I have not missed about working on Capitol Hill is the miles I used to walk every day in professional shoes.  I remember my first weeks of work, soaking my feet in Epsom salt and crying because they were so blistered and sore.  Over time, I found a few pairs of comfortable heels and flats that saved my feet, but that doesn’t mean all of my problems were solved.

From exposed nail spikes to squeaky shoes, here are fixes for six common shoe issues.  Because you don’t always have time to go to a cobbler.

Exposed Heel Tips.  It’s happened to every woman.  You’re walking down the street and the predictable ‘click’ of your heels striking pavement is replaced by a sickeningly metallic sound.  Oh no.  The nail in your heel has broken forth from protective coating.  Leave the problem unfixed long enough, and you could destroy your favorite pair of heels.

For a quick, temporary fix, I keep a box of Clickless High Heel Protectors ($13) around.  Slip the plastic caps over the damaged heel to protect the shoe until you can visit a cobbler.

No time for shoe repair?  You can buy a box of heel tips, a hammer and a stiletto dowel remover on Amazon and change the taps yourself using this tutorial.

How to Fix Smelly Shoes. My best tip for fixing shoes that smell like, well, sweaty feet, is vodka.  Dilute cheap vodka in water and wipe down the inside of your shoes.  Allow them to completely air dry, preferably in a sunny spot outside.  The bacteria, fresh air and sunshine should kill any bacteria that have built up in the shoes.

Have a pair of cloth sneakers that need de-smelling?  Go to the store and buy black tea bags.  Place them inside the shoes, and change regularly over the course of a couple of days.  The bags absorb smelly odors.

How to Stretch Shoes.  Several years ago, I invested in a high heel stretcher, and it was one of the best purchases I ever made.  Because new shoes are not usually comfortable straight out of the box.

Don’t have a shoe stretcher and need a quick fix?  Take a pair of wool socks, and wet them.  Not sopping, just slightly beyond damp.  Put the socks on, and then your shoes.  Now, take your blow dryer and point it at the parts of the shoes that are snug while flexing and moving your feet.  Allow the shoes to cool and dry before you take them off.  If they’re not stretched enough, try again.

Focus on Your Ideal Heel Height.  What is your perfect heel height?  That depends on the length of your foot.  For me, it’s 2 7/8″.  You can find yours by following this measuring guide.  For comfort, you should also take into account the pitch of the heel.  But what if a great pair of shoes is just a side too tall?

If you have a pair of high heels that are just a little taller than you’d like, you can shorten them.  Now, this won’t work with every pair of heels.  LeafTV shows you how to know if your heels are a good candidate for shortening.  Usually they can only take off 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch, but sometimes, that’s all you need.

Preventing Blisters.  For almost two decades, I’ve been wearing high heels with regularity.  But preventing blisters, that’s something I’ve only learned to fix during the past five.  My poor, badgered feet.

Two products do the best job of preventing blisters: anti-chafe stick and PreHeels anti-blister spray.  Liberally apply both and allow to set slightly before putting on your shoes.  The barrier prevents chafing, which stops blisters in their tracks.

Have one pair of shoes that always causes a blister on the heel?  Add these Hotop heel liners to keep shoes firmly in place and prevent rubbing.  I’ve tried every moleskin and heel pad on the market; these ones are the best.

Need a quicker fix?  Smear gel deodorant onto the inside of the heel.  It’s not the perfect solution, but it definitely helps.

Making Shoes More Comfortable.  There is only one hack you ever need to make high heels more comfortable: tape your third and fourth toes together.  This one simple trick alleviates the pressure on the sensitive nerves in your feet to reduce pain.  I like to use medical tape (it’s easy and cheap), but one of my friends swears by these broken toe wraps.

Need to address swollen feet to make shoes comfortable?  Pop a Midol.  Before pageants, all of the girls used to does with Midol to reduce swelling and relieve foot pain.

So what is your best fix for foot pain or shoe issues?  Share them in the comments.

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  1. Sharon says:

    The shape of your foot may affect what kinds of shoes you can wear, too. Just this weekend, I learned that my foot’s index toe being longer than my big toe (a previously aesthetic difference I have noticed) is called “Morton’s Toe” and the tendon of the index toe being longer than normal can really affect how weight is distributed from my feet. Which could explain why heels were never ever comfortable for me…Sharing so others can learn! Solution starts with putting foam padding under the big toes, and possible simple orthotics from podiatrist.

    July 31, 2018/Reply
  2. Cindi says:

    I can’t thank you enough for this post! foot pain has been a constant for the past 10 years and I’ve limited my shoe selection to comfortable shoes. Can’t wait to try the toe taping to wear heels again!

    July 31, 2018/Reply
  3. AM says:

    Medical tape is also a good in-a-pinch option for blisters if you don’t have blister spray. It sticks much better than band-aids and is much less bulky. You can also make an emergency band-aid with medical tape and a tissue. As a clumsy person, I always keep a small roll with me.

    July 31, 2018/Reply
  4. Kelly says:

    Just visiting Washington DC gave me blisters! Last trip I discovered hydrocolloid bandages (my fave are the Walgreen’s brand). They saved me then and are saving me this summer because running cut patterns for Ultimate frisbee gave me massive blisters. I completely forget I even have blisters until the bandages start to fall off, and then I just put a new one on. (The secret to getting them off is to stretch the bandage, not just pull it off.)

    July 31, 2018/Reply
  5. SUsan says:

    This may be your best post ever!!! Thank you so much this is so helpful!

    July 31, 2018/Reply
  6. NEENS says:

    Any tips on how to heal/soften cracked heels? I walk around our office/client sites quite a bit and constantly running through airports, and on the weekends i’m usually in sandals exploring a new city and super self-conscious of how cracked and dry my heels are.

    July 31, 2018/Reply
  7. anna says:

    @Neens, O’Keefe’s for Healthy Feet works great for cracked skin. It creates a sort of barrier over the skin.

    July 31, 2018/Reply
  8. Neens says:

    @Susan – thank you, will give it a try!

    P.S. @BELLE reply links dont seem to be working

    July 31, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Hi, I know the reply is messed up. I don’t have the money to have a designer fix it right now. Hopefully, soon.

      August 1, 2018/Reply
  9. Jo says:

    @Neens, I use the Flexitol Heel Balm – it’s very thick, so I use it only at night (except the first time I bought it, when I was so desperate that I put it on AM/PM), but I see some improvement in a day, and with regular use, it’s a huge relief. I’ve recommended it to many other people and always keep a tube at home. It’s been more effective for me than anything else I’ve tried, and this was a huge problem for me before I discovered it. Most CVS drugstores carry the balm.

    Also, Belle – useful post; thank you!

    July 31, 2018/Reply
  10. A says:

    Thanks for this post! It was super helpful. Though I have to say how sad is it that we need to tape our toes together and pop a Midol to have our shoes be comfortable??

    July 31, 2018/Reply
  11. Madiosn says:

    That teabag trick! I’m going to try it with some shoes. This was awesome thanks!

    August 1, 2018/Reply
  12. Meredith says:

    I’m going to be that person, but my secret to being comfy in high heels is not to wear them. I have found that my feet just can’t do it—I get sharp pains at any height higher than kitten heels. I am definitely going to try some of the blister tips though because flats are not immune from causing blisters. But yeah, I was so pleased that professional flat shoes, aka ones that look like heels without the height, came into vogue again as I started working. I work in policy in DC and have never had an issue with someone saying my flats looked unprofessional. There’s a difference between ballet flats and a nice pointy-toe leather flat with a solid bottom.

    August 1, 2018/Reply
  13. Beth says:

    Great post! Do you ever get your shoes resoled? I recently got a pair of very nice ballet flats and am wondering if I should get them professionally resoled before they are too worn down. I know it changes the look of them a bit but curious if you have done that.

    August 2, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I have. You need to ask to see the re-soling material the shop uses. Some will use leather if you pay more. Some use a leather-like plastic. Others use a hideous yellow plastic. I usually ask for them to bring in a nice looking, cushiony rubber for flats if they don’t already have it.

      I was on a panel with a style expert years ago, and she couldn’t believe I was asking for rubber soles. “I just love the look of a leather sole.” If people are looking at the bottom of my feet, I am either dead, or surrounded by crazy people.

      August 3, 2018/Reply