Summer Shoes & The War On Women's Feet

Even if you aren't a stiletto enthusiast, there's a good chance your shoes are leaving you with foot pain and blisters. A growing number of products aim to treat these female foot issues, but it seems that few have considered the easiest option: Making more comfortable shoes.

Spongy insoles have been around for years, but they're sharing space in the drug store with new items designed specifically for women. It's now possible to outfit an uncomfortable strappy shoe with stick-on gel arches, leopard-print insoles, and adhesive moleskin. The Wall Street Journal reports that sales of Foot Petals inserts rose 113% in the last year. Dr. Scholl's has rolled out three new blister products in as many years, and there are even deodorant-like sticks that aim to make skin less susceptible to friction.

The servicey WSJ piece guides women toward the best of these products, but it doesn't address the larger issue: It's difficult to find comfortable women's shoes, unless you're willing to sacrifice style for the good of your feet. It's a bit infuriating when Stuart Weitzman muses in the article, "How many ladies I've seen with little Band-Aids along the edges of their foot." Yes, and some of them are probably wearing the uncomfortable shoes you designed!

Perennial articles on how women are damaging their feet usually make it seem like ladies are stubbornly selecting the most painful shoes possible from a field of attractive, ergonomic shoes. Some examples from the WSJ:

Alison Garten, a Washington D.C. podiatrist and co-vice president of the American Association for Women Podiatrists, says most of these foot-pain products function well enough, but the goal is to have no use for them at all. Prevent blisters by wearing shoes that fit and that are designed for the day's activity.

"Dress shoes weren't meant to walk a quarter-mile from the metro," Dr. Garten says. "That's exercise. Nobody would dare exercise in a pair of high heels."

And:

Women are more prone to blisters than men for the simple reason that they more often buy shoes that don't fit. Buy shoes designed to hug and flex with the foot.

Oh, please. Though it sounds like women go into a store and say, "I usually wear a 9, but I guess I'll buy an 8 today for no good reason," it's more likely women are settling for an ill-fitting shoe because it doesn't pinch as much as the others they tried on. There are a few brands that strive to make a more comfortable women's shoe, like Privo, Aerosoles, and Naturalizer. I'll be sporting these this summer, but they certainly weren't chosen because they'll score me compliments at cocktail parties.

Part of the problem is that it's hard to make standard sizes that accommodate everyone's flat arches and misshapen toes. Add to that sweat and bare feet and it's nearly impossible to avoid blisters and cuts. But shoe makers aren't really helping with plastic linings and rough seams. While manufacturers are concocting pricey new devices to pad the insides of our shoes, perhaps someone could actually put a shoe on during the design process and, oh, I don't know, see if it's comfortable? It's reasonabe to expect that we'll be able to walk a few blocks from the subway to the office without writhing in agony.

Wanted For Assault [WSJ]

Image via Catalin Petolea/Shutterstock.