A Good Shoe is Hard to Find
I'm afraid of the walking.
When I say I have bad feet, most people think I'm just being a whiner. In part, I am. But I inherited the feet-that-kill from my mother, who inherited them from her mother.
On a normal day, walking a little way from a parking lot into the grocery store or dashing back to the art department at work, I'm okay.
But fifteen minutes into a step routine at the gym, my arches ache so badly I start scanning the room for a sharp object to put myself out of my misery. It's the same with any sustained movement - a stretching, cramping sensation in the arch that feels like it could escalate to tearing at any moment.
Besides that, if I stand up for too long, the dull-then-not-so-dull unbearable ache begins throughout my foot.
I make it through with willpower more than anything. When I went to New York City a couple of years ago, I forced myself to keep up the pace with my two male co-workers even as we traipsed all over Manhattan, looking for some specific deli one of them remembered. I looked longingly at the dozens of delis we passed as we looped up and down the streets near Times Square, but I didn't say a word. I also gamely went along on the walk to Central Park and back. I don't even know how far that is - probably not very - but it felt like a million miles.
Believe it or not, wearing a shoe with a heel helps the arch pain, which is one reason (besides the fact that I love them!) that I wear heels 90 percent of the time. I can just walk better in them.
But the heels don't work for real, sustained walking like what we'll do in Italy, especially not on cobblestone streets. For one thing, most heels don't have much cushion in the sole. For another, my foot often ends up sliding down with each step, rubbing a blister on the ball of my foot over time.
It doesn't help that I have hard-to-fit feet. They are wider-than-normal across the ball and narrower-than-normal at the heel, so any kind of closed-back shoe flips up and down endlessly, rubbing a blister in just a few minutes that won't fully heal for weeks.
The last thing I want marring my trip to Italy is 10 different kinds of blisters. In NYC I "solved the problem" - aka, made it so I could at least walk rather than hobble - by buying a thick, squishy pair of pink socks.
I've also tried every kind of insert known to man, including the stick-on, back-of-the heel kind, but they don't work either.
So ever since we decided once and for all we'd be going to Italy - where I've heard estimates of walking 5 miles a day - I've been searching for the perfect shoes. I read up on the TripAdvisor forums about the most comfortable kinds of shoes, about the weather in Italy when we'll be there, about how many pairs to take.
I considered my trip to the trade show last month a practice run-through for Italy and packed as lightly as possible. I took three pair of shoes, one on my feet and two in the suitcase. It turned out to be the perfect number. That way I could rotate through them and not wear on the same blisters two days in a row. Besides, even a high heel feels comfortable when it's a change from the shoe you wore all day.
For Italy, I want to take two pairs of walking shoes and one pair of dressier shoes. But even my walking shoes can't be just your run-of-the-mill sneaker. I hate the way I look in sneakers - too stumpy and frumpy - and I wear them strictly for working out (when they're still not even that comfortable). Plus, I don't plan to take any jeans.
I found several candidates for comfort shoes: Born, Merrell, Dansko, Sketchers, Clarks. My mother made me try on her Merrell clogs, and yes, they were comfortable.
But they also suffered from a problem so many comfortable shoes have: hideousness.
Yeah, this is probably why I get so little sympathy when I complain about my foot problems. I want it all - cute AND comfortable. Is that really so much to ask?
I ended up buying dark purple Merrell mary janes and red Born mary janes for ridiculously cheap prices on eBay. And I love them, I really do.
But ... the Borns are a little too big. They have the heel-flippage problem even with the inserts, and the top of the left shoe digs into my foot a little. Just a trip to the mall gave me blisters, so what would a trek all over Florence do? I shudder to think. They'd probably be okay with socks, but I had my heart set on black tights with red mary janes.
I haven't test-run the purple Merrells yet, but just trying them on I can feel some heel-digging.
Meanwhile, I wasn't willing to place all my chips in the eBay basket, so I ordered a pair of Merrell Plaza Mocs (a black suede leather loafer with a sneakerish sole) for $90 from Shoes.com. Yeah, they're too small.
Surely my perfect pair of shoes exists out there somewhere! But the fact is, Italy is only two weeks away. I'm running out of time.