So. I ordered a variety of socks and did a ton of research on trail runners, trying to find something that will finally take care of this forefoot pain issue. I thought it was the socks. Darn Tough Socks, which are outstanding, but during my last hike I found them tight after my feet swelled at about mile ten. That crushed my toes together, and I had blisters between my toes in addition to the ball-of-the-foot pain.
I got several types of sock liners and socks to try out. (The unanticipated costs of gearing up is the millions of dollars wasted on crap that doesn’t work for me. But yeah.) There are Thermasilk sock liners, which made me realize I can cut out the gaiters entirely if I wear knee socks treated with permethrin. So bonus there! I also got some Iniji toe socks. I think those are going to work. I’ve ordered some Iniji compression toe socks, too. Knee high. Those haven’t come yet.
For the shoes, I ordered a pair of New Balance walking shoes, size men’s 8 EE. Yes, EE. I’ve got all sorts of bizarre foot issues that are mostly concentrated in the front, and I finally realized I need EE men’s shoes. My brother was like, “Don’t you try them on in the store?” And I had to point out that I haven’t found stores that carry a wide selection of men’s size 8 EE shoes—which, for all intents and purposes, are as wide as they are long. I have brick feet.
I tried the walkers today on a regular 5-mile sidewalk walk. The size is outstanding, so that part’s figured out. However, the cushioning? Not so much. I was aware of the balls of my feet as soon as I put the shoes on (never a good sign), and my feet were sore pretty quickly. It wasn’t bone crushingly painful. I made it the five and could have gone a few more. But no big mile days in those, that’s for sure.
I deliberately wanted to try them without any insoles, to get a baseline. I have a variety of insoles on order, and we’ll see how those go. The Superfeet don’t really do anything for me. They’re comfortable enough, but no padding up front. I love the plain old Dr. Scholl heel pads, but they don’t make a forefoot pad in that thickness. People on Whiteblaze have recommended Softsol and… and… Spenco, that’s it. So I’m getting a couple of pairs of those, and also some various metatarsal pads.
Also, my last shoe experiment: I ordered a pair of Brooks something or others, which are supposed to be wide and super cushy.
I’m assuming that some combination of insoles and either the New Balance or the Brooks will work out. I’ve already spent $500 on footwear that won’t be coming with me, which is really really really problematic. On the other hand, the shoes are all good, and I’ll have them. But I’d feel a lot better about things if I knew for sure that I had a shoe that doesn’t hurt my feet. Then I could get out and train with a little more confidence.