Shoe No. 1- the Combat Boot – Sage green ABU boots & other military shoes
On October 11, 2017, while doing a unit group run, I started having massive heel pain on the left side, and then later that night, could not even walk barefoot in my own home. I was hobbling to help the kids get dinner, etc. It was horrible. Of course, true to military healthcare and TRICARE, I could not get in to see anyone until the next week, so I used essential oils and heat/cold to try to reduce pain, and Advil. The following week, I was finally seen, and it was Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spurs – we would not find that out til a month later, after I saw a better provider and they requested an X-ray, and finally referred me to a podiatrist and physical therapy. Seriously, military healthcare sucks! In any case, I soldier on (pun intended). My podiatrist and therapist took one look at my ABU boots and said, “woh, this is what you have been wearing for a year of your active duty?” Yep! Commence the medical profile while I searched for the best boot I could find to help me. Clearly, the two pairs I owned had no support. So, I was put on a profile while my quest for the perfect, or at least somewhat comfortable boot, began. I posted in a USAF Women Officer’s forum, and managed to get a pair of boots that fit, and were somewhat supportive of my arch and heel. The ladies there offered many suggestions and brands of boot and I was able to try on most of them, in my quest for the perfect boot.
Tip: It’s not just footwear, make sure you do the stretches, and physical therapy recommended by your podiatrist or physical therapist. There are a lot of stretches, rollers, iced water bottles, tennis/golf ball methods to employ, and they must be done daily to heal, in addition to wearing proper footwear.
You can only get such boots, mind you, via mail order. I kid you not. ABU boots are available from the following vendors online: Nike, Tactical Gear, and US Patriot. After 5-6 boots (back and forth via mail order), I tried Nike size 5.0 Next Gen 2, Size 5.0 Tactical Research MiniMil (not good for me), and a Belleville model, finally I found one that works, the original Nike SFB Sage Green, Size 5.5 for me, as it is all men’s sizing. Yes, in 2018, all the boots are in men’s sizing, and you have to kinda figure it out. I was so disappointed that the military clothing and sales at my base or at two other bases did not carry the size or the types of boots recommended by many of the women – lightweight boots like Tactical Research MiniMil, Nike Special Field Boots (SFB), or the Next Gen 2 Nikes, Bellevilles, etc. Even if the brand was available (only Belleville was) at the store, because you have to get men’s sizing, they rarely had smaller sizes like 5.5 or 6.0 in Men’s sizing. But, I have been happy, with the Nike SFB in a size 5.5 Men’s. They run small, so the best tip I have is try on Nike supportive (high heel) running shoes. Then, subtract 2 from that- that is your men’s size. So I felt the best in a 7.5, and in the Nike SFBs, the best fit was 5.5. You want room, and these shoes are a bit wider, so they worked for me, but they won’t for everyone.
Regarding low quarters (shoes with the service dress pants and such), and flats, the orthotic inserts can go in them if thin enough or low profile/dress orthotic, but I tried on a few loafers from Dansko that I liked, and were compliant with the dress and appearance regulations. Dansko Ellie is nice and does not slip in the back. They are not glossy but who cares? For me, it’s comfort and health over looks these days. I used to wear Franco Sarto but the insole won’t work in those, and I’d rather be comfortable. Pumps/flats or heels are tougher as all the ones from Vionic have ornamentation on them or an open toe. Abeo is the same. You have to search for options here and Skechers has a comfort brand (take your custom inserts with you when you try it on), but again, most places offer free shipping/free returns and exchanges, so take advantage. It is time consuming and annoying, but it’s your feet. You carry the weight of the world on them!
TIP: Before shopping for any shoes, get an Orthotic- Custom for the boot/running shoe and a dress shoe insert.
Before I shopped for the new boot, I wanted to make sure I had my custom orthotic. I got that one within 2-3 weeks of the incident, which was great! But they are thick and Tricare (as usual) only authorizes one, so I got a few more on my own. You can get heat molded ones (custom made) for you at Road Runner Sports. Another one is Aetrek, which is made by Red Wing Shoes, and you can go and get a custom fit there. Abeo (sold at Walking Company) also makes an orthotic for the dress shoe, and they are so great at measuring you, checking your arches, etc, and making a custom recommendation. I got everything I could, and if you are lucky to have, or a spouse who has a flex spending account, custom orthotics are covered for your pre-tax dollars. So take advantage of all you can!
Shoe No. 2- Running/Walking shoes which could double as everyday shoes (PS- I also bought the same brand slippers for the home)
While I was on a profile, I was also on a boot profile, so I could wear my walking shoes with the ABUs (the AF uniform). I was wearing Hoka Clifton (also recommended by my podiatrist) What a nightmare, which took over 6 weeks to get into a proper combat boot for me. I changed out my Hoka Clifton after about 40 days for the Hoka Bondi because I wanted an all black shoe.
Hoka Bondi is a substantial shoe, but the heel and arch support are unsurpassed! I cannot say enough great things about the Hoka shoe brand along with Road Runner Sports – the customer service is amazing! They test your feet, and help you understand what type of shoe you need, and if you tell them of your condition, they will help you get the right shoe.
I also got the Hoka recovery slippers (women’s size 7) for around the house. They are waterproof, and so great with support for walking around the house. I am still shopping for a house slipper but Abeo has a great sale right now on these, so worth checking out too. I get Abeo shoes at the Walking Company. Their return policy is great, unless it is final clearance sale.
Shoe No. 3- dress shoes, boots, shoes to wear off duty hours (i.e. my Cinderella shoes)
Once the boots were set, and my running/walking shoes were all set, I ventured out and did a lot of research to get proper dress shoes. You see, I plan to return to my old job and I like to dress nice in my civilian job, so it’s time to start getting some nice shoes. If you think your payless shoes are great, think again – get better arch and heel support if you can. Your later years feet will thank you. I now know what to look for in a shoe, and how to buy good, supportive shoes that also look great thanks to my PT and podiatrist. There are a lot of options out there, but I did a lot of research into good sandals (for summer/casual wear), boots, loafters, dress shoes (I generally like one brown, one black which I can wear with the uniform), and ankle boots versus longer boots to wear with leggings.
First, we have all heard of vionic. Frankly, I never heard of them before this whole ordeal but it’s a thing. They make some great shoes which have heel/arch support and are recommended by doctors, made by a doctor. Some of their styles are, well, let’s say, for older folks, so you’ll have to look elsewhere if you like fashion. Enter Dansko. Good shoes and carried by many places- Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Walking Company, Dardano’s, etc. Great shoe, but you have to try them on as some of the loafers slip in the back and I dislike that a lot. Finally, I learned of a new company and their shoes are AMMMMMAYZING! Abeo shoes are sold at the Walking Company, or on line and they are even more comfortable than Vionic or Dansko. I highly recommend them. Now, all of these are not cheap. They are high-end, definitely not your BOGO Payless type of shoe, so look for sales. We all know the best time for sales – Black Friday, Cyber Monday, New Year (Jan 1, Dillard’s go nuts with sales- get on line and get your shoes then), and be ready to send them back and do the returns/exchanges, because what you get online won’t always work in real life. 🙂 Also, take your orthotics along whenever you hit the stores so you can try those shoes out with the orthotics.
Most companies like Road Runner Sports and Vionic let you wear the shoes out for 30 days (Vionic) or Road Runner Sports (90 days!!!) Yes, 90 days… so use all that time and wear them and see what you think. So many great options for us with foot issues caused by horrible combat boots or other things, so get out there and research away, and get to know your UPS drop off location folks, as you will become fast friends. Will you feel like a giant #firstworld goldilocks? Yes, but who cares? It’s better and cheaper than surgery or a permanent disability, right? Here are some of the shoes I did keep, and hope to wear now that I have decided on them. I am still waiting for another shipment, but we will see how that one goes.
Here is a picture of what the house looks like frequently as I get the shoes that fit just right… what an adventure, an expensive one at that, but I do feel like Cinderella when the shoes fit great, look great, and make me feel good too!
If you have questions, you can write me, but I am not a doctor, I only wear scrubs at night in place of PJs, but happy to give you advice. In the end, you have to find the right fit for you and your foot. Good luck and feel better soon!