09/12/2012 12:19 EDT | Updated 11/12/2012 05:12 EST

Me and My Feet: A Story of Hatred and Blisters


It's official: my feet despise me and are out to destroy me.

I'm sure it hasn't always been this way. When I was a baby my mom loved to put me in cute little baby shoes with polka dots or bows and I'm sure I didn't make a fuss because my feet ached. Or maybe I did and it was chalked up to cranky baby syndrome. Which is totally a thing, right?

For the past decade, I've been on a mission for one thing: super cute shoes that I can wear all the time that don't make me want to gnaw my feet off Saw-style. Easy-peasy, right? Oh-so-very wrong.

The first instance I can remember of my feet betraying me, I was 14. It was summertime and I had just bought a cute pair of sandals that had a see-through strap and bright blue bottoms. They kind of looked like a car from Fast and the Furious and I was down for the cause.

I wore them on a particularly hot day that was spent with my parents walking the length of Queen West for shopping and family fun. A third of the way through the day I started to complain about my feet. My parents, thinking it was general pre-teen pissyness, kept telling me we'd sit down soon. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. Instead of the dull pain I was used to, my feet kept sending sharp, pin pricks of agony through the whole foot. I sat on the ground and peeled off my shoes. Staring directly back at me was a giant blister about the length of my pinky...and its mirrored image on the opposite foot. At once my parents were full of apologies for not stopping sooner and astonishment that I hadn't shed tears. We limped home as a team, the blisters were popped and I threw those shoes into the garbage with such a force that they knew it was the last they'd see of me.

For the next few years I went through shoe style phases that never lasted very long. Sneaker platforms (just like Baby Spice's thank you very much) that went out of style just as my feet were thanking me for the comfort. Chunky Cher Horowitz heels that were quickly discarded after an unfortunate face plant off my school bus. Neon flip flops that creatively caused blisters in between my toes from the plastic wrapped around the thong. Heels i was forced to wear while working retail through high school that had me walking bow-legged for days after a shift. All purchased with the hope of finding my shoe niche and all thrown away to the cries of pain while I soaked my feet and popped my blisters.

I could never guess what would make my feet revolt. What was comfy to everyone else was a sick joke to me. Flats cut into the backs of my feet until blood would mark them unreturnable. Running shoes rubbed the skin around the rim raw. Crocs...CROCS...the last vestibule of dignity gave me three blisters per foot in the 20 minutes I wore them to walk to work.

My one escape from the pain came in the form of foam flip flops that I had bought for $12. After months of use they had actually molded to my feet; imprints of each toe were forever etched in the black cloud of comfort. The thong part of the shoe was made of precious felt. Amazingly, I wore those flip flops for almost 10 years. Sadly, I wore holes right through the bottoms to the point that while walking my big toe would rub against concrete. I refused to throw them out regardless of the grief I caught. Everyone from my mother to my interview subjects (stop looking at my feet) would point and demand that I buy new shoes. Even the shoemaker I asked to pretty please fix them.

With those out of my closet the search had started again for comfy shoes. If ever I found a good pair they were worn to death. Case in point: a pair of plain black flats that had to have the bottoms glued back on no less than four times. RIP.

Since the deaths of my two favourite pairs of shoes (and the only ones I can remember treating my feet like the unpredictable queens they were), replacing them has been a headache. Salespeople always promise their shoe is more comfortable than the last. I know it's just a party line but I'm so desperate, I believe it.

In the years I've searched for great shoes, this is what I've learned about my feet:

-They hate when something is rubbing the tendon. It causes blisters.

-They hate when something is rubbing the inner sides. It causes blisters.

-Sweat is a no-go. Blisters.

-If the shoe has a heel, they will begin an aggressive protest after a cool 15 minutes.

-If you're wearing those heels for 15 minutes, they better not have a pointy toe. Or else.

-The pinky toes are not to be touched. Ever.

-Rubber, plastic, hard leather and cloth material will leave blisters. Even with socks. So don't even go there.

-The top parts of the feet are a smidge higher than usual and if reminded of that fact, they will revolt. Usually in the form of a blister.

At the beginning of the summer I lucked out and found a pair of sandals that have been perfect. With a flap of support underneath and a thin soft leather strap that holds the foot in, they are the picture of minimal wear. Plus the strap is so perfectly placed that it touches none of the angry areas and thus leaves no signs of war. A horrific blister involving rubber rain boots that even a thick wool sock couldn't prevent even caused me to wear these sandals in rainstorms.

Alas, every good thing must come to an end. Fall is quickly approaching and with the demise of summer so too shall my sandals go off into the dark basement closet. Memories of painful riding boots and ankle booties dance in my head while I prepare for months of agony.

But maybe a dash of hope? For weeks I'd been hearing about TOMS shoes that provide the wearer with the kind of comfort friends just have to chat about over coffee. So I bought a pair. Am wearing them now in fact. Well, they're hanging off my toes. The reason? I walked to work in them and after feeling a familiar pang discovered a cute tiny blister on the inner side of my right foot.