Shoe Horror Stories (And How Not To Repeat Them)

Everyone has them: those blister-ridden, arch-aching, foot-numbing shoe tales (almost) too painful or embarrassing to recount. Almost. Because today, our editors are dishing.
Horror stories of pinched nerves, going barefoot on the streets of Manhattan, and busted-up big toes are just the beginning. We're not just here to commiserate, but also to provide a few take-charge solutions to stop our feet from suffering. So, we've included three footwear fixes for each staffer's gripe. This means a big, fat sayonara to all of the aforementioned "ouch" moments and a welcome hello to kicks that work. Enough said.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
The Victim: Lexi Nisita, social media director
The Culprit: Silver oxfords

"College graduation was looming over the horizon and, as such, I was shopping online furiously (not studying for exams at all, as remains my custom). Finally, I found the perfect pair of shoes to go with my pink, lace H&M dress purchased at the illustrious New Hartford shopping center: a pair of gleaming-silver, laceless oxfords.

"It was about a 10-minute walk from my dorm to the building where the graduation would take place. During this walk, I faced pain that cannot be put into words. Every part of my foot hurt. Though they looked like leather, these shoes were in fact made of crushed razor blades, judging by how fast the skin on my ankles, heels, and toes was [rubbing] raw. By the time I made it to my seat in the auditorium, I could barely walk — and yet, I was facing the most important walk of my life so far. I anxiously counted down the names, fear boiling in my veins and blood...pouring from my swollen feet, trying to squish torn-off bits of the program in-between my blisters and my shoes to offer some relief.

"Eventually, the moment came, and I...hobbled across the stage to accept my diploma. I would have undoubtedly caused stares if it weren't for the fact that someone much more popular had gone before me, and thus the crowd was still basking in his wake. Luckily, my school had a weird tradition of handing out wooden canes to all graduates. I don't know how often they'd been used for actual walking support in the past, but today, that was my cane's destiny...I alternated between hobbling back toward my dorm and rushing barefoot over the burning-hot cement path. All in all, it was not a great day."
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The Fix: Comfortable loafers

Yes, those brand-new, shiny oxfords are mighty tempting. But, we suggest saving those pups for days when you have less ground to cover — this way you can properly (and slowly) break them in. For high-impact outings, opt for supportive, comfortable loafers that'll keep you looking just as stylish.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
The Victim: Gina Marinelli, associate fashion features editor
The Culprit: A busted big toe

"These past couple of weeks, I've been dealing with my worst shoe horror story of all: specifically, that I can't really wear any at all. I took a pretty nasty spill on the subway steps the Friday before Fashion Week began. No roadblocks. No pushy commuters. Just me tripping over my own two feet. I basically smashed my big toenail and nearly ripped the whole thing off. It's been so badly bruised and sensitive to the touch, that it hurts to wear anything that puts even the slightest amount of pressure on it. Basically, I've been wearing the same two pairs of open-toe sandals all week — which has helped the pain, but wouldn't exactly have been my first choice of footwear during Fashion Week."
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The Fix: Open-toe booties

No ifs, ands, or buts about it: Foot injuries are the worst. Especially if, like Gina, your main mode of transportation is walking. So, if you, too, are suffering from a busted digit (it's happened to all of us at one point or another), an open-toe bootie is an easy solution, especially as we ease into fall temperatures. Bonus tip: For chillier mornings, keep your tootsies toasty and add tights.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
The Victim: Annie Georgia Greenberg, senior style editor
The Culprit: Too-small heels, then not-broken-in fashion sneakers

"I have so many shoe horror stories; I don't even know where to begin. I could tell you about the time I ended up walking barefoot on the London tube, or the time I had to wear my guy friend's men’s size 10 sneakers all day because my sandals broke. Instead, I think I'll go with the most recent escapade, which was this very Fashion Week...I have a weird shoe situation. which is that I can fit into everything from a size 7 to a size 10. You probably don't believe me, but that's cool, because it's true.

"Anyway, I was wearing one of my size 7s (a designer sample-sale score) on a six-hour video shoot, and, suffice it to say, my dogs were seriously barkin'. At one point, I sat down and simply couldn't get back up...So, one of the production assistants on the shoot offered to pick up some sneaks for me at a nearby Zara. I told her I wanted the white-on-white ones. She came back and said, 'I saw the shoes you wanted, but they were hideous. I bought you this pair instead.' Even though they weren't her style, I [had] really wanted the shoes! She made the exchange in bewilderment about why I would want such geriatric footwear — and I wore [the shoes she had bought] the rest of the day. The kicker, though, is that because they were new, they ended up giving me even more blisters. Womp."
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The Fix: Athletic sneakers

Not all fashion sneakers are created equal. Some require just as much time and effort to break in as a pair of pumps. Bummer, we know. But, when all else fails, we can always fall back on our favorite athletic brands. These sporty trainers pack loads of cushioning and support — without the blisters.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
The Victim: Connie Wang, style director
The Culprit: Cap-toe wedge espadrilles

“I'd seen a beautiful pair of cap-toe wedge espadrilles at a sample sale for a laughably low price, so I grabbed them in my size without trying them on. And, I decided I'd wear them to my brand-new job (at Refinery29, no less!). The morning of [my first day], I slipped into them and noticed that they were a little looser than I would have preferred, and that the back of the heel poked straight into my Achilles tendon. The pain wasn't horrible, though, so I ventured out to the subway.

"By the time I emerged [in] Chinatown, I was completely broken. The back of the shoe had rubbed my heel completely raw, and I was bleeding straight into the wedges. I was walking by sliding one foot in front of the other — and was moving at a pace that was even slower than the tourists on Canal Street (which is very, very slow). The only way I could possibly navigate the next five blocks was to take off my shoes and head for the nearest shoe store. But, if anyone has seen the sidewalks of Chinatown, you know how unsavory a prospect that was, too.

"Luckily, a cab pulled up, I got in, and [traveled] the embarrassing five blocks to the office. I swapped shoes once I got there and tried to ignore the horrible pain in my ankles, but the damage was already done: The shoes [had] pinched nerves in both my ankles, and I suffered through the next six months in backless shoes.”
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The fix: Mid-height block heels

We can all agree that Connie's story is particularly painful. The moral: Never, ever trek around Manhattan (or anywhere else) in shoes that don't fit. Also, while wedges are great in theory, remember that super high ones aren't much comfier than stilettos. Swap out those four-inchers for a mid-height block heel instead. Our arches already feel less stressed just thinking about it.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
The Victim: Ellen Hoffman, editorial assistant, shopping
The Culprit: Five-dollar flip-flops

"This is a particularly embarrassing story from my interning days a few summers ago. I had spent a lazy Sunday afternoon reading in Central Park, and it was great. But, when I packed up my book and beach towel to head home, my right flip-flop completely gave out. The strap separating my big toe from the rest was no longer, leaving me — for all intents and purposes — half barefoot. And, approximately 12 blocks and two avenues away from my dorm — which would have been somewhat acceptable had the terrain been grass or sand. Instead, my foot and Manhattan's pavement got a little too close for comfort.

"To passerby, I'm sure this one-shoed scenario was a sight to take in. I made it an avenue and a half [before I] spotted a footwear store — my prayers seemingly answered — and purchased an overpriced replacement to stride the rest of the way in."
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The Fix: Wide-banded sandals

Summer days are fading fast, but open-toe styles will be sticking around for fall. (Socks with sandals, anyone?) This editor's suggestion: Not only are wide-bands more appropriate for the season, they'll also hold up better to wear-and-tear than thinner straps.
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