I have to wear custom orthotics: Is this the end of cute summer shoes?

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ArchCrafters Custom Fit Insoles
ArchCrafters Custom Fit Insoles
I’m not a big fan of shoes, or socks for that matter. I rock cute boots in the fall and winter. And, as soon as my toes won’t freeze off, I’m in sandals, slip-ons, ballet flats, and flip flops. (I even wore TOMS during my wedding.)

Due to ongoing hip/back problems and the fact that my left leg is over three centimeters(!) longer than my right one, my doctor has fitted me for custom orthotic insoles. (/dies)

Help me Homies, you’re my only hope! Is this the end of cute, airy summer shoes for me? Where can I find some fun and functional shoe options that will support my old lady insoles? -Cherisse

What say you, orthopedic-rocking Homies? Have you found cute summer shoes that also don’t kill your feet?

Comments on I have to wear custom orthotics: Is this the end of cute summer shoes?

    • Rabbit hole alert!!!
      Following her links takes you to brands that can allow for custom insoles/orthotics and can you say ca-ute!?
      I’ve just bought a pair of winter shoes for this year (Southern hemisphere) and so cannot justify spending more money on another pair of shoes, but *MEGA SADFACE*

  1. I am in the same situation, except that I keep putting off going for that exact reason. I just love my flip-flops. I’m not usually one to sacrifice beauty for health, but I’m already stuck with a limited cute, affordable, plus size wardrobe, I need my shoes!

    • I feel you! But you know what, even when I was just standing on the tools they use for measuring, I instantly felt the pain in my hips lift some. I’m excited to wear these and not be in such pain everyday…. I just need to find a way to make them look cute too!

  2. YES. Please throw in your suggestions… I myself just got orthotics this spring for having super high arches which created a Haglund’s Deformity (bony spur type thing) on the back of my heel. Who knew? Anyhow, my podiatrist recommended finding sandals with a removeable foot bed, if you can. But since those are hard/expensive to find, the shoes that have personally made my feet better include Spenco Yumi flip flops (good arch support, but the doc wants NO flip flops), Dansko sandals, and actually birkenstocks. The trick is, I am told, to have something with a heel back strap so your foot doesn’t move around a ton. The birkenstocks are my first pair, and I must admit, pretty awesome. They feel a lot like my orthotics in how they support my foot. I got the Yara style, which are cuter I thought. Other than that, lots of tennis shoes… 🙁

  3. Have no fear homies! Cute shoes can still be yours! I’ve been wearing orthotics for 25+ years and I still get to wear cute shoes frequently!

    Sadly, a lot of sandals and cute flats are probably out of question. I find that I can get away with them and not wear my orthotics if I’m not going to be on my feet a lot (going out to dinner, church, the beach, etc.), but your mileage/doctor recommendations may vary.

    But what can you wear? Chuck Taylors, Keds, and Vans/Airwalks come in all sorts of colors and can be customized. Tennis shoes are light and airy, but you can still wear them with orthotics. Yes, you’ll have to wear socks, but go light on those too and you’ll be okay. Your feet will be warmer than you may prefer, but hopefully less pain! I’m currently wearing a pair of black mary janes from Clarks that I found in the DSW clearance racks, which are great dressy casual shoes for work.

    And how do you know if they’ll fit? Bring your orthotics with you! I find I have to take out the insoles of just about every shoe, particularly if they have any sort of arch support, and I shop about half a size up from whatever I’d wear without orthotics. Once you get a handle on knowing what will and won’t fit, you can also shop online.

    Will they always be the most fashionable or cool in hot weather? No, but less pain makes up for it.

    Good luck! Let me know if I can help further!

    • Half a size up? 🙁 It is hard enough finding an 11 in women’s… 11 1/2 size shoes are like unicorns. Oh well. I can just strap some boxes on my feet like my dad suggested. DSW marks their 11s with giant dayglo stickers just to remind me that my feet are huge. But seriously, I will be taking my insoles with me and giving it a shot anyways. Thanks for the help.

  4. My son has orthotics. I was getting really frustrated trying to find him shoes that worked with his orthotics, met his school dress code, and didn’t cost a fortune since pre-schoolers destroy any shoe they don’t outgrow. In my search I discovered that Zappos.com allows you to search for shoes with removable insoles. I’m not sure what their women’s selection looks like but their little kid selection was pretty good.

  5. So I’ve recently been fitted for Orthotics (like my 2 week after getting them appointment is Monday). I lost a toe to Diabetes in February. My right Big Piggy went to the Market in the Sky. However, We have a real old fashioned shoe store here in Longmont, CO where I live and they were wonderful. Let me say that I’ve never spent any real money on shoes, my tastes run to the comfortable (my husband jokes that I like butch lesbian shoes). But this whole ordeal has apparently left me with some “issues.” For something I never cared much about in the past, I sure did have a good cry over not being able to wear cute shoes, flip flops are right out, and sandals in general are Iffy. My orthotics person recommended Birkenstocks. I tried them on only to find that I’m apparently really sensitive about having my toes exposed now. So open toes stuff is not working. On the other hand because of nerve damage my feet translate heat to pain. So if my feet are too hot. they hurt. I found a combination of Keens sandals, and birkenstock arch supports seem to do the trick! See they didn’t even fit me with a toe filler, they are far more concerned with my fallen arches. Who knew.

    • I’m sorry for the loss of your toe. I think that as self-conscious as you are, most people would never notice if you were to wear open toed shoes. People just don’t look at other’s feet that often.

      Ya know?

      • Yeah I’m going to give it some time as all this is still pretty new. I don’t often let things stop me but I’m also trying to be a little gentle with myself as this is new territory for me.

        • I get that – I have some big scars and am missing some chunks of flesh from an accident. It was a long time before I was comfortable looking at or deliberately touching the areas that had new topography – a minimum of 9 months before I truly started that process.

          After the accident, I started asking people if they had scars and their stories. I approached strangers who were showing obvious scaring or denting. (It helped so very much.) About a year after the accident, I met a lady in Walgreens. We ended up talking about our scars and experiences right outside the front door on a Saturday afternoon – hers was from breast cancer and reconstruction surgeries. TRIGGER ALERT – It sounds weird, but we showed each other our scars – I had to pull up pants legs and partially unbuttoned my shirt to have enough slack to show her my shoulder while she lifted the hem of her shirt a couple of times to show me her scars on her back and abdomen. I’m sure we were quite a sight but it was GOOD to connect and “normalize” our new bodies.

          I can assure you that you will be ok at some point. It’s yucky in the meantime, but you’ll be ok, too. And Sherry, know that you’re not alone in this.

    • Don’t Birkenstock make mules, which have closed toes but open at the back? Might be nice for warm weather, so you can still have bare heels/ankles, although your toes would be covered? I’d definitely recommend Birkenstocks – they are really comfortable and last well. (I have a pair which I’ve worn loads for 3 summers and they are still in good condition). Best of luck with this!

  6. My mama has had severe foot disabilities her whole life (including several operations, fused bones, and titanium plates). She’s worn a version of these (http://www.zappos.com/dr-martens-asha-double-tongue-sandal-black-white-cristal-suede) type of sandals with orthotics. These aren’t quite the same ones, because I think she purchased hers around 1999 in the Doc Martin sandal heyday, but you get the idea.

    Her secret is to sharpie the sides of the (usually white) orthotics so that you can’t tell she’s wearing them through the sandal lattice.

    Look for “high volume” or “wide” if you can- the orthotics tend to eat up a lot of vertical space in the shoe, so online shopping is harder because you can’t put your orthotics in and see if your foot has enough room.

    Good luck!

  7. I have worn orthotics for several years, and I agree with the above. First, I have gotten good about pulling out the insoles of most shoes-including my Toms-which can be pretty; http://www.toms.com/women/mint-lace-womens-classics. Sometimes they are kinda glued in, but can be removed with a little light prying. I often take my inserts with me to the store.

    For summer shoes, I live in my birkenstocks and Xero shoes http://xeroshoes.com/shop/diy-kits/diy-feeltrue/ Over the last few years, I have been able to reduce wearing my orthotics in my tennis shoes and mary jane type shoes now. I spend as much time barefoot as possible, including working out (I can get away with it, because I workout at home). I don’t know if this has helped my arch issues, or if other changes have contributed to the lessening of pain. When it is bad, I can alternate days of something cute with no support, with something that I can put my insole in.
    Oh, and I skip the socks in the summer. I definitely put in insoles in mary janes, and things like this without socks: http://www.hushpuppies.com/US/en-US/Product.mvc.aspx/35521W/88429/Womens/Adia-Zelder?dimensions=0

  8. I don’t know about elsewhere, but in Charleston there is actually a podiatrist run shoe store (I’ll try to ask my mom for the name). They custom fit your shoes to you adding pads, spacers, insoles, etc until it is exactly right for your feet. They are not cheap, but they were the most comfortable shoes I’ve yet owned. Now, this was a phase in my life where all I wore was penny loafers (I was a strange kid), but I remember them having other shoe options. See if you can find a place like that where you are. Maybe your doctors know of one?

  9. Check out Barking Dog Shoes. I love this blog! I have always had problem feet and I’ve always worked on my feet. Yay. They look at and review all kinds of shoes for all kinds of problems. I specifically searched the word orthotic for the link below. Don’t be put off that the top few are all boots, the lower links go to sandals and flats and more summery shoes. Good hunting.


  10. This is my daughter. She’s 11, and has been wearing orthotics since she was 8. (She’s a ballet student with severely hypermobile ankles, so the support is desperately needed.) It can be incredibly difficult finding shoes that she 1) likes, that 2) fit her very narrow (AAA) foot, and that 3) accommodate the extra height of the insert. This kid *loves* shoes, but the shoe shopping experience is always a disappointment for her. Some shoes are an easy choice – good running shoes are frequently designed to accommodate inserts, Doc Martens have lots of toe room. Pretty little ballet flats and skimmers are always a challenge, but we’ve learned to look for the ones with a strap/straps across the ankle to keep the heel from slipping off (oddly enough, Jessica Simpson flats have worked great). Tom’s and Converse work pretty well, also.

    Sandals are an extra special kind of challenge. It’s a matter of taste, but you can order some Birkenstocks with a customized sole. I won’t do that with her super fast growing feet, because it isn’t cheap, but will as soon as it’s more practical.

    (And a huge thank you to everyone who has posted suggestions. She will be devouring this as soon as she gets home, I’m sure.)

  11. I’m in the same situation; I’ve always been a flip flop gal, but in the last two years, my feet have turned on me. I’m glad that Toms, Keds, and Keens work for so many people, but they are walking torture for me. I have PF, one leg is shorter than the other, and I get really bad tendinitis. Danskos are consistently ok for me, and they do have some cute styles. I’m wearing these right now, and they’re really comfortable and go with anything. I get compliments on them all the time:

    Clarks can be comfortable, depending on the style/ make, but Danskos are the only shoes that are really reliable for me. They also have cute sandals for non-orthotic days or dressy events, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t feel like your feet are on fire!

  12. Hey fellow Old Lady! 😉

    I actually just bought my first set of orthotic sandals. I purchased a pair of Romika Ibiza sandals, as they have a removable footbed. I can easily insert my sport orthotic, which I find more supportive than my dress pair.

    Definitely not the sexiest, but by far the most supportive! I looked into a lot of other suggestions listed above (Tons, Birkenstocks, etc) but at the end of the day, none of these shoes were supportive enough. I decided my foot health (and relative fashionableness) was the most important factor.

    Hope this helps!!!

  13. If anyone had any suggestions for suppliers based in Australia, I’d really appreciate it.
    I’m not keen on buying without trying especially where orthotics and my feet are concerned.

    • Ziera is expensive, but their shoes are good quality. I’ve had shoes from there for 5+ years and they’re still looking pretty good, even with very regular wear. I’ve also just recently brought a pair of Doc Marten mary-janes, which are going well enough to make me consider trying their sandles; I’ve been wearing enclosed shoes since I got my orthotics since they are so high on the sides (damn rolling arches!). It’s a good idea to ask your podiatrist for suggestions on what you should be looking for as well, I find very solid soles good for me which means I can easily narrow down shoe selections when in stores. Good luck! ^___^

  14. No shoe suggestions right now, but I’ve been wearing custom orthotics for a couple of years now, and I’m super happy you guys posted this. I’m turning 34 tomorrow, and I thought I was the only person my age wearing orthotics! Cool to know it’s not just me.

  15. http://www.footsmart.com/

    I have had some luck with Footsmart for my crazy wide but short PF feet – you can even search by issue to show friendly shoes for whatever your condition may be.

    I tend to end up actually buying from Zappos because of their excellent service and return policy, but I use Footsmart to discover brands/styles to look for / comparison shop.

    There’s also Hotter shoes, which my work shoes are, they have extra wide and most of their shoes are designed to have removable insoles.

    Good luck!

  16. i just bought a pair of sandals like this at payless shoes last night. SO COMFORTABLE. much better than regular sandals or flip flops. found these online and want to buy one of every color. i don’t have to wear orthopedics, but saw a few of the other comments that suggested additional straps or something that could hide an orthotic and i think these could (mostly) do both. http://www.sanuk.com/womens-sandals/yoga-sling-2/SWS10001.html?dwvar_SWS10001_color=BLK#q=yoga+sling&source=ggl_ppc&gclid=COr6uKbZssUCFRWUfgodx74Ayg&start=1&cgid=

  17. I’ve worn orthotics for about 20 years now. For sandals, I’ve found shoes from both Teva and Rockport that worked really well for me. They have enough support that I can wear them for a day without the inserts and not be in pain.

    #1 tip: don’t buy shoes online any longer, unless you have already tried them on in a store and know that they will work. Shop for your shoes in a real live store, and walk around in them a lot before buying. (And don’t forget to bring your orthotics with you whenever you shop.)

    Just think: now you get to channel all the money you would normally spend on cute shoes into something else. Maybe you’ll pick up cute purses, or skirts, or stockings, or teapots! In my case, it was socks. My shoe collection may be small and functional, but my socks are cute as HECK.

    (And FYI to you folks feeling old at mid 20s for needing these, I’ve needed them since I was 11, so don’t feel bad!)

  18. I have a lld of 1.5 inches and did a shoe lift inside the shoe that only did it to about .75 and was told by my Dr that was the highest they could go inside the shoe. I ended up having to get a lift put on the outside of my shoe that finally corrected it. It sucks, but its worth it to be out of pain. I ended up having leg lengthening surgery on that leg, if you go down that route feel free to ask me any questions.

  19. Which shoes work with your orthotics will vary depending on their shape, but you have lots of options. Naot, aravon, ecco, aetrex, to name a few brands with orthotic friendly options. Look for shoes with removable footbeds or that are “orthotic friendly.” That said, ballet flats and the like are usually out of the picture. Even if you can get your orthotics in them you wont get any real support. There are still a ton of good options though. and depending on what you need some brands, like aetrex or vionic have enough support that you may not have to wear your orthotics with them.
    Look for a comfort shoe store in your area, even if they don’t have what you want in stock you can probably try some brand and collections to get an idea of what works for you. If they’re anything like where I work they’ll be happy to help you figure it out and order in what you need. Just be sure to bring the orthotics with you when you shop.

  20. My husband needs orthotics due to some foot issue that causes foot pain but he insists on wearing sandals when he is swimming (because there are lots of rocks and barnacles in the ocean where we live) and he thought he wouldn’t be able to wear sandals anymore because they were aggravating his foot pain quite badly. From what I understand orthotics are basically made up of 2 layers with bumpy thingies sandwiched in between where you need the extra support. Thankfully it turned out his orthotic guy could actually just glue the little bumpies into his swimming sandals and it worked like a charm! He just didn’t use the outer layers and glued the bumpies directly onto the inside of the sandals, if that makes sense? Also, it didn’t cost much because they weren’t full orthotics. My point is, orthotics don’t have to be so big and ugly that they show in nice shoes.

  21. Use Velcro to keep your orthotics in your shoe! Buy strips of velcro that are sticky on the back. Stick the smooth side onto your sandal and stick the velcro fabric part onto your shoe. The velcro keeps them in place! Bingo!

  22. Glue? I tried using stick on Velcro to attach orthotic insoles (superfeet) to Keen sandals to keep insoles from sliding out the back of the shoes. It became unstuck, as the adhesive was perhaps not effective on soft plastics. What type glue/adhesive might I try? Thanks

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