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My last post was all about helping couples find the right wedding photographer, but I have another passion–and this one is about helping my fellow wedding professionals. I want to get you all into the right shoes! After almost ten years, I have finally found a shoe I can wear in any season, for any length of time, wearing my full gear and shooting a wedding, and still end the day with my feet feeling great.
Why did it take me so long to find this shoe? Well, part of the problem was that I just didn’t understand what my feet needed and how they might be different from other people’s feet.
I’ve always had trouble with my feet. When I was in high school and worked at a farm market, my feet would ache after I’d been standing on them for a few hours. When I started shooting weddings, I would come home after shooting for 8-10 hours and my feet would feel like the entire footbed was bruised.
I always try to crowd-source my wedding-related questions, and shoes were no different. I’m part of several Facebook groups with hundreds of photographers, and every few years, I would ask them all for shoe recommendations. The answers varied widely, and I would usually order the ones that seemed most promising, try them all on, and keep one pair. But I was inevitable disappointed by either the support, the fit, or the longevity of the shoe.
The best shoes I found were Dansko clogs. A nurse recommended them, and they did keep my feet from getting sore, but they were huge and clunky and I kept turning my ankles when I wore them. (Nurses call this, “falling off your Danskos” and it’s totally a thing. Dansko clogs are heavy and built up on the bottom, but have almost no support on the sides.)
The worst shoes I found were an expensive pair of designer ballet flat that, yes, went with absolutely everything, but provided no support and got absolutely ruined by the rigors of my job.
All that time I was asking for recommendations, I was starting from the wrong place–looking for the magic shoe rather than looking at my feet and the reasons they were hurting.
In the past couple of years (after I entered my 30s), I started having more and more injuries in my feet–even while I was just taking care of my kids or cleaning the house. I finally talked to my primary care doctor about it, and she quickly diagnosed me with hyper-mobile joints. (Basically my ligaments are very stretchy and don’t hold my joints in place when I move. This means that my muscles have to work extra hard to keep my joints in the right place–leading to my muscles feeling very sore and achy.)
The doctor sent me to a podiatrist, who confirmed that I had severe ligament laxity in my feet and ankles, and he told me I needed to stop walking barefoot–even inside my house–and get custom orthotics. He measured my feet for orthotics and told me the orthotics would be very big and bulky, so I would need to wear them with tennis shoes or something similarly large.
I am not exaggerating when I say that my custom orthotics have changed my life. It was not a pleasant process–the first two weeks that I started using them, my entire body felt achy and tired as if I had the flu (despite the fact that I started using them for only an hour at a time and slowly increased the amount of time each day.) Orthotics are meant to support your feet and change the way your footbed hits the ground, so they end up changing your entire posture. For me, this meant that my entire body had to be retrained on how to walk and stand–which led to some serious soreness!
But after those first two weeks, I noticed much less overall soreness, better posture, increased energy, and almost no foot pain.
My custom orthotics had a hefty price tag of $300. For me, they are worth every penny, but if you want to try out orthotics for less, you can get a non-custom pair for $20-$30. Both my primary doctor and my podiatrist recommended Spenco as about the best pair of orthotics you can get without going custom. I like the Spenco Total Support orthotics for my bigger shoes, but you can also get a thinner version that fits in dressier shoes.
Once I became a believer in orthotics, I knew I had to find a shoe I could wear to weddings that would fit my giant foot appliance. Custom orthotics wrap all the way around the bottom of your foot and halfway up the sides of it, so your shoes have to be roomy and high cut (no sandals or ballet flats!)
I am so thankful that booties are now an acceptable shoe to wear in all seasons with everything from skinny jeans to maxi dresses–and that you can test them out painlessly using Zappos. I did a little research online and found some booties with removable footbeds and ordered my favorites to try.
I ended up choosing these Born Trinculo ankle boots in Distressed Black. They are wide enough to fit my orthotics, cute enough to wear to weddings, and the distressed finish hides the inevitable scuff marks on the toes.
I knew from previous experience that Born was a good brand for me, and I knew I could pull out the footbed (even though it’s lightly glued down). If you don’t love Born or you want to try something else, here are some helpful lists for finding other orthotic friendly boots and boots with removable footbeds.
Another bonus about booties: they can cover up ankle braces if you are really injury prone or just want some extra support. I haven’t had to wear an ankle brace yet since I switched to orthotics, but it’s nice to have that option!
If you’ve taken a deep dive on foot health (as I have) you may have heard about the barefoot running movement. Basically, some people have suggested that humans never should have started wearing shoes and it’s better for our bodies to walk and run barefoot–or at least wear minimalist shoes. (There are even some people who run marathons barefoot.)
Several years ago, I was really excited about this idea and bought some minimalist running shoes. I was wearing them this summer when I went for a run and severely sprained my foot–prompting the visit to my doctor where I finally figured out the issue with my joints. When I told her about the minimalist shoes, she said something like, “Those may work for a few people, but they are not for you, and probably not for most people.” She explained that modern life makes it hard to go barefoot–we walk on hard surfaces, stand still for long periods of time, and generally lack the muscle tone of previous cultures.
So, yeah, barefoot might work for some people, but if your feet hurt after standing and walking, you probably need the most supportive shoes you can find for weddings. (Get the booties!)
This is just me getting carried away now, but I want to mention another thing that has helped tremendously with my overall health. Once I was diagnosed with hyper-mobile joints, I was told I should not attempt running for exercise as it would be very hard on my joints. Instead, I needed to build up my muscles to hold my joints in place.
The very best thing I have found for this is a program called Momma Strong. It’s all about teaching you how to have proper alignment and form while you get stronger so that you can do regular life without getting injured. It’s specifically written for mothers, but I believe anyone (even men!) would have great results with it. Once you get through the two week introduction (15 minute videos to teach you the alignment and bracing), there are daily workouts of 15 minutes that you can do at home with very minimal equipment. It’s super affordable at $5 per month and it’s got a great community of women to help keep you motivated.
Ok–that’s really all for now–but I’d love to hear from you about your feet, your shoes, or your workout. Send me your questions or post them below!