Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas Into Discoveries – Find Relief from Foot Problems

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Q. My problem is bunions on both my feet. They’re extremely large and sometimes painful. I am only 62 and still working part-time in a hospital ward and I can’t afford to take time off until I retire in a few years. At work I wear good running shoes, but when I go out I have to wear either the same running shoes or the typical, unattractive orthotic shoes with casual slacks or jeans. I’d like to know what kind of shoes I could wear to dress up that wouldn’t show a huge bunion sticking out of the sides, but would still be comfortable.

Joanne, London


A. You’re certainly not alone in your dilemma.  An estimated 20 to 30 per cent of the population has some kind of foot issue, bunions being just one of them. And nine out of 10 bunions happen to women, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, which attributes some to hereditary factors and others to the all-too common practice of wearing shoes that are too tight and too narrow. (Think former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, who suffers from serious bunion issues.)

“The foot can take a real beating and so most people don’t know what it’s like to have a good, supportive shoe,” says Ray Margiano, the founder and CEO of Foot Solutions, an Atlanta, Georgia-based chain specializing in high-quality footwear and customized solutions to foot issues like yours – many of which are good looking. “There’s a lot of documentation that suggests that up to 90 per cent of people out there are actually walking around with improperly-fitted shoes.”

His company has 155 stores in North America, several in the Toronto area. You might consider booking a personal appointment with one of them to have an in-store specialist examine your feet and discuss your options. According to Ray, who has been in the specialty shoe business for 35 years, high-quality, pre-made shoes will cost you $100 to $300, while custom-made shoes will cost in the range of $400 to $1,000.  He also suggests you could be a candidate for custom orthotics which can help keep the feet in position inside a wider shoe that would encompass oversized bunions.

“A lot of people with bunions just put on a pair of loose-fitting shoes to give them space. It may relieve the pressure, but what happens is the foot is then allowed to continue to widen and spread,” says Ray. “It’s very, very important for people with bunions to have a properly fitted shoe so it keeps the foot from splaying out and the bunions from getting bigger.”

But that doesn’t mean the shoes have to be ugly. It’s more than possible to be fashionable and comfortable at the same time, insists Ray. And once you’ve got a pair or two of nicer shoes you’ll feel better wearing dresses and skirts when the occasions arise. It may just initially take a little extra time and effort on your part.

“Nobody wants to wear an ugly pair of shoes,” acknowledges Ray. “And they don’t have to.”


Send Diane a brief description of your dilemma, along with your first name and where you live, to [email protected]

A professional journalist for more than 25 years, Diane Sewell has written for some of the top newspapers and magazines in Canada and is a baby boomer herself. Her new blog “Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries” is interactive with readers and focuses on life issues – like aging, dating, second marriages, sex, death, family and fashion. Diane will use her expertise to find the right expert to help solve your predicament, unearthing kernels of truth and quickly getting to the heart of the issue.