Marathon Update: Me and My Feet a Love/Hate Story

Duck feetI have duck feet.  To be more specific I have duck feet 3.0.  My maternal grandmother had duckfeet 1.0 – they are short, wide, with high arches and a narrow heel.  My mom has duckfeet 2.o, shorter, wider, higher arches, narrower heel.  My feet are womens size 5.5 EEEE with arches that you could do the limbo under, and super narrow heels.

Not only are the feet passed down, so are the jokes.  I can’t remember a trip to the specialty shoe store (that only sold ugly blocky leather shoes) where someone didn’t say “just keep the shoes and give her the boxes.”  Hilarious.

There are many things I love about my feet.  They are super strong – almost any time I get a foot massage, or a regular massage that includes my feet, the massage therapist always comments on how strong they are.  The high arches give them a lovely toe point and as a dancer I was known for having “good feet” which means that they moved smoothly through the five basic foot positions which I’ve noticed that small feet and high arches can make having “good feet” easier.  I’ve never been tempted to participate in the culture of paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars for cute shoes, since nobody who makes cute shoes makes them in my size. I’m secretly hoping that their semblance to flippers will help me in the swim for my IRONMAN.

Still, finding shoes can be super frustrating.  My feet stopped growing around 8th grade and they looked exactly like they do now.  In my teens and twenties I considered finding out if there was a surgery that could make them more narrow  – not because there is anything wrong with my feet but because people with my size feet are not a market that most shoe companies are interested in pursuing apparently.  I don’t care about cute shoes so much but finding shoes for the activities I want to do is a pain in the ass.  I never had dance shoes that weren’t way too tight on the ball of my foot (and often too loose on the heel) and too big, and since New Balance changed their running shoes to have a more narrow toe box there are no running shoes that fit me.  My current choices are good fitting cross trainers with running insoles or running shoes that are 2.5 sizes too big and still not quite wide enough. Fruatrating, yes.  But I’m certainly not going to let it stop me.

So while I have been in a great place with my relationship with my fat body for a such a long time so that it’s almost on autopilot, I have to put more energy into my relationship with my feet, especially as I’m looking for running shoes for the marathon, bike shoes for my upcoming triathlons etc. There are three things that I do consistently to stay friends with my feet.  First is being really grateful to my feet for everything that they do for me – like carrying me around whether it’s in releve, or pedaling a bike, or running.  Also, just like when I’m frustrated with the clothes available in my size, it’s important to remember to put the problem where it belongs – in this case with the lack of shoes that are available in my size – not on my feet which are absolutely fine the way that they are.  Finally, I make it a point to take super good care of my feet, stretching them, rolling out the arches, massages, pedicures etc.

If you have a body part that you’re having some trouble finding the love for, maybe try some of these things. As for me, I’m off to put my feet up.

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20 thoughts on “Marathon Update: Me and My Feet a Love/Hate Story

  1. I’ve had good luck with Saucony for my duck feet (but my arch is almost non-existent). Maybe check them out!

    1. I have serious envy of anyone who can walk (let alone run) without constant foot pain, no matter what shape the rest of their foot is. I have congenitally flat feet — really no arch at all — and have never been able to walk without pain in my life. When I was little I didn’t understand the point of “The Little Mermaid” fairy tale — when she got her legs but it hurt to walk, I didn’t see what the big deal was because I just assumed it *always* hurt *everyone* to walk. It sure always hurt me!

      Fifty-some years later, walking is still, always, painful. The soles of my feet feel as though they are constantly bruised and the ligaments in my ankles are so stretched out, permanently, from the flat arches that I have had dozens of serious sprains. I wear custom orthotics which give me some needed stability but don’t help with the pain of walking, and I can’t even THINK about running. Every doctor I’ve talked to about this, including the podiatrist who prescribed the orthotics, basically shrugs and says “with your feet it’s just going to hurt to walk.” I walked over 5 miles on country paths last week and it was glorious, beautiful, but by the end of about the fourth mile I was in so much pain that I was staggering and whimpering.

      So, y’all, if you can walk without constant pain, thank your feet!

  2. It has long been my dream that if I ever win a ginormous lottery jackpot or discover a long-lost, incredibly rich relative I never heard of has left me a bazillion dollars in their will, the first damn thing I will do is hire a personal cobbler.

    Now I begin to think the second thing I will do is hire one for you, all bills on me, of course.

    I don’t even have duck feet. I walk on cubes.

    In fact, if more shoe stores just stocked wide-width shoes on their shelves, I could probably buy shoes with only a small amount of whimpering. But the last five times I’ve gone shoe shopping, I’ve wound up in tears at some point in the experience, simply because I can’t even try anything on and my feet have enough issues that mail ordering shoes really doesn’t work well for me. Between my super-high arch and my tendency to bunions, I need to actually try the shoes on first.

    But I do have to say that reading this article and Elizabeth’s reply is making me want to spend the day just hugging the hell out of my feet that aren’t as hard to fit as yours and that don’t hurt every time I walk.

    But it also reinforces the idea that came to me the last time I went shoe shopping that maybe that giant lottery win should fund the creation of a new line of shoes specifically for hard-to-fit feet. Dammit, I want cute, well-fitting shoes to be available even to those with duck feet! Or even those like my great-grandmother for whom I was named. She walked on skis. AAA balls with AAAA heels.

    Cute shoes for ALL feet!

    1. I’ve had good luck with zappos mail order, when the shoes don’t fit you just send them back free. Though you may have to try a few before they fit right. I’d love more wides in the store too, and also wide calf boots. Especially wide calf boots even for people with small/mid size feet.

  3. I could write a book about trying to buy shoes bigger than a size 10. When I was a teenager it was almost impossible, and forget getting anything cute or what all the other girls were wearing. And I’ll not get into the rude salespeople. It’s much better nowadays, but I still have anxiety going into a shoe store where you need assistance and have to ask for your size — I much prefer ordering online or bargain stores where they have all the shoes out and you don’t have to depend on anyone to help you.

    And Elizabeth, that’s terrible. Can you find another podiatrist or even go to a center that specializes in foot problems? It seems like it would be worth it to get help. Walking without pain is such a basic and wonderful thing. Which is why I only wear comfortable shoes.

  4. I have square feet and I’m like the princess and the pea with my feet, any small discomfort becomes agonizing. I rarely wear cute shoes either since they are too narrow in the toe. Even comfortable shoes if worn too long will eventually become uncomfortable. I’ve taken to bringing along extra shoes so I can just switch things up. I would be barefoot all of the time if the world wasn’t covered in concrete.

    Hearing others shoe/foot misery makes me feel so not alone.

  5. Ragen, I’ve struggled with duck feet and now planetar fasciitis which was interfering with just basic walking. I just recently got a pair of Z-Coil shoes and thanks to them I’ve started training for my first 5K! (And my goal is to RUN in this event.). I’ll be the first to admit they look… different. And I was resistant to them. But they’ve made a world of difference. I was going to wait to post about them in the Fit Fatties group after my 5K, but after reading your post I thought I would mention them. Perhaps they would be helpful to you or someone else!

  6. Thank you for sharing, all of you. I’ve got, or did have ideally proportioned feet…. Just size 12 w. I neglected them, ignored them, tormented them and rarely pampered them. They were just feet, after all. Now after years of fighting fungus, non- specific dermatitis, staph infections, bone resorption, osteomylitis, and amputations (with a gifted surgeon) I have no toes and am left healing the stumps so I can get into my much anticipated orthotic inserts and shoes. The cause of my maladies? No one is sure. It started long before diabetes grabbed me. The best explanation I have is calcification of the capillaries in my toes. They simply could not nurture the tissues and over time they broke down and became subject to infections. Treasure your feet. You don’t realize how much you’ll miss them til you can’t use them.

  7. Ragen, I also have wide toes and narrow heels. Possibly not as much as you, but it is super hard to find comfortable shoes. I’ve lucked out with Birkenstocks, but I know they don’t work for everyone and certainly are not athletic shoes.

    Twistie, I too share your fantasy of a line of shoes for wide and hard to fit feet.

    I do love my feet, but I hate finding shoes. Heck, I can’t even buy cute socks because my calves are big. I badly wanted superhero socks so I could have the little capes, but they wouldn’t fit over my calves. *cries*

    I have often wondered how many people don’t get any exercise because their feet hurt and they can’t find good shoes.

  8. I totally understand the foot issue, though wide and low arches for me. I’ve found Saucony Omni for running and Keens (men’s) for hiking, but cycling shoes are a whole different level of hell. Shimano, Sidi Mega, Specialized- all variations of too narrow or wrong volume or pressure points. I bought a pair of Giros and have high hopes. Though I once saw a guy on a century ride that had attached a firm sole and cleats to Crocs- that sounds comfortable!

  9. …okay, I will try not to complain about finding shoes to fit my feet now! It’s hard enough finding women’s 10.5W – 11W, I can’t imagine trying to find 5.5EEEE! I despise shoe shopping, it’s almost as bad as shopping for jeans or bras.

  10. Thank you, as always, for your blog. Shoe shopping was always fun because while it was hard to find clothes that fit me in regular stores, I could always find nice shoes without comments like “We don’t have that in a bigger size” and a sad/mocking face.

    I’v e had a hard time accepting many features. My skin is acting up and I have acne at 20+. Also, the corners of my mouth are always down so I look like I am sad/angry all the time when I’m really not. I try not to dwell on these things too much. Not wearing makeup is absolutely fine even with acne scars.

    Plus, knee high boots are more of a dream since my calves are pretty thick (actually, not very thick) and many women have that problem.

  11. Fellow member of the Wide Foot Club! I stopped wearing high heels 30 years ago and my feet are the way God made them. For whatever reason he was handing out dinner plates that day.

    The brand American Munro is pricey but THE FIRST PAIR OF SHOES THAT TOTALLY FIT! Thank you, Munro, for realizing every type of foot needs shoes!

    BTW I just ordered a pair of boots from Rose Petals. They are without a doubt the widest calf boots on the market – I’d say 22-23 inches around the top. The foot part is divine. I found them at Amazon, NOT at

  12. Ahhhh, it’s so nice to have some company in the world of hard-to-fit feet!!!! Shoe shopping always makes me crabby because there’s never anything that fits. I also have wide toes and a narrow heel, and I wear a 10-1/2. Which doesn’t exist. Most brands stop half sizes after 10. Because if you have big feet it doesn’t matter if your shoes fit well? Grr!

  13. There are some minimalist shoes that have wider toe boxes than standard athletic shoes, since minimalist shoe manufacturers tend to believe in toe splay. Look into Merrels, Vivobarefoot, Altras, or FiveFingers. But if you’re going to run in these, you’ll have to build up really slowly.

  14. I, too have extremely difficult-to-fit feet. I haven’t had a pair of shoes that fit since 1995 when I could pay an exorbitant amount for them. Even then I had to put heel grips and side grips inside the shoes sod I didn’t walk right out of them. I find it incredibly hard to believe that we are the only women who wear the sizes we do.

  15. I have a size 4 foot and at least an “E” wide so I can never find any shoes for women that fit me. When I got married, I had to buy heels in the kids section but of course were not wide enough so I was in pain. That was 12 years ago and now have been searching for heels again with no luck. Thanks for this post. I entered in Google “I hate my short and wide feet!” because I was so distraught and needed to vent on my computer (since I don’t know anyone like me that has this problem). It was kind of nice to have this come pop up on my screen to let me know I am not alone entirely in having similar problems. I have been told I have duck feet but the worst was a guy telling me I had “hobbit” feet, minus the hair and bad toenails.

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