Thursday, May 19, 2011

Toe woe

We’ve cracked 60 degrees for, like, the third time this month, which pretty much means it’s official: spring has sprung.

In most respects of my daily life, this is a good thing. I don’t have to warm up my car in the morning, which shrinks my carbon footprint. I can run in shorts and t-shirts, so I—and by I, I mean my mom—don’t have as much laundry to do. My arms and legs are finally seeing the light of day again, which means I can start making up for eight months’ worth of vitamin D deficiency.

But as I was heading out the door the other day in my—and by my, I mean my mom’s—usual pair of Dansko clogs, I noticed a long-dormant phenomenon occurring in and around my lower extremities.

My feet were hot. And sweaty.

I felt a sharp twinge in my stomach as I came to a sudden, uncomfortable realization. It was that time of year again—the one I start dreading from the moment I see the first absurd-yet-catchy Old Navy flip-flop ad of the spring: sandal season.

Most people dread warm weather because it means they can no longer hide their beer guts and love handles beneath multiple layers of bulky coats and Dr. Huxtable sweaters. Panicked, they go on a total gym binge in a last-ditch effort to look semi-presentable in a pair of swim trunks.

Most runners do not have this problem. While other, more normal Americans have spent the winter months sipping Irish coffees and hot buttered rums by the fire (OK, OK—we’ve done our fair share of that too), we’ve been running our butts off on the treadmill/risking our lives jogging on snow-and-ice covered roads.

So while our non-running friends and family members cower in the corner at the mere thought of swimsuit shopping, we fret over thongs of a different kind—at least I do.

You see, I have ugl—er, aesthetically challenged feet. Much of the problem—calluses, black toenails and the like—is the direct result of my running habit. But some of it—like the unsightly bone deformity—is genetic. (Thanks, Dad.)

For most of the year, I am able to safely hide my “condition” beneath layers of thick socks, shoes, and/or Ugg boots (which are like Dr. Huxtable sweaters for feet).

But since I’m neither Pamela Anderson nor Miley Cyrus (thank God), I can’t really pull off the whole Uggs-with-shorts look. A cute pair of shorts demands a cute pair of sandals.

For me, adding sandals to any warm-weather ensemble yields a result similar to Bud Light Lime (i.e. taking a perfectly good product and ruining it by adding something totally disgusting).

“Why don’t you just get a pedicure?” my friends ask me.

Yeah…I did that once. Before removing my socks, I desperately tried to explain to the Vietnamese pedicurist that I was a competitive runner, because I didn’t want her to think my feet were that repulsive on their own. She smiled and nodded, which made me feel a little less self-conscious.

Then she turned to another pedicurist and said something in Vietnamese, after which both women began laughing hysterically. I was 99.9 percent certain they were making fun of my feet. Not cool.

So for the time being, I’ve resorted to shopping for styles that provide partial coverage to the most noticeably irregular region of my feet—my oddly angled big toe and the jutting bone beneath it.

In well-lit social situations, I avoid wearing thong flip-flops or thin-strapped sandals, opting instead for peep-toe pumps or wedges. I stay away from bright colors that might draw the eye downward. Also, the sole must be wide enough to prevent lateral big-toe spillover.

With such particular criteria, my choices are limited, to say the least. I have yet to come up with a better solution, but I’m definitely open to suggestions. And no, becoming a hobbit is not a viable option.


  1. Ditto! My toes are as long as my fingers. Finding a cute sandal that does not expose toes is near impossible. So this year, I decided to just go with it. But I do my pedicures myself.

  2. Your confidence is inspiring! I should probably learn how to do a self-pedicure. I mean, I really have nothing to lose. Even if I mess up, there's no way my feet could end up looking worse, right?