Shoes for Problem Feet

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The Best Shoe Styles from 5 Comfort Brands

Do you remember when your feet first started to hurt? I sure do, but then again, my RA hit like a freight train–one day, no pain; the next day, from head-to-toe pain.  Maybe your foot discomfort came on slowly but surely until you realized it was here to stay and you’d better find new shoes. So you asked trusted friends or even your doctor for suggestions on comfort brands. You posed a question online on a message board, “What shoes should I wear for this or that foot problem? Sure enough, good samaritans rushed to your aid with suggestions, “Dansko!” “Clarks work for me.” “Only Keens for my problem feet.” And so it goes…

When you go into a shoe store or worse yet, look online for comfort brands, the options are endless. Search on Dansko and you’ll get hundreds of styles from heels to wedges to strappy sandals and boots. Which do you try? Which one is the style your doctor means when she says, “Dansko?” The same goes for all the comfort brands. Nowadays, more and more brands are expanding their collections to carry more stylish options featuring higher heels and narrower toe boxes. But in the process, the overall comfort and support of the original “flagship” style changes.

Take, for example, Dansko. When I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I went to a comfort shoe store desperately seeking relief for arthritic toes. The salesperson brought me three shoes to try: a Romika slide and two Dansko clogs–the Professional and the Kirsten (no longer available, but similar to the current Dansko Sam). The rocker sole miraculously allowed me to walk naturally again without limping. My choices were few, but the decision was easy–I went with the Kirsten (my namesake clog). If you check out Dansko’s current collection for spring, you’ll shoes that don’t even remotely resemble the original clog–3 1/2″ block heels, sneakers, wedges with cut-outs and ankle straps! Variety is the spice of life, but sticking to the basics when it comes healing foot pain is essential. Let’s take a look at the “flagship” styles from five top comfort brands. Each style has been around for years and doesn’t show any sign of being discontinued.

Clarks Unloop

Clarks Unloop

Clark’s Unloop loafer: The Unloop made its debut in 2011 as part of Clark’s Unstructured line. Customers love the Unloop for its wide toe box, good fit, removable footbed for orthotics, air circulation features, good arch support and more. Available in whole and half sizes 5-10, 11, 12 in three widths for $130 at, Zappos, Shoemall (carries Bronze color) and Nordstrom.

Romika Mokassetta 244

Romika Mokassetta 244

Romika Mokassetta: For years, the Mokassetta collection has set the standard in a comfortable dress-casual heel. Within the collection, you’ll find open and closed-toe slides, sandals with a heel-strap, even pumps. Featured above is the Mokassetta 244 mule, a long-time Romika favorite. The combination of leather and stretch-fabric upper allow the shoe to hug the foot while walking preventing that annoying heel-slap sound! What about comfort and support? See what a happy Zappos customer has to say,

“I have many issues with my feet: a repaired anterior tibialis tendon that will not allow me to flex my left foot. (I need 1 1/2 inch heels to elevate my heel so that I don’t stumble.) I also have a hammer toe, high arches, and bunions. These are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. After buying my first pair and wearing them for a while to see how they worked, I ordered two more pairs. They also look “smart” and not orthopedic! I have told my friends who have “feet issues” about them and highly recommend them.”

The Romika Mokassetta collection features a 2 1/4″ heel with a 1/2″ platform and is available in European sizes 36-41. Most styles run around $115-120 from Zappos, Amazon (special deals), Nordstrom. Find the red Mokassettas at on sale.

Mephisto Helen

Mephisto Helen

Mephisto Helen sandal–I remember seeing these sandals on another mom at the pool during swimming lessons for our four year-olds. My then four year-old is now 15, so that means the Mephisto Helen is at least 11 years old! Each year, the Helen comes out in an array of new colors and patterns, never compromising the original comfort technologies that makes this sandal one of Mephisto’s best-sellers.

If you suffer from plantar fasciitis, I can almost guarantee your heels will find relief in the Helen. The combination of a cork-latex contoured footbed and shock-absorbing rubber outsole is just what those aching heels covet. An adjustable instep strap offers a customized fit. The leather straps are soft and shouldn’t irritate between the toes. The Mephisto Helen runs a tad small, you may want to order up a size for best fit. Available in European sizes 35-43 for $149 at Zappos, The Walking Company, Nordstrom and Shoebuy. The Helen Plus is Mephisto’s wide width version of this sandal and is available at Shoebuy.

Naot Matai from Koru Collection

Naot Matai from Koru Collection

Naot Matai: “I stop strangers in the street to tell them about my Naot shoes,” says an online reviewer at The Walking Company about her Naot Matai mary janes. Have you ever loved a shoe so much that you want to tell the world? Perhaps the Naot Matai will be that shoe for you too. Got bunions? You’re in luck, because the soft leather uppers will conform to toe bumps of all kinds, the toe box is wide and the vamp crosses over way below the bunions. Need good arch support? No problem. The Matai features a cork and latex footbed with deep heel cup and superior arch support to distribute body weight and avoid joint stress. Require a removable footbed to accommodate an orthotic? The Matai can handle your orthotic like a boss, but you may need to order up a size. Available in European sizes 35-43 for around $180 at Zappos, The Walking Company, and Nordstrom. If $180 makes your heart sink, try a different style from the same Koru collection at a discount at

Rockport Cobb Hill Paulette

Rockport Cobb Hill Paulette

Rockport Cobb Hill Paulette: Five years have gone by since Cobb Hill made an appearance on the comfort shoe scene offering fashionable footwear with built-in comfort technologies. While styles have come and gone over the years, the Paulette loafer remains. Sure, we’d all love to wear a sleek and chic ballet flat, or a three-inch pump to the office, but for many of us with on-the-feet jobs, a practical yet good-looking loafer is more appropriate. The Paulette’s silhouette is foot-friendly, providing room for toes to spread out, yet narrower at the heel to prevent slippage. The footbed is generously cushioned with moderate arch support. The insole can be removed (it’s glued in but can be taken out) if you need to wear orthotics. Available in whole and half sizes 5-10, 11, 12 and three widths for $99.95 at Zappos,, Amazon, and the The Walking Company.

Honorable Mention–The following shoes have also stood the test of time for comfort, durability and support: Wolky Jewel (rocker sole and adjustable straps), Ecco Jab Toggle Sandal (adjustable ghillie laces, comfort footbed with arch support), Alegria Classic (the original Alegria with rocker sole, orthopedic footbed), Dansko Professional and Pro XP (the original Dansko and it’s sister clog with a cushioned footbed).

Do you have one of these tried and true shoes? What do you like about them? Any concerns? Leave a comment and share your wisdom with other readers!

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18 Responses to The Best Shoe Styles from 5 Comfort Brands

  1. KSA says:

    The Clark’s Unloop Loafer was an expensive fail for me. My high arch made the shoe difficult to get on and off. On, it was just too tight over my instep. I also found the arch support mediocre. Kept insisting on wearing them, thinking they’d finally stretch. Nope.

  2. Amy D. says:

    Great list – thank you! Although I would have to add the Birkenstock Arizona (or Milano, for those like me who need a backstrap) to that top 5 list. They are fabulous and definitely a classic over many decades.

  3. Lynn R. says:

    Kirsten, This is a great article!! Like you, I’ve had arthritic feet for a while and you’re right, even the best comfort shoe manufacturers have changed their lines over time, often discontinuing that favorite shoe that I first found. Thanks so much for giving us some updated choices in the major comfort shoe lines!

  4. Nancy Blanchard says:

    First diagnosed with RA when I was 21, am now 64. Been friends and enemies with a lot of shoes along the way – probably more than Nordstrom’s has in stock right now! I discovered this site only a few months ago and love it. With RA, the foot problem you have today may not be the one you wake up with tomorrow. This is a great source to use. If a new problem crops up, I check the recommendations for that particular problem and often I already have a shoe in the closet that will accommodate. I’ve also discovered some very attractive shoes and boots that feel great. This is a great reference point for anyone with foot problems, Kirsten, and I personally thank you.

    • Kirsten Borrink says:

      Nancy, you get it. That is so true: the foot problem we have today may not me the one we wake up with tomorrow (same goes for knee, hip, wrist…all the other joints). I’m trying out a new shoe today–the Arcopedico LS. As I’m walking around, I’m thinking, “Wow, my bunions and hammertoes don’t even NOTICE this shoe, but my metatarsalgia is acting up…geesh…” I’m glad BDS has been a resource for you!

  5. Judy Wilson says:

    I’m so glad I found your blog a couple months ago. Great resource to learn about shoe options for my troubled feet. I too have RA, troubled toes, bad ankles, & flat feet. I’d like to mention the Dankso Mary Jane, Mathilda. They have been a godsend for me. I can’t wear the clog. Something about the design of the toe area & my toes don’t get along. These Mary Janes have great arch support & all around what I needed. My ankle pain has lessened since wearing these shoes. Thanks again for such an informative blog. Love it!

    • Kirsten Borrink says:

      Hey Judy! Thanks for the tip on the Dansko Matilda and kind words about Barking Dog. I’m sorry about your RA–it sure does a number on the little bones of the feet…

  6. BethS says:

    This review is terrific—thanks Kirsten! I have to second Naot & Mephisto as a great comfort brands. Naot’s “kedma” oxford is very nice–cute style, almond toe but enough space, low heel, solid construction–accommodates my hammertoe & bunion & doesn’t aggravate my arthritic hips, knees, and ankles. (I’m not sure if it’s spacious enough for an orthotic.) I don’t wear Naot’s higher heeled sandals. I found that the elastic gores get stretched out & don’t support my feet adequately for comfortable walking. … looking forward to trying Romika.

  7. Laura Robinson says:

    This information is amazing! I was diagnosed with RA at 21 and am now 46. I used to wear Keens comfortably, but after reconstructive foot surgery I have not been able to find one comfortable pair of shoes. I am so excited to read about these shoe options and even more excited to try some! Thank you for doing the research to help so many of us!

  8. H Banks says:

    I have been looking for over a year for shoes; with NO back, does not touch ankles; base or otherwise, and the top does not come up high. NO SANDLES; no straps. my R.A. has produced nodules on top and sides of feet. anything touching the back of my foot produces excruciating pain up the back of my legs and sends me into a full blown flare. I have been to a podiatrist who knows nothing; she told me to get crocs ! zero support there when I have to have major lower shoe support. I have been to a pedorthist and he is having no luck. can someone please help ? I would be so grateful for any ideas.

  9. Gayla Sturdy says:

    Hi I just discovered your site, I too have R.A. since I was 20 I am now 58. With the R.A. I high instep and a narrow heel and diabetic. I wear orthotics to keep my feet in the correct alignment.
    The only comfortable shoe is a rocker sole as with the R.A. I have broken the small bones in my feet multiple times (the last time I was in a walking cast for 10 months) and must keep from placing my foot flat. The only shoe that gave me the correct rocker was the New Balance and they have since discontinued the shoe. Please do you know a shoe that I can wear, even a dorky shoe I am at the desperate phase as my last shoe is very worn out.

  10. Shirley Newman says:

    I have been diagnosed with RA. I kept begging my doctor to cut my feet off & put prosthetics on me so he finally sent me for testing. That is when he suspected RA so he sent me to a Rheumatologist. I am now on RA medication, the pain has eased up in my feet but I search for good walking shoes. When I asked my Rheumatologist if there are shoes out there for RA patients he laughed. So I am definitely going to show him this website & blogs. I did want to say that when I’m not outside walking I constantly wear Easy Spirit flip flops, or sandals, slip ons. These have been so relieving. I help with Equine Therapy and need good walking shoes so that is what I need to find now. The Easy Spirit walking shoes just don’t seem to have the cushion inside needed to relieve pain. After walking for 30 minutes my feet are killing me & after I sit down a little bit it is very difficult to get up & walk again. I do have Sketchers with elastic ties, I don’t have to tie my shoes, they are pretty comfortable but again, they don’t seem to have the coushion inside needed to help with that relief.

  11. Margo Tucker says:

    You might want to check out Tune Footwear and also Lems. The Tune loafers are the most comfortable thing I have ever worn and they are pretty unisex.

  12. Julie says:

    Thrilled to discover such an invaluable resource for my 46 year-old, RA-challenged, feet! 2 years ago I took your much need recommendation and purchased my 1st pair of RA-feet-friendly-slippers [as we all know that the WORST time of day for RA-feet is the moment they hit the floor in the morning]. I am now on my 2nd pair of the “Drew Shoe Women’s Brandi Clogs” + added Ugg sheepskin insert. Thank you Kristen!
    I have a new “issue” that I am desperately seeking your advice. My most recent Biologic Trial (of a very new-on-the-market-Biologic-and maybe-not-for-much-longer] has left me with a most unexpected and unrelenting side-effect that has thrown my entire shoe-situation into dire straits: intermittent, yet severe, ankle (sometimes top of foot included) EDEMA. Sadly, my collection of Merrill slip-ons and even ASICS gel tennis shoes are an absolute no-go as the edema in my ankles grows even worse while standing; those shoes now pinch-in at my ankles. Having just read this article, I wonder if the Naot Matai might be the answer to my prayers? Might you have any additional suggestions for a fashionable flat shoe (more dress than athletic), with ample support for RA/Plantar Faciitis-feet that also compensate for ever-changing swollen ankles [literally as in “cankles” D-:] until my docs can figure out what is going on with this completely out-of-the-blue nightmare?

  13. SusanG says:

    When you have foot problems, “comfortable shoes” can be a challenge.
    I’m in my late 60s. For years, I had Cinderella feet, I could fit into anything.
    Things changed. It took years to find the right shoes. What makes one woman happy, causes agony for another.
    I’ve landed on a few brands (Ecco, Arche, Alegria & Fitflop Uberknit). I’ve also landed on the right styles or types of shoes. Sandals have to have backs. Slip ons & easy on-&-off sneakers & boots. No Mary Janes no matter how comfortable-a style preference.
    What I’ve also learned is if I want my feet to feel good, I need to control my weight. Not saying I’m stick thin, I just watch it.

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