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Crew Compass: Ill-fitting crew shoes leave feet in a bind

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Crew Compass: by Melissa McMahon

As yachties, we all know we can be at work for 12 hours or more at a time. Those long hours can take a huge toll on our feet. We rely on shoes to protect and support them, but when it comes to crew footwear, some owners are more interested in fashion than comfort. So what happens when crew members have severe pain, blisters or other problems with their feet? What can we do when the shoes provided are ill-fitting and cause such problems, but there are no other shoes available?

I have witnessed and heard stories of crew members having to go to a doctor’s office or even the hospital because of injuries to their feet. One crew member had an infected blister that caused the foot to swell so much that shoes could not be worn at all. I myself have probably used a ton of bandages to cover blisters from hard new leather shoes. One deckhand I know went without shoes and ended up stepping on a nail. I am definitely not a fan of walking barefoot – walking on hard marble causes pain, and there is more chance of stubbing my toes or having something heavy dropped on my feet.

I asked Yvette Davies, who was a chief stew for more than a decade, about her thoughts on this topic. She said: ”Foot care is imperative to a stewardess’ and other crew members’ job success. A compatible balance between aesthetics and comfort is very significant. Without proper support, the long hours that are demanded in yachting can lead to significant issues. I personally provide my girls with a foot care routine, where, at the beginning of the season, at the end of a long day, they sit down and soak their feet. After the soak, they do a full foot scrub, followed by a cooling peppermint foot moisturizer. This helps balance the swelling in the feet and dry out any blisters. Ballet flats for evening wear is a poor decision for stewardesses, in my opinion, as they are the worst shoes for support.”

A good shoe has a midsole, a rubber sole, a supportive arch bed and a strong shank (which is the top middle). I did an online search for the best shoes to wear when standing on your feet all day, and one of the websites said Crocs. HA! In all seriousness, sneakers are my favorite shoe to wear while working on board. These days a sneaker can be customized with a specific color, logo, name and type of heel. They can be fashionable and comfortable.

But most owners prefer the traditional “boat shoe” for crew, or leather flats, which can take weeks to break in. And the break-in period is not fun! Here are some tips I found online to soften and stretch shoes made of leather or other natural materials:.

Heat: Put on thick socks, or multiple layers of socks, shove your feet into the shoes, then blast them with a hairdryer, especially the areas that are tightest on your foot. Once the shoes are heated, walk around in them until they have completely cooled. Take off the socks and see how they feel. You might have to repeat the process a few times. If a hair dryer isn’t handy, leave the shoes out in the sun to heat them up. Don’t forget the thick socks, and always let the shoes cool with your feet still in them.

Alcohol: Mix rubbing alcohol with water in a spray bottle, then spray the inside of your shoes. When they are wet, immediately put them on and wear them for about 20 minutes. Again, the process might have to be repeated a few times until the shoes fit comfortably.

Ice: Fill gallon zip-lock bags about half full with water and squeeze out any excess air when sealing them. Put one in each shoe, then stick your shoes in the freezer overnight. As the water turns to ice, it will expand and stretch out the shoes.

Shaper: Layer a few pairs of socks over a shoe shaper and put them in your shoes for about 24 hours, or leave them in every night while you sleep until they are comfortably stretched. Search for “shoe shaper” on Amazon and you will find a wide range, from about $10 up.

Melissa McMahon is a stew from Long Island, N.Y. (www.longislandmermaid.com). Comments are welcome below.

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