Oh My Aching Feet! Cobblestones, Comfort & Flight-induced Cankles

Veronica obviously doesn't get the term glamping! GypsyNester.com

Yup, it’s time for another women “of a certain age” post from me. So far I’ve overshared about stray hairs, arm flaps, botox, and mammograms – so why stop now, right?

This time it’s about my feet and cankles – yuck, I know, but it’s life and if I don’t overshare, who’s going to?

I started to notice a change in the way my feet were acting about the same time we decided to take off on our nomadic lifestyle. The problems weren’t harsh, so I ignored them.

It wasn’t until we were visiting my brother in California that I was forced to take a good look at the changes my barkin’ dogs were undergoing.

Riding around in BAMF, I had my bare feet up on the dash when my brother, Jeff, blurted out from the back, “What the hell is going on with your foot?” (Having no filter between thought and mouth runs deep in our family)

Prior to the blurt, I didn’t think that little hump on the side of my toe was that noticeable, and it wasn’t hurting me (yet), so ignoring it was not a problem for me at all. Thanks Jeff, I love you, but you will always be my obnoxious little brother.

After a quick Google session, I found I had a bunion. Really? I had heard of them, but only in the context of old folks (of which I couldn’t possibly be one of), complaining of their existence. So I read up on living with bunions, reduced high-heel wearing, started buying shoes with more support/ less-pointy toes and toted around little pads along with me in my backpack to use on heavy walking/hiking days.

Easy enough.

Dang you cobblestones!
Dang you cobblestones! But so worth it in the Czech Republic.

But recently, I’ve begun to notice that when we are visiting cobblestoned, historic cities that I get a burning sensation on the balls of my feet when walking on surfaces with little give.

My feet are getting older and my natural padding ain’t what it used to be.

Because my feet were aching, it was affecting my entire body, causing collateral pain.

The Capitol Building in Washington DC
And Washington, DC.

This would not do at all.

I started to pay even more attention to the shoes I was wearing, and though progress was being made, I had yet to find the magic bullet (and I adamantly refuse to don the vanity-smashing orthopedic shoes).

It became time to face facts. Things were seriously out of whack.

My makeshift padding solutions to avoid blisters and the further angrying of my buddy the bunion were getting out of control.

How Thorlos socks work
Not being a scientist, I can’t properly explain
the science of how Thorlos
work, so click here if you are interested learning more

The band-aids, bunion protectors and lamb’s wool were slipping around, wreaking havoc in my shoes and barely working anymore.

Enter Thorlos. My magic socks (Thorlos aren’t simply socks — their creators prefer engineered foot protection — so, shhhh, don’t tell them I call them magic socks!) have changed my life!

All of my newly exposed, boney, old-lady-feet issues are now covered by these magic padded socks!

This butterfly loved my Thorlos in Costa Rica!
See – told ya they were magic! This butterfly even thought so on a hike in Costa Rica!

I’ve worn my Thorlos while hiking, biking, walking – and I can’t believe how much better my feet feel. I’ve quit wearing anything else.

And because there are different Thorlos for different activities, all I have to do is slide them on and the padding stays just where I need it. YAY!

A Note on Flight-induced Cankles

On our way home from Japan

I’m not sure if this is a global “certain age” issue, but air flight-induced cankles (the swelling of ankles to the point of not being able to distinguish one’s calves from one’s ankles) have joined my repertoire just recently, so — for me at least — it’s yet another fun aging milestone.

I was shocked at the girth of my ankles after our looooong flights to Asia and Australia.

I am pretty diligent about keeping my feet and legs moving during flights, whether it be in-seat (seatmates love me for this!) or by walking and stretching in the aisles, so the cankleage came as a unwelcome surprise.

Luxuriously sprawled on a plane

Upon arrival to our destinations, I had to hunt down diuretics (I hate taking pills and, as it turned out, diuretics are not sold over-the-counter in Australia) and massage helps, but who wants to put a halt on their travel fun to deal with a cankle rubdown?

So I broke down and bought compression socks at the airport on our way out of Brisbane and they worked like a charm. But they were ugly, black, old-ladyish, uncomfortable things that pinched the top of my calf and left gad-awful marks up and down my leg.

I was grateful for the cankle relief, but there had to be a better alternative.

My new magic socks - Thorlos!
I’m multi-talented! Showing off my cankle-fighting Thorlos on one foot whilst artfully hiding my bunion on the other!

So I contacted my new BFFs at Thorlos and asked if they carried a compression “sock”
(and yes, I was sure to imply the quotes!).

They do not. But, after carefully listening to my needs (and my whining about my discomfort with traditional compression socks), they were able to suggest their Uniform Support style).

They worked! They were comfy, had all of the Thorlos padding, AND I arrived at my next destination blissfully cankle-free.

Note: I am glad that I tried both traditional compression socks and my magic socks, however. I have a feeling that cankles are not a-one-size-fits-all situation and experimenting with what works and doesn’t work for me was important.

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

We received our Thorlos for free! And we’re so glad we did!

YOUR TURN: Do you have foot-related traveling issues? How have you solved them? Share your tips!

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57 thoughts on “Oh My Aching Feet! Cobblestones, Comfort & Flight-induced Cankles”

  1. I, unfortunately, have both arthritis and bunions on my feet and let me tell you, some days I can’t even get out of bed. My podiatrist here in Indiana recommended teddy hose and some shoes that will still fit even if my feet are huge. I think that the best thing you can do if you are having issues with your feet is to go see your doctor! They know what to do to help you the best!

  2. I always wondering if compression socks work, I’m going to get some… and diuretics always make me feel light headed, like my blood pressure is dropping. On a positive note, you look great in your photo!

  3. My feet totally swell up and unless I’m wearing flip flops, my feet swell so much I can’t get my shoes back on after the flight. Wearing compression tights and socks helps me so much.

  4. My daughter, who is just 21, is on a study abroad in Italy. She has been there about 3 weeks, and I noticed in a photo that her ankles looked really swollen.
    She felt the cobblestones and uneven surfaces at the historic sites were the culprit. She can’t get her Birkenstock sandels on, and has been wearing her Van’s tennis shoes. She is thinking of getting a pair of Nikes, as she wears them at home. They are pricey in Italy! I hope they offer enough support-maybe a cross trainer or trail runner would work. Any thoughts and suggestions are appreciated! She is in Europe for 3 more weeks!

    1. Deb, I’ve never experienced swollen ankles under those circumstances, so I’m afraid I can’t be of much help.

      I’m bumping up a reader’s comment here-hopefully it’ll help. “Medical moment: While swollen ankles are common and normally no problem, especially if you have been travelling as Veronica states above, they can be a sign of a more serious medical condition such as heart, liver or kidney disease, a blood clot or infection, or even a medication side effect. See your physician for swollen ankles that do not go away. For more info see http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/swollen-ankles-and-feet or talk to your doctor or pharmacist.”

  5. I just looked at their website and (surprise!) they even have socks for my size 10.5+ feet. I get so tired of women’s socks not fitting — thanks for the tip!

  6. Great article, thanks for sharing! I just ordered the socks and wish they were coming before we leave this weekend for a two week trip that will involve a lot of walking. I too have some of the same foot issues and it’s no fun!!

  7. Oh I so know C-A-N-K-L-E-S! I think they struck with a vengeance at 55 and every long bus and plane trip has them appearing again, side by side below my knees! I’ll have to pick up some light weight compression socks next time we’re in the States…Great post that so many “of a certain age” can identify with!

  8. I never even noticed I had feet until I turned 50 and now they hurt a lot. I have to be concerned about which pair of shoes I wear and when.
    I appreciate you sharing your story… we can totally relate!

  9. Hi Veronica
    I just ordered a pair. They ship to Canada but I have to pay the shipping. I have cobblestones in my near future as well as existing bunions and hammertoes

    1. Let us know what you think, I hope they work as well for you as they do for us! And do I want to Google what a hammertoe is? It doesn’t sound pleasant… Leave it to me to start this convo! 😉

  10. My last trip was with my daughter to Europe. I thought my body was exercised and ready, but how do you get fit feet! Now I know and need these socks. I had blisters all over my poor feet, trying to keep up with my marathon running daughter!

  11. This post had me smiling. I’ve had foot issues for years and just when I thought everything was in pretty good shape, another issue raised it’s ugly head. I’ve had 3 surgical procedures on my left foot and now one of the bones on my right foot is to the point of me making an appointment to see the doctor. It’s really lousy because let’s face it, without our feet to keep us going, traveling gets a bit tricky! I’m headed over to try out the socks you suggested because I’m constantly trying to find a good pair of socks. Thanks for the giggle!

  12. This is a really interesting post! I recall too well my own trip to Vietnam ( 28 hours in a middle seat) where I emerged from the flight with feet the size of watermelons and had to wear flip flops for two weeks. Now, I try to take aspirin and get aisle seats so I can walk around. But I have yet to try my strategy on a 28 hour flight. Thanks for sharing your true travel tales! .

  13. Good to know. Haven’t had this problem yet, but I suppose it’s just a matter of time with all the traveling and walking I do. I appreciate Rob’s medical comment above, too. I was thinking the same thing. Good that you brought the subject out in the open!

      1. I’m bumping up Rob’s comment here so it doesn’t get lost in the din:

        Medical moment: While swollen ankles are common and normally no problem, especially if you have been travelling as Veronica states above, they can be a sign of a more serious medical condition such as heart, liver or kidney disease, a blood clot or infection, or even a medication side effect. See your physician for swollen ankles that do not go away. For more info see http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/swollen-ankles-and-feet or talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

  14. Great post, nice to work with a BFF that can help you out in times of need, never heard of Cankle swelling how miserable.

  15. I wear compression stockings on flights always after a flight to Thailand from Nova Scotia Canada when even cankles would have understated the swelling. The Thais have areas of their shopping malls dedicated to foot massages. At least 20 masseuses are lined up on stools opposite a row of client chairs . There was a constant flow of customers.
    Tilley the people who make the iconic hats also do great support socks and do ship abroad although I don’t think they are as activity defined as Thorlos..

    1. Good to know about the rows of masseuses in Thailand. We might be headed there in the fall and a good foot massage is always appreciated! Thanks for the alternative idea for our friends outside the US – and for those who like to experiment like I do!

  16. Like some others who commented, I wish this offer was available outside the U.S. I have arthritis in the big toe on one foot and a heel spur on the other. I have orthopedic insoles in good sneakers that let me do quite a bit of walking when travelling, but I’m always looking for anything else that will help.

    1. Oh no – heels too? My heel has began to act up lately when I’m riding my bike – UGH. I’ve adjusted the way I’m placing my feet on the pedals, but I don’t remember to do it until it starts hurting. Note to self: Google heel spur.

  17. I would definitely love to try a pair of these, but not in the right part of the world 🙂 Although, I have a friend with a US post box, so I think I’ll hit her up.

    My feet are okay, but sometimes I do have issues, and I like to treat them nice 🙂

  18. I think the cobblestone paths hurt many people’s feet. They’re kind of sharp! Some extra support isn’t a bad idea when traveling at all. Thanks for sharing!

  19. thanks for the info, I’ve got several vacation things coming up that involve LONG periods of time on my feet, walking, hard streets…. and have definitely felt the pain of sore feet on previous similar trips. I’m off to try these!

      1. I got my sample pair and LOVE them! I’m taking Zumba classes and they are a bit intense…aka impact/foot work. I wore my new sock and totally loved them. Got back home and ordered 3 more pairs for my upcoming trip with very positive optimism for doing great on the long hikes!

        Thanks for the tip and thank you, wonderful sponsor, for the great offer!

  20. You described my latest trip to France exactly. I thought I had finally figured out the “shoes for cobblestones” quandary finally. Yes, I do have a hereditary bunion, but it would be no problem with these shoes. Alas, a new problem arose. I ended up with a huge blister on the bottom of one foot, I guess from sliding in the shoes. While I suffered through the Fete de la Musique, the blister kept me confined to the apartment during my last week. It hurt even too much to go to the pharmacie and find some padding. It was better with tennis shoes or hiking boots, but I don’t want to wear those all summer. Just doesn’t match my cute outfits.

    As for compression socks. I have a chronic swelling problem. My doctor has tested me for everything. It doesn’t seem to have a health cause. I try to drink more water, exercise for circulation, and reduce salt before I fly. I fidget and walk during flights to reduce it. I’ve tried compression socks, but they made my knees swell. I tried compression stockings that go all the way up my leg. Because I’m short they kind of wrinkled behind my knee during 9 hours on a plane. That meant double the compression. MAJOR circulation problems after that. I traveling with prescription diurectics in case it doesn’t disappear after a day or two. Thanks for the Thorlos suggestion. I might try them for my October flight. It sucks getting old.

  21. Medical moment: While swollen ankles are common and normally no problem, especially if you have been travelling as Veronica states above, they can be a sign of a more serious medical condition such as heart, liver or kidney disease, a blood clot or infection, or even a medication side effect. See your physician for swollen ankles that do not go away. For more info see http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/swollen-ankles-and-feet or talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

  22. The term I learned for arm flaps in Australia was “bingo wings.” For some reason, your post inspired that memory. Foot-wise, I learned long ago that a good pair of orthotics keeps pain from the knees to the hips to the back… Ergo, get it right on the bottom and pain won’t cascade to the top.

    1. Hahaha! Bingo wings – love it! I will now forever call mine as such! You are SO right about the “bottom up” approach – David should have been listening to you in Asia – due to our “race” up the Great Wall in Beijing, he now has something he refers to in his lower back as “The China Lump.” -Veronica

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