How to Change Your Life for 75¢

Today we’re going to cover one of the lowest of low-tech hacks that will likely ever grace this site, and it’s possible that it might be one of the most life-changing as well…

…well, for about 15% of you, anyway.

This post, like many, needs to start with some colorful background. I’ve been hard on shoes all my life, even the high quality stuff, with heavy wear on the outer edges of my heels. In high-school, I was self-conscious of my posture after seeing myself in a yearbook where my head was sticking out and I was hunched forward a bit while walking, but never understood why. People were always surprised by my official height as I never really looked it from slouching. Most of my life, I’ve always remembered having my toes pointed outward and shuffle-waddling ever so slightly in a manner I always teased myself as being a bit of a duck-walk, and standing for any length of time was exhausting and painful. I’ve never been especially good at sports, especially running, with the exception of sports requiring bladed shoes. My wife has always pondered as to the curious arrangement of callouses on my feet: on the side of my big toe, the ball, the outer edge below the pinkie, and the spot smack below the second toe on the sole of my foot along with my flat arches. As I’ve gotten older, compiled with other health problems, I’ve had arthritis in my feet, knees and hips, and my balance has suffered greatly as my mid-lower back has progressively deteriorated. I’m not airing this laundry list of maladies to evoke sympathy in you, dear reader, but as a means to connect with you and ask if any of those things ring true to your own experiences… especially the callous arrangement part.

Anyway, flash forward through my life to the present, but stopping about three weeks back finds us returning back to a book we’ve had in our library for a few years that we’ve never fully read but used on occasion for deep-tissue muscle massage called The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies, NCTMB (link is an Amazon Affiliate link, non-affiliate link here). It’s been a useful book that has proven itself by helping with some re-occurring joint pain and keeping us out of a chiropractor’s office. During this last consultation, the Missus was flipping through the book and stumbled upon an illustration on page 244 that made her take pause and start reading. The title of this image? Figure 10.36 – Morton’s Foot.

As we both read on in great interest, a lightbulb went off, and the proposed solution by Mr. Davies was a simple shim under the ball of the foot; a solution that seemed easy enough to execute. Of course, as I am prone to do, I thoroughly researched the topic before progressing. Morton’s Foot, or more commonly known as Morton’s Toe or Greek Foot, is a type of foot structure that’s common to about 20% of the Earth’s population, and is one of the most easy things to recognize as it’s such a visible thing. What is the nature of this foot structure? Your second toe has a longer metatarsal than your first, and the foot arrangement is noticeable by bending the toes down to see if the joint on the second toe is longer than the first one. That’s it!

It seems like a simple enough thing, but the implications are massive regarding the mechanics of walking. Instead of having a traditional tripod weight distribution layout with your feet between the ball, the place behind the fifth toe, and the heel; the Fellowship of the Morton’s Toe (as I’ve taken to calling it after being exposed to the term) have all their weight while walking placed on the heel and behind the second toe. This effect is like walking on ice skates, so the foot tilts side-to-side and the foot rotates outward to try and compensate. I also discovered that about 80% of the Fellowship have leg and back pain related to this foot build.

Knowing this, I did some further research as I like to fact-check between multiple sources before acting, no matter how excited I may get about an idea. The greater Intertrons didn’t fail as I found a useful site on Morton’s Toe complete with a page on DIY shims that matched what Mr. Davies proposed, as well as an entire community of runners with the affliction. The evidence was in, and simple ingenuity by placing a small lift directly under the ball of the foot while carefully avoiding any added height under the second metatarsal does wonders!

hrumph
hrumph

Before going any further, I’ve been informed by my legal department that I should make a huge disclaimer: I am not a doctor, I am not providing any sort of medical information or diagnosis with the information provided in this post, nor am I doing something as un-American as to suggest treating this condition in any way, shape or form other than through a licensed practitioner of the Western medical arts and horribly expensive orthotic devices! This information is provided for entertainment purposes only, and my results should not be expected by anyone. If you do this without nanny-state supervision and permission, you acknowledge that your genial host Daley and his website Technical Meshugana hold no liability to your actions or subsequent damage rendered through imitating these suggestions as following them will likely result in shattering your legs, maiming your cat, voting for the Tea Party, and making babies cry. Just don’t do it! Consider yourself warned, my fully reasonable and intelligent readers who recognize quality information and uplift common sense.

And now, back to the post.

insoles
A couple pair of insoles from various shoes with the 75¢ felt pad modification. Yes, I have big feet. Deal with it.

Information in hand, I went down to the local Home Depot and picked up an 8 pack of 1½ inch, self adhesive, heavy duty felt pads for a whopping $2.90 after tax and proceeded to apply them carefully to the bottoms of the insoles directly under the balls of my feet of a couple of my most commonly worn shoes. The results? Spectacular and almost immediate! I stood taller, I walked taller, my toes pointed forward when I walked, I’ve been able to stand for longer periods, I don’t get as worn out doing physical labor as I used to, my balance is greatly improved… in short? Unequivocally life changing. Once I got used to the pads, these past three weeks have been astounding, and I have since made the modification to all my shoes.

Needless to say, I will be picking up a box of the 24 pack for $7.00 to keep around the house for future shoes, dropping the effective cost of the modification down to under 60¢ a pair. At the moment, it may be no more than conjecture, but I imagine that the lifespan of my shoes should increase greatly as well with the change these pads make in my stride, emphasizing yet again how much more important quality is as it re-highlights another potential win for the Captain Samuel Vimes “Boots” theory of socioeconomic unfairness with people scared to make the investment when they tear shoes apart so quickly due to how they walk. And yes, I’m fully aware of the irony in quoting the Vimes “Boots” theory in a post presenting an insanely cheap shoe shim fix.

As for other valuable lessons learned from this newfound knowledge? I will be changing how I shop for shoes, though not by much. The general consensus on shoe shopping for the Fellowship of the Morton’s Toe is to measure shoe size off of your longer second toe instead of your first, buy wide, and be sure there’s plenty of available height to accommodate this modification. Unfortunately, this modification has forced me to retire a pair of brown dress shoes as they’re a smidgen too small to comfortably take the insole change, and I now have made a point to wear slippers around the house instead of going barefoot… but they’re small prices to pay for such huge dividends in my personal health.

There you have it! It’s not a wide and universally useful bit of information, but still immensely valuable information for those who may be in the Fellowship without knowing it. My hopes are that by saying loudly, “My name is Daley, and I have Morton’s Toe. Take a look at what I did about it!” that it might perhaps help change another person’s life for the better. Knowledge is power, after all.

As they say in Yiddish, gay ga zinta hate! Go in good health!

 

Feature image by Samira Khan and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Photo “Chimpanzee” by Flickr user Rennett Stowe and licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

25 thoughts on “How to Change Your Life for 75¢

  1. If you’re willing to spend more than 75c, there’s a online shop that sells specialized Morton’s Foot inserts. They are pretty pricey at roughly $60 a pair. *However*, they also sell these little “micro-lifts” that stick directly on your feet. I had the same walking-around-the-house issue that Meshugana had, and I thought maybe the micro-lifts would do the trick. Unfortunately I found that they weren’t very sticky and came off my feet relatively quickly. But then I had the idea of sticking them on top of flip-flops (swapping the lifts so that the one ordinarily designed to go under the left foot was stuck “upside down” atop my right flipflop, and vice versa–remember that the thick edge of the support should always be towards the edge of your foot). This actually worked pretty well. I’ve since tried the furniture pad solution Meshugana describes, and it is acceptable, but I recommend the swapped microlifts for someone who wishes that the furniture pads came precut and beveled in to the perfect shape. Another note: in addition to flip-flops, water shoes can also be a good solution for something cheap & easy to slip on while walking around the house.

  2. At least four years on, are you still using this “hack”? I just tried it out today and have to say that walking with shims under my first mets is a different and much more stable ride. Thanks for all the great info!

    • Peter, I have to admit that I got lazy and stopped using the shims for a little while this past year since I was going mostly barefoot, and my feet have recently been paying the price for it since there were days where it hurt to walk or stand at all. Since starting back up with the shims, the pain has been rapidly decreasing once again and my feet don’t hurt as much.

      So, yes, I’m still using them. Glad to be of help!

      Here’s a bit of an update for everyone: I’ve learned a lot over the years from the experience. The cheaper inserts do work (if they’re needed), but they break down rapidly and shift position too easily, especially if you switch them frequently between shoes. As such, I’m more inclined to recommend higher quality inserts now even if I’m sticking with the felt pads. The felt pads really do hold up well, but sometimes can be thicker (or too thin) for some people than they need. For that issue, the height issue can be tweaked to some minor degree by either moving the pad further forward toward the front of the ball behind the big toe (if not quite thick enough – rarely) or moving it a bit back on the ball away from the joint towards the heel (if too thick), though taking a razor blade can take some elevation off just as easily, and most felt pads seem to have a bit of a layering effect going anyway making it a bit easier to peel off a little bit if that’s a problem.

      The one thing that I’ve truly struggled with, however, is in the house and/or barefoot. I’ve not found a reliable long-term method to shim my feet in slippers, which I’ve not been partial to wearing, nor have I figured out a reliable method of shimming my bare feet which lead to developing a bit of what appeared to be Morton’s neuroma the past couple months. As much as I like the idea of huaraches, I’m not keen on the time it takes to put them on and take them off, and I don’t like wearing them in the house. I also didn’t have much luck with Nyal’s barefoot shim over on the Barefoot Runner’s Society Fellowship thread. That said, I’ve been intrigued by something I saw at the local pharmacy a couple weeks back when I was looking – the Profoot Toe-Kini. If I can ever find a good toe/foot glove without any padding that lends itself to the toe lift, I will likely write a new post about it at that point. It seems like a far better solution than applying the lift to an insole if feasible, and should better accommodate barefoot or stocking feet.

      • I’ve got Morton’s Neuroma in both feet, which is what led me to this page. I’m currently trying various pads for inside my shoes. But for around the house, for years I’ve been using a cheap generic knock offs of Crocs. The best ones I’ve found are an open toed pair, the kind urban youth call “slides” (which I only found out because I used to work with troubled teens).

        I think I got mine at Walmart for about $5, and they’ve last for over two years now, still in great shape. I keep them right by my bedside, and the only time I walk barefoot now is to the shower. I couldn’t find the exact ones online, but these look pretty similar. Amazon has a ton too, but none of the ones that are cheaper look quite as good to me. A lot of them also have an adjustable strap (I think with velcro) but those might not be as durable.

        http://www.walmart.com/ip/Avia-Men-s-Brace-Molded-Slide-sandal/47726237

      • I found the same solution you did, in the same boom, right around the same time. Insert pithy quote here. Fortunately, I have experienced a similar result! Just chiming in to say, when I know I’m going to be wandering around barefoot for a while, I’ll sometimes just stick the felt pads on the balls of my feet. They stay pretty well, and are good for a couple peels and sticks before worn. As an alternative, though, I’ve spent a few months consciously pushing down with my big toe when I walk barefoot, and trying to splay that toe a bit wide to get it closer to where it’s supposed to be (in a straight line from heel to ball to tip of toe). That has become a habit, seems to have strengthened my foot, and really minimized any issues I used to have walking barefoot. Of course, as your disclaimer points out, anyone other than me trying anything I’m (not) suggesting will likely explode immediately and should probably not be reading this.

      • You said you have upgraded to a more expensive felt pad, but didn’t mention the price or the name. Would you mind telling me?

        • Karen, my apologies, but it appears you misunderstood what I stated. I did not switch to a more expensive felt pad. The same felt pads are used, and if anything, I’ve discovered that there are even cheaper felt pads to be found at the Dollar Tree in their “hardware” aisle. What I did change, however, is the quality of the insole/insert itself that I apply the pad to.

          As for a recommendation on what insole/insert to use? That’s a tougher call that will vary from user to user. My point was that you need something made out of a higher quality material than the cheap open or closed cell fully flat foam inserts that are sold as Odor Eater knockoffs. The $2 jobbies just don’t stand up as well long term as the $10-20 inserts.

          • Thank you. I did read that wrong! You were quite clear, I was very excited! This is a new condition for me. It became a problem a couple of months ago. I haven’t seen a doctor yet. Trying to save money. I did already have one pair of shoes, by Børn, with a great arch support. No pain. But then the knee to ankle pain began. And at the base of the big toe. I’m off to get some of the felt pads today. Trying to save knee and hip joints for future use!!
            Thanks again!!

          • Karen, let me urge you not to pursue this solution. I know your feet and legs are in pain, you are in difficulty, and you may be trying to save money by self diagnosing, but I am not a doctor and I feel moved to discourage you from using felt pads to resolve your issues. I have never experienced the sort of pain you are describing. Please start by seeing a chiropodist on this issue, and don’t wait! Something far more serious could be causing your problems. The Fellowship is not a condition one just develops overnight, this is life long, hard-coded DNA expression in the body.

            People who tend to have genuine Morton’s Toe are frequently, desperately, flat footed by nature. Great arch support in footwear has never been something that I would ever describe as something that has been comfortable or pain reducing in all my years… even before I realized the problem. If anything, I found it exacerbates the issue as the higher bone placement with the arch support shifts the ball of the foot back even farther from the joint of the second toe. This is basic physics. I have preferred and found little to no arch support far more comfortable my entire life, even as a young teenager.

            Even with the shims, my sneaker of choice is now leather Chucks. Abandoning the consumerist namebrand idiocy of my youth, I stopped wearing Nike and Reebok because they made my feet hurt due to the arch support, and the switch to Vans in my late teens was revealing itself as Vans (and other concrete surfer shoes) have almost no arch support. The transition from Vans to Converse Chuck Taylors was equally revealing and relieving given the inside of a Chuck is an unbroken horizontal plane that screams out, “Arch support? What the #@&%! do you want with arch support, Nancy? Can you believe this guy, Murray? He wants #@&%!ing ‘arch support!’ Where do you think this is? SAINT LOUIE!? Get out of here with your arch support nonsense, ‘ya bum! YOU’RE A BUM!”

            This isn’t to say that stronger arch muscles aren’t useful, and arch support isn’t something that many people with flat feet could potentially benefit from with temporary pain relief, but it is to say that your experiences do not ring true to my experiences, and that should give you pause.

            Again, please see a chiropodist at the very least!

          • I do have a rather high arch and have always had to make sure my shoes support my arches. I do now have an appointment with a podiatrist. I see this becoming a very serious concern, if not treated properly. As I said, my goal is to preserve m.y bones and joints!! Your genuine concern is very much appreciated!! I’m just trying to hang on until I see this doctor! I made the appointment this morning!!

          • Baruch HaShem!

            Forgive me for being so forceful with the suggestion, but your response just set off klaxons that I couldn’t ignore. Like I’ve said, I’m not a doctor – but I do know my body, and your experiences did not ring true. I try to post what I do to uplift people, and I literally felt moved with urgency to get you to a doctor instead of encouraging you to dink around with this silly meshugas. Thank you for heeding the word. May HaShem reveal the true root cause of your ailment and grant the wisdom needed to affect healing and restoration in His time and way.

            Please keep me updated.

  3. I came up with essentially the same idea, but using several layers of Dr. Scholl’s padded moleskin on the underside of the insole, and a piece of Gorilla Tape to cover it all. This makes the “step” at the edge of the pad less abrupt, for comfort at high mileage. (Of course this is at least TWICE as expensive as the felt pads.)

    This has two purposes, reducing the blisters I always got at the base of my second toe after as little as 5 miles with a heavy pack or 8 miles travelling light, and improving my ability to turn when going down hill on cross-country skis (snowplow turn or Telemark turn). Between Morton’s toe and being rather bowlegged, I couldn’t force the inside edge of my skis into the snow well enough to do a decent snowplow. I wish I had figured that trick out thirty years earlier; it could have saved me a lot of crashing and floundering around in deep snow trying to get back on my feet.

    Cheers!

  4. I wanted to thank you for posting everything that you have regarding Morton’s Toe. I’ve had bunionectomies on both feet. I also have a childhood ankle issue on the same leg with the foot with the Morton’s Toe. I’ve always been very active which included running, but due to the damage in my ankle I can no longer run, so I took up dancing once again. I have noticed that I can no longer maintain my balance on my left foot and this affects my turns, balance and dance frame. I also knew my left foot was weak but I didn’t know why nor did I understand how to fix it…until, I read your article. I have used the furniture felt pads and the difference is immediate. I can now do turns over my left foot and balance on that leg…what a difference. Now, I can begin strengthening the left foot and ankle properly with my big toe making contact as it should. At 56 yrs old, I don’t expect to be like I was as at 16…but I do want to be able to function as well as I can for as long as I can. Thank you!

  5. How can I thank you? Your descruption of always turning my ankles on flat surfaces really struck home. I also carry calluses (calli?) on the second toe of each foot. I snipped a small section of flexible drawer and cabinet liner, folding it to fit under my small sized big toe. I inserted this under my large toe as I put on my socks. I did only one foot to test it out.

    What a difference! Over five days, it has stopped the neuroma pain and I walk five miles with no pain. I am off to buy small round pads from Home Depot.

    Thank you for posting this humorous an spot on advice!

  6. I’ve spent the last couple of days looking for a running shoe that will work with my freakishly long second toe. I’ve come to realize that I have Morton’s toe. It also explains a lot of injuries I’ve had over the last 20 years. Severe ankle sprains literally from walking on flat surfaces, runner’s knee, tight and painful IT band and two ACL tears. The callouses on the inside of the big toe, callouses in the ball of my foot under the second toe.Serious lightbulb went off today. I bought the full sheet felt pads at Home Depot, cut out the appropriate sized lift and installed into my shoes. I can’t wait to see how this helps.

  7. Can’t wait until tomorrow morning to try this. I am in agony and found this article after browsing articles on foot problems. I have an extremely long second toe and didn’t realize I have Morton Toe.

  8. My Morton’s toe contributed to incredibly painful neuromas in my left foot…after two cortisone injections, my physician said no more and referred me to an orthopedic. I wanted to be aggressive with my treatment as I’m very active and an avid runner. I was hobbling while walking. He suggested surgery to remove the neuromas or alcohol injections to kill the nerve.
    I kept asking how to treat THE CAUSE of the pain … not just treat the pain.
    He said there was no solution. Then I stumbled upon a youtube video that discouraged surgery and explained the shim concept (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcOsj-3MYPs) and then your blog.
    I’ve been running, zumba-ing and hiking with my new furniture pads under my in-soles for a week now. And I swear to god I’m healed. This is the coolest thing EVER. Anyone suffering from this pain needs to try this…

    • Leah, thank you so much for taking the time to write this. It brings me immeasurable joy to read what you’ve written, and feel blessed myself for having the opportunity to share the information that I have with you.

      It’s been a year myself, my knowledge has since refined a bit more and I’ve been experimenting further with custom huaraches and padding variants, amongst other things. Given my large, wide, flat feet, my entire approach to footwear has changed. I’m discovering that less is progressively more as far as comfort is concerned as my stride and my gate have begun to self-correct with these modifications. My shoe tastes have thoroughly transformed as well, and I’ve all but abandoned Doc Martens, my trusty rusty Vans, and even some of my dress shoes. If I need closed toe shoes at all, I’m now of the Converse Chuck Taylor high top camp given the relatively thin, flexible, flat insoles and light shoe design. Funny how a 90 year old shoe can still be so relevant today in a sea of schmancy athletic footwear.

      Needless to say, the 75¢ hack has been a life-changer for myself, but it’s also been the beginning of an incredible journey. Enjoy the new path unfolding before you, and walk in good health.

  9. Thank you for the clear, concise, and *entertaining information! I just recently became aware of Mortons Foot. I have had foot and back problems and based on what I have read, using a toe shim could be super helpful. Anyhow, I was at the drugstore last night and walked past self adhesive felt pads that go on the bottom of furniture and thought….maybe that will work?? I wanted to get online and see what has worked best for others. Very glad I came across this article!! Also, I am glad that you have found something that has been so helpful for you.

  10. I can’t wait to go to Home Depot and get some pads. I found this site by accident and feel like I’ve stumbled upon something that will cure a lifelong bout of increasing pain. Thanks for such in-depth info. :)

  11. I self diagnosed Morton’s Neuroma a couple of months ago and began using a toe separator between my big toe and second toe (Morton toe). The pain in the ball of my foot is 90% better, however my morton toe is not. So after googling “Morton’s Toe” and reading for an hour, and getting a good education on foot mechanics, I narrowed my search to “toe shims”. And I am glad I did since it brought me here. I am going to get some heavy duty felt pads right now. I will post my results here after using the shims for 1 month. Thank you. I am looking forward to a positive outcome.

    • Penelope, thanks for the kind words, happy to hear you’re well under way to taking care of it on your own, glad to have contributed to that journey, and I look forward to hearing back from you soon!

      As for myself nearly three months in now, it’s still been an amazing transformation. My feet have gotten so used to walking and pointing the right direction, my toes want to point forward even when I’m walking barefoot now or in un-modified shoes, though my feet ache when I do so for any amount of time. I hardly even notice the shims anymore. My back’s been strengthening some since the change, too.

      One thing I didn’t initially think to mention for those who might do this, however, is that I have big feet… the 1.5″ pad diameter of the pads I used is actually about the same size as the ball of my foot, which is why I chose the size pads that I did. If your feet are smaller, obviously use smaller diameter pads or cut them down to size as it’s important not to have the pad extend under the second metatarsal as well, defeating the entire purpose of the shim.

  12. I don’t happen to have this foot issue, but I wanted to commend you on a great article!! I find it amazing that you were able to research this and change your life with such a quick and easy fix. Superb!

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