I have similar issues… a bunion (that’s definitely what you have; a bunion is your bone growing “out” instead of straight), as well as some lower back issues that can be exacerbated by heels and unsupportive shoes. It sounds like you also have plantar fasciitis (that tight feeling in your arch). I’ve had a bunion since I was 13 (thanks, ballet training!), so I’ve been dealing with this for a long time.
As an aside, I love clothing and nice shoes. I refuse to be a fool for fashion and sacrifice my health (and impede my running), but I also refuse to wear granny shoes.
Here’s what I do, and it works well for me:
1. Get fitted for your workout shoes in a running store. Bring in an old pair of tennis shoes, and they’ll examine the wear pattern to pick a shoe with proper support.
2. I never wear heels if I know I won’t be able to sit down nearly all the time or take them off after 2-3 hours. When going to a wedding, I pack a pair of pretty sandals in my bag to change into.
3. Ballet flats might be flat, but they’re generally pretty bad for your feet (little cushioning or arch support). My recent favorite is oxfords, which also happen to be “in” right now. I have these in black. I get lots of compliments on them. If I do wear flats, I’ve found that ones with a small wedge are more supportive than those without. And I think everybody has the smelly foot problem when they don’t wear socks. I think the only “solution” is to never wear those shoes two days in a row to let them air out, and maybe sprinkle some talcum powder in them while they’re “resting”. 🙂
4. Get all your work pants hemmed for flats or low shoes. You’ll then be forced to leave the heels for skirts or special occasions. They do your health no favors.
5. Return shoes if they’re not comfortable after wearing them around the house on carpet for around 30 minutes. They’re not worth it.
6. Use Zappos. They have so many shoes, fast shipping, and free returns, so it’s relatively painless. I always read reviews, looking for reviewers who mention having wide feet and/ or a bunion. I also highly recommend Nordstrom if there’s one in your area. The salespeople are fantastic, they have loads of shoes, a great return policy, and have frequent sales.
7. I kick off my shoes the minute I walk in the door, and trade them in for slippers (I wear these in the cooler months and OMG they’re heaven).
8. No flip flops unless I’m at the beach. I think this stems mostly from just hating flip flops, but they’re also super unsupportive of your feet and back.
9. Never ever buy cheap shoes. They don’t last and often have no support. Look for shoes made in Europe if possible, shoes that are NOT synthetic (except for tennis shoes), shoes with leather insoles, and quality stitching. This sounds expensive, but I always wait for sales, and most of my shoes (except for boots) were purchased at around the $40-75 mark. It takes patience, but it’s worth it.
I’m not sure what line of work you’re in, but for me, (a teacher who works in a fairly dressy school), my shoes look like this seasonally: winter/ fall: flat or nearly flat riding boots (boots are the best!) and oxfords. Spring: oxfords, more supportive ballet flats and low wedges. Summer: sandals, low wedges (I don’t work much, but do attend meetings and professional development activities sometimes).
My dad has plantar fasciitis, and he’ll often roll a can of food under his foot to stretch out the tendons while he’s sitting, and uses a towel to try and stretch in the mornings and before workouts. He’s had to cut way back on biking, which aggravates it, unfortunately. Perhaps a trip to the foot doctor is in order? They’ll be able to give you some helpful advice.
Good luck! Fussy feet suck, but care now saves you from gnarly granny feet!