I've complained before (here and here) about finding steel-toe boots that actually fit. Part of the problem is that my feet are not only small, but difficult. So here's a long explanation of why, exactly, I have such a hard time finding shoes that fit:
1. High arches: I have super high arches. My footprint has just the tiniest side connecting heel and toe. I like my high arches - I think they make my feet look elegant. But. Because my arches are so high, my instep is also very high. So I can't wear most pull-on shoes, and especially not clogs. Also, if I'm half asleep and I streeeetch and point my toes, a tendon or something gets dislocated and my toes get stuck over-curled. It's incredibly painful, and the only way to fix it is to physically grab my foot and wrench my toes around the right way. I don't know anyone else with this problem.
2. Wide feet: Because I was a little hippie heathen growing up, I spent every possible second barefoot as long as the ground wasn't still frozen. I did a lot of running around outside, on asphalt, barefoot. So the pads of my feet and my toes are splayed out. I have an especially hard time with sandals and fancy strappy shoes.
3. Stubby toes: When I was a kid, we used to say that someone with a second toe longer than their big toe had "Jesus feet". I have anti-Jesus feet. I've got normal big toes and then a line of stubby little toes. No pointy or peep-toe shoes for me.
4. Upturned toes: Some people have feet that continue straight downward at the toes. My toes sort of stick up at the tips. Combined with a decent bend in my nail beds, this means that I need some serious room in the toe box of my shoes. Otherwise, the top of the nails on my big toes press up against the inside of my shoes. And that is how I got a horrific infection from a long week wearing cheap steel-toe boots in lousy weather and had to have all sorts of icky stuff removed and was threatened with having the toenail removed entirely (permanently).
5. Sensitive toes: I hate thongs/flip flops. Sigh.
So how do I deal with these trials and tribulations? Dr. Martens for steel toe boots for the field, Dr. Martens for mary janes for the office. And Fluevogs for casual Fridays and whenever. Because when you have funny feet, it's worth paying extra for shoes that actually work and will hold up over time.