How to Avoid Sore Feet at The Races - Podiatrist Reveals Secrets

Posted in Podiatry on September 10, 2013

After the huge response I got from my “Foot Survival Guide” last year.. I have decided to do the same again with a few extra hints and tips. Enjoy the Spring Racing Carnival and don’t let sore feet spoil your day!

THE MELBOURNE Spring Racing Carnival is now just around the corner and women all over Melbourne are searching for the perfect outfit and matching headwear. This is an exciting time of year in Melbourne when we start to feel the warmth of the sun again after a wet and windy winter. The roses are blooming at Flemington and everyone is gearing up for the party season. What a beautiful time of year!

The Spring Racing Carnival is a brilliant excuse to get ‘frocked up’ in our finest, pull out a brilliant fascinator, put on a gorgeous pair of ‘oh so high’ heels and enjoy a few glasses of bubbly.  While we may look the picture of elegance and sophistication on the way into the track, a few hours later on the way home, it can be a very different story.

With bruised and blistered feet, the heels come off and you're hobbling out of the racecourse, with each step stinging that little bit more than the last one. DON’T LET THIS BE YOU!!

Not only is it not a good look, but you are at risk of injuring your feet and potentially picking up a nasty infection. Follow these simple tips below and not only will you look fabulous, but your feet will still be happy at the end of the day!

What Type of Shoes Should I Buy For The Races?

You can have comfortable, without ugly!

Many shoe companies are now getting stylish and savvy, creating shoes that are not only fashionable, but comfortable to wear too. You are likely to be standing for between 4 and 8 hours at the races and that does not include any ‘partying on’ afterwards. While grass can be more comfortable to stand on, you are also likely to spend long periods on concrete whilst waiting for a tote, drink, train, taxi etc. and 8+ hours is a long time to be uncomfortable. Your shoe choice when getting ready can have a huge influence on how much you enjoy your day.

Here are a few shoe features to look for to help you choose wisely this Spring Racing Carnival.

Look for a wedge or low heel as these are far more likely to keep your tootsies comfy. A low heel with the addition of a platform can give you the appearance of a higher heel (and a little extra height), without overloading your feet. A reduced heel pitch (height) helps to reduce the stress on your forefoot and will stop your foot from sliding forward and cramping up your toes.

Wedges allow a greater surface area for weight distribution and spread out the pressure in your foot. This means more pressure is going through your heels and midfoot, significantly offloading your forefoot and toes. Wedges are also far less likely to sink into the grass (particularly in wet weather) and reduce your risk of ankle sprains.

Also, look for ‘round’ toe shapes rather than pointed or narrow. Let’s face it, our toes are not pointed and this is never going to aid in comfort.  Peep toes can also be another way of reducing the pressure on your toes.

The Fixation (i.e. buckle or strap etc.)

This avoids the embarrassing slip of a heel (particularly when they catch in the grass) causing you to look like you have had more drinks than you really have. A strap, buckle, elastic or zip to hold the shoes onto your feet, means your foot muscles can relax and you won’t need to be clawing your toes to hold your shoes on your feet.

This also means your feet will feel "less tired" at the end of the day as they have not been working as hard just to hold your shoes on.

Which Shoe Materials Work Best?

A soft leather or fabric shoe will be more forgiving on your skin and less likely to rub. Avoid shoes with seams running over bony bumps on your feet, as this is likely to cause irritation.

Be careful with Patent leather options! When you have been standing for a long period (especially in warm weather) your feet will naturally swell. Patent leather WILL NOT stretch with your foot and is likely to start digging into your feet. This can cause “muffin tops” on your shoes (example: pregnant Kim Kardashian), which is not at all pretty and very painful!

Stockings/Pantyhose… Believe it or not our grannies are onto something here! While you may want to avoid thick, ugly pantyhose that look worse than a bad spray tan, there are plenty of excellent options on the market that you can barely see, even up close!

Why you may ask? Well, pantyhose help to minimize stress on the skin, reducing your risk of rubbing and blistering. You can now get smarty pants pantyhose with open toes so there's no need for ugly toes in strappy or peep-toed shoes. Pantyhose (especially the style with mild support) can also help to reduce swelling of the feet and ankles. If your shoes are already on the snug side, this can make a huge difference at the end of the day. The other advantages of pantyhose… there's no need for fake tan, control tops are like wearing Spanx, and they can help to keep you warm on a cool day!

Speaking of which…Keep in mind the weather… A lovely pair of satin or fabric shoes will not look so pretty and will probably be destroyed when they have been traipsing through mud. I once rinsed a pair of leather shoes under a tap following a very wet and slushy day at the races and they were as good as new once they’d dried out. This would not have been the case for fabric ones!

No matter what the material, or the weather, always - and I mean ALWAYS - protect your shoes with a water proofing spray beforehand. Grass stains can wreak havoc on neutral coloured shoes, as can dripped beverages from other “happy” members of the crowd.

Shoe Brands That Your Feet Will Agree With!

Bared Footwear are by far my favourite brand of shoes. Not only because they are super comfy, but they're very cute too (and designed by a local Melbourne Podiatrist)!  All Bared shoes have built in arch support, plus cushioning and are made from lovely soft leathers, fabrics or suede. They have a number of different styles and colour options so will go with any outfit.

Other great options are Ziera and Naturalizer. They also have cushioned support and a variety of different 'pretty' options. More well-known shoe brands like Nine WestSandlerJane DebsterJo MercerDiana Ferrari and Wittner also have a few more sensible options. Remember… if the shoes don’t feel comfortable after a few minutes in the shop, they are never going to feel good after 8 hours of standing!

Save your super high and sexy “Carrie Bradshaw” options for dinners or weddings, where you can sit for most of the event.

Pre-Race Day Preparation and Foot Care

Photo: Eastop

Additional Shoe Padding and Gel Cushions

Do not even think of leaving the house without a pair of gel cushions for the balls of your feet and gel heel grips! They take up next to no room in your clutch, so there's no excuse not to have them! The most popular brand of these are "party feet', which you can find at most supermarkets and chemists. Also throw in some blister dressings; they can be a life-saver during the day!

You may think your feet will get by without them and I regularly hear “But I’ve worn these shoes a million times before with no problems!” -  I guarantee your feet will thank you later in the day when you sneak into the bathroom and slip some extra comfort into your shoes. These nifty little devices can also make a huge difference when getting the fit of your shoes right too. If your shoes are a little on the roomy side, or like most of us you have one slightly smaller foot, add an extra gel pad into that shoe to help fill up the gap. Not only will it keep you more comfortable, but it will also stop you sliding and your heels slipping out.

Companies like Scholl are now also getting smart with full length or ¾ length gel innersoles and arch supports to further aid in comfort. Check them out at your local chemist or supermarket. If you are struggling to find something to fit, your Podiatrist will also have fancier options or can make you something to suit.

Foot Care

Pamper your feet in the days leading up to Race Day. Sure, slick on some pretty polish, but also attend to any areas of hard skin (callous) or developing corns (a small sensitive areas of callous with a hard centre). These areas are where you are most likely to rub and blister during the day. Smooth them up with an emery board when you get out of the shower and the skin is soft. Then, follow it up with some moisturiser or a heel balm which will further soften the skin. If the callous or corns are deep or in a difficult to reach area, book an appointment to have a Podiatrist remove them for you. Keep in mind the back of your heels too. This is also a common area for blistering and a little tape or dressing can be a great preventative.

MAKE SURE you avoid cutting your nails too short before wearing tight fitting heels. They can easily become very sore and inflamed with pressure from footwear, especially once your feet swell. Trim your nails a few days out from Race Day to give them time to settle and prevent ingrown toenails.

What To Do When You're At The Races and Disaster Strikes!

Its 3pm - the main race is about to kick off and your feet are killing you.......What do you do?

Are your feet starting to blister?

For any areas that are red, rubbing or blistering, apply Compeed Blister Dressings. They are not too obvious or ugly and will cushion any sore or blistered areas of skin. These super smart dressings also have a mild anaesthetic in them which will help with any associated pain (depending on how much champagne you have had). They should be available from most chemists and some larger supermarkets. They can be a real life saver when applied before a blister has a chance to get too big and puffy. If a blister gets so bad that the top is rubbed off it, there is only so much a dressing will do. So, keep checking your feet regularly throughout the day and cover any sore bits up as need be.

Painful foot aches or just feeling tired?

Try stretching them out. Rotate your ankles in circles, do a few calf stretches and pull your toes back to stretch out the arch of your feet. You can also try rolling your foot over a cold bottle. A water bottle works well for this and will soothe your feet. (Try not to do this in an obvious location as you may get some strange looks!)

Do NOT walk home barefoot!!

No matter how painful your feet are, don’t end up ruining your gorgeous outfit by walking out at the end of the day barefoot. (We’ve all seen this… shoes in one hand, fascinator in the other...)

It’s not a good look and you are also at risk of cutting your feet, or picking up an infection from all sorts of nasties on the footpath.

Slip a pair of flexible ballet flats into your clutch to be on the safe side. These are easily available from chemists and departments stores and are a great idea for the trip home. (You can buy fold up ones for this very reason and it will be much better than walking barefoot.)

Hopefully, if you have followed all my other tips, you will still be going strong in your shoes of choice. But it's always better to be prepared - just in case! Enjoy a win in both the comfort and fashion stakes, and put your best foot forward this spring!!


  • With correct shoe choice and a few simple preventative measures, you can avoid sore feet at the races
  • Shoes need to be comfortable as you will be walking around for 4 - 8 hours
  • Look for wedges or a low heel, round toe shapes, with a fixation, made from soft leather or fabric - avoid high heels where possible
  • If it looks like that it will rain on the day, use water proofing spray
  • Suggested brands to look at include Bared Footwear, Ziera, Naturalizer, Nine West, Sandler, Jane Debster, Jo Mercer, Diana Ferrari and Wittner
  • Take with you to the races Gel Cushions and Gel Heel Grips in case you get any trouble during the day
  • In the days leading up to the event have any corns or calluses attended to by a Podiatrist. Avoid cutting toenails too short close to race day.
  • At the races, if you notice a blister forming use the blister dressings you bought.
  • If your feet start to ache, do a few strecthes.

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