Metatarsalgia, Morton’s Neuroma, Shoe Construction, and OESH

I know, that’s a lot but this post that I’ve been promising to write on behalf of all you OESHers who have told me that OESH has helped with metatarsalgia and Morton’s Neuroma, has been a long time in the waiting.

Pain in the forefoot, specifically pain in the ball of the foot, occurs far more often in women than it does in men. Metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma, and a loss of the fat pad under the ball of the foot are some common diagnoses associated with pain in the forefoot area.

Why does pain in the forefoot occur more often in women than in men? The obvious answer is that we women tend to have poorer choices in footwear. But perhaps not so obvious is that it isn’t just high-heeled and narrow and pointy-toed shoes that place greater pressure under the balls of our feet.

The sole in a typical women’s shoe, be it a dress, casual or athletic shoe, cradles the bottom of the foot. By cradling the bottom of the foot, I mean that the shoe sole curves up along the outside and the inside parts of the foot where we place our bodyweight. This cradling of the sole, which isn’t really noticeable until you dissect apart a shoe, has been standard to shoe construction for, well, a long, long time.

During the course of my 20+ years of research studying the biomechanical effects of footwear, I was observing that this cradling in the shoe sole adversely affects the forces up through the foot. Essentially, the cradling tends to bunch up the ball of the foot and focus pressures under the areas of the forefoot that most commonly become painful.
This cradling in a shoe sole gets more pronounced as the cushioning in the sole starts to break down – which occurs almost immediately with wearing a new shoe. The cushioning under the ball of the foot quickly becomes compressed, which creates even more pressure in that area.

In developing OESH, I was relentless in making sure that it did not cradle the bottom of the foot like most shoes do. Eliminating this cradling effect in OESH entailed changing what is called the “last” of the shoe, which is the standard, uniform shape of the foot that shoes are constructed upon. The bottom of a typical shoe last is curved from side to side. This curve in shoe-manufacturing speak is called the “crown,” which in turn, forms the cradling in the shoe sole. I learned that virtually all women’s shoes, not just dress shoes, but women’s “comfort”, and athletic shoes have a fairly pronounced crown, especially in the forefoot.

I began asking all the many people I’d gotten to know in the shoe industry why this pronounced crown was standard when clearly it wasn’t good biomechanically. Most people outside the shoe industry assumed that it had some sort of biomechanical basis so I expected to hear what that basis might have been. But instead the typical response was “that’s just the way it’s always been done.”

Then I learned from one of the oldest people I’ve met in the industry what is probably the real answer. In the old days, when the shoe upper was attached to the sole, it was considered more elegant, especially in women’s shoes, to hide the stitching and the ends of the shoe upper material on the inside part of the shoe. Putting a crown in the shoe last simply provided the room to hide the stitching and excess material. Nowadays in shoe manufacturing, with sophisticated means to attach the upper to the shoe sole, that extra space really isn’t needed anymore, so the crown, from a shoe-making perspective, is completely unnecessary.

But the standard crown in shoe lasts and the resultant cradling in the typical shoe sole has become a longstanding tradition that is now very hard to break. Getting the factories I was working with to eliminate the crown and cradling in OESH was not easy. It involved new tooling, new equipment and new protocols. I wish all shoe manufacturers would eliminate the crowns from their shoe lasts and the resultant cradling in their shoes but I realize that doing so would be very costly given their current manufacturing infrastructure.

At least with OESH, I can ensure that there is no unnecessary cradling of the foot, as there is no crown in the OESH last and consequently all OESH footwear. It took a little tradition breaking to make OESH, but mostly it took some sophisticated materials and a lot of hard work.

More and more women who have metatarsalgia and Morton’s Neuroma are going out of their way to tell us how much they enjoy their OESH. Many women have told us that they are able to stand and walk longer in OESH than in any other shoe. Clearly, they appreciate the unique construction of OESH and all the hard work behind it.

If you have metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma or pain associated with a loss of fat pad under the ball of the foot, please let us know your OESH experience by writing us at

Despite 120 year head start, OESH beats Barcelona Temple to completion by 30 years

Remarkable OESHer Martha Stafford, aka the Founder & Chief Chef/Instructor of the now-famous Charlottesville Cooking School recently traveled to Barcelona with her size 9 Classics. Ostensibly looking for a substantial European destination to tour (mostly) via her OESH, Martha also brought the rest of her family–lucky them!

In front of the still unfinished masterwork La Sagrada Familia (expected completion in 2042, a modest 150-year effort) of Antoni Gaudi, Martha’s photograph depicts the gorgeous colors of Barcelona in the springtime, but heh, Who’s kidding Who…the centerpiece of this composition is that beautiful black & white wonder, Martha’s left Classic.

Thanks Martha!


Making OESH Sandals

Over spring break, our middle daughter Kellyn put together this spectacular video of our making the OESH sandal uppers. This isn’t in China — this is Charlottesville, Virginia. Enjoy!

Fast Times at Patrick Henry High

Though it’s been at least 30 years since I’ve seen Kim Stempien, it seems like yesterday that we were running together on the track and cross country teams at Patrick Henry High School in San Diego, California.

A few weeks ago, Kim became an OESHer and since then, we’ve been writing back and forth, filling in as many details about our lives as can be covered in emails. Kim and her husband, Dan, are living on a homestead in Northern California with their two children. Kim, an elite runner in high school and college (UC San Diego) just started a cross-country team for her children’s school. She’s been a lifelong runner, but had been sidelined for the past year because of injuries. Kim was searching for good shoes, found OESH, and here’s the story (with a few of my explanations in parentheses)…

“Well, I honestly think about you guys EVERY day because I LIVE in my OESHes. And then with Earl Scrugg dying… made me think of you guys more. I imagined Jayme (our oldest daughter, age 15, has been playing the banjo since she was 7) playing one of his tunes to you guys after dinner some night last week and my good ol’ hubby has an Earl Scruggs vinyl on display in his honor.

So in my first short run with the OESHes, I was a little concerned how they would do on rocky or uneven terrain, Casey. But I’m glad you said you run in yours in the woods by you guys. (Our girls and I run on trails that go out from our backyard into the woods… when it’s not deer hunting season). I’ve since baptized mine in rain, mud, creeks and … milk. I’m sometimes too hard on the things I own. If they work, I use them whenever/wherever. I’m not one for preserving my stuff, but it seriously bummed me out when a gallon jar of raw milk broke when I was doing the dairy run last week. The bar popped out when I opened the farmer’s door and dang if one of those jars didn’t bust open near my new shoes. I don’t know if he understood why I ran off from the mess to find a hose. I am pleased to say they don’t have sour milk smell!

So the OESHes rock on dirt trails, too. Dan gave me crap for walking through Salt Creek with them on our family hike last weekend. I hated to do it but there was no turning back on this loop that traverses an old mining area. The creeks are all running full force after the rain blitzing we’ve gotten the last couple of weeks! I figured the shoes were good for it and they are fine. Nothing a little woodstove heat can’t solve, eh?

You guys will have to fill me in on some of the stories you told the girls, Casey. I have such a bad memory, that it’s all a blur. I can’t remember hardly anything from our high school days. I just remember the good emotions from being & running with you, Casey, and the team!”

Thankfully, I don’t remember a whole lot from high school either but I do remember running through the hilly neighborhoods around Patrick Henry and occasionally getting a ride out to the beach when once we ran all the way up to Black’s Beach (the nude beach), which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment and made us run even faster the way back. I also remember the 24-hour track relay when our entire team of girls rallied through the night setting a national record, even beating out our awesome boys’ team.

And I clearly remember how talented of a runner Kim was. I like to tell the girls how fun it was to watch Kim run the 800 meters. Kim would be in the back of the pack, clearly looking like she was giving it her all. But, in the final turn of the last lap, out of nowhere, would come this amazing kick. Even though Kim looked to have absolutely nothing left, she would manage to pass every, single, person…to win. To our girls, Kim is a legend.

Kim is still a winner…and I am so honored that she is now an OESHer…slopping through raw milk, mud and whooshing creeks. Jayme is hoping that this summer when she goes to her banjo camp in Northern California, she can meet and go for a run with Kim.

OESHers nix shoe boxes and choose to save trees

Casey was recently interviewed for a trade journal, which will be a superb technical read when published. In the midst of the discussion, she noted the heavy emphasis which OESH places upon our customer feedback. The paragraph of note:

Today, with sales surging, OESH footwear continues to be sold exclusively through, allowing the company to directly communicate with its customers all over the world. “It currently requires all we can do to keep up with our online demand,” said Kerrigan. However, to maintain a strong grass roots message, the OESH factory is open to the Charlottesville community on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. so Kerrigan and her staff can talk with customers one by one as they fill local orders.

And here is one of those things we repeatedly hear in one form or another from you: “Oh, don’t bother with the shoe box–What good is it doing, anyway?”

So with the preparation of shipping our first wave of Sandals this week and our relentless commitment to making valid improvements in each and every step of our business, we are doing away with the combination of an old-fashioned shoe box AND heavy corrugated shipping box container. Instead, we’ll now carefully wrap your OESH in tissue and you’ll receive them in this sensible Certified Cradle to Cradle mailer.

Thanks so much for helping us improve our business–more than 15,000 metric tons of carbon equivalent emissions are prevented each year by this US Postal Service initiative. Triggered, for us, directly by our awesome OESHers!