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The Vine

The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

Home » The Vine

The Vine: October 4, 2013

Submitted by on October 4, 2013 – 1:03 PM25 Comments


Hello! I am looking for socks. 

Thick socks, to be precise. I work out on my elliptical, and I’ve found that my feet don’t cramp as much if I am wearing only socks instead of shoes. However, my elliptical has those raised-bump things on the pedals, and they hurt with regular socks.  

I am looking for thickness around the ball and heel of the foot, especially the ball. Most thick socks I’ve tried tend to stretch thin on the balls of the feet, thus defeating the purpose.  

I have tried the toe shoes (where the toes goes into their own little slot), but my toes are shaped funky and I had difficulty getting them to slide in without hurting them, plus they’re pretty expensive.

Inexpensive would be best, but I would be willing to shell out a bit more for good, thick socks.


Hate wearing shoes


Hi Sars and the Nation,

So, this would have been the late 1970s (yah, I’m old!), and I think I got it through my midwestern elementary school’s Scholastic Book Order thingy. It must be set in England, though I don’t think I got that at the time, because it deals with children being sent out of the city, along with gas masks, during World War II. Somehow I think the main character, a girl with blond hair, was somehow also an orphan?

Anyway, at the train station she ran into a girl who looked like her, and for whatever reason they decided to switch places. I believe she settles in with two older women (sisters..?) and after a “period of adjustment” is quite happy with them, learns a lot, etc. etc. I believe that years later she meets up with the other girl and realizes she got the better deal. Halp! And thank you!


Still Loves The Scholastic Book Club




  • Donna says:

    There are low-profile shoes that don’t have individual toe-holes, so you could try some of those. Or maybe the bedroom slipper type socks with the no-skid bottoms.

  • Anne-Cara says:

    Smart Wool socks might work well for you; the feet are padded/cushioned. They’re expensive, as socks go, but super comfortable.

  • Anna C says:

    @hate shoes – have you ever considered beam shoes, like gymnasts wear? They are completely flexible to help with the no cramping, and have some nice padding on the bottom that should help with the bumps. Admittedly they are much more expensive than socks, but cost less than sneakers.

  • Nanc in Ashland says:

    I remember that book! But not the title nor the author so I’ll revert to my standard advice of call your local library!

    Socks, how about some regular shoe inserts/insoles worn inside your workout socks? Don’t know if they would stay in place but it might be worth a shot.

  • Andrea says:

    Oooh! I know this one! The book is Searching for Shona by Margaret Anderson. It’s set in Edinburgh, and the two girls do switch places at the train station. One is a rich orphan whose uncle is sending her to wait out the war with Canadian relatives, and the other lives in an orphanage and is being evacuated to the country. They switch places, and, yes, the one who heads to the country ends up preferring her new life. It’s really a fascinating book – it’s one of my favorites of the ‘what happened to the kids during the war’ genre.

  • Deanna says:

    Seconding SmartWool. Their extra-heavy-cushion socks are worth the investment. They will last for YEARS, even with frequent use.

  • ScholasticFanatic says:

    I’m the original poster re: the book–Andrea, THANK YOU! I *thought* Canada was in there somewhere, but that also seemed…wrong? I can’t wait to track this down and reread it. You’re the best!

    Also, Socks poster…have you looked at They have a huge selection and you may be able to search via your specific requirements. I hear the EG Smith brand is supposed to be excellent quality!

  • attica says:

    I’d suggest you try men’s athletic socks, the inexpensive kind that come 6 pair a pack. I find they’re thicker than gal’s socks. Plus you could double them up for extra comf. And even if you wear through them fast, they’re easy to find on sale at the big box stores.

  • Susan says:

    What about a pair of aqua socks? The thin rubber sole might provide enough cushion, and the stretchy mesh top might avoid the constriction of regular shoes. They’re available at many different price points, and you could try them with socks to provide a little extra cushioning.

  • ark says:

    Smart wool recommendation is seconded! Expensive for socks but still much cheaper than shoes. They are relatively thick (I think a double layer of them would probably do the trick if all else fails) and they are very comfortable. They also are great for preventing blisters and foot cramps while in shoes.

  • Jobiska says:

    Ack, I knew one for once (Searching for Shona) but everyone was speedier than I was! So I’ll just share my first reaction to the first question–why not modify the elliptical footpads rather than what you wear? Like, I don’t know, cut an old yoga mat to fit as padding? as long as there is enough friction between padding and elliptical footpieces, and foot and padding, I’d think it would be safe–and you could then even go barefoot!

  • KLM says:

    Socks: Balega! Maybe these?

    I have a few pair of those (my style is a few years outdated, but I don’t think they change too much) that I originally bought for running but found they were TOO cushioned for that. They’re soft and cushy on the bottom but thin and well-ventilated on the top. They have a few other styles, including a merino one, that might work.

  • Nicole says:

    For the socks, they may be a little warm, but cold-weather running socks. They wick moisture away and are thicker than regular athletic socks. Any running store should have them or you can get them online. They should be cheaper than SmartWool socks. If the machine is yours,can you put some kind of padding on the foot pedals?

  • Maria says:

    I love Smartwool hikers for their thickness. They really last, and they handle machine washing and drying well.

  • Liz says:

    For socks, I also suggest looking at running socks. There are some styles that are extra thick on the soles for long-distance running, but the tops should be thinner. And they are usually low-profile and designed to fit really well. Definitely worth a little more money.

  • Just a Customer says:

    I’ve had mine forever (10 years?), and haven’t had to be a repeat customer because they hold up: hiking, gym, travel. They’re pricier than your average workout sock, but they do pay for themselves over time.

  • Courtney says:

    Foot Zen!

    Love these socks, they are pricey but have very cushy bottoms, and I like the extra cushion at the Achilles when I wear sneakers.

    Another option similar to the beam shoes that Anna suggested would be dance shoes, either ballet slippers (try leather split sole) or jazz shoes.

  • Katie L. says:

    OH MY GOODNESS SEARCHING FOR SHONA! I’d totally forgotten about this book; thanks for reminding me! I loved it (and probably also read it in the late 70s). Ah, the Christmas-morning feeling of every Scholastic Book Day…

  • Melissa says:

    Smartwool socks for the win! They are all kinds of amazing. I’d recommend going to look at them in person (if there’s a Cabela’s near you, go there) because they come in so many varieties with regards to thickness and support, you really should check them out up close and personal.

  • Maggie says:

    I am super bummed I have to settle for fourthsies on Searching for Shona, because I’ve never gotten one of these before and I’ve been reading this blog since 2002. Do I get any extra credit for the fact that I actually still have the book? (I tried re-reading it a couple months ago. It’s not very good. But when I was 9 I thought it was great! And it has a very weird, unsettling ending.)

  • Sarah says:

    Seconding KLM’s suggestion of Balega. I have several pairs of the ones she linked, and I adore them. They are so comfortable!

  • Hate Shoes says:

    Thanks for suggestions! I will definitely check out the Smartwool website.

  • Emma says:

    @Andrea – if you’re still interested in the genre, Back Home by Michelle Magorian has always been my favorite.

    Adding Searching for Shona to my own to-read pile. (Which might or might not already have more titles on it than the library *stocks*, but oh well.)

    Socks: I like the idea of adding a pad to the pedals themselves, but what about Footskins, the barefoot-running things?

  • Hillary says:

    Along the lines of suggested gymnasts shoes, have you tried ballet slippers? they are meant to grip a little (not as slipping as socks) and to take a lot of punishment on the balls of the feet. If you get them a little big, you can wear socks instead of tights under them and get a good padding without demolishing your sock on the pedal

  • Dawn says:

    @Emma oh man, Michelle Magorian wrote my all-time favourite children’s book “Goodnight, Mister Tom” which is also about an evacuee during WWII

    As for the eliptical, my suggestion would be what @Jobiska has already mentioned. Even something like cardboard would help and probably be free. You could attempt to file the bumps down, or build the rest of the pedals up with some modelling clay to make a flat surface.

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