Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pretty shoes

Feet. It is as if every woman’s issue is contained there. Years ago Robin Williams did a comic routine in which he seemed to catch himself about to refer to “Lll . . .” and self-corrects, “Women in comfortable shoes.” There it was, a simple observation that women who are not in the heterosexual culture wear shoes you can walk or run in. Women who are, don’t.

I notice women’s shoes. There are those released by old age who wear their New Balance or Drew oxfords, like me, and that’s that. There are also many in my generation who still sport pretty sandals over their Supp-hose, still paint their toenails red. I don't begrudge them that.

I loved sandals myself, though I became painfully conscious in adolescence that I did not have perfect feet. Ten years ago, on a visit to California I bought a pair of blue suede Clark’s in a sandal shop in La Jolla - I loved that, a whole store devoted to sandals! and I wore those things until the sole separated from the shoe, and they were in every way disreputable. Maybe I bought a pair to replace them, I don’t recall, but soon after that things happened, one thing after another. A stress fracture, a broken toe, a traumatized nail. I learned to feel what was on my feet, how sandals do not support the foot at all. Even in a Clark, the foot slides around, and it is easy to twist an ankle.

Getting into SAS Free Times, and now a more supportive oxford, P. C. Minor, became necessary when custom orthotics were prescribed to stop the stress fractures. But the change still took me several years. Lace-up shoes don’t go with any skirt I own. I used to get away with a pair of black SAS that were cut lower, sort of like dance shoes, worn with maybe black hose, though these are frankly much less supportive. Now, peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain in the feet) has led me to adopt cushy diabetic socks. They come in white. They are curiously like the bobby socks of my youth. Back then I had rubber doughnuts you put around your ankle and then rolled the socks down. Like I said, I was a fashion maven. I didn't care if I could walk in that.

Over the decades I collected the usual number of shoes, I suppose, though almost never the right shoe, it seemed. After the second stress fracture I moved all my heels to the guest room closet. Tried them on once and knew they were impossible now. But I didn’t give away my red alligator high heels until they were covered with dust. I don’t think I actually got tears in my eyes.

In retrospect, it was not such a big deal. Stay tuned, there is worse to come as you age. Today I am wearing on my left foot, even as I sit in my study at 7:44 a.m., an inflatable “boot” with velcro straps. It is navy blue, and looks rather like an astronaut's boot. It does not go well with the yoga pants I wear most of the time now because my stomach . . . never mind.

The boot is immobilizing a wretched ankle that is unable to repair the ordinary microscopic bone loss of everyday, a result of my kidney disease. Now you're talking problems. I am using a fabulous wheeled walker to keep me from limping; it also has a bench, so I can sit down any time. I am supposed to sit down, not walk, to rest the ankle for the next two months, to be responsive to my pain instead of gobbling Tylenol, and believe me, swollen bone hurts when you walk on it.

Not walking hurts in another way, enforcing mindfulness. In the last half hour I have not popped up to get my lymphedema sleeve, forgotten in the bedroom, or take my synthroid, forgotten when I made my coffee. You don’t pop up and take 20 unnecessary steps on an ankle that feels like this. And if this doesn't work, a cast and crutches or a scooter is the next step. I don’t like that idea even more than I don’t like walking now.

What do pretty shoes have to do with all this? Nothing, and I mean it. I’m so over that. Though I do mean to pick up some rainbow shoelaces if I can find them.


  1. Hello there dolly gramma... I read your shoe essay and thought how I can relate to this in so many ways! First, that image... I forget its exact name, but I had one just like it for a few weeks a couple of years ago when I broke my foot in two places... I thought of it as a knee scooter... and rolled it all around campus... once in the basement of Denney Hall, two faculty types were attracted to that scooter, and we had a very pleasant conversation! Needless to say I did not have any red pointed high heels that day (or any other day for quite a long time).
    Now it's my knees, not the feet, though perhaps I should say, the knees are worse than the feet. The shoes... well, you've inspired me... I can clean out my closet now with less regret. But the knees... the braces sometimes fill up the slacks, and I choose the slacks to fit. I don't jump up from the desk very often, either, because each step counts, and up and down the stairs are merciless.

    Next time we meet at Weisheimer, I'll be looking at your eyes, and then straight down... will check out what's on your feet that day. ;-)


  2. Hi Nancy -
    Yes, finally every step counts. Look forward to seeing you soon. I can say with some confidence that I will be wearing on my feet exactly what I was wearing this morning, including the white bobby sox. Reminds me of the time I went in to get a haircut in my ordinary flowered jeans etc., and my hairdresser complimented me on my "Retro look."

  3. Try Easton Shoes. Henderson a few doors away from "The Fresh Market." Went there yesterday, came home w/ VERY little money left, and spent the MOST I ever did for a pair of shoes.. But my KNEES DO NOT HURT!!! I can't believe it. Try Finn Comfort shoes, and the MPV (or Mxx something... 3 letters starting w/ M. They "rock" truly. VERY interesting, and if I could have afforded it, I would have purchased both. But today I am in knee heaven. ;-)

  4. Sounds wonderful. I've been getting shoes at Brown's, recommended by sports doc and foot doc, and like what I've bought there, but have always set a budget limit on them (like under $150), which lets out the Finn. I'm going to think about this, though, when I'm back in two shoes (instead of one shoe, one "boot"). It sounds worth it.

  5. So Dolly Gramma I just got out of my boot for 3 stress fractures in my left foot. I came upon your blog as I was searching the web for sandals for women with foot problems. Am I reading right that I won't find any?? I am a teacher aide for a middle school in my community, am on my feet all day, wear birkenstocks everyday, but, with the warmer weather coming I want to wear a sandal to work and for everyday wear. Please help me if you can find a sandal.....

  6. Hello Susan -
    I am not always an educated shopper, but right now I have sitting on my desk a catalog from They sell Propet sandals, which will accomodate orthotics, and I'm going to try them. I'd had three or four stress fractures when I found a good foot doctor, who prescribed custom orthotics to support my high arches. I haven't had a fracture since. Now I, too, am hoping to get back into sandals. Good luck.