If the Shoe Fits

Nearly every day of the past year, rain or shine, snow or heat wave, I have been wearing the same pair of shoes—my trusty black Merrell clogs. They are lightweight, the fabric breathes, they work well with my custom orthotics and they go with many of my casual clothes. As the fat pads in my feet have thinned from scleroderma, my shoe options have become significantly limited, and I’ve adjusted my style accordingly.

pink sandalsBut I still wish I could wear a nice pair of shoes—albeit flats, since heels are now out of the question—with better dresses and skirts. Plus, it’s hard to go dancing in clogs.

Last week, on a whim, I went searching online just to see what else is out there, and was rewarded by a new find: Vionic. These shoes are designed by a podiatrist. They have proper arch support and very comfortable, removable insoles—you can substitute your own, if you wish.

Best of all—they’re stylish. Finally, shoes with good support that don’t look like tugboats on my feet.

I bought three pairs—tan loafers, black sneakers and pink thong sandals. The first two arrived just in time for me to bring them along to my podiatrist appointment and ask him to retrofit a couple of sets of orthotics. He was duly impressed by the insole that comes with the shoes—designed to correct pronation, so you don’t mess up your knees and ankles.

Even with the adjustments he made to my orthotics, I realized after experimenting that the loafers are more comfortable with the insole that comes with the shoe. Amazing.

I still love my clogs. They’re the most comfortable shoes I own, and the most reliable for driving long distances (my feet swell when I sit for any length of time).

But the loafers hold up well for walking on the street and standing for extended periods. The sneakers are so lightweight and flexible that they feel like slippers. And the sandals provide excellent arch support. Plus, they’re fun. You can’t help but smile wearing pink sandals with little sequins on the strap.

Vionic also makes ballet flats. I’ll have to wait for these until I pay off my credit card. But just the idea that there might be dress shoes I could actually wear is enough to hold me for now.

I realize there are many more pressing issues in the world than whether I can have a few different pairs of attractive shoes. But when you’re living with a disease that continually constrains your options and ability to look your best, this is news worth celebrating.

I refuse to give in to looking older than I am or frailer or more disabled than I need to be. When it comes to scleroderma, dressing well is one of the most important ways I know to fight back. It’s not about being narcissistic. It’s about giving yourself the good care and mental boost that you need to keep going.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.


  1. Pat Bizzell says:

    Once again, useful info on shoes from Evie–thank you! My feet were turned wrong in childhood–had to wear heavy orthotic saddle shoes into my teens, and then the only choice was brown or black saddles. Have NEVER been able to wear heels over an inch, and now with arthritis deforming my toes, I have to stick to flat shoes with ample toe caps. I have a couple pairs of shoes that work well with the dressy-casual that prevails at school, but nothing for getting really dressed up. I will definitely check out Vionics.

  2. Hi Evelyn,

    When I was diagnosed with Scleroderma in 2003, my feet swelled and I could not get into all of my nice shoes, and the soles of my feet felt like I was walking on gravel. I bought a pair Soft Walk clogs to wear to work, and a pair of Burkenstock clogs to wear in the house as slippers.

    A couple of years ago I was channel surfing, and I saw Vionic footwear on QVC. It just so happened that their Today’s Special Value was a mock style slipper, so I took a chance, and I figured that if they didn’t fit, I had 30 days to return them. They are the best slippers I have ever purchased. My feet are happy, and the color makes me smile.

    Wishing you many miles of comfort in yours.

    Tucson, AZ

    Tucson, AZ

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