Red Sandals

Right before Passover this past April, I went through my closet and gave away about a dozen pairs of shoes and sandals that I could no longer wear. I’d accumulated them over decades, and each set was a favorite.

But it was simply time to face the fact that the fat pads on my feet have thinned so much from scleroderma that I need a lot of cushioning, and my old favorites hurt. Most of them I hadn’t even considered wearing for years. I had just kept them because I liked them so much.

Hard to part with the shoes, and the idea they represented—that it’s still possible for me to walk with style. Recently, the only shoes I’ve been able to tolerate are two pairs of lightweight, fabric mesh Merrell clogs, navy and black, in which I can insert custom, full-sole orthotics. I’m grateful that these are so comfortable, but they really don’t go well with skirts and dresses.

Of all the shoes I gave away, the ones I parted with most reluctantly were a pair of red sandals with two-inch heels. Nothing like red sandals. They always used to give me a boost, height-wise and mood-wise.

So now, mid-June, it’s finally feeling summery for more than a day here in Central Massachusetts, and no red sandals, no walking sandals, no sandals I could count on for casual wear or work appointments.

I had scoured online shoe sites without seeing anything that seemed worth trying. So hard to tell, and with sandals, the foot sole is key because you obviously can’t insert orthotics.

The only real solution: Go to a shoe store where the staff still know how to fit your feet. This is not easy to find. But there is such a store about a 40 minute drive from home. I haven’t been there in years.

So, with an hour to spare between two appointments last week that took me in the right direction, I made a pilgrimage. The selection hadn’t changed much since my last visit. The show window and displays were full of all the predictable comfort brands, some attractive, some downright clunky.

One would think, with all of us baby-boomer women now at the age of sore feet, that someone out there would approach the question of how to design comfortable, stylish shoes with a bit more imagination. But apparently not.

Round and round the store I walked, picking up possible choices and pressing the foot beds with my thumb. Per usual, the nice-looking sandals didn’t have enough arch support or cushioning. The most comfortable walking sandals were $225 and really, really ugly—like a pair of shovels.

I was about ready to give up and leave when I circled around one more time. There, on the wall, was a pair of raspberry red Dansko sandals—two wide straps of faux snakeskin with silvery buckles on a cushioned, rubbery platform that was styled to look like carved wood, but much more shock-absorbent. Now, I had given away a similar, well-worn black pair, not as attractive, right before Passover, because the cushioning was just not thick enough and they were too loose and caused blisters (probably because my feet are much thinner than when I had purchased them at least five years ago, so they didn’t fit properly anymore, and the footbed was worn out).

But, on a whim, I tried on the sample. It fit. Perfectly. The salesclerk found the mate in the store window, and I took a walk up and down the aisle. No pain. The shoes rolled easily from heel to toe. Excellent arch support. Good cushioning. They even made me stand up straighter, something about the balance of the shoe.

And they were red. On sale.

So I bought them. The salesclerk assured me that I could bring them back within two weeks and get a refund if, after wearing them around the house (not outside), I had any problems.

Over the next few days, I tried them on at different times. Still comfortable. I could do stairs. I could walk on our wooden kitchen floor and on the concrete in the basement.

On Sunday, sunny, full of summer promise, I decided to commit. Out the door, with Ginger on her leash, around the block. Success! Then in the car, over to the art museum, on my feet walking around for an hour to view my favorite works. A little foot fatigue, but still good. No real soreness.

There are probably no ready-made sandals in the world that will ever solve all my issues, but this pair sure gets at thumbs-up for darn near perfect.

Oh, and did I mention? They’re red.

Image: June, 1975—Hydrangea by a Pond, Stencil-dyed paper calendar by Keizuke Serizawa (1895-1984), Worcester Art Museum

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


  1. Pat Bizzell says:

    Mazal tov! Every woman should have a pair of red shoes–or sandals. As you know, I share your difficulties with shoes, though due to arthritis and some other problems, and I gave up wearing any kind of sandal years ago, except for rubber flip-flops around the house. Whenever I go anywhere outside the house, the first question I address is, how much walking will I have to do, on what kinds of surfaces? I select the shoes that will help me walk and build the rest of the outfit from the feet up. Some of my shoes are less clunky than others but none of them would ever make the fashion red carpet.

    Let me just say here that I think the shoes we ladies are taught to regard as fashionable are really instruments of torture! I have heard that the thousand-dollar spike heels are comfortable, but I’ll never know, and I don’t believe it anyway. How can it be good to wear shoes that are uncomfortable and make it hard to walk, never mind to hurry or run? Yet millions of us do it every day. Just hoping we don’t have to dodge when crossing the street or stand a long time in line anywhere. Let’s just stop the madness!

    • Thanks, Pat. I often plan outfits with respect to shoes, too, for all the reasons you describe. As for what defines style, yes, spike heels are a painful way to go. I’ve never been able to wear them. But even short heels are nearly impossible, now. I have a pair of dress Na’ot sandals with heels that I can still wear, thank goodness, because they’re stunning, and only wearable because they are designed to place your balance on the heel and not the ball of your foot. But I can’t walk long distances in them. So that’s why my raspberry red sandals are so delightful.

  2. Vicki Schneider says:

    Dear Evelyn,
    I love reading you weekly blogs and just had to comment after reading this one as it really touched me. I am doing the same thing, getting all my beautiful shoes ready for a few friends/family to select from I too miss my red sandals and my black heels. I had to give them up last summer when I had a calcium deposit removed from bottom of foot. No more heals, they are no longer needed in fact because I had to leave my professional job Jan. 31st of this year and retired with disability at 52 from this crappy disease. I look forward to reading your blog every week. Thank you for writing. Take care and let’s keep fighting this disease!

    • Hi Vicki,
      Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m glad you enjoy my blog. Readers like you keep me going. A calcium deposit on the bottom of your foot must have been terribly painful. And I’m so sorry to hear that you had to retire with disability from scleroderma. I lost my job more than four years ago due to downsizing, and I have to say, it was a blessing in disguise. I now work for myself, successfully, from home, and it is wonderful to be in charge of my own time. I hope that you are able to make similar discoveries. Take good care of yourself, and, yes, let’s keep up the fight and a search for a cure!

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