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 livingwithscleroderma.com.