There’s this stereotype about women and shoes, and I’m pretty sure it exists because stereotypes exist for a reason. I’ve known women who would proudly offer to be the shoe whore, pardon the expression, poster child, given the chance. If TV and movies have taught me anything – and to be honest, I’ve gotten many life lessons via the big screen and the boobtube – it’s that these women who have a ‘thing’ for shoes, have closets lined with footwear, in every color of the rainbow, in every imaginable material from leather to fabric to plastic to reptile skin *gasp cry*. Ballerina flats, boots, clogs, espadrilles, huaraches, mules, pumps, stilettos, t-straps, wedges, you-name-it.
I am not one of these women. I have diabetes, and it was been drilled into my head from at least as far back as the time I was 6 years old that I should take meticulous care of my feet, and as part of that mission, stick to practical shoes. I have not always done the best job. I have purchased shoes because they were cute, not because they were comfortable. I got a pedicure before my wedding, although that was the first and the last one I ever got. I have gone barefoot, although I do it infrequently, even in my house. Taking care of my feet in the interest of not losing my most favorite dancing partners has certainly informed my foot care choices and my footwear purchases as long as I can remember, but more so as I’ve gotten older.
Now that I’m, well, older than I used to be, I have some kind of weird foot issue that I didn’t used to have, something about the connective tissue between the bones that keeps my feet from flexing all the way, more so in my right foot than my left. So in addition to diabetes, I have to take this flexing quirk into consideration too because I now have difficulty keeping some kinds of slip-on shoes securely on my feet, especially when I’m doing a lot of walking. Most of the sandals I own are slip-on, so as I prepared to go to Florida back in June, knowing I’d be doing quite a bit of walking, I decided I needed to find some sandals that would stay on my feet more securely than those that I already have.
I found some brown sandals in the spring that might as well have been custom-made for me, Doc Marten’s with that nice thick supportive flat sole that is characteristic of Docs, the ankle strap I sought, as well-constructed as a shoe can get, and very foot-friendly. Except for running shoes, which I should note, I don’t actually use to run, I’m very particular about having both a black version and a brown version of the shoes I buy. I won’t necessarily get the exact pair in both colors, but I try to find similar styles, one in each color because one or the other will match just about anything I might wear. I’m a little neurotic in this respect, but I’m OK with that.
Since I found the casual pair of ankle-strapped brown sandals I loved, I figured how hard could it be to find a black sandal with similar characteristics? I’m pretty sure black is the most popular sandal color, and surely, in a shoe store, a department store, or online, I would find the black sandal sister of my new brown sandals.
It was not to be though. One of the main problems I encountered was that the “in” style this summer has been gladiator sandals, and no offense to those who like and wear them, but I can’t stand them. It seems that a characteristic of gladiator style sandals is a very thin sole, and I don’t do thin soles. They’re not comfortable, even a little bit, they aren’t good for your feet, and by default your legs and back, because there’s no support. Also, thin soles mean your feet are less protected from the things on the ground that could be hazardous to your feet, such as rocks or sharp objects. Besides the issues I have with the soles, I dislike how the straps creep all the way up the foot. While I was in search of a sandal with an ankle strap, I am not a fan of these weird sandals with straps that go up the leg, or those ones with ankle cuffs which are atrociously hideous in my opinion. The ubiquitous flip-flop wasn’t an option for me either. I have a pair that I keep by the backdoor in case I need to step outside, but I know they’re crappy footwear, so I wouldn’t wear them more than that. I like what I like, and I don’t like those sandals, which unfortunately meant I had a rather limited selection from which to choose.
In June, I went for my regular podiatrist appointment. Because of the aforementioned problem with the range of motion when I flex my foot, I get an obnoxious callus on my right big toe. I try to doctor it up between visits, especially in the summer when my feet are visible, but having gotten myself into quite the pickle when I doctored up my feet in the past, I’m very conservative in my actions, leaving the real doctoring to the doctor.
I know quite a few diabetics get pedicures to remedy unsightly problems like calluses or other dead skin, and swear that their pedicurist’s instruments are sterilized and the salon is clean, etc., but except for that single visit I made before my wedding, for which I had considerable misgivings given that I knew better, I steer clear of pedicurists. I know a woman, not diabetic, who got one at a nice, new salon a few months ago, and ended up with such a nasty infection for which she ultimately needed surgery. Leading up to that she had to see several doctors, one of whom suggested she might have to kiss her toe goodbye due to a possible bone infection. I had become pretty adamant in my anti-pedicure position before, but after hearing about that pedicure-gone-wrong, now I’m that much more opposed to them, but that’s just me, and my personal, obviously conservative approach to diabetic foot care.
So my podiatrist and I were chatting, and knowing she would sympathize and understand my footwear dilemma, I told her how unhappy I was with this season’s selection. She exclaimed, “Oh, I know!” and I felt validated, having found someone who shared my shoe shopping pain. She told me how she ended up spending over $100 on a pair of sandals, far more than she would normally spend, because she too hadn’t been able to find a decent pair. I told her how I have a couple of pairs of Skechers slip-on sandals that I love, and I had hoped Skechers might offer something similar with an ankle strap, but this year their sandals aren’t to my liking at all, except for one pair that was from their Shape-Ups line that more or less met my admittedly unspecific criteria for the perfect sandal.
Now, if you aren’t familiar with Shape-Ups, they’re a line of mostly sneakers, but also some sandals, and they have a sole that’s rounded so when you wear them, you’re never quite planted firmly on the ground. Skechers asserts that you’ll get a better workout wearing these shoes because you’ll “burn more calories, firm muscles, and reduce joint stress”. When I first saw them in sneaker form, I didn’t think much of them aesthetically, and I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at the claims because, c’mon, they’re sneakers, not a personal trainer hovering over you while you workout!
My podiatrist, who I absolutely adore because she takes wonderful care of my precious feet, scoffed, and told me to stay away from Shape-Ups. She said that of the patients she had seen who were experiencing foot problems that seemed to be related to wearing Shape-Ups, all of them were diabetic. Most of her patients are older, as you might imagine, and I think it’s a fair assumption that most of her diabetic patients are type 2, so they’re more susceptible to foot problems than the typical younger people with type 1 for whom peripheral neuropathy isn’t a pressing issue, but regardless, I thought it was telling anecdotal evidence that Shape-Ups aren’t all Skechers would like consumers to think they are. As it turns out, the American Council on Exercise did a some research, and it doesn’t think much of Shape-Ups or comparable lines of footwear either.
While the Sketchers sandals I had eyed were the closest I had seen to meeting my structural and aesthetic requirements, minus the Shape-Up sole, my doctor’s recommendation knocked them off the list of contending sandals. That left me with no sandal candidates though, so it was back to searching.
Jason, who is an eternally good sport, accompanied me on several shopping trips to find a pair of sandals I liked, and as if channeling Goldilocks, not a single pair was quite right. He’d point or pick a shoe off a shelf, holding it for me to inspect, and he’d get, “Too dressy, too dainty, the sole’s too thin, the straps are too thin, the heel is too high, the toe is too narrow, too enclosed, too 1983, I don’t like that metallic decorative thing, too shiny.” I had a reason for dismissing every pair. Eventually, he gave up trying to help me, although we did find a new pair of sneakers for him.
The day before I left for Florida, I schlepped back to the mall, determined to get a pair, even if that meant getting sandals that didn’t quite meet my apparently impossible expectations. Having reached defeat by the stylistas who decided ugly sandals should be the rage this season, I settled on a pair that I like for the most part. They’re not as sporty or casual as I was hoping to find, and sole isn’t as thick as I would like, but I’ve been wearing them on occasion nonetheless, and will continue to do so until next season when I dearly hope cute sandals are in style again.