All my life, I've taken my feet for granted. Oh, sure...they would clamour for attention every once in awhile, with ills other than trimming toenails.
There was the time I had a plantar's wart, which grew huge before I summoned the courage to have it cared for.
There were the numerous operations on my Big toes, with the nails finally being removed.
Each time these things were dealt with, I marvelled at how much I missed my feet, and their usual good health. But the wart and the toes...once those maladies healed, I went back to mostly ignoring my feet, swiping moisturizer over them after a shower.
When I look back, I notice the ability to be able to wear almost any shoe in my size decreased over the years. It happened so slowly, I was unaware...and continued to buy shoes that gave no support, that fit oddly...that had high heels.
I was unable to join the running shoe people. Every time I tried to wear those shoes everybody told me were good for my feet, I would trip. At times, I would lose my balance entirely, finding myself sprawled on the ground, wondering what had happened. I was sure this odd behaviour was unique to myself; nobody else ever commented on their inability to wear sneakers.
It turns out, however, there are many like me. All I know is, I feel clumsy and awkward in the ordinary styled sneaker; less so with leather walking shoes.
In my fifties, I learned to buy appropriate shoes...shoes for walking, shoes for hiking, shoes for a night out. They became more sensible over the years...heels became lower and lower, although I still loved a bit of a heel. They were all leather, and mostly brown or black. My shoes were alike in style, a wide toe with good arch support.
My feet were beginning to be more prominent in my life. I have Arthritis, Osteo and Rheumatoid, and suddenly the one part of my body that had rarely given me problems, did.
Now they hurt, sometimes with a screeching pain that almost brings me to my knees. Alright, I told my feet, alright, I give...I will search out a Podiatrist. Perhaps something could be done.
I had gone to the Pharmacy to buy specialty socks, the kind that have padding under the toes and heels. The lady there gave me a brochure from a Podiatrist, and I called for an appointment. I was asked to bring all my shoes.
I wondered if I should hire a truck.
I sat in a wonderful chair, one that supported every part of my body, and watched the Doctor examine my feet and my shoes. There were a pair in the huge bag I brought that I had never been able to wear; I loved them, and had always wondered why. The Doctor said they were the one pair that were totally wrong for my feet, and completely different from the rest. Had I not noticed?
Obviously not, since those shoes cost me a small fortune...and I paid fairly happily. They hurt everytime I tried to wear them, however. The Doctor told me there were C feet and D feet. These shoes were the opposite of what I required.
I was so enthralled about the idea of C and D feet, I never caught what she said mine were. And quite frankly, I can't tell by looking at them what they might be, since they tend to swell and change entirely.
Things progressed quickly after this.
She sent me into the World of Orthotics, into previously unknown territory.
After some x-rays, the Doctor wrapped my feet with a quick drying plaster and took an inverse impression of them. They would be sent to a lab, where corrections would be calculated and orthotics would be made. These would be sent back to my Doctor, who would fine tune any adjustments that would be required. I was told to expect my new orthotics in perhaps a week.
A few days went by. I began to trudge around shoe stores, now looking for the words ortho and orthopaedic and orthotics on the windows of the shops.
If someone had asked me, I would have told them there was not one pair of shoes I could bring myself to pay for...to me, they looked like the shoes my grandma once wore.
As, indeed, they were. And the cost was as dear as any shoe I had ever bought.
I learned, first of all, that the insole must be removable. There went my idea of just placing my new orthotics (which I didn't have yet) into the shoes I already had...
Once the orthotics arrived, after paying a large amount of lucre, I paid a visit to a training shoe store, to appease my doctor. She had advised that I may not get the heel support I required in leather shoes, and to try the running shoes, at least...instead of dismissing them out of hand, as I was inclined to do.
There were some strange shoes in that store.
I found myself trying to walk, inside the store, in shoes I would swear were skateboarding shoes. I imagined myself on uneven ground, and shuddered. The resulting injuries would not be pretty.
The people there told me they had never seen an orthotic with as high a heel, as were on mine. Since I didn't know an orthotic device from an insole, I couldn't give any advice to the salespeople. I was floundering as much as these so-called experts.
After trying on every shoe that would fit the orthotics I had, even the luridly coloured ones...the ones I shuddered at, wondering what I could wear that would incorporate these shoes...I left the store, sweaty, sore and disheartened.
The next store was one where I had bought shoes on a regular basis. I had not noticed their orthopaedic section previously, when I still bought what I considered fashionable, yet comfortable footwear.
But the section was there. The saleslady picked out the shoe that would fit, immediately, and said it was possibly the only shoe they had that would. I was astounded, being prepared for another session where I would have to explain my whole history, before a shoe was found.
I asked for brown. Magically, she fit the orthotics into the shoe, and fit the shoe onto my foot.
I don't have the words to describe how wonderful the shoes felt on my tired and swollen foot. It was sheer heaven.
I walked through the store, checking out their inventory of the Autumn season's new footwear. I heard my saleslady behind me...Don't even look, she said. Don't even.
Ruefully, it finally dawned on me. I had better like comfort more than looks, at this stage in my life. Those wonderful, little boots over on that pedestal, just what I would have at one time loved to own...those little boots were history. If I was to move forward, in my fight to stay mobile, I was limiting myself by even dreaming this shoe scenario could be different.
Finally, after more than half a century of ignoring my feet and their needs, I said hello to them...and decided I would find out what feet are all about.
It's a new journey. I will have to go back to my Doctor; she will have to make adjustments to the orthotics, I will have to work my way into wearing my special shoes all the time. It helps when my footwear is now so comfortable. And the shoes I bought are very similar to a favourite pair of hiking boots I once owned in the seventies.
I have already discovered the alignment of my body is changing, as I stand properly. My posture has changed for the better. At night, I am in some pain, but it is the kind of muscular pain that occurs after a therapeutic massage...the kind that tells me my muscles are finding where they are meant to be, once again.
And wonder of wonders, I gained a couple of inches in height. For a short person, who suddenly can easily reach items once out of reach...this is a miracle.
Shoes are not all about looks, you know.