Saturday, 15 October 2011

De Agony of De Feet!

These are the kinds of fabulous
shoes I'd love to be able to wear.
 There was a time I practically lived in high-heeled shoes.  As a young journalist, I never felt appropriately dressed for work without a suitably fabulous pair of dressed-up high-heels.

Since lupus, shoes have become a problem.

When I was first diagnosed, I suddenly knew the pain of a friend of mine who has diabetes and had been forced to give up wearing shoes with narrow toes.

For some time, I had been wearing sandshoes to work instead of my favourite shoes because I seemed to get sore ankles, knees, hips and back from wearing high heeled shoes. But by then, I was a minister, and a chaplain working in a huge public hospital. I spent hours on my feet every day, and walked anything up to 25,000 steps per day.

I sacrificed my "professional look" for sports shoes. They didn't look as nice, but it was a necessity. I still wore them with business skirts and blouses. (It was a strange look, but it was practical.)
The kind of shoes I can wear now.

I didn't know I had lupus, and wouldn't have considered myself a candidate for arthritis. I wasn't quite 40, and thought only old people got arthritis.  I just spent too much time on my feet.

The diagnosis of lupus told me why I'd had so much pain wearing my preferred shoes at work.  It also told me something else I didn't want to know.

Lupus, like diabetes and many other conditions, can predispose a patient to a condition called "vasculitis". As a hospital chaplain, I had known patients with vasculitis.  They were the people who came in with a sore that wouldn't heal on a foot - and in the end half the foot was cut off. A year or so later the rest of the foot was cut off. A while after that, they'd be back for half the leg, then the whole leg. Vasculitis is not pretty. If you think "poor circulation" is nothing to worry about, you've never spent any time in the vascular ward of a hospital.

There are some things patients can do to help prevent vasculitis - the obvious stuff like taking our medication as the doctor prescribes and taking good care not to get injuries to our feet among them. Otherwise, a visit to a podiatrist to have our feet checked every now and then is always a good idea.

And we have to avoid constricting the blood flow to our legs and feet. This is the problem with fabulous, fashionable shoes. They are not designed by people who are really interested in the way blood flows around the foot. They are designed by people who want to make fabulous shoes. So, they frequently have tight, pointed toes. No podiatrist will ever recommend anyone wear shoes with tight pointed toes.

I went from wearing whatever shoes I want, to wearing the kinds of shoes my podiatrist says are OK. Instead of going to a shoe shop and just trying what's on the shelf, I now have to go to the kind of shoe shop that measures the foot for length and width, and then selects a choice of what will fit those measurements. These tend not to be the most stylish shoes known to humanity. They also tend to be far more expensive than the shoes at, say, Payless Shoes.

I almost cried when I went to buy dressed up shoes for my cruise with the kids a few years ago. There were going to be "formal nights" and I needed suitable shoes. When the shop assistant brought me a pair with ugly ratty looking flowers on them and said, "these look fun," I was devastated. They were the kind of thing my grandmother would have worn, but only because she'd been dead 15 years and couldn't have any say in it. I paid my money and took the awful shoes home - my daughter took one look and said, "We've got to do better than that." We took them back and kept looking. Eventually we found something much better, but still not the kind of sensational-looking shoes I used to have.

My much-loved stilettos shoes are all gone, except for one pair. (That pair is reserved for going out to dinner, or the theatre, where I'm only going to go from car to a seat and back to the car.) At the time, I couldn't bring myself to throw my fabulous friends out. My daughter's then-boyfriend took pity on me and put my shoes in the Lifeline bin, so I didn't have to.

Even my podiatrist-approved shoes have extra cushioning added in, to absorb the impact of walking in them. (I've got some great insoles from the supermarket, of all places, that give regular shoes the same kind of cushioning as sports shoes. This is very important if I'm going shopping and walking on hard concrete floors.)

I have a dream, shared with my friend who has diabetes and a love of shoes, that some shoe designer, somewhere, will realise that there is a market among women who have chronic illnesses and don't want to wear "grandma" shoes. When that shoe designer releases their first collection, my friend and I are going to have a party. And we're going to wear great shoes.


  1. I know how painful it is to wear heels. It looks beautiful and they make us even more sexy, but deep inside, it kills us. That's why I prefer wearing my dansko shoes because it's stylish and yet comfortable too.

  2. Don't be bothered if you wear sports shoes than professional shoes. I think it's way better because at least you don't have to suffer wearing those high heels.

    foot doctors

  3. OMG I wish that a designer hears you ! I've still so much to learn : I never thought about look and clothing with some diseases. I love high heels, but I love my feet and my back too. When I work, I leave home with nice shoes, but I wear sleepers in the classroom ; when I know I have to be in my shoes all the day, I wear sport shoes or not-sexy-or-pretty-at-all flat shoes. I would feel as desappointed as you are if I had only the choice between ugly flat shoes or grandma shoes. Shoe designer, hear our call !

  4. OMG, I wish that a shoe designer hears it ! I love high-heels, but I love my feet and my back too. When I work, I leave home with nice shoes, but I wear sleepers in the classroom. If I know that I have to stay all the day in my shoes, I wear sport shoes or not-sexy-or-pretty-at-all flat shoes. I've still so much to learn, I never thought about look and clothing for people with a certain kind of disease. I would feel very desappointed too if I only had the choice between ugly flat shoes or grandma shoes. Shoe designer, hear our call !

  5. To say I have a shoe fetish is like saying the pope is catholic... both, without pause, TRUE. They look good, make my legs and behind good, they never hurt my feet before and I would have never ever be caught dead in flats unless they were flip flops with a wedge bottom. I stop a say hello to all my 4- 5 inch heels, wedges, boots etc.....they sit there in my closet, in order by color - black having its own special 4 shelves, nicely displayed so I remind myself every day "YOU WILL BE WORN AGAIN, It may only be for 10 minutes -but I will wear you again."

    Have a great day - I am new to this board and this is my first ever post here.....but when you bring up shoes - I had to respond :}

  6. I have to say, this post touched me in a very special way. My love affair with shoes goes way back. I absolutely loved wearing my fabulous high heeled shoes. I have not been able to part with them, hoping that I will be able to wear them again. I would so love for a designer to make for us who can't wear the typical heel but love fabulous shoes. I know all too well about having to wear ugly shoes. It makes me sad. So Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, or any other designer, if you can hear us, please answer our call!

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