So it’s come to this.
It started with a trip to my chiropractor this past July. I have an ongoing problem with chronic pain – centered mostly in my hip area. I have tried dozens of things over the past ten to fifteen years to find relief and so far nothing has worked. My yoga instructor recommended the perfect chiro, so I paid him a visit.
After a few weeks of tugging and pulling and cracking he asked to look at my shoes. After examining the soles of my trusty Birkenstocks he told me that I tend to “Underpronate”. He then advised me to go home and Google search the problem to find a pair of appropriate shoes.
Initially it sounded like a great idea. I LOVE shoes! Who wouldn’t want an excuse to buy a new pair? Although my Birks are my go-to summer footwear choice, I have been known to have a bit of a penchant for pretty, pointy pumps. Just thinking about the beautiful snake-skin heels that I have in my closet (which I can no longer wear because of my problem), I smile with affection. As a matter of fact, at my past place of employment my nickname was “Shoes”. My motto is “any outfit is good, as long as you wear it with great shoes”. Shoe shopping is my favorite. Pants may tug and blouses might not button correctly, but you can always find nice shoes. Macy’s shoe department is my nirvana!
Actually, I was a bit concerned about what I might find when I looked on the internet, and my fears were justified. It seems that the only shoes I located were running shoes. Here’s the thing – since I stopped running 10 years ago (as a result of said hip problem) I don’t DO running shoes. I simply cannot bring myself to lace up a pair of sneakers to wear as a form of regular footwear. They don’t feel right to me unless I am wearing running shorts or yoga pants.
What to do? My only option seemed to be to visit a “real” shoe store. You know, the kind with salespeople who actually touch your feet? They sit on these weird little benches with an angled ramp in front. They untie and tie your shoes like you were a three-year old and look up at you with smiling faces as they squeeze your toes to make sure you have enough room.
Just entering the store was intimidating. The clerk who greeted me looked down at the Steve Madden flats that I was wearing with a sad smile. He was definitely judging me. When he asked if he could help me I mumbled something about my feet/hips and my chiro. He immediately jumped into action, leading me by the elbow to a computerized machine that had the outlines of two feet on the floor and a video screen at eye-level. As I stepped into place, the screen flashed a colored image with mostly RED pixels representing the pressure points on the bottom of my feet. “Oh, this is very bad!”, he exclaimed, reaching for a pair of inserts from a shelf on the wall. “Here try these”, he said as he put them on the floor inside the diagrams. I stepped into them and the angry red dots suddenly turned a soothing yellow/green. “Isn’t that better?” he inquired.
I had to agree that it did feel nice. As I nodded my affirmation he expertly directed me to a seat on the other side of the store and disappeared behind a curtain into the stock room. After a few minutes he returned with a box and pulled out the UGLIEST pair of Mary Jane flats that I have ever seen. They had very round toes and velcro straps that were about 3/4 of an inch wide. Swallowing my instant disgust, I decided to play along. He slipped the inserts into the shoes and gently slid my foot inside, asking me to walk around and try them out. “Well, how do they feel?”, he asked.
My toes were sliding around at the top of the shoe, so I told him that I thought they felt loose. “That is because you have been crushing them for so long”, he admonished. “They need space!” I decided that honesty was the best track at this point, so I let him know that I would probably never wear this type of footwear and asked if he had something more enclosed, like a loafer. He sighed heavily and went back to the stock room, only to return with a pair of oxford-type shoes that buckled over the instep. He removed the insert from the first pair and placed it inside the newer ones. While they did look a bit better, they were still not anything that I could see myself wearing.
Realizing that I was fighting a losing battle I asked him if he had anything more stylish. This time he huffed off and returned with a pair of pumps that looked to be about the only thing in the store that I might possibly consider. I put them on and walked a few feet. They slipped off the backs of my heels – obviously too loose.
The salesperson looked at me expectantly. When I told him they didn’t fit he sighed so loudly that I was sure they could hear him at the register in the front of the store. “I am sorry, ma’am. I don’t believe we have anything here for you.”, he said as he started to move away towards a woman a few rows down.
Utterly defeated, I left the store and returned to my car. I then drove a half mile up the street to the nearest department store, where I proceeded to try on every pair of black loafers that they had in stock, finally settling on a pair that had decent arch support.
I do understand that these shoes will not solve my problem. I also understand that my vanity will continue to contribute to my pain. It’s just that I am not quite ready to let go of the hope that I will one day wear pretty, stylish footwear again.
Running shoes do come in some nice colors, don’t they??