Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Must Be the Shoes...

I've never considered myself a slave to fashion.  When it's come to wardrobe, I tend toward the comfortable, with the occasional nod to the quirky.  I haven't been all that interested in which designer's name was on the tag.

But I've come to understand and appreciate the fascination that some women have with shoes.

Before I started having mobility issues, I didn't give much thought to shoes.  If it was comfy and not butt-ugly, I'd wear it.  But when I started having mobility issues, I started paying a lot more attention to my shoes.  Even the slightest heel added a degree of difficulty to the sport of walking that I was just not prepared to handle.  Then the physical therapist recommended a foot up, a device to reduce the frequency of foot drop.  Most people can walk without having to think about keeping their toes out of the way  Their heel hits the ground, then the toes follow.  As many of us with MS know, foot drop is that not-fun-at-all tendency to not lift our toes, which can lead to falls.  The foot drop is a device you strap around your ankle and connect to your shoes to help lift your toes out of the way when you're walking.  Unlike a lot of mobility aids, the foot up is a relatively inexpensive solution.  The biggest downside?  You can only use a foot up with laced shoes.

So bye bye all those cute little flats with no laces.  So long sandals.  Sayonara flip flops.  Dress shoes?  Ha.  But walking without falling interested me more than those cute shoes, so I did a long-overdue closet purge.  I was on a quest to find shoes that were comfortable, cute, and had laces.  I found a few pairs, and most of them were comfortable enough that I could wear them for more than 4 hours without grimacing in pain or wearing blisters on my Achilles tendon.

But that got old real quick.  And those shoes that I had thought were cute looked clunky and boring pretty fast.  They certainly weren't flattering with dresses, and except for one sassy pair of Keds, they looked silly with shorts.  I felt like the ostracized kid in old sitcoms who walked around with the corrective shoes and the retainer that swallowed her head.  I hated looking down at my feet and seeing those damned laces.  And do you know how hard it is to tie shoes when you have spasticity in your legs?  I'm supposed to be able to securely tie a shoe when I can't even bend my knee to reach the shoe?  But of course, an untied shoe was a danger from which not even a foot up could save me.

So the new approach is screw the foot up.  It makes it harder for me to go up and down steps because of the way the brace secures around my ankle, so in some ways it was making my walking worse.  Then I treated myself to a couple of pairs of new shoes without laces.  The first pair is a cute black shoe that replaces the laces with zippers.  It's easy to get on and off my foot (my kids can even zip the shoes!), and it looks pretty darn cute with a nice pair of pants.  The other pair has velcro to keep it secure on my foot and looks much sleeker than the laced shoes.  Both are easy to put on, even when the leg wants to stiffen up and stick straight out.  How when I look down at my feet, I smile.

I still can't wear a sassy little pair of sandals.  But at least I don't have to try off the prison matron shoewear look anymore.  And even though I still scuff a little, it's easier to manage steps in the new shoes sans foot up.

There's no rule that says I have to abandon style just because I have MS.

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