As a person living with a Chronic Vestibular Disorder, my world feels ‘off kilter’, ‘off balance’, or ‘spinning’… Daily. Every single day. So, what I chose to wear on my feet is a necessity for aiding my balance. “Balance is achieved and maintained by a complex set of sensorimotor control systems that include sensory input from vision (sight), proprioception (touch), and the vestibular system (motion, equilibrium, spatial orientation); integration of that sensory input; and motor output to the eye and body muscles”, as defined by the Vestibular Disorders Association/VEDA. The last thing I should do is wear shoes for only the sake of being fashionable. Wearing shoes that are just SO cute but offering no support, only make maneuvering through my world more difficult and hurt my feet. I feel I’ve come full circle with my attitude concerning Orthopedic shoes. Is it because I am 62 years old with broken old down feet or because I am dizzy and don’t want to fall anymore? A little bit of both, I think.
In 1973, literally months before meeting Mike, I was prescribed my first pair of ‘Corrective’ shoes as they were called back then. At the age of seventeen! Corrective shoes were for babies or children, not 17 year olds! This was after the heel cups, shoe inserts and whatnot failed. After I’d broken my left 3rd, 4th, and 5th Metatarsal bones (the long bones in the foot) three times in two years. My dad told me, ‘if it happened again I’d have to get the Corrective shoes’. Of course, I broke my foot again! The attempts to hide my limping gait from my dad failed, when I was caught limping down our hallway (it’s hard to walk on a broken foot!). I was going to have to get a pair of Corrective shoes. I never said I would wear them…
The only shoe store that carried these type shoes was a children’s shoe store, in the mall! I was so vain at seventeen, I thought ‘everyone’ would see me. See me sitting in a children’s shoe store, all 5′ 10″ of me. Oh, the pettiness of youth! On the drive to the store, I repeated over and over, ‘there was no way I’d ever wear them, that he was wasting his money, that I wouldn’t go into the store’, etc… I was very dramatic, producing big ‘crocodile’ tears (fake ones) but nothing worked. He marched me in there by my arm and sat me down in a chair. A chair sized for a child! I was livid! He calmly handed my prescription to the salesman. I hung my head as real tears began rolling down my face as my feet were measured. I wore an 8 1/2 AAAA shoe back then, a long and very skinny foot…
The salesman disappeared behind a curtain and came back with two boxes. Two huge boxes! I was horrified when he opened the box and ‘presented’ the shoes to me! They were very similar in style to what I pictured my grandmother wearing. I was a Hippie Chick and besides, they didn’t go with my hip huggers jeans and halter top… I was heartbroken when I realized the boxes contained the same style, just different sizes. The first size was obviously too small as my toes hit the end of the shoe. The second size swallowed my foot. He patiently showed me how I could ‘tighten the laces to make them fit’. Seriously? My feet were swimming in these dang shoes! Maybe if I over-lapped them, then tightened them, and wore the bulkier socks I had they’d fit! Dad paid for the (ugly) shoes and we left, my head still hanging low. I wore them exactly twice… I wore them to Church because there, I wouldn’t be ‘judged’ but bullies go to Church also… Sigh…
Fast forward to 2017… I just purchased my first pair of orthopedic shoes! Say what? This time though, the choice was mine and boy did I hit pay dirt! There are SO many Orthopedic brands that combine fashion and function now, it makes my head spin! These type shoes are expensive, but now, I look at it as an investment. In myself. Truthfully, my feet are a mess. Both are paying the price for being born with ‘joint laxity’, ‘ligimental laxity’, or ‘double jointed’. I’d never heard this term until I became a C.O.T.A. and worked with children diagnosed with this. A doctor told me, ‘think of an elastic waistband that becomes old and stretched out, it no longer does what it was made to do’. That’s me. Many people have joint laxity but it’s in out feet that most obviously show it. Are your feet flat? Some are born with flat feet, this is different but they still need good support. My feet have become flat because all the tiny ligaments have stretched out and no longer doing what they’re supposed to. Do your feet roll inward? This is called Pronation. I have both, lucky me! One foot worse than the other, thanks to the breaks I had as a teenager and later in life.
Thanks to gravity, our feet and ankles take the bulk of its effect when we stand. We need a stable, sturdy, and supportive base that puts them in proper alignment. Proper alignment allows our feet and ankles to function as they should. Wearing fashionable shoes were torturous for me but I did it, as most women do. My collection of shoes I’ll likely never wear again, like my 4 inch heels, are insane! I just can’t let them go, yet…Back to ‘sturdy’ shoes. Functional shoes! They have come a very long way and this time around, I’m on board! They even make SANDALS now that are designed with orthotics built-in! It’s been a trial and error (a lot of returns as I purchase online) but I think I have a good collection of Orthopedic shoes, boots, sandals, and inserts now. With insert orthotics, you can put them into most regular shoes to keep in fashion. Inserts have also come a long way. They even make them for, get this, HEELS! I haven’t tried these yet but definitely plan to. Why not? Oh, yeah. I could fall an extra 4 inches! My Dansko ‘Professionals’ are still among my favorites, talk about study support!
Some of my favorite brands of Orthopedic shoes, boots, sandals, and inserts are:
- Dansko: Their ‘Professionals’ Line gives the firmest, most stable support. These are the clogs you see Doctors and Nurses wearing. I have about one dozen of them in every color you can imagine. Use their Outlet Store, you’ll save big bucks if you can live with a miniscule flaw.
- Aetrex: My new favorite! Yes, you can wear a flip-flop ‘style’, if you don’t mind a 3rd strap that goes over the top of your foot. Most styles have a firm, yet soft and unbelievably comfortable footbed. Their line has metatarsal support (your mid-foot). I didn’t know how badly I needed this, until I tried these on! They also carry Lynco inserts, making most any shoe you already have more support.
- Earthies: I love this brand, very comfortable. Their insoles aren’t supportive enough for me and that’s where the inserts come in. I think MOST people would find the support adequate and extremely comfortable.
- Spenco’s: I have two pairs of their slippers and love them but I cannot wear their shoes or sandals as they are wide for my foot. They seem to fit like my very first pair of Corrective shoes…
These are just my opinions and have not been paid (I wish!) in ANY way. I’m the one who paid for my new, totally rocking, orthopedic shoes and sandals. No tears shed over wearing these!
Balance Awareness Week September 18-24, 2017 is brought to you by the Vestibular Disorders Association/VEDA