I admit it; I felt a bit salty when our older daughter pointed out in a Skype call that I’ve been complaining about having trouble with find walking shoes–as in, practical tennis shoes–for years.
Upon reflection, though, I had to admit… she was right.
Now, I LOVE shoes. Flats. Booties. Sandals. Mules. Kitten heels, block heels, wedge heels (back in the day–way back–stiletto heels). I’ve always loved shoes. And I own WAY too many.
But though I once tried hiking in a really cute pair of high heel slide-style sandals (I was young. Silly. I’ve learned.), I actually truly try to be very practical when it comes to shoes for walking long distances or exercising. Hiking boots/sandals for, well, hiking: check. Slip-ons for getting through airports (back when I did that): check. Running/walking athletic shoes for walking in neighborhood: check.
Pre-pandemic, my workouts were water aerobics at the indoor pool at the local rec center (and before that, TRX). But with the rec center pool closed for months, and then open in a very limited way, I decided to do the obvious: walk around in my neighborhood. So I put on a pair of running shoes, purchased a year ago and rarely worn… and within maybe a hundred yards of my house, the lateral right side of my foot was in agony. I remembered WHY I don’t wear those shoes often, and haven’t fully engaged with simply walking as exercise.
Because of the pain! I don’t mean I was a wee bit sore, or I was getting winded, or I just needed to loosen the laces. I mean CRUSHING pain. As in, can I sit down on this neighbor’s lawn and just weep? (For the record, I didn’t do either.)
I tried several other types, purchased online, all REALLY good shoes. (Our daughters are runners, so I know the brands!) Nope. Crushing, agonizing pain. (Thank goodness for our wallet that the shoes were returnable.) I stubbornly tried walking THROUGH the pain (bad choice.)
Finally, I listened to my family’s advice, and went to the local running store (masked up! As were the employees!) to ask for HELP! I gave my tale of woe. Explained I’d been fitted for excellent running shoes before… but honestly, I’d rather walk barefoot or sock footed. Or in sandals. Or, actually, in kitten heels.
“That makes no sense,” said the nice, athletic running store lady.
“I know,” I replied. “But there you have it. I’ve tried Asics, Brooks, inserts… The closest I can get to a running or walking shoe that I can walk in is, well, this old pair of Skechers, which I used to reserve for the airport. And even then, I can barely get through walking a 5k.”
She gave my feet a skeptical look. (By the way, if you ever want to test the politeness of your local athletic shoe salesperson, just throw around terms like, “Skechers,” or “kitten heel.” My particular salesperson was a politeness genius.) Then she said, “Take off those shoes, and let me see you in sock feet.”
I did as instructed, and she stared in awe at my feet. “Those are… among the flattest feet I’ve ever seen. Have they gotten flatter recently?”
“Nope,” I said cheerily. “I’ve always had fallen arches. Feet not just as flat as a pancake. As flat as crepes!”
I thought that was hilarious, but she didn’t laugh. She did, however, have me walk around.
“And you’re not in pain, walking around barefoot?”
“No. I prefer it, and at my house am usually barefoot or in sock feet.” (OK, or in sandals or my cute kitten heels, because I love ’em, but after my crepe joke fell, well, flat, I didn’t tell her that.)
“Well, you are that rare person we see here sometimes–functionally flat footed.”
“What does that mean?”
“That, based on how flat your feet are, you probably should be in pain just standing there, what’s more walking around barefoot or without arch supports. It makes sense to have running or walking shoes with extra arch support, which is why you’ve been fitted that way in the past. But your feet are screaming, leave me alone! I’m fine as I am! So let’s try you in shoes with less arch support.”
It took several tries, but finally, I ended up in these shoes–running shoes with NO arch support at all. (I think they call it a Zero drop?) But… sufficient cushioning so I don’t hurt my back while walking. They’re Altra brand, and as it turned out, the store didn’t have a women’s size 10, which is what I needed. But they did have a men’s size 9–which I purchased.
And I have been wearing them ever since on walks. As in two to three 5ks a week, with shorter walks on the days in between. And… I’m fine. More than fine. I can finally walk for exercise without pain. I look forward to walking! I haven’t been tempted to sit on any neighbor’s lawns and weep–well, at least not about foot pain.
Why share all this? Because I think there’s a little nugget of a life lesson in my struggles for finding shoes that ACTUALLY work for me, not that SHOULD work for me per the world’s standards.
Sometimes, it’s hard to accept ourselves for who we just… are. To not fight who we are (obviously so long as we’re not hurting others.) And to work WITH that, celebrating it… kicking up our heels, even!
All right–since you’ve stuck through my story all the way to (almost) The End–here’s a fun treat: a video of a young Elvis singing Blue Suede Shoes.