I’m Firmly In My Orthopedic Footwear Era

I’ve had foot problems for years, even though I’ve always been more of a Doc Martens and Birkenstocks gal rather than a Manolo Blahnik kind of woman. No shade to those who can, and do, wear high heels. But I cannot. But despite my choice of practical footwear, my feet have been bad lately.

At first, my feet hurt when I took long walks. I tried wearing different types of shoes and then I tried inserts, but the pain persisted. Then I began to get foot pain even on short walks.

I’ve heard that as people age, we have less fat on the bottom of our feet, and that’s one reason that foot pain tends to increase as we get older. This seems to be one of many inefficiencies of the human body (see also: having to carry around breasts my whole life just to feed another human being for about a year), because I have plenty of fat in other places. Why can’t my body just send some of my butt/hip/abdomen fat to my feet?!

I finally hauled my aging feet over to a nice podiatrist who took my insurance. We’ll call him Dr. Brayne. He sent me for an MRI, which didn’t reveal anything “too interesting” (hmmph), except a touch of arthritis in my big toe.

I’m sorry, arthritis?!

I almost couldn’t hear what the doctor was saying, because I also have tinnitus from years of listening to too much loud music. (He also looked like a guy I used to be in a band with, but I got the sense he didn’t have the time or interest to hear about it.) At any rate, the doctor prescribed me custom orthotic insoles to alleviate my foot pain. Hello, middle age.

While waiting for my orthotic insoles to arrive, I took a long, hard, honest look at my shoe collection. I had a lot of shoes I never really wore because they hurt my feet, and I had to admit I was probably never going to wear them again. I gathered them up and put them in a garbage bag, prepared to take them to a donation bin. While I was on my way there, I ran into a friend and her 13-year-old. “I have an entire bag of shoes with me,” I told them. “Take any that you want.” I was pleased that my friend’s kid took some gold clogs and a pair of Chuck Taylors that they planned to draw on with markers. Wear them while your feet are still young, I thought to myself.

The day my custom orthotic insoles arrived, the podiatrist told me they’d take some getting used to, and that I would probably feel like I was walking a little funny. He likened it to getting a new pair of glasses and how your eyes sometimes need a little time to adjust to a different prescription. Dr. Brayne was right: I did feel like I was walking around a bit like someone who just got off a boat and had downed two white wine spritzers.

Oh, but I got over that quickly.

The next day, I wore the insoles for a few more hours and I felt like my whole posture was different. The following morning, my abs and lower back felt a bit sore, like I’d done a vigorous Pilates workout. I mean, your whole body rests on your feet so it makes sense. Walking funny for a few days, though, is a small price to pay for a lot more foot comfort.

I’ve accepted that most of my outfits will involve me wearing Hokas, whether or not they “match” the rest of my outfit. At least Hokas are cool now, so I don’t feel like quite as much of a fashion outcast. And there’s something sort of freeing about having a more minimalist collection of shoes. Capsule wardrobes are all the rage now, right?! Plus, I’m able to take longer walks again without hobbling in pain.

I’ll just have to add uncomfortable shoes to the list of things I can no longer realistically wear (see also: outfits that need to be worn without a bra and skintight pants). I’m firmly in my orthopedic footwear era, and there’s no going back.

Janine Annett is the author of the humor book I Am “Why Do I Need Venmo?” Years Old. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Real Simple, Parents, and many other places. She lives in New York with her husband, son, and dog.

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