The Birks Are Back!
Last updated: August 2022
Spring is here, Summer is just around the corner, and in many ways this means FREEDOM! Freedom from heavy coats and jackets, freedom from having to scrape snow and ice off the car each morning before driving to work, freedom from cold weather imprisoning you in your house for months. There is a warmth and lightness to these magical months that just seem to uplift and free everything a bit.
But one of the best examples of Spring and Summer freedom is FREEDOM FOR MY FEET! It's officially sandal time now, and I couldn't be happier about this. Goodbye, constrictive and oppressive winter footwear. Goodbye having to bend and stoop to tie up long bootlaces. Goodbye even to the thin socks I wear whose touch irritates my ankle pain. And HELLO to my beautiful and comfortable Birkenstock sandals! I was so happy to lovingly take them out of their boxes for the first time in many months and slide them onto my angry and swollen feet. Ahhh, relief. And, they look cute, which is a miracle in itself.
The challenge of finding RA friendly shoes
Finding shoes that fit my challenging feet is often a very frustrating and nearly-impossible feat to accomplish. Because of this, I dread and detest going shoe shopping. Trying on shoes takes hours, with boxes piling up beside me as I shuffle around the store and became disappointed, quickly knowing that this one's too narrow, this one's too tight, this one's too long--and the shoe battle goes on and on. It's exhausting.
I can never seem to find anything that works for my annoying feet. If by some rare stroke of luck I do find a pair of shoes that fit, once I take them home and wear them around a bit more, I invariably end up having to return them. What a pain. I hate shoes! And, before I got RA, I used to love going shopping for cute shoes. That's one more thing that RA has stolen from me and that makes me incredibly angry--and sad.
Birkenstock as an RA friendly shoe
But let's get back to the Birks A.K.A. Birkenstocks A.K.A. THE BEST SHOES EVER MADE! Before I go on gushing about them, I must say that this is not an advertisement or promotion for the Birkenstock company. I'm not affiliated with them in any way. I'm just really happy and excited that I finally found a brand of footwear that actually works for my poor, picky feet. Being able to find shoes that fit, don't hurt, are comfortable, and look attractive is a HUGE deal. Especially the attractive part.
The majority of shoes that are available for people with "feet issues" are, well, extremely ugly. They're often boxy, clunky, large, and heavy. Some remind me of "nurse shoes": thick, boring, plain, orthopedic-looking things that have absolutely zero style. Or they look way too much like "Grandma Shoes"--no offense to grandmas. Why can't we have comfortable, supportive, well-made shoes that also look good? If I could invent something like this, I suspect I would become a rich woman. People with painful and finicky feet are crying out for cute shoes--especially women, I would argue. Although I'm sure that men would also like some stylish shoe options.
Supportive, shock-absorbent soles
Birkenstock sandals have amazing cork soles that are supportive and shock-absorbent and mold to your feet. There is a breaking-in period when it feels like you're walking on a rock-hard bulletin board, but the more you wear the shoes, the more they form to your feet. Once this happens, the cork soles are very comfortable and feel great! The sole is kind of like your own personal orthotic insert, but it doesn't look ugly.
Different styles to choose from
Also definitely not ugly are the several different styles that are available for Birkenstock sandals (there are some closed-toe shoe options, too). They come in lots of different fun and cool colors and interesting strap options: double-straps with buckles, triple-straps, toe-loops, ankle straps, etc. Another great thing about Birkenstocks is that they are made out of leather, which also softens over time and molds to your feet in a way. There are some non-leather options, too, but I always prefer to go with leather.
Price: the only downside
The downside to these "wonder" sandals is that they're not cheap. I think if you order the basic two-strap "Arizona" style directly from their website, a pair costs about $125 (free shipping though!). If you get them at a retail location, you might be able to use coupons depending on the store.
Grateful having quality shoes
Spending $125 on a pair of these sandals is definitely worth it, though. Good quality shoes these days are pretty expensive anyway. I'm happy to spend a bit more if I can actually find shoes that fit and that I like, because with RA, The Shoe Struggle is real! People who don't have RA or painful, "difficult" feet have no clue what we go through trying to find shoes. Now if only Birkenstock would hire me as their RA ambassador and supply me with a closet full of cute sandals for Spring, Summer, and Fall! I can dream, right?
In the meantime, I will happily slip into my favorite pair of red leather double-strap sandals, and I can't wait to pick up a new pair I just ordered: a feminine-looking sandal with thin black straps and an ankle strap. So cute and COMFORTABLE!
Best of luck to everyone out there who's shoe and sandal shopping for Spring and Summer. Let me know if you find something good!
Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?
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