A Pleasant Sandal Surprise
Summer is coming, and with it comes sandal season. While some people may enjoy making purchases for the changing weather and styles, the difficulty in finding shoes when contending with rheumatoid arthritis/rheumatoid disease (RA/RD) sucks the fun right out of shopping. It seems that sandals should be the perfect footwear for a person with painful, inflamed joints, as there’s less surface area pressing against swollen toes and feet. Unfortunately, comfortable, flattering sandals have proven nearly as elusive as winter shoes. Most summer styles offer little support and/or high heels or wedges, making them too painful for a gal with RA/RD.
Each year I find myself on a sandal safari, hunting down the rare cute, painfree shoe. I spend hours searching comfort brands online, then order numerous pairs in a variety of combinations of half sizes and wide widths, and still I usually come up short. More often than not, I end up returning the giant package of every pair of shoes from my order.
However, this year I lucked out on an unexpected footwear feature that actually brought me shoe shopping success: velcro.
When I think of velcro and shoes, I immediately think of the footwear donning my 5 year old’s feet. Nothing about the word “velcro” conjures cute, feminine footwear. Yet, some clever designers have looked past toddlers in designing shoes with this wonder closure.
I ordered several pairs of sandals from Earth Shoes, as this is a brand that I have better luck with than others (although it’s still far from a sure thing). From the online photos of the sandals I selected, I was none the wiser that they had velcro closures. When my shoes arrived, I was surprised to discover that beneath the leather was a layer of velcro. Therefore, my shoes don’t look anything like my son’s velcro tennis shoes, but they share some of the same benefits.
The velcro allows me to adjust the shoes perfectly, so that the straps are not too tight on my swollen toe joints but are snug enough to provide support to the rest of my body. While I mastered the skill of shoe-tying years ago, it’s also handy for my swollen fingers to not have to maneuver buckles.
I’m glad some shoe designers had the creativity to think outside the toddler shoebox and apply an invention that’s been around for decades to women’s footwear. Too often women’s fashion is focused on form over function, and I hope that more designers and companies realize that many women like myself don’t want to have to choose between comfort and style. In using velcro on dressy sandals, this company was able to sell me shoes that I didn’t end up returning and that actually feel good to wear throughout the day.
Living with chronic, painful illness, one learns not to take things for granted. Being able to walk with minimal pain, participating in activities I enjoy, or being able to sleep without tossing and turning in discomfort all night are all victories, as is finding a pair of cute, comfortable shoes. RA/RD makes life difficult in countless major and minor ways, so finding a new fashion feature that enables me to successfully buy shoes is something to celebrate.
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?