So Long, Sandals

Last updated: March 2021

I practically live in my red, double strap Birkenstock sandals. I slide them on as soon as it's warm and dry enough in the spring and wear them as much as possible before the snow flies in fall and winter. Sadly, sandal season is almost over now, which means more discomfort and pain for my feet and ankles as they're shoved into pinching, constrictive shoes. Living in Minnesota means that my cute and comfy sandals must be replaced with heavy, clomping footwear that's dry and durable and can successfully trudge through rain, mud, sleet, ice, and snow. See you later sandals, I guess.

The benefits of winter footwear

The cool/cold, dry weather of fall and winter greatly decreases my swelling and foot and ankle pain, so that's something. Looking through my cold weather stash the other day, I realized that I really need to go shoe shopping: for everyday leather shoes, dress shoes, and winter boots. This means a tedious and stressful hunt must begin soon to find some that are comfortable, supportive, pain-free, and aren't hideous to look at. Wish me luck, please, because I will need it! Finding all of those things in a pair of shoes (that also don't cost a million dollars) is nothing short of a miracle, I've discovered.

When RA constantly attacks your feet, you're left with not many shoe choices in life. And, invariably, those few choices are limited to dull, ugly, boxy, orthopedic-looking clodhoppers that are supposed to pass as acceptable footwear. For a young woman--or someone of any age--the "shoe situation" we're often forced into is a drab and depressing one. My feet aren't able to tolerate most of the stylish shoes I see in advertisements or other people wearing. Cute little ballet flats? No. Fun wedge soles? Nope. Cool clogs? Can't. Fancy high heels (or any heels)? Never! Thick, plain shoes a nurse would wear during his/her rounds? Oh yes, sign me up. My RA feet love those ones. Sigh.

Despite all of my complaining, I have had a bit of luck over the years finding a few types of shoes that actually work on my finicky feet. For everyday leather tie shoes, I've found a style of Keens that are pretty supportive and comfortable. Thankfully, they don't look repulsive, either. So why don't I plunk down some money (over $100) for a new pair of them? I probably will, actually, despite that after wearing two pairs in five years I've grown bored with them. I want something new and exciting! Can shoes be exciting? They used to be, before I got RA.

But I love my summer sandals!

But back to the Birkenstocks. I love, love, LOVE these sandals! My only regret is that I didn't discover them a lot sooner than I did. They don't look feminine or sleek or pretty by any means, but I'm fine with that. Birkenstocks are famously "earthy," hippie-like, and scream comfort. Luckily they're also cool and "in" right now and there are tons of cute styles and colors (like red!) from which you can choose. Their cork soles--as hard as rocks when you first step on them--eventually mold beautifully to your feet and they're really some of the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. Comfort is pretty important when your feet are in throbbing, stabbing pain every day.

Due to all of the good qualities "Birks" possess, I've become a huge fan of this footwear. I will even willingly commit the cardinal sin of wearing socks with sandals (unless you're a German tourist) if it means I can squeeze a few extra weeks into my sandal season. But something I haven't tried yet, however, are Birkenstocks' non-sandal options. When I finally drag myself out the door to go shoe shopping someday, my plan is to give these regular shoes a try. Closed-toe shoes with the magical Birkenstock cork soles? It sounds too good to be true. Cross your fingers, please, that my stubborn feet and ankles will like them so I can ditch the boring Keens for a while.

What about you? Have you been loafing around in your sandals all summer and now you're dreading switching to your claustrophobic cold weather shoes? Have you lucked out and found some pairs for fall and winter that feel good on your feet and look great, too? Please let me know. I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who's sad to say, "So long, sandals!"

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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