A set of legs wearing ankle height snake skin boots with open boxes scattered around them

A Little Cute Goes A Long Way

It’s hard to feel attractive when contending with a disease like rheumatoid arthritis/rheumatoid disease [RA/RD]. This chronic condition can be extremely painful and one doesn’t tend to feel beautiful when in pain. Furthermore, the fatigue, pain, and stiffness common to this disease can make mornings a particularly challenging time of day which can impact the time and/or inclination one has for tending to one’s appearance. On top of that, RA/RD can cause swelling, pain, and even disfigurement in one’s joints which can impact whether or not a clothing item or pair of shoes is comfortable enough to be worn. All of these factors combine for an end result that feels the opposite of cute.

The impact of RA on self confidence

RA/RD takes a hit on my confidence. There are times when I literally feel like this disease steals my swagger: instead of walking with confidence and a swing in my step, I may be limping or doing the RA shuffle. Even if I have a nice outfit on, the pain coursing through my body can override any sense of attractiveness I might have. Furthermore, I may like my outfit from the knees up, but finding shoes that are cute and that I can manage to wear an entire day can seem impossible.

The current state of women's fashion

Current fashion is not practical for women with RA

Women’s fashion tends to favor looks that are not practical or supportive to the body. One needs to look no further than the stiletto to see this. Our society thinks a woman striding on pencil sticks is the height of femininity. I can never wear a stiletto heel, as even a medium-height wedge is too painful for my body. Even when it comes to comfort footwear, I struggle to find shoes that don’t increase the pain in my feet. The swelling and bunions caused by RA/RD have created contours to my feet that are different than the general woman shoe designers have in mind.

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Therefore, in order to find shoes that are comfortable enough to wear and attractive enough to want to spend money on, I shop online often ordering 8-10 different styles and sizes at a time, and as often as not sending all of them back. However, every once in a while I get lucky and find a shoe that is both comfortable and attractive.

Hitting the RA shoe jackpot

I recently struck “RA/RD shoe gold” with some really cute ankle boots that come in a wide width. When I took them out of the box, they looked every bit as stylish as they did online. However, being used to footwear disappointment I checked my excitement, expecting that I would likely have to return them just as I do so many pairs of shoes. Yet, as I zipped them up and put my weight on my feet, the boots didn’t exert pressure on my most painful joints. I walked around the house in them for a while, and they remained comfortable. And joy of joys, when I looked in the mirror I was actually enthusiastic about how I looked from the knee down.

Making fashion work for my RA

Building outfits based on shoes

I ended up buying two more pairs of these ankle boots in different colors. Wearing them gives me that little extra oomph one gets from feeling attractive. Instead of selecting my outfit and then going through my shoes to find the pair that looks the most palatable, I’ve started building outfits from the boots up. It’s led me to come up with new outfits and color combinations that have made me feel more excited about the contents of my closet. And when I wear my cute ankle boots, I receive compliments on my footwear, which is a fairly uncommon experience for me.

Reclaiming my style from RA

Given all of the challenges that RA/RD throws at a person, cute shoes may seem like small potatoes. However, this disease takes so much from us, impacting our careers, our families and friends, our income and expenses, our quality of life, our outlook and our spirits. In comparison, having one’s style and fashion sense impacted is minor. However, reclaiming anything from the clutches of this disease feels profoundly gratifying.

It is one more reminder that while RA/RD can make my life extremely challenging, it does not define me. Contending with RA/RD may mean I have to work harder to arrive at my goal (like ordering 20 or more pairs of shoes before finding a comfortable pair I actually like), but I won’t let it keep me from getting there. In spite of this disease, with determination, I can still be the things I want to be, whether that’s being a good mom, a valuable employee, a loyal friend, or simply being cute.

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