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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.

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.

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

Comments

  • Gidgxx
    3 months ago

    My problem is that I have big feet in general. So finding womens shoes that were size 12 double wide was hard. Now that I have R A its becoming even harder to find shoes. I usually end up wearing mens shoes mostly.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 months ago

    Hey Gidgxx,

    Yes, I can imagine that it’s already hard to find cute shoes in a 12 wide, much less when RA impacts feet! I am a 9.5 or 10, depending on the brand, and I am used to shoes not being available in my size but there being plenty of size 6s and 7s, so I imagine it’s that much harder to find a size 12. Thanks for sharing this, as it adds another layer to a problem common to women with RA/RD.

    Please continue to share any time you feel inclined!

    All the best,
    Tamara

  • tutty
    3 months ago

    Hi Tamara, I would love the web site for wide boots, I have so much trouble and have to cut holes and dig out the soles to wear most shoes. Also does anyone have trouble with there jaw …. mine makes the most horrible noise and my teeth don’t line up when it’s inflamed has anyone had there’s injected.
    So glad for this site and sharing with fellow RA friends . Ann

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 months ago

    Hey tutty,

    Here is a reply I just posted to another commenter asking for the name and info.:

    They are Earth brand, which is the brand that I have had the most luck with in general. Some of their styles are definitely not RA-friendly, but I have ankle boots, tall boots, sandals, and lace ups from them that are my go-to shoes. Probably 80% of my shoes are Earth brand.

    These ankle boots have the style name “Beaufort.” Although, I just did a search and it looks like Earth may have stopped making them (arrrrgh!) because there are limited colors and sizes currently available on the Earth website. However, if you put “Earth Beaufort” in your search engine there are other sites that are offering them, so if you like the style you may still be able to find your size on another site.

    As to your jaw, many people with RA/RD do have jaw issues. This link will take you to a page full of articles about RA jaw issues: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/?s=jaw. I hope that is helpful.

    Wishign you all the best,
    Tamara

  • jack5225
    4 months ago

    I can’t be the only one to ask, but please share the cute boots info. Website, brand, this has givenme so much hope. And you are right, RA women tend to dress from the boots up. Thank You!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 months ago

    Hey jack5225,

    They are Earth brand, which is the brand that I have had the most luck with in general. Some of their styles are definitely not RA-friendly, but I have ankle boots, tall boots, sandals, and lace ups from them that are my go-to shoes. Probably 80% of my shoes are Earth brand.

    These ankle boots have the style name “Beaufort.” Although, I just did a search and it looks like Earth may have stopped making them (arrrrgh!) because there are limited colors and sizes currently available on the Earth website. However, if you put “Earth Beaufort” in your search engine there are other sites that are offering them, so if you like the style you may still be able to find your size on another site.

    Good luck!,
    Tamara

  • JAK1016
    4 months ago

    For my son’s graduation from college I decided to go for a small heel wide shoe.I had not worn a heels since my diagnosis but wanted to dress up! By the end of it I had to take the shoes off and walk barefoot from the pain. I wish I could wear sandals or heels but my inserts prevent it. I will continue the search but someone could make a fortune making shoes for us so we still feel pretty!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    3 months ago

    Hey Jak1016,

    Oh, I feel your pain! I have done the barefoot walk a few times. Now when I go to a special occasion I keep a pair of flats in my car, or if I won’t have easy access to my car I take a large purse or a tote and keep my flats in there. That way if my I-really-want-to-wear-these-cute-shoes get too painful, I have an alternate in place to substitute to avoid the pain, embarrassment, and yuck factor of walking barefoot in public (oh I have ended up with the dirtiest feet after limping on city sidewalks to my car in barefeet).

    Thank you for sharing your experience, and I hope that in spite of the pain that it was an incredibly special day for you and your son.

    Yes, let’s keep hoping someone realizes the money that’s waiting to be made in the comfortable-yet-cute shoe industry!

    Wishing you all the best,
    Tamara

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    3 months ago

    Jak: Again i am prevented from discussing women’s shoe fashion (see above), but i can comment on graduations.

    Shoe less or shoe’d, your grandson was thrilled to have you there. I promise.

  • Casmere
    4 months ago

    #Tamara: Very great read. This RA/RD does take away our uniqueness. We have to pull ourselves together differently. It does take longer to get ready, whether it be to go to work or going out for the evening. I find by the time I am ready I am exhausted and need to sit and relax before venturing out. I have not been able to work since July 2017, and I won’t be back working anymore. I am 65 now. What you said about mornings is so very true. Thank you for all your information and insight into part of our lives that doesn’t get mentioned often. I this does also apply to men.

    Blessings all

    Casmere (Carol Bonham)

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    4 months ago

    Hi Casmere,

    Thank you so much for your comments and for sharing about your experience with RA/RD! I’m sorry that this disease took you out of the work force before you were ready for that change, and I appreciate you sharing that, as it is validating for others going through something similar to know that they are not alone.

    I love your idea to sit and relax after getting ready before going out. It’s funny, I buffer in “recovery time” for many activities, but I haven’t considered doing it for getting ready. As mornings are really hard for me, I doubt I could pull off getting ready in time to allow myself those minutes without being late, but for afternoon and evening engagements I am going to start trying that, as I think it could help me feel a little more “ready” for whatever activity/event I’m headed toward. Thanks for sharing this!

    I hate that you have this disease, but I’m glad that you are in our online community. Please continue to share your thoughts and experiences with us any time you feel so inclined.

    All the best,
    Tamara

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    4 months ago

    Oh, I have been instructed to never comment on women’s fashion. I have been told since I have no style, I have no fashion sense.

    I both fear and believe the woman who told me that. So for that reason I will say what I always say when asked about such topics.

    Yes you are right.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    4 months ago

    Rick, your comments never fail to bring a smile to my face! A therapist once told me there are four things that you can never say enough in a romantic relationship: “I love you.” “I’m sorry.” “You are beautiful/attractive.” and “You were right.” 🙂 Sounds like you have learned some of this on your own without the help of a therapist.

    Always appreciative of your humor,
    Tamara

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