Spring into Your (Orthopedic) Sandals!

Spring is here in Minnesota (well, it's supposed to be), or it will be here for good very soon, with hot and humid summer weather quickly to follow. Great, right? No more heavy jackets and boots and layers of clothing. Freedom! Relaxation! Well, the thought of spring and summer doesn't exactly relax me in some respects. The change of seasons forcing me to wear skimpier clothing and footwear fills me with dread. Why? I'm way chubbier than I want to be, thanks to increased doses of prednisone and lack of exercise from RA pain and winter weather. Dragging out last year's summer clothes and shopping for new clothes and shoes is a major headache. Especially shoe and sandal shopping. I can work to lose weight again and I can manage some clothing tricks that hide the extra fat, but I can't change the painful, swollen state of my feet and ankles. And you know what that means--UGLY SUMMER SHOES (and ugly feet)! How depressing. Admittedly, I'm being pretty negative here and probably exaggerating somewhat, but it can't be denied that finding cute shoes that actually fit RA feet and don't cause pain is a major challenge.

I've joked with RA girlfriends before about how one of us needs to become rich and famous by designing and making attractive footwear for those of us with arthritis who are not senior citizens (seniors should also have access to cute shoes, of course). Maybe I should take on this project myself; I am so sick of not being able to find shoes that don't make me feel 100 times uglier! My SAS shoes (I got my first pair in my 20s!) feel wonderful but they make me look like a nursing home orderly. Comfort over pain, right? But why can't we RA ladies (and men) have both? We should be able to have both, I believe. This may sound a bit vain and ridiculous, but I remember one of my first experiences of loss after I was diagnosed with RA at age 18 was having to give up wearing cute shoes. Like most girls, I used to love shoe shopping! Now I hate it. Granted, I have bigger problems to worry about now, but it would still be nice to be able to wear the latest styles, like other young women who are running around in heels and wedge sandals. The hours and energy I waste trying, unsuccessfully, to shop for remotely attractive shoes usually causes so much frustration that I give up and then feel like a frump and a failure with worse self-esteem. Who wants to go through that?

In good news, regarding fall and winter footwear, I have discovered shoes that fit well and look good! And they don't hurt. Amazing! Actually, they can be worn all year round, if you want, but the style is better suited to colder weather. These miracle shoes are black leather lace-ups made by KEEN. They're kind of sporty and not exactly feminine, but I think they're cute and stylish and they look great with jeans and casual pants. I've worn them nearly every day this fall and winter and while I've been working at my kindergarten teaching job, which caused extra stress on my feet. These shoes have saved me from a lot of pain and they've helped to boost my self-esteem a little bit, too. Success!

The bad news that I have yet to find sandals that are supportive and comfortable for walking yet don't make me want to hide my feet in paper bags. I've tried Birkenstocks, Danskos, Easy Spirit, Naturalizer, and I can't remember what else. My geriatric SAS sandals are the closest I've come to finding something that doesn't hurt too much. Dear SAS, can you PLEASE design a sandal for us under-60s with arthritic feet and ankles? I'm still single here and I'm not going to get a date clomping around in footwear from a nursing catalog.

If I absolutely can't find somewhat attractive sandals this year, then what are some alternatives to improving my spring and summer foot problems? Try to wear mostly long pants that hide part of my ugly sandals? Wear more interesting and cool shirts or get a really cute haircut to distract from my feet? I feel sort of silly even asking these questions because this is not a HUGE problem or dilemma in my life, of course. I've learned to adapt and accept a life of boring, depressing footwear. But it is these little things about living with RA that do affect a person. It's the losses that add up over time, robbing you of the life you want to have.  And it's about making decisions. Do you want to look good at the party or do you want to dance at the party? I'd rather dance--even in my SAS shoes.

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