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Old Feet and Fancy Shoes

category_bug_journal2.gif Considering that I spent a dozen years or so of my childhood and teen years cramming my feet into toe shoes five days a week at ballet class and another 35 years prancing around daily in three-inch, strappy sandals or pumps, my feet are in relatively good shape at age 70.

I would be wearing those high-heeled shoes still except that one day, a decade or so ago while dressing for work, I stepped into a gorgeous pair, walked into the kitchen for coffee and thought I'd pass out from the pain.

To this day, I'm not certain if my feet had always hurt that much and I had successfully ignored it or if that was the moment my feet rebelled against their life-long torture.

Scrounging around in a closet overflowing with more than a hundred pairs of to-die-for, high-heeled shoes, I found an old pair of flats that morning and although I tried the high heels some mornings over the next several months, I finally had to admit that my days of wearing beautiful shoes were done.

Until that happened, I am pretty sure I alone kept Dr. Scholl's in business with my regular purchase of corn pads for 35 years. It was automatic – buy a new tube of toothpaste and pick up a couple of packages of corn pads.

My feet have been corn-free now for a decade and I no longer have calluses behind my big toe. Also, I've never had a bunion or any other kind of foot problem except, once, a broken toe. But that doesn't mean I can ignore my feet now.

In my old days of pretty shoes, I tried them on at the store and if they felt good, I could wear them the next day, never needing any time to break them in. That stopped a long time ago. Unless they are backless, new shoes always – always - give me blisters on the back of my heels, so I must wear them around the house for an hour or two a day over a couple of weeks until I can go out in them.

This (admittedly minor) problem came up again this week when I wanted to wear a new pair of my standard, everyday shoes. Here is a photo:

Gold Shoes

Once broken in, these are the closest thing I've found to going barefoot. They come in a dozen or more colors from two manufacturers, but I always buy gold (or bronze) because that color goes with everything and is more interesting than black. I keep a pair by the door to slip into whenever I leave the house.

That means they wear out within a year, so it's an annual purchase with an annual break-in period. I've had this new pair for a couple of months and have been putting off the break-in because I so love living with pain-free feet.

It's hard to be sure, but I think my feet, without the daily distress of several decades, have become more tender in the heel area. One solution is backless, flat or near-flat shoes and I've found a new way to indulge my fetish for gorgeous shoes.

If you hunt around, there are amazingly beautiful shoes that are comfortable. These aren't meant to be shoes; they are slippers and I wear them a lot at home.

Red Slippers

Here are several others, shoes that may appear, with their beads and bangles and embroidery, to be for dress-up occasions but since there are few of those in my life now, I wear them with casual clothes:

Green Shoes

Pink Shoes

Black Shoes

Beige Shoes

Nowadays, even the heels on the last two pictured are too high for extended walking so I wear them only when I know I won't be moving around much as in going out to dinner, a movie, concert, etc.

Or, when I'm home alone like today, writing a blog post or reading a book. I wear them then, just for me. It makes me happy to see these sorry, old feet all dressed up.

Maybe you don't share my fancy shoe fetish, but I wonder if you have problems with old feet too.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ernest Leichter: Retirement Blues – April 14, 2011


Lovely. But I thought we weren't "supposed" to wear backless shoes now because we might trip!
You be careful now!
And, pray tell, where did you get these lovely shoes?

I love your beautiful backless shoes! But they don't appear to have any arch in them...and that would cause pain in my feet, since I've developed plantar fasciitis and heel spurs at only age 53 - from wearing flat sandals. Which, my podiatrist told me, is about the same as going barefoot. I now find myself in the position of wearing aircasts with the only two pairs of dress shoes I have that will accommodate them. Now my daily outfit revolves around what will 'go' with those two pairs of shoes. I hate shopping for shoes but it looks like I have no choice.

First I too spent years working in three inch heels. Then I spent another ten years or so wearing nothing at all while ruining my skin in the sun. One day I discovered tennies again this time very much updated. It was almost like wearing nothing on my feet. After one year of repeated and agonizing foot surgery, I now wear dress flats for most occasions too. After my last five years of standing on the job, I buy shoes a half size big and put Dr. Scholls double layered inserts in. It's like walking on air. They also make gel heel inserts too. Next time you are out shopping, check them out.

Lastly, I confess that my last pair of 3 inch high, dress black DKNY heels still live in a box on my top shelf.

@Shanna: my condolences. Don't get me started on plantar fascitis, the bane of my existence. I've had bouts of it sporadically since my late 30s. There are times when life revolves around trying to staunch that pain.

I've found the Arcopedico brand, which I buy at, to be very comfortable. I highly recommend them, as well as zappos!

I only wear formal shoes on special occasions which are few and far apart. Tennis shoes are mostly what I wear, even in the winter, with elastic shoe laces.

Around the house I wear slip on rubberized sandals I picked up in Hawaii about ten years ago or the pair of white cotton socks I put on in the morning before I go walking. I'd go barefoot if I could but my soles too are pretty tender these days

Never really got into high heels--2 inches were all I could ever do (and at 5'2", I could have gone a lot higher).

Nowadays it's different colored loafers for me at work. Luckily it's a very casual workplace.

BUT, I have that very pair of pink backless shoes! My sister gave them to me and I do love to wear them on occasion. Extremely comfortable too!

The only problem with backless shoes, at least in the workplace, is hearing them. Slap, slap, slap, as they walk past. Drives me crazy sometimes!

Those high, high heels with looong pointy toes make my poor feet whimper with fear when forced to pause in front of a shoe store window. They have really nothing to fear. I haven't wanted to put them in anything but the most absolutely comfortable shoes in years. Painful bunions, you see, from wearing 3-inch heels in my youth.

My mother swore she was frightened by a millipede before I was born. I've "collected" shoes all my life ... and only wear one or two favorite pair while all the others go un-worn for years in my closet. Will probably give the like-new and unworn ones to Good Will sometime so somewone else can get something out of them.

Meanwhile, Ronni, it sounds like you have a very small, narrow heel like I do. I have the same problem, so always wore sling-heels when I could. (Remember the old heel-less high heels with the spring in the instep to help keep them snug on your feet?) Try using a small heel lift or one of the heelfitting pads inside your shoe. You can buy these the same place you got your corn pads, probably. They have helped me.

A 5'10" and shrinking (I think I'm down to about 5'9" now and call myself The Incredible Shrinking Woman), I never really got into wearing heels higher than 2 inches usually and joked about short date shoes and tall date shoes. Sometimes finding decent dress shoes were hard to find due to fashion's whimsies. Now I'm into comfort rather than fashion (and I think my feet like that) and I've found that there are a couple shoe manufacturers who make really comfortable shoes. I'm not a sneakers kind of gal unless I'm doing a lot of walking. That said, I only put on shoes these days when I have to leave the house. I just cleaned out my closets and got rid of and am now down to less than about a dozen pairs of shoes. Yay!!!!! My ex husband joked that it was just a ploy that provided an excuse to go shoe shopping. Not! Then again, one of my favorite pairs is wearing out . . .

Because my balance was always poor, I was never able to wear those gorgeous strappy sandals with 3 inch heels and even had trouble wearing 2 inch heels. I do love strappy flat heeled sandals, though and still wear them when possible.

About 30 years ago I discovered how comfortable SASS shoes are and bought a pair in 5 different colors. I still wear the original pair when I step outside. Can you imagine a pair of shoes lasting 30 years? But they do. I have one pair of gold SASS sandals that are my only remaining pair of dress shoes.

In the summer I wear socks in the house and in winter I wear comfortable slippers. Comfort takes precedence over beauty now that I have to keep my feet planted solidly on terra firma.

I love heels, too, and think I still will buy a pair or two for old time's sake, though how often I wear them will be limited. I'm glad they are making nicer flats, but what I haven't accustomed myself to, though I follow the fashion dictate, is going stockingless with heels. Now that's popular? When my legs have this many miles on them?

Tell us the brand on those lovely everyday shoes, please, Ronni! I don't even LIKE shoes that much, but I must say, your slideshow has me thinking! And I love the idea of silver instead of my everlasting black everything.
Arch problems, incipient plantar fasciitis -- me too! I did find little arch pads, nothing but the pad to stick into your shoes, at my local dance shoe store.

I enjoyed reading this, especially with the photo illustrations!

An automobile accident in 1979 shattered my heel and ankle, and killed my high-heal wearing days forever. I may wear unstylish shoes, but I dance for two hours at a time, so I consider that a great trade-off!

Unfortunately, that original accident + age cause me increasing pain these days, and I am considering ankle fusion surgery. I had a moment of envy imagining myself in stylish shoes, but I'd rather have more function and less fashion!

With my bunions it's been a long time since I've been able to wear anything but Birks or velcro'ed sandals. How I yearn for shoe glamour!

I remember the backless heels Miki mentioned; they were called "Spring-O-Lators" and I had an aunt who never wore anything else. I thought they were quite elegant, but my mother always found them somewhat, well, unladylike. But then, my mother disliked her sister-in-law...a story for another day, surely, but this post did bring back some memories for me.

2 pairs of Birkenstocks
1 pair of Vasque hiking boots
1 pair of Mephisto sneakers
1 pair of Mary Janes for cold weather dress-ups
1 pair of (flat) strappy sandals for warm weather dress-ups
1 pair of Tevas for wading across rivers (or hot weather hiking)
1 pair of gumboots
1 pair of Ugg boots for cold winter nights
1 pair of slippers
1 pair of travel slippers
1 pair of rubber flip-flops
That’s it. That is the entire footwear section of my wardrobe. (Plus some gardening shoes and some clapped-out old Birkenstocks that live outside on the porch.)
When I tell people who have only known me forty years or less that I used to totter around on four-inch stilettos, they guffaw in disbelief. “What, you? Never!” I find it hard to believe too, as a matter of fact.
An unusually honest sales clerk in the Mephisto shop once told me that I have what he called 'Frodo feet.' Yes, I was definitely born to wear Birks.

I love this! and I feel inspired! Usually at home, even in winter, I wear no shoes. Or socks. Barefoot and unpregnant now. When I go out it is usually sandals, with socks in the winter. But wearing these fancy shoes with jeans would be so much fun, I am going to give it a try! Love that idea!

I've practically lived in Teva sandals for 20 yrs. In winter I just put on socks. Being cursed with very narrow feet, esp. heels, I never could find any cute shoes to fit, so I got used to expensive, practical one pair black, one pair white/tan very early on. Now I just need cushiony insoles due to a tendency to plantars fascitis, probably brought on by going barefoot too much. Obviously, I'm not a shoe hound.

I love shoes. I soon as I started working full time in high school I was off to the shoe store. After 50 years of spikey heels, 3" or better my feet got to be very arthritic. I still have several pairs I couldn't give up, the granddaughters love them, but my size, 9-9.5, AA in the toe, and AAA in the heels fits no one but me. Now I have a black pair of Trotters with 1" heels, reasonably comfy, for dressier, more solemn occasions and a pile of Birkenstocks and Sass, sandals mostly. After 10 years of more supportive shoes and walking every day, the arthritis has backed off (more use it or lose it).

I miss my fancy shoes and Ronni, when I saw those pink bejeweled beauties of yours I nearly passed out with delight. Must get myself to a big city and check it out.

I've heard that as women age, we lose some fat padding in our feet, which would explain why dress shoes suddenly start to be agonizing in our 40s/50s/60s. So, if true, there's an actual reason why we bail on fashion footwear--and it's not the frumpiness of which we are so often unfairly accused.

That said, New Balance and Teva became my new best friends in 90s.

I know dress-shoe occasions are likely to occur despite my best-laid plans, so I bought some kitten heels at Payless back in the day when that was the style. (They're not bad, though you wouldn't want to walk miles in them). They are in reserve just in case. I couldn't see blowing a huge amount on dress shoes I'd never wear for more than two hours at a stretch. This has been a good strategy for me--along with several sets of drugstore orthotics to replace those alleged missing fat pads.

My feet love three pair of shoes: The chief pair: blood-red-colored Keen sandals for regular and fancy occasions, and in cold weather, with socks. My other shoes are $1 flip-flops and in cold weather, Isotoner ballet shoe-style house slippers.

Sixty and Single...
Naturalizer is the brand I like most. The style is called Checker. You can find it here, although it is apparently available there only in white. Check other stores for more colors. They're available at different times of the year.

The other brand, which I like almost as much, is Trotters, style called Liz. You can see them here including a bronze color although they call it pewter.

I love the way all of yours look, but I have skinny, long feet and I can't keep those on my feet for even one step. If your shoes give your heels blisters, try heel risers, if you have'nt already.

I was recently at a class re-union where everybody but just a few of us wore 4" heels. I still wonder as to how all these late-sixties women managed it. I know I can't. My sense of balance is just not 100% anymore + plus the stories I hear of bad breakages from falling discourage me. And I seriously don't want to anymore.
I love Marian's list. Something like mine, though mine is shorter.

When I did a lot of ballroom dancing, I realized that a wide shoe with a strap -- or straps -- and a 2 inch heel could be really comfortable. Those pointy toed shoes are killers! Plantar fasciitis? Done that. Orthotics? Always, even in dress shoes. Now I wear flats with straps -- the funkier the better. And Rocket Dog sneakers because they come in the wildest colors and styles and are very soft on the feet. (But they run small so I get a size bigger). I took good care of my feet, so now that the weather is warmer, I polish my toenails and live in thong sandals that have an arch. Feet. Yes.

I never wore heels as a young woman - just never felt comfortable. So far my feet are OK. But I have to ask, what are those woven slip ons? Quite Bottega Veneta-esque:).

My son's girlfriend talked me into looking into "earth" shoes, and they are the first shoes that anyone ever complimented me on - nothing pretty, just very comfortable and sturdy and good for walking. I wore them all winter. I have a another type of walking shoe, almost like a flat, that I will wear all summer because my office is too cold for sandals. And the Isotoner ballet style slippers for the house - yes. But this winter I bought some metallic pewter flats with jewels to wear to a wedding -the clerk told me I could also wear them with my jeans - right. I wore them for the first time at that wedding and my feet did not hurt - maybe I will get some dress jeans....

I have narrow feet, so whenever I find a pair of shoes that fit, I buy them unless they are heels - then I just can't.

Regarding the woven shoes, see my answer above at 12:16PM.

I have only flat shoes. The last heels I had were a beautiful pair of Ferregamos that felt almost comfortable.
I don't think anyone looks good when wearing uncomfortable shoes. It always shows in the face.

what a fun post! I love all your shoes. The shoes that are fashionable today are wonderful, aren't they? Love the high high heels, but no..I can't wear them. The last time I wore high heels I also made the error of not wearing any hose (what is with THAT anyway?) Well, I wanted to look correct fashion-wise. What an error...because the shoes were slightly tight and the no hose made it all the worse. I had to take them off in order to get to the car! I'm an "Ecco" girl now. Any shoe made by Ecco is like walking on a cloud. Spendy..but I have had some pairs for years. They never wear out. ..and they have heels that won't kill ya.

When I finally retire from teaching, it will be because I can no longer find any shoes at all that feel comfortable on my old feet.

I love the photos of your lovely shoes, Ronni. I have a tan pair like the basket-weave flats.

Thankfully, sports shoe manufacturers have moved into the women's career shoe market. Because I still work and spend about four hours on my feet teaching classes, Merrell and Rockport MaryJanes with slight heels and plenty of padding have been a blessing.

I've got more information about innovations on my site.

I love Danskos--they have some height, but they are more clog-like than shoelike. I live in them in the winter--summer is not so good for them--they are a little heavy. I buy them from a mailorder outlet--and they come in lots of colors, prints, etc. They are the shoe of choice for doctors, chefs, anyone who is on her feet for a long time. And, they hardly EVER wear out.

No more heels for me...after 2 falls and two broken ankles (both wearing flats) - I guess I better not press my luck. The flats with backs that are comfortable - are for me. No particular brand - but in the house I like to wear fuzzy socks only when it is cold and sometimes with moccassins minnie tonka type. I will never forget the pain when I had the breaks....NEVER!!! (over cautious - fear of falling) OYE!!!!

I love your column, but I just can't get over not wearing heels. I just don't feel dressed when I have a straight skirt or dress ,flats just don't do it. I buy wider fitting shoes now which are a bit more comfortable but I wish I could just accept the fact that I can't wear them anymore. Is it just that I feel I am giving in, or should I just accept it. I have hundreds of pairs or shoes, and I love them all. When I go into shoe shops now I just feel depressed. What's the answer. I just want one pair of dainty low heels to wear with anything.

Oh I have traded my wonderful spike heels from career days in for flats, go to shoes now are Orthoheels, sandals and in the winter their closed toe style,open back with strap. I just ordered a pair of Mary Janes...I love the feeling of a pair of heels, but just tossed out the last 3" ones to Goodwill...end of an era. 2" about the limit and then very rarely in the casual lane of my life

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