Today’s Footware Isn’t a Shoe-in

By Ellen Moyer

From experience, we elders have a thing or two we can impart to those younger than we are. Take shoes, for instance. Comfortable shoes, shoes with no-slip soles, low heels and wide toes. Some would call these ugly, just-got-off-the-boat shoes, although some have style. But these comfortable shoes are definitely not sexy, sinful, funky, strut-your-stuff spike heel shoes. Today’s “adorable” shoes, I am told on good authority, are likely to leave one in later life with nerve damage, tendonitis, hammer toes and feet that just hurt.

We were lucky; we were raised with sturdy shoes. In September came the back-to-school, shoe-buying time. Remember those oxfords? Saddle shoes with black or brown or ox blood red saddles. A review of my high school yearbook found nary a soul without saddle shoes. Most of us grew up with sturdy shoes that have left us with feet that are good for walking.

The younger set may not fair so well. American podiatrists and orthopedic foot and ankle researchers have declared that popular shoes today are the worst shoes for your feet. Eventually the toll makes your feet hurt. If your feet hurt you lose your foundation and your whole body shifts. Flip-flops, not good for racing for the bus or anything other than a sandy beach, are the number one foot enemy followed closely by four-inch-plus spike heels and platforms with straps galore that wrap your legs like a barbers pole.

In my time, Easter was the time to get new fancy adorable shoes, black patent pumps. Later I graduated to two-inch heels with a purse and gloves to match, totally out of fashion in today’s mismatched world of boots and crazy colors and eclectic garb.

When I was young, I preferred bare feet, a no-no for today’s podiatrists.  Keds were my most favorite tennis shoe. Even then there was some arch support. And remember those X-ray machines with the green light that measured your shoe size, your correct foot width and length? And when some bright person determined X-rays were bad for our health and the fascination of looking at our skeleton toes disappeared, there was that metal footpad-like a slide rule that measured our feet. We were sure to get the proper shoes, not too short and not too narrow, that spelled comfort and made good common sense.

There was a time when I liked high heels for fashionable society. After all, high heels set off our legs. Men liked them. I bought four pairs, made in Italy, the height of fashion allure. And then all of a sudden, about the same age when our body and eyes say you need glasses, my feet said no to my special fancy shoes. The shoes ended up at the Goodwill. Sturdy shoes, with arch support and no-slip soles reclaimed my life. Now I am planning for a long trek across England to celebrate my 80th year. Harking back to my barefoot days and wanting to have my toes free, my challenge is to find the best don’t-hurt shoes for traveling feet.

But for you who are much younger than I, a word to the wise: Sore feet will get you if you don’t watch out. Ignoring arch supports, and insisting on a daily dose of spike heels that stretch your tendons and inflame the balls of your feet, and you won’t likely be trekking anywhere after the age of 50. Take this advice from us, and our parents before us: Listen to the podiatrist and choose sturdy, comfortable shoes — with style.







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