If I saved the money I sunk into shoes over the past decade, I could retire. I rationalized that shoes gave great return on investment, because they made the difference between merely walking into a room and making an entrance. Besides, the legs are the last to go, and there’s nothing that boots my confidence more than the restrained naughtiness of a classic pair of black leather stilettos. Or a sky high pair 4″ of nude platforms, especially with a light spray tan and some leg make-up (Lorac Tantalizer is the best) in the summer time. Nothing sexier.
Until the day it wasn’t. I was at a cousin’s wedding, sporting something that looked like the shoe below, and thought the extra inch from the platform took me to an 8 on the 1-10 scale.
All five steps I took in the store felt great, but walking down a marble church aisle the length of a football field on a hot day after a night of dim sum proved more challenging. My weight was thrust onto the balls of my burning, swollen feet. Every step forced my heel to slip out and slowly pull apart the 5 Band Aids I attempted to cushion my bunions and heel with. If it weren’t for the healing powers of martinis, I wouldn’t have made it thru the reception.
The worst wasn’t over.
The next morning, ruminating over memories and pictures at a semi family reunion brunch, my husband proudly passed around his iPhone video masterpieces of me. There I was, moving like a chicken, unbalanced with feet and knees pronating inwards and my butt sticking out too much. The grimace on my face made me look somewhere between constipated and medicated. All before said martinis. I don’t know if my husband thought I was being deliberate or ironic, or both, but it wasn’t pretty.
It was truth served cold. There isn’t a dress, blow out, or spray tan that can compensate for hard to walk in shoes. And it’s not just me. All the time I see beautiful young women on those awkward first dinner dates. Lovely while seated, the moment they get up to powder their nose, instead of elegantly gliding away leaving their amour in a cloud of lust, they teeter off like a new born colt which dials down the vavoom to Grandma.
Ever the optimist, I made my first visit to NYC podiatrist, Dr. Elise Kavanaugh, hoping she would wave her magic medical wand and restore my Happy Feet, even if it meant surgery. After a thorough exam and X-ray, Dr. Kavanaugh handed out the verdict. “Aside from two small bunions and your arch falling a bit, your feet are fine. You don’t need an operation or anything”.
“But..my shoes?” I asked. “Change them,” she said. “It’s normal for our feet to spread as we age because your arch slowly falls, causing the bones to push out”.
Come to think of it, I was spending more time than I wanted to admit in my comfortable but fugly shoes. There was a reason I had a shoe basket under my desk filled with 20+ pairs of super sexy high heels that only saw the light of day if I had a boardroom meeting or clients in.
1. Buy gold, not shoes.
Shoes have a 5 year shelf life at best. Styles change and so will your feet, especially if you are having babies or are heading north of 35 years old because our feet start to widen. It’s the dirty little secret about getting older that no one talks about.
2. If they don’t fit, you must omit.
If you don’t feel like a gazelle, you’re not looking like one either. There is no breaking them in and if you can’t walk around the circumference of the shoe store 4 times, then there is no love match here. Get rid of them now. I cry with you, I do.
3. Orthodics are like Spanx for your feet.
On the other hand, a good pair of orthodics can save some of the uncomfortable shoes you already own. They’re not just for your parents. They’ll support your arch, improve your posture and actually feel great. My doctor recommended Power Step inserts.
4. Gormel Creme is miracle goo for callused feet.
While complaining about my painful shoes, I asked about the hardened calluses on my heels. Where did that stuff come from? Dr. Kavanaugh had the answer in the form of a paste that smells like sour piss because it’s made from 20% urea, but man does this stuff work. Once a month for 4 nights, put this on your feet before you go to bed and cover with socks. You’ll have the foot skin of a 19-year-old, pinky swear.
5. If you’re desperate, there is plastic surgery for your feet.
I doubt this is a road I’ll be heading down, but if you want your toes shortened, fat injected into the balls of your feet and more, Dr. Susan Levine is the go to doc for plastic podiatry. This type of work doesn’t come without significant risks though. We’re talking about your FEET, so if an injectable goes wrong, you’re not just looking a little off, you’re could have trouble walking.
6. The good news is, you can still strut in heels. Sort of.
Nix the ballet flats (no support) and 4″+ heel stilettos with pointy toes. Platforms do not help, especially if they’re designed to rock when you walk in them (you’ll notice the toes point up when you try them on). Instead try wedges, sturdy heels and stay under 3″. J. Crew and Stuart Weitzman make alternatives I can live with and afford (see below). Dr. Kavanaugh raved about Theirry Rabotin but frankly, I think they look a little Amish.
In loving tribute, I say goodbye to about 40% of my shoe collection. They’re memories of my personal era of fabulousness (1996-2008), and remnants of a gilded age economy, where a working girl could rationalize spending $600 on a pair of shoes.
Here’s to a era, new economy and a much more elegant step forward.