Buying new shoes challenged me. At best the activity bored and, at worst, depressed me. Once or twice, a pair of shoes captivated my imagination. An orange pair, the year I turned 39. They matched, perfectly, an oversized pumpkin-coloured jumper I wore that winter. Forty years later, a blue pair made my feet twitch with delight.
I wrote a blog about those blue shoes. You can read it at Blue shoes begging to dance.
Between those magic purchases, buying shoes felt like a chore. A painful chore that had to be done as quickly as possible and forgotten. I thought my feet were for ever to be encased in ugly shoes, at first because of my hammer toe and later by encroaching arthritis.
My mother’s hammer toe set the precedent. All her life she believed she could not wear sandals and could not wear ‘pretty’ shoes because of her toe. Of all the stories she could have told me and lessons she taught, this one stuck.
Black, brown, navy. Sandals, if I had to, with wide straps to hide the unsightly toe and for comfort. Later, shoes that accommodated orthotics. Lace-ups. ‘Mary Jane’ styles with straps across the instep. Yuk!
Why people cover their feet
I never understood why people love to buy shoes. In my view, shoes performed strict utilitarian and and cultural functions.
- Shoes prevent burns on hot footpaths and beach sand
- Prickles don’t penetrate shoe-soles
- Feet stay warmer in shoes (and socks)
- They stay drier in wet weather
- It hurts less if you drop something heavy on your foot when you’re wearing shoes, or even steel-capped boots
- In our society, adults wear shoes almost all the time they’re in public and expect everyone else to wear them too.
I tried not to notice how decorative well-shod feet look. It wasn’t exactly envy because I’d learned my lesson about my own feet only too well. I practised disregard.
For readers interested, here’s a link to some history: The Fascinating History of Footwear. It covers the last 40,000 years.
Whispers about new shoes
Last year my dear sister, Elizabeth Worts, told me about her new sandals and how much she liked them. I could hardly believe we were discussing the taboo subject of shoes! She told me about a brand she found easy to wear. Sandals in lovely colours. She sent me photos. Tempted me.
I bought several pairs, and tripped through the summer feeling special and well dressed.
My hammer toe didn’t hurt. Perhaps it would never have hurt. Less bulky ‘dress’ orthotics replaced the usual set and did the job with arthritic joints.
I bought another pair, a different colour.
Yesterday, I went with one of my daughters to a shoe sale in a major department store . She’d shopped the day before, and saw some shoes she thought I’d like. Me at a footwear sale, for goodness sake! What next? Could I be the woman who hated buying shoes?
One pair, whisky-tan. Another, blush, not-quite-pink. Beautiful soft leather that glows. The young woman who served us went out of her way to find the right colour and size. They’re sensible and supportive, fit like gloves, feel like slippers and, in the same way as the blue pair of a few years ago, make me want to dance. Magic!
Confronting old knowledge
The deeply ingrained myth that condemned me to a long life-time of ugly utilitarian shoes has been dismissed. My mother’s reality, imposed on me from my earliest years, hardened into some kind of ‘truth’. I lived by that truth, faithful to early teaching and without question.
Orange and blue shoes (both lace-up) challenged the myth. But not deeply enough to create change. It took my sister’s example and my daughter’s insistence to make a real difference. Such an about face!
Perhaps I could have learned this lesson earlier, or in some other way. However, at eighty-plus I’m simply glad I learned it in time to enjoy my new shoes.
But it makes me wonder how many other myths from childhood I still harbour and live by. Hopefully, they’ll also become apparent. Perhaps I’ll challenge other ideas and make more changes in the near future.
I’m curious to know from readers who have recognised old painful myths and how you’ve challenged them. Please leave a comment and help to carry on this conversation.
This post is linked to the Weekend Challenge which is run by my friends, SueW at nansfarm.net and GC at themainaisle.com