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Is There Life After Orthotics?

In my forties, I could finally afford to purchase the expensive footwear I had always envied: classic Dior black pumps, Coach tennis shoes and jeweled strappy sandals. But nowadays, comfort overrules my desire to be a fashion plate and one pair of low-heeled pumps, white sneakers and flats gets me from church to the gym.

footwear, shoes, orthotics, orthopedist, comfortable shoes, midlife women

Recently, when it was time to replace my favorite footwear, I called on Sandra, my shopping buddy. “Wanna go to the mall?”

“Sure,” she said. “See you in fifteen.”

Sandra waved me over as I entered Mega Mall and grabbed me in an embrace. Staring down at my worn out tennis shoes with scuffed soles and frayed laces, she said, “Finally decided to break down and invest in some new shoes?”

“Yep, it’s time,” I said, marching over to the displays. Squeak, squish. Squeak, squish.

‘What’s that noise?” she said twisting her head around.

Is she talking to me?

Taking a step back, she asked, “Are you wearing orthotics?”

“Oh my god,” I said, covering my face with my hands. “I got so used to hearing it, I didn’t notice.”

“Try adding baby powder under the soles. Cuts down on the sound.”

I’m a forty-seven year old woman with eighty-year-old feet. What happened?

I remembered that in my twenties, I craved a closet stuffed with sexy high heels, Jellies, Candies and Espadrilles. To hell with comfort and arch support. I cared only about the latest trends and affordability. I put up with uncomfortable shoes as long as they were in style, even wore the wrong size.

My recent visit to the orthopedic specialist for painful arches was a testament to my foolish lack of concern for proper foot care. The podiatrist confirmed what I suspected. The natural aging process plus a lifetime of wearing cheap, ill-fitting shoes had forced me into orthotics. Dr. Tootsie cast my foot in plaster and in three weeks called me back to test-drive the custom molded shoe inserts, guaranteed to relieve foot pain.

“Pull out your old soles and replace them with these,” she demanded, glaring down at me from her stool. Ms. High-and-Mighty. “Now walk the hallway and I’ll watch your stride.”


Up and down I strolled. Squeak, squish. What a glorious feeling! Screech, squawk. I floated on a fabulous cushion of air. Squish, squawk.

What the hell’s that racket?

“Um, these feel great but why are they so loud?” I asked, scrunching my eyebrows together.

“Don’t worry about it,” she reassured. “They need time to break in.”

And then I forgot about it and got used to the noise.

Sandra jolted me out of my trance with a tap on my shoulder. Staring at the rows of shoes, I realized that in addition to orthotics, I’d downscaled to Hush Puppies and Easy Spirit. Ah, the sad reality of getting older.

An awkward teenage sales clerk wandered nearby, half-heartedly straightening shoes on display. “Can I help you lady?” Shoe Guy mumbled, studying my feet.

Hey Buddy, eyes up here!

“I need comfortable, supportive tennis shoes,” I said, settling into a chair. “Show me all you’ve got.”

As the bushy-haired sales guy searched for my selection, Sandra handed me a pair of taupe suede TOMS. “What do you think of these?” she asked.

“Not in a million years,” I said shaking my head. “Those soles are a piece of cardboard.”

After ten minutes of rooting, Shoe Guy returned with an armful of boxes with names like Total Motion, Grannies Best and Ortho Feet. Soon I’ll be wearing house slippers with cutouts for my corns and bunions, I thought to myself.

Hasta la vista stilettos.

“Here you go,” he said, holding the box and pushing the shoes toward me. I jerked the orthotics out of my old shoes, shoved them into the new ones, laced up and strutted around the department store. Man, these offered the support I longed for!

“So you gonna get them or what?” he said. “Hey, they look just like my grandma’s sneakers.”

I yanked the box out of his arms, grabbed Sandra’s hand and headed to the register to pay for the footgear from another clerk. Squeak, scrunch. Squeak, scrunch.

Take that, smart ass.

midlife boulevard, columnist, midlife women, middle-age, midlife crisis 

Stacey Gustafson

Stacey Gustafson is an author, humor columnist, and blogger who has experienced the horrors of being trapped inside a pair of SPANX. Her blog, Are You Kidding Me? is based on her suburban family and everyday life. Her short stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and seven books in the Not Your Mother’s Book series. Her work appears in Midlife Boulevard, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, ZestNow,, Pleasanton Patch, Lost in Suburbia, Better After 50 and on her daughter’s bulletin board. She lives in California with her husband and two teenagers that provide an endless supply of inspiration. She writes about parenting and daily frustrations like her dislike of the laundry, self-checkout lanes, public restrooms, Brussels sprouts, roundabouts, and being middle-aged. Her book, Are You Kidding Me? My Life With an Extremely Loud Family, Bathroom Calamities, and Crazy Relatives, hit #1 Amazon Best Seller in Humor - Parenting & Families and #1 Amazon Best Seller in Motherhood. Released September 2014, it is available on Amazon and eBooks. Visit Stacey at or follow her on Twitter @RUKiddingStacey.

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Friday 24th of October 2014

Just so you know, men have the same issue. I remember wearing Converse Hi-Tops and Vans and all kinds of cool shoes. Now I wear Brooks and custom orthotics that make a squish noise. Fortunately it doesn't make the noise in every pair of shoes.

Stacey Gustafson

Tuesday 12th of November 2013

The squeak might as well be a horn to everyone else. Like your kids crying, you just get used to it.


Tuesday 12th of November 2013

So true, my orthotics squeak too, and I got so used to the squeak that I stopped hearing it. Luckily they don't make noise in all my shoes. I've found that Clark"s makes comfortable and stylish shoes.


Tuesday 12th of November 2013

I no longer wear t-shirts with words on them, but if I did I would go for one that says "Take that, smart ass!" It works on so many levels. Good luck with the new shoes!

Stacey Gustafson

Tuesday 12th of November 2013

My latest comfortable shoes, Uggs! Never thought they would look good on adults. So soft and snuggly.

Kathy Marris

Tuesday 12th of November 2013

Sad but true! I have very painfully given up wearing stiletto heels as I have bunions. Yes you heard it right 'bunions' - sounds like something Grandma had! I have orthotic inserts in my runners and recently bought a pair of orthotic sandals. They are heaven to walk on! I do still draw the line however when I go out to lunch or dinner, as I stubbornly wear my high heels!

Stacey Gustafson

Tuesday 12th of November 2013

Orthotic sandals sound worth looking into. Do you have a brand you recommend? Lucky you, still wearing heels! Do what you can to avoid hammer toes and corns!

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