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.
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.