The agony of shoe shopping

My callipers
My callipers

As I’ve said before clothes shopping is hard but shoe shopping is harder. Clothes shopping I love, shoe shopping I hate. Well, actually I take that back. I love wondering around shoe shops if I’m just doing it to pass an afternoon, but I really hate trying to find some to buy.

Most of the time, I’m supposed to wear special shoes (like the ones in this photo). As you can see they have holes in the side that my callipers slot into and insoles inside them to help me walk. Sometimes I break the rules and put on something that bought myself from a normal high street store. I don’t do this very often but if the boots or my callipers have been rubbing my feet and legs it’s just nice to have a change in pressure points. I scrape my shoes along the floor when I walk too so I wear the toes out quite quickly so when I see something in a shop that’s suitable for me and fits, I often buy in bulk for “just in case” days.

Finding something to wear is a challenge though, because there’s way more types of footwear that I’m not allowed to wear than things I can. I’ve never worn a flip-flop, slip on shoes fall off me because of the way I walk, and high heels are a no-go for so many reasons. This pretty much limits me to boots and trainers. Even then I have to find ones that offer me enough support around the ankles, don’t come off at really inappropriate times and that I can actually balance in. Oh, and then there is the small matter of shoe laces. I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to hunting out that new bit of glam for my feet I have a very specific criteria.

A lot of my friends, both disabled and able-bodied, male and female, tell me that they all too have their own set of needs and I’m not alone. Some hate stilettos, others dread buying trainers and a few hate trying to find something they can wear to work.

In my head I know that I too would probably avoid anything with a heel over an inch anyway and I personally think that flip-flops look really painful on your toes, but it’s the fact that I know I can’t wear them that makes me drool over them all the more. It’s kind of how I imagine it feels to give up chocolate.

The first pair of shoes I think I remember getting that I didn’t wear with some kind of splint that I thought was special were a pair of white and silver dolly shoes that I was allowed to get for a family wedding. Because they had elastic straps going over the top we knew they’d stay on. I was really excited and spent the whole day telling anyone who’d listen about them.

My last shoe purchase this year was back in January and they were a pair of red and black trainers. I don’t wear them often because I can’t get them on by myself and I don’t want to wear them out too quickly like I do with all my others. I may not be able to buy many pairs, but I more than make up for this with my bag collection, which is huge.

Squeaking in the rain

My callipers
My callipers

Over the years, I’ve tried lots of different things to improve my walking. I’ve tried various leg splits, sleeping with my lower limbs strapped into something called gaiters to keep them stretched out at night, and even surgery. This year though we decided to be different and try something I’ve never had before: callipers.

I’m willing to give anything a go that has a chance at keeping me on my feet longer than I would be if I didn’t try so when they were suggested I jumped (not literally) at the opportunity. I prepared myself for breaking in pains, possible blisters and even being told to “Run Forrest, run” from time to time. One thing I was not ready for though, was the endless squeaking. I didn’t realise there would be squeaking.

Now, every time I go out in the rain I find myself sympathising with the poor old Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. I only have to put up with it until I can get home again and put something on them to stop it, how must he have felt?

If I’m honest I’m used to my equipment making higher pitched noises that I’m pretty sure no human could make. My old wheelchair developed such a bad one in high school that I could be heard coming to my lesson all the way down corridor and even Betsy wouldn’t hesitate to let me know when she was unhappy about the weather conditions, but they didn’t bother me as much. The noise is far much more irritating when you realise it’s actually coming from you and not something you have with you.

Still, I shouldn’t complain and if it helps my legs get better then it’s a small price to pay and I’ll happily put up with it for as long as it takes. It just means that I’d be useless at a game of Hide and Seek because you’d probably hear where I was going and I don’t think I’ll be getting a call from any spy agencies anytime soon. Ah well, c’est la vie, I guess…