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Shoes, shoes, shoes…

Shoes are a girls best friend, you can never have enough, they can make you feel ten feet tall, on top of the world. It’s true for some, I once had a friend that would put on her heels on a Saturday night and would immediately lose a stone.

Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.  Marilyn Monroe

But these women clearly don’t have my feet!

My life has been blighted by shoes.  When I was six or seven I can remember sneaking out in my friends ballerina pumps, I couldn’t really walk in them, the fact that the memory is so vivid thirty years on proves that! For once I wasn’t walking around in my sensible Clarks, T bar sandals.  I understand that my mum was trying to look after my feet, she knew what I needed even without a diagnosis to tell her, no doubt she could tell by the way that I walked and the amount of times that I fell over fresh air but as a little girl I just wanted to be a princess.

Now I should have known things weren’t quite right when as kids we decided to catch the bus to the local ice rink to go ice skating, I would have been about eleven.  I laced up my boots and it is safe to say that I couldn’t even stand in the boots off of the ice.  Supported on both sides (putting a new meaning to the song lyrics ‘lean on me’) I made my way to the rink.  I tentatively stepped a toe onto the ice, I remember standing glued to the boards as my friends skated off one by one, by the time they had done a lap I had conceded and hung up my boots.  I like a challenge but I’m a realist.

Then there were the shoes that I tried to walk in, when I was a teen and rebelling against my God given feet, heels…. No sexy Louboutin’s going on here, Oh no! Chunky thick heeled, preferably lace up (to offer more support) boots and they had to be boots or I wouldn’t have taken a step in the first place.  I lost count of the amount of times I would fall walking into a club or the dance floor.  It wasn’t always the shoes to blame, sometimes it was a dislocation, sometimes I just couldn’t tell I was falling until I hit the deck so made no attempt at all to save myself.  But I remember fondly (and so will my friends) some good nights out by the magnificent falls.

The shoe mistakes, there have been many.  Years ago I used to long just to walk in nice shoes, I would try them on in the shop like Cinderella when really with my feet I was more a kin to one of the ugly sisters.  If I could get the shoe on my foot I would convince myself that they would be okay, only to realise when they had been sitting in a box for a year that they were another shoe mistake. As the years have gone by I am much less fussy about what they look like, I am a realistic, I reside in one brand of super wide flip flops in the summer and boots form autumn through to spring.  I grieve when a trusted pair of boots finally fall apart like I’m losing pet that has become part of the family.  As I get older my expectations have shifted somewhat, I long now to be able to wear a pair of converse pumps in the summer or flat sandals to a wedding.

There was the time my son saw a pair of stiletto heels, he would have been about two and a half and we were visiting my friend, her shoes sat neatly on the stairs after she had worn them out the night before.  At this point in life I think I had given up on trying to walk in any type of heel at all, he had never seen a pair of shoes like that, I remember the look on his face as he questioned what they were, to him they really were like a prop from a fairy tale.

I have become a master at dressing around my feet, my outfits wouldn’t necessarily be the ones that I would choose if I could put on any shoes and step out in them but I’ve learnt the art of compromise. Skirts with boots and tights.  A floor length gown to a black tie event (with no split) so no one can see what is lurking underneath and in my younger days I was an expert at drawing attention to other areas with the clothes that I wore so no one even noticed my shoes!!

Twenty years ago when I first met my husbands family they thought that no one could possibly top my sister-in-laws lovely feet but I stole her crown clean away, and no one has come close to it since. I hope that my daughter never does.  She is already beginning to understand the pain that shoes can bring as she longs to walk in a summer sandal or a normal school shoe but is resigned to high top trainers and boots even in the 30 degree heat, just to keep some sort of mobility.  She knows how to rock her Dr Martens with style and has the smile and the wit to match.

Shoes will never be my friend as I struggle to find them, they cause me pain and they dictate the clothes that I wear but I will endeavour to stress less about them as time goes on.

Give a girl the right attitude and she can conquer the world.  Shoes are optional.  Sarah Wells

I’d love to hear you comments… does your attitude give you power over your shoes or do your shoes have power over you? It’s a fine line with CMT and EDS.  If you liked this post check out  ‘A Night Out Chronic Illness Style.’

main photo credit: wikipedia


  1. Tamar Wildwing Reply

    wow. You just told my story of my lifelong relationship with shoes. Never have I found a comfortable pair. I have EDS and wonder if I also have CMT as my feet are by far the worst affected. I lived my teens in Doc Martens, developing the hippy goth style to go with them. Now I am happy to wear anything that hurts least- mostly walking sandals in the summer and boots in the winter (but they have to be 2 sizes too big to fit my ankle braces and bespoke insoles. I also mostly use a wheelchair now so sometimes I can just go barefoot! Luckily I have remained a hippy so can carry that off!

    • Sarah Wells Reply

      DM’s, Love them!! My hubby even found me a vintage zebra pair 🙂
      It’s funny how your sense of style develops around your footwear! Thanks for taking the time to comment. S x

  2. Thankfully I found the Spenco brand & haven’t looked back. I never though I could wear any type of heel what so ever, then they came out with a cute sandal! I own about a dozen pairs now, many styles, but they all have good arch support. They also don’t hurt like the usual shoes, orthotics & those horribly painful Superfeet insoles.

    • Sarah Wells Reply

      Hey Dani,

      It’s mad isn’t it? you find a pair of shoes that are actually comfy and you end up with them in every colour that they come in 🙂 Eventually you get used to the fact that stilettos will never be your thing. x

  3. I gave up on pretty shoes as a teenager and learned to rock DM type boots like your daughter. At uni I was labelled a weirdo and sufferred from bullying partly due to my eccentric dress sense and partly my eventual diagnosis… Back then it was “familial articular hypermobility syndrome 4.2” via Prof Bird. Now hEDS.
    my daughter had orthotic boots as a little kid and now ruins fashion shoes in a matter of weeks but resists the sensible clarks shoes I swear by. Crocs are ok for summer but offer no support but with plantar fasciitis they are often better than bare feet. I love Clarks “unstructured” range as i can swap the insoles for my orthotics as well and they are stable enough to stop me dislocating an ankle often. Sadly my calf muscles are enormous to stabilise my ankles and I’m a UK 3.5 /36 so boots are impossible. Oddly I hate to wear the correct size shoes as i can’t stand the feeling of shoes touching my toes at all

    • Sarah Wells Reply

      I’m sorry that you had a hard time at Uni, people can be bloody cruel sometimes. I’m glad you and your daughter have found a soloution with shoes that works for you, it’s harder than it looks 😉

  4. Love love love this! I have EDS 3 and have struggled for years to find sandals in the summer that are supportive and stylish. I have taken part in studies in Leeds to do with foot orthoses and since getting pip I have been able to hunt down one of the podiatrists who also have hypermobility syndrome. She has been amazing and I now see her privately so I can wear pretty shoes and sandals again 🙂

    • Thats brilliant Claire, I don't know what I would do without Stanmore Orthopeadic hospital and my orthotic insoles. I'm learning to style pretty dresses and ankle boots this summer. Thankfully it hasnt been to hot!! x

      • Kate Chatto Reply

        I would be interested what ankle boots work for you . . . Are there any options you recommend?
        Fantastic blog!
        Hugs, Kate

        • Sarah Wells Reply

          Hi Kate,

          I tend to go to a really big department store as they have loads of choice and I can try them on and see what fits without having to trail from store to store. At the moment I am wearing three pairs one is Linear from House of Fraser. It’s a flat ankle boot that was so comfy I went back and got it in another colour. Another short ankle boot that I wear more with dresses and a flat, chunky, lace up boot, both of these are John Lewis. Laces allow me to really pull in the boot around the ankle giving me more support. My orthotics fit in all three pairs which is the key for me. I get my daughters from Spartoo, they have a great choice. I order a few pairs and video her in slo-mo walking in them to see which offer the best support. We keep the best and return the rest. She loves it, I think that she would secretly like to be on a catwalk 😉

          • Kate Chatto

            Many thanks for all the suggestions Sarah. I will take a look at John Lewis and Debenhams when next in London. I live a long way off in the Northern Isles – between Orkney and Shetland.
            I have been in London this week, struggling with getting about . . . a lot of walking. Have resorted to a cab on more than one occasion . . . mind you it has been very hot too!
            Had hospital appointments at the St.John and St.Elizabeth; such a busy but worthwhile week!
            Thanks so much once again,
            All the best,

  5. Thank you Susie, it means a lot. CMT is not an easy card to be dealt at times but we have to learn to play the game in order to win! I have found people who live with chronic illness and long term conditions to be the most positive I know and the most resourceful. X

  6. I love your quote! However, my feet are very tender so I need shoes!!! And shoes that will work are so hard to find. I have such a difficult time finding shoes that don't hurt my hammertoes. The comment I deleted didn't stay on topic, but did say what a wonderful blog you have and how inspiring and helpful you are. You have a beautiful family and you are so strong! Thank you! I have CMT and scoliosis– have had 15 vertebrae fused, and it was on my scoli forum that I first read about EDS.

  7. Thanks, I've just checked out your blog. It's great! I'm a teacher too, well I was a teacher I don't manage it anymore : / I too gave up heels a very long time ago, I can't say that I ever wore them to work!! X

  8. Great post! I am a dancer with EDS-HM, my knees are one of my biggest issues (along with my arches) and I have found that wearing the wrong shoes makes my knees more likely to give way (not just while wearing them, but also after) which often happens on the stairs – it's a running joke that I constantly fall down stairs. A while back I wrote a blog about making the call to give up wearing shoes that are ultimately damaging me. Nowadays I wear flats with arch supports all the time

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