Show Me Something In An Orthopedic

Coming around to sensible shoes

Image: Kristian Risager Larsen

Feet aren’t very fun to talk about, unless fetishes, reflexology, or toe cleavage are part of the conversation. What’s really not enjoyable to discuss, though, are the strangely onomatopoetic-sounding bunions. And not just bunions, which I now refer to as “that area on my foot below my big toe,” but the deep nerve that runs alongside them, and that is what has been bothering me lately. So much so, I had to lie to my personal stylist, my 19-year-old daughter:

“Mother, I’m eating. But promise me you’ll throw those away,” she said, referring to one of the only wearable shoes I owned: shiny black, fake patent leather, with a huge Velcro strip across the front. They worked great as snow boots, but also did a brilliant job of not irritating that area on my foot below my big toe.

“Definitely,” I told her. “They’re hideous.”

Dream on, I wanted to say, and then happily slid my feet inside.

My late grandmother Henrietta, once the spitting image of an Upper West Side Diane Arbus character, was a well-dressed woman, and whatever her foot problems were, which were obvious, she never failed to shove that trauma into one of her many satin or textured-leather high heels. And then I’d escort her and her cane ever so slowly, across her building’s football-stadium sized marble lobby floor — click, click, click — wishing she would put on some sensible shoes.

My mother, on the other hand, Henrietta’s daughter-in-law, only had eyes for the sensible, albeit in a performance art sort of way — in the form of bright yellow garden-clog Crocs. At the end of her life, she switched out the yellow clogs for gray slip-ons, and she, too, added a cane. When I’d stay at her house then, I’d wake up each morning to the sound of that cane and those gray slip-ons, covering the distance between her bedroom and the kitchen. Tap, stomp, tap, stomp, tap, stomp, though I try really hard not to think about that.

After I made a recent trip to the cringeworthy sounding podiatrist’s office, and in an effort to avoid surgery, I have been on the hunt for wearable shoes whose cut is a bit more attractive. After much searching, I thought I’d found the one: a black suede lace-up with a low heel, sprinkled over the top with lovingly-placed holes and silver grommets.

Look how that one grommet totally clears that area of my foot below my big toe, I rationalized to myself. They were on sale, still ridiculously expensive, and I bought them.

Back home, I realized I’d made a big mistake, but persisted nonetheless. I broke in those beauties for weeks, yet on their debut public outing, I barely made it down the block to the deli before I wanted to rip them off and run barefoot and free through the streets. Instead, hobbling back upstairs to my apartment, I nearly took a scissors to them, but decided first to check in with my stylist/daughter:

“Absolutely not. You cannot cut a hole in those shoes,” she scolded. “And promise you’ll mail those to me,” she underscored.

“Definitely,” I told her. “They’re gorgeous.”

What a complete waste of money, I wanted to say, as I velcroed up my ugly boots and headed out to the post office.

Conveniently, my daughter and I have the same foot size, but only because hers were slightly shortened midgrowth by another bound-and-gagged piece of footwear: her once-beloved ballet pointe shoe. God, I hated those. Later, when her dancing turned more commercial, she upped the ante, and I had to buy her the highest heel, up-to-her-crotch faux leather boots for her Los Angeles “Heels” studio dance class. My daughter is now studying poetry at Portland State University, no specific foot attire required.

I must be as vain as my grandmother Henrietta was, because I have become consumed with finding shoes. I’m not asking for miracles. I don’t think I’m Carrie Bradshaw. I just want a cool lithe piece of footwear that is comfortable and does not scream “old.” But there’s my vanity again, because “old” needn’t be an insult, though oftentimes it is, especially via footwear. Even Sarah Jessica Parker admits that her feet have been damaged from years of Manolo stomping, and if you read the rag mags, you can see that she mostly wears clogs now, and looks great. Clogs, by the way, are just one gray hair short of accommodating my situation.

I’m impressed by the inherent irony of my own current foot condition, that each step I take reminds me of a wearing away of one part of my physical body, and the challenge I see in confronting it. Relatively, a toe problem does not seem particularly profound, but metaphysically speaking, foot issues suggest a larger discomfort with moving forward in life.

Hell, yes, it does. Especially if it means I have to wear box-like shoes forever, or at least for a while, or become a shoe designer, which has always been on my bucket list. What a perfect opportunity to begin that process.

The nonagenarian style icon Iris Apfel has said that the key to looking good is a great pair of shoes and even greater hair, and if you’ve got that right, everything else falls into place. Do I need to start talking about my dyed hair now…?

Jenny Klion’s writing has appeared in Vice’s Tonic, Prevention magazine, GROUP psychology journal, Scholastic’s Storyworks magazine, The Villager, Hudson Reporter, MVTimes,, on the CBS prime-time game show Power of 10, Drew Carey, host, and upcoming in a flash nonfiction humor anthology, Dinty W. Moore, editor, among others.