Sole searching for comfort

My cocker spaniel, Rolo, has gradually lost most of his eyesight. When I’m in the kitchen, he stares intently at my feet because his vision is so poor. If I walk toward the refrigerator or the pantry he knows there might be a treat for him.

I’m thankful no humans stare that closely at my feet because I say with a hint of regret that I am now consigned to wearing “comfort shoes.”

Until recently I didn’t know there was such a term.

While I never was a fashionista, what I did know is that it seemed harder and harder to find comfortable stylish shoes and sandals.

I walk through shoe departments and sigh at all the lovely styles that will just not work for me—heels too high, toe box too narrow, slippery soles and flats with no arch support.

At almost 60, why is shoe shopping such a challenge? It seems that as you age, you wear out the fat pads at the bottom of your feet, the cartilage thins in all the joints, and your muscles, tendons and soft tissue tighten up. Those changes cause pain, even in shoes you used to be able to wear.

Comfort shoes by definition have a wider toe box so your toes can move, extra padding in the sole, arch support and no exposed seams on the inside to rub or irritate. They include a wide or a chunky heel to help balance your weight, and most of all they feel comfortable.

It might be a tall order to combine comfort and style; however, there are some shoe manufacturers who are trying to fashionably dress those of us with high arches, flat feet, bunions, plantar fasciitis, diabetic nerve pain and a host of other maladies.

But that fashion comes at a price. Gone are the days of a $40 pair of shoes.

A good pair of KEEN, Dansko, Clarks, Naturalizer, Born, Cole Haanor Paul Green shoes may set you back anywhere from $100 to $400.

According to a recent NPR story, “The $100-and-up comfort shoe is where the women’s footwear market has grown most in the past few years—up 6 percent from last year—thanks, in part, to the baby boomers who demand style with their comfort and will pay for it.”

Whatever the price, at the top of the list for those of us who need comfort shoes is minding our balance. I learned a valuable lesson that a sturdy pair of shoes is a blessing, and for me it overrides a chic style or design.

A few years ago, I bought a stylish pair of slip-on sandals with a wedge heel. I had just entered a wine-tasting event (I promise I had not had a sip of wine yet) when I lost my balance, turned my ankle and broke my little toe. No more slip-on sandals for me. I had to wear an orthotic shoe three sizes larger than normal to accommodate my swollen and painful toe.

Not long thereafter I began to wear the same shoes as my 80-year-old mother—Merrill slip-ons—until my toe fully healed.

I still search for that perfect combination of comfort and style. And I won’t be convinced it exists until I see female celebrities of a certain age walking down the red carpet in comfort shoes.

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