Shoe shopping with FA is tough, but worth the effort

Finding shoes that are both cute and comfortable isn't easy with FA symptoms

Jean Walsh avatar

by Jean Walsh |

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Recently I had to purchase shoes. I’ve always loved shoes and clothing, and I feel creative when I select an outfit that reflects who I am. Also, I simply feel better when wearing an outfit that feels like me.

Shoes are a big part of that. I remember breaking into my mom’s closet and wearing her pointy-toed, high-heeled, crocodile shoes. Many people today consider wearing crocodiles unethical and unnecessary. In defense of my mom, it was the ’60s when I was tottering around in them, and she’d gotten them in the ’50s. I don’t remember her wearing the shoes, though; I think she kept them because she liked them and they cost a lot of money.

My go-to shoes have always been Converse high-tops. I love them. I got my first pair in the mid-’80s when I was in college. They’ve been comfortable, and the high-top gives me extra ankle support that makes me feel more confident when transferring from my wheelchair to another seat.

Not only did they work well for me, but I think they look supercool. These days there’s a way to customize your shoes through the Converse website. The most recent pair I bought were customized with embroidered flowers and a stripe that says “cure FA,” referring to Friedreich’s ataxia, the disease I have.

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The shoes I loved don’t work anymore

Several months ago, I wore them on a flight to Las Vegas, part of a vacation to Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

I need to preface this story by saying that both of my big toes are hammer toes, which are a symptom of FA. Consequently, I get calluses on my big toes because they’re constantly hitting the tops of my shoes. These can hurt, especially on my right foot, where I sometimes get blisters. Converse high-tops had been working for me for at least 40 years.

On that flight to Vegas, however, my feet were in a lot of pain, to the point where I had to take off my right shoe. Luckily for me, my Crocs, which I always wear in the shower and take everywhere, were in the carry-on backpack of my husband, Dave, because they wouldn’t fit in my luggage. (Did I mention I love clothes?) I stuck on the right Croc. That relieved the pain and made me feel somewhat normal, in that I had shoes on in public.

I realized that the Converse I’d bought and planned to wear as my main shoes on the trip weren’t going to work. To prevent myself from being miserable the whole time, I needed to replace them. The other pair of shoes I’d brought were dress booties, which weren’t suitable for our planned sightseeing.

I dragged Dave around to multiple stores in search of sneakers. He was a trooper because he hates shopping. I thought low-top Vans would fit my criteria of being cute and comfortable. I tried on multiple cute pairs, but unfortunately, they weren’t comfortable.

I still love and have been wearing the Vans, but they’re joined by some new Rocket Dogs that are high-tops with a box for the big toe that accommodates my hammer toes. They also have a zipper, making them easy to get on and off.

My shoe quest reminds me of the old Nike ad featuring Michael Jordan and Spike Lee as the fictional Mars Blackmon, who says, “It’s gotta be the shoes!”

Shoe shopping with FA is a pain, but loving my outfit is worth the effort.

Note: Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Friedreich’s Ataxia News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.


Isabelle Desmarais avatar

Isabelle Desmarais

I have the samedi problem as you with my toes. I only wear snickers with mesh on the top of the toes. No tight tissue.

Jean Walsh avatar

Jean Walsh

Mesh that’s a great tip. Thanks Isabelle

donna marshall avatar

donna marshall

Have you or anyone on this thread tried Cadence?

Jean Walsh avatar

Jean Walsh

Hey Donna, Cadence , I will have to check them out. I have never even heard of them. Do you wear them? Thanks!

Patrick Davis avatar

Patrick Davis

For many years I used a walker or walking sticks. I was buying new, cheap sneakers so I would have something for work. Within 90 days the toes would be blowing out. I had fought my wife about buying expensive shoes. We went and bought SAS shoes and I about had heart failure when I saw the price! ($120) My argument had always been the $10 Walmart shoes was great and I would throw them out and buy another. Several pairs a year. That was in 2005. We are retired now and I walked up until 2015. I still wear those shoes a couple times a week when I work outside in my yard or garage. I have bought three more pairs but, none of the four pair of shoes are worn out! I cannot wear anything but SAS shoes. They are comfortable enough to wear all day and into the night.

Jean Walsh avatar

Jean Walsh

Hey Patrick, It is kind of amazing the difference good shoes can make in your life! It is worth the expense to have good, durable, and comfortable shoes. Twenty YO shoes, that's pretty amazing. Also, your wife sounds very smart ! :-)


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