Tuesday 19 January 2016

An Ode to Supportive Footwear

I have always struggled to find shoes. I have narrow feet that are also flat feet and ankles that aren’t really sure what’s in their job description. It is like a perfect storm of foot problems. As a kid I was always the one who had 2 pairs to choose from, if I was lucky, when buying new school shoes. At some point during my primary school career, I got these massive blue insoles that were made from plaster casts of my feet. While incredibly helpful, they made finding shoes even more difficult. At 15, I refused to wear them anymore and I carried on that way until I developed sciatica as a result of my terrible foot/ankle position, and a job that involved standing for 8 hours drove home how much pain the lack of insoles was causing. So I got more made. And I struggled with shoes again. When I got ill in July and had to wear my insoles full-time, I was pretty much down to one acceptable pair: some black leather chelsea boots. I thought we were getting along as best we could, until I started wearing my Dr Martens at the beginning of January. 

Back in September, I visited a Rheumatologist for the first time in ten years. The Rheumatologist had to conduct a physical examination of all my joints to determine what the hell was going on with them. As I result I was left feeling very sore and extremely unstable. For the first time since trying to do monkey bars as a kid I was genuinely convinced I might dislocate something. So I did the only smart thing I could do: I went home and I had a little lie down. I was browsing online and ended up on the Dr Martens site.  I had a pair of the slimmer DM  brogues (the ones without the yellow stitching) already which I’d had to stop wearing because they were giving me foot/calf cramps, and I’d shied away from the traditional boots because I thought the wider fit would make my narrow feet/ankles/calves look stupid. But I’d been coveting a pair of very expensive ankle boots for…I can’t remember exactly but quite a while, and on this day I discovered they were half price in the sale. “The universe knows it owes me one. This is my one” I thought to myself, so out came the credit card. (These are them boots). 

I started the DM-breaking-in process which, as anyone who has ever owned a pair of DMs knows, is rather painful. I decided there was enough pain in my life for the time being, so the DMs went back into their box. And in their box they stayed, until a couple of weeks ago when my friend Debbie embarked on a spontaneous trip Up North to come and stay with me for a few days. Being an ex-publicist, I put together an itinerary. Then I looked at my itinerary. It involved a lot of walking. Walking had, for quite a while, not been my friend. A simple trip to Asda, for example, caused me to injure one ankle, one hip and both knees. I was falling over a lot because my ankles kept giving up on life completely.

I knew I’d have a better chance of surviving all the walking I was setting myself up for if I wore the DMs. So I got them out of the box, I covered my feet in plasters, and out we went. And you know what? They were totally perfect. I’d obviously broken them in more than I thought I had, because with plasters on 2 parts of my heel they only rubbed a bit. The rubbing was totally worth it. My feet and ankles felt so supported that I felt confident walking for the first time in months. My ankles didn’t give way once in those 3 days and I did a lot of walking. And I had no injuries. Which was a) omg amazing and b) sad because it made me realise so much of my pain was caused by my existing footwear. I thought I’d made good choices with the chelsea boots. They fit my insoles, they supported my ankles, they had a 1cm heel. The Rheumatologist approved them. But apparently they were No Good. I can’t fit my insoles into my Docs, but even without them they are so much better than my chelsea boots.

We’re now a few weeks on and I wear my DMs every day. Fortunately I really like them and they match with my clothes. It’s hard for me to describe the impact they’ve had on my life. They might only be a pair of shoes, but before I started wearing them I was literally at the point that I would avoid walking at all costs. My exercise, which had been limited to short walks anyway, dwindled to nothing because I was too scared of hurting myself. My Docs have meant I don’t feel apprehensive about going out anymore. I do more things that require me to actually leave the house. I go with my mum to walk the dog. And I honesty believe if I hadn’t started wearing them, if I hadn’t managed those 3 days of tonnes of walking (albeit it with a Very Lot of painkillers needed), I wouldn’t have had the confidence, or the ability, to start swimming last week. And swimming is what I need to do to get better. So thank you, Dr Martens, for your slightly expensive but life-changing boots.

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