More MS news articles for September 2002

If the Shoe Fits...,2265,32924820,00.html

1st Sep, 2002
Karen Zielinski
Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis

Dear Karen,

My question is in regard to shoes. I wear two ankle-foot orthotics (AFOs) and only seem to be able to comfortably wear sneakers. I still work, and like to wear suits or dresses and skirts, but tie shoes just don't cut it with these outfits. Yet, that's what I'm forced to wear. Do you have any suggestions about footwear? Are tie shoes the only type of shoes a person can wear if they have an AFO?

I always wear my AFO to work because it makes me walk more securely. I feel very stable with my two braces on. When I take these off at home while relaxing at night, I have to be very careful so I don't trip over anything in my living room or bedroom.

Any suggestions that you could offer would be great. Am I vain for wanting to look nice? Maybe I'm in denial or something, but I just hate having to wear klunky shoes with a nice suit or a skirt and blouse. Thanks for hearing me out!

Fran Williams
Chicago, Ill.

Dear Fran,

I don't think it's vain to want to look nice. It is good to be proud of the way we dress and carry ourselves, especially when we are working. Taking pride in our appearance is normal and closely tied to our self-esteem.

I wear an AFO and it offers me great stability. When I'm not wearing it, I also have to be careful how I move around or I will trip. It doesn't hurt at all, and is made of a light plastic.

I wear tie shoes, or dress shoes with a strap while wearing my AFO. The strap makes my foot feel very secure. I always try my shoes on before I buy them. I wear sneakers, "Mary Jane"-style shoes, and sandals if they're a solid shoe with a good arch support. Last year, Mary Jane shoes were in style and I could find a lot of them easily in different stores. I found a couple of styles in different colors that worked well. They aren't trendy heels or backless slide shoes, but I know I can't wear those.

This year, I had trouble finding a pair of sandals. I need a closed front and a heel with a strap. I think they call these "fisherman's sandals." I found them just last month. The pair I bought was a navy sandal by Ecco, advertised as a "better shoe." I read up on "better shoes" and found that manufacturers of well-made shoes devote a lot of research and development into their products. Better shoes have support pieces to prevent the ball of the foot from moving side-to-side without irritating toes or bunions. They are made with a wide toe box, are cushioned well, and have good arch supports.

James Mason, owner of Dave's Performance Footgear and New Balance of Toledo, believes that, "spending more for premium shoes means getting more than just durability. Good shoes will help keep your legs and feet in alignment. Often the material in better shoes does not deteriorate as quickly as with other shoes; therefore, you get more protection for your feet, legs, and back."

Good shoes use a plastic heel counter to cradle the heel of the foot better and hold the fatty, padding tissue under the heel on impact. Mason said that less expensive shoes (those under about $60) often use a chemically treated heel counter. This is a soft material that is treated to harden like plastic heel counters. The problem with this process is that moisture from the foot and friction generated by sliding in and out of the shoe softens and starts to weaken the support after about four weeks. Most soles tend to wear about the same.

The important thing is that you get the proper shoe for your foot. Better shoe stores work with customers to find the shoe that is right for them; this is crucial for those of us who wear leg braces.

I was lucky to find two pairs of dressier shoes. As I mentioned, the first was a navy blue sandal, and the other was a toffee brown sandal by Josef Seibel. I took them home and wore them on my rug for a few days before I decided they would work for me. I gradually broke them in, wearing the shoes a few hours a day. They have been a good purchase, although a bit expensive. With my leg brace, and my MS, they're truly a necessity. Sometimes people get inexpensive shoes that might cause foot problems, and then they go to the foot doctor to get prescriptions for expensive orthotic inserts to relieve their discomfort.

Although it's best to try shoes on first, if I know the brand, style, size, and color that works for me, I buy on-line. Some shoe Web sites run promotional deals, offering percentages off the price of the shoes, and occasionally free shipping and handling. Sometimes just looking at what the available styles are allows me to go to my department store and ask for a certain shoe.

Well, good luck, Fran. I hope you find something that fits your needs-and your feet! Keep on your toes, dear soul mate. A

Peace, Karen

© 2002 Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis