The Ultimate Shoe Dilemma

If you’ve ever seen a pair of orthotics, or had to wear them, you’ll know it’s not very easy to find shoes to wear them in. Well, okay, it is easy; but most orthotic-friendly shoes are bloody ugly. Below is the beginning of my feet dilemma and the search for attractive, orthotic friendly shoes.

Ugly orthotic friendly shoes leave shoppers choosing between sore eyes or sore feet

I have a massive dilemma on my hands. Recently I took a trip to the podiatrist to evaluate my pronated feet. On my first trip, she informed me the pronation was fairly bad and the little tests I had to do, like standing on one foot, rising up onto the ball of my foot and balancing there as long as possible, should have been a lot more difficult considering my feet.

At the time I discovered the source of my knee pain was entirely from giving up ballet. With feet as bad as mine, 15 years of ballet had given me very strong muscles in my legs which she attributed to the fact that my body had to work 3-5 times harder than the average dancer in order to keep up with the move my peers were going. So once I stopped doing ballet, even though I continued with contemporary, I started losing some of the muscles specifically around my knee and the pain started thanks to my bad feet. The silver lining: now I don’t feel so bad about all those years I was told I’d never be a professional dancers – there was no way my body would ever let me.

On my 4th visit to the podiatrist, she analysed the results of a walking test I had done. The test involved attaching sensors to the bottom of my feet and making me walk about the centre barefoot and then in shoes with my orthotics in them. I was informed that my feet are so bad they’re practically off the scale. I can’t really explain the technical issues, but basically she explained it like the average pressure on each foot when someone walks is about a 3 (I thought she said kilos but I’m not sure about that). Fairly bad is a 6, quite bad a 9, seriously bad is a 12 and I’m sort of chronic around an 18 to 19 (so basically, 6 times worse than the average).

Needless to say, my podiatrist was super concerned. She said she could turn a blind eye to me not wearing orthotics less than 25% of the time because she understood I’m a young, 156cm tall (5’1″), fashion obsessed girl whose going to need some leeway, but did try to drive home the point however, that in 5 years time if I don’t wear my custom orthotics enough I end up a candidate for re-corrective surgery. So now begins my dilemma. While I’m getting a custom pair of half-orthotics made (just the arch support and no toe area), the problem is finding shoes to put them in. As someone who wants to end up working in fashion or in broadcast journalism, attractive shoes with height is kind of an issue. In fashion they have to be attractive and in broadcast I’ll probably need the height otherwise interviewees look like they’re staring at the ground (as my boyfriend’s mother so kindly put it one day).

If you’re reading this and you’re in your 20s or 30s (or in my case very early 20s) and you’ve never had to deal with orthotics you may not realise how damn ugly the shoes are. Honestly, most orthotic friendly shoes are made for women in their 60s+ when they’re starting to have trouble walking anyways and just need something comfy. Nothing remotely attractive for us young ones with genetically bad feet. How unfair.

Most sandals are out of the question when you bring in orthotics. I’m going to buy some strappy flat sandals with a decent closed heel and see if a bit of hollywood tape will hold them in nicely; but as a general rule, closed shoes are your best option for orthotics. Now many people say you need something with an ankle strap because you’ll walk out of a ballet flat when you bring orthotics into the equation – I plan to prove this wrong, somehow. I feel loafers could work because often the toe area is a lot higher than ballet flats. Vans work fine but in North Queensland your feet start to sweat something chronic and it doesn’t help if you can’t keep low-cut socks on your feet. Besides, what girly girl wants to get stuck in Vans forever? Birkenstocks have the generic orthotic but sometimes aren’t that attractive and I feel like I start walking funny in them. Boots are another option. Again, like Vans, feet + heat + humidity = gross. I’m also allowed to wear a heel up to 3cm, but let’s be honest, I’m so short that’s not going to help very much. I also know some people put orthotics in high heels but it really doesn’t give you any benefit, so you might as well just buy the right size heel and go without the orthotic. So while I may have luck finding ballet flats or loafers to wear orthotics with, my mission is to find orthotic friendly sandals.

I’ll keep you all updated on what happens; at this point I’m probably going to buy a pair of sandals with a closed heel and hollywood tape it up in the name of research. For now, I’m trying to wear Vans as often as I can, but I’m really a sandal girl at heart and I am determined to find something that works. Also if any shoe companies are reading this, I will happily help you design orthotic friendly shoes that are ACTUALLY attractive. And no, whatever shoe currently on the market that you’re thinking of, probably doesn’t count.


3 thoughts on “The Ultimate Shoe Dilemma

  1. I’m SO glad I saw this pop up on Twitter… I’ve had orthotics since I was 3 yrs old and became lax about wearing them as an adult because they didn’t fit into nice shoes. When I moved to Townsville last year and went to get new orthotics, I had very similar tests to you and an MRI scan on my hips, which has resulted in a build up on one of my orthotics because I have a leg length difference… they now fit in none of my shoes. I get so upset about it, and I feel like such a diva! So far I’ve done similar to you with closed-back sandals, my orthotics have become a little damaged though because of the rain. Absolute headache.

  2. But I’m in a similar boat, as even though I don’t need orthodics, I’m banned from wearing high heels! (does my physio realise that I’m a female in my twenties!?). Anyways, there’s a brand called “Ziera” that like all other orthodic brands has butt ugly shoes, however, I have one pair of heels from them that are miracles as I’m allowed to wear them because of (insert various unfacinating factors listed by physio) and I’ve noticed that maybe once (?) a season they get one pair of shoes that is actually passable/don’t look like ugly orthodics your grandma wouldn’t be caught dead in.

    Also trying to decide whether to jump on the Twitter bandwagon?

  3. Each time I come across a post like this it’s the same. The only person I have ever heard say that the orthotic shoes they make now are not so bad was probably in her late 30s, early 40s and while I don’t necessarily consider that “old”, it was an indication that there are probably a whole lot of us in our 20s that are missing out.


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