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Ann Brenoff


On The Fly: Et Tu, Tootsies?

Posted: 10/24/2013 8:02 am

I have apparently taken my final step in comfort shoes and have entered a new realm of footwear: Orthotic-friendly shoes.

"Are you serious?" I asked the podiatrist as he inducted me into the Plantar Fasciitis Foot Pain Club. Plantar Fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, the connective tissue or ligament on the sole of your feet. Aggrevate that sucker and there is no turning back. No walking either. You basically wake up in the morning, steel yourself to put weight on your foot knowing the pain you are about to experience will be excruciating, and then for the rest of the day you hobble between chairs and ask people to fetch you things. Plantar fasciitis most commonly affects women between the ages of 40 and 60, according to the Mayo Clinic. Count me right there.

In my case, the problem flared up when I foolishly wore a brand new pair of hiking boots on an easy five-mile hike. I thought I was breaking them in; in fact, I was ending my ability to walk without pain. That was two months ago.

The remedy for Plantar Fasciitis, after icing and stretching exercises bring limited relief, is a pair of orthotics that you wear in your shoes. If the orthotics don't do the trick, cortisone shots and surgery and then maybe still more foot pain await.

But right now we are on the orthotics. The problem with orthotics is that they don't actually fit in any shoe in my -- or Imelda Marcos' -- closet. They make every shoe feel too tight. And you can forget anything with a heel. A rise is OK, preferable actually, but heels are a thing of my past, says Gray O'Brien, the physical therapist with whom I now have a standing (sitting?) appointment twice a week. Gray starts off each session with a foot massage that leaves me totally ready to forgive him for rejecting every pair of shoes I've worn in. No flip-flops, no sandals, no ballet flats, no flats period, and of course, no heels. Something that laces up would be nice, he advises.

"You want me to walk around in old lady shoes!" I told him. Gray has heard it all before. "I want you to be able to walk around, period," he replies. Match point, Gray.

So I turned to for help. And that's where I discovered my new world order: They actually have a search category called "Orthotic-friendly shoes." It is filled with ugly, wide-toed, clunky, unattractive, and most unsexy orthotic-friendly shoes.

Let me just say that before Plantar Fasciitis got the best of me, I wore comfortable shoes. I kept a pair of heels stashed in the corner for the two occasions a year I needed them, but for the most part, I already knew my way around brands like Walking Cradles and Munro. A bunion ended my relationship with Naturalizer, but I could still find comfortable riding boots and short boots that pretty much worked for going in to the office. For the past two years, my work uniform has been a pair of skinny jeans, a long sweater and a pair of wedges or boots on my feet. But now my orthotics don't work with either wedges or boots or anything else that exists on planet Earth, or so it seems.

I spend every evening online looking at shoes that won't make my feet cry or my eyes burn when I look down. I spent a month ordering so many shoes online to accommodate my orthotics that now the UPS man just idles in the driveway, waiting for me to try them on before he takes the return.

With all the attention paid to how midlifers approach aging and the products they need to continue enjoying life, how is it that nobody has figured out how to make a pair of stylish shoes wide enough to fit an orthotic? Talk about a better mousetrap that needs to be built.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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  • #1 Clothes That Are Too Loose And Baggy

    In an attempt to hide or cover up our bodies, especially if we've packed on a few post-menopausal pounds, we end up looking heavier. No matter what our size, a woman over 50 should have the right fit--not tight, but a fit that defines the waist. Best way to do that? Make a great tailor your new best friend.

  • #2 Trying To Dress 'Young' Instead Of 'Great'

    We live in a world that's constantly shouting in our ears, "Young is better!" ... but don't listen! We've earned every crow's foot we have, and buying into that nonsense is the perfect recipe for a fashion fail. In Barbara Hannah Grufferman's book, "The Best of Everything After 50," she interviewed Diane von Furstenberg, who said the key to looking great is to be comfortable. If you're tugging at your too-short skirt you'll be more focused on covering your thighs than on what you should be engaged in. There are no style rules, but there are definite guidelines, the most important one being this: Just because you're over 50 doesn't mean you have dress like a frump. Update your wardrobe with a few essential basics and build from there.

  • #3 Wearing The Wrong Bra

    The majority of American women wear the wrong bra size, and it shows. We just don't take the time to get properly fitted by an expert. The right bra can make all the difference in how your clothes fit, and how you look in them. Make sure to get a few different ones for specific clothes, including one specifically for wearing under a t-shirt or other smooth shirts, and buy them in colors that are close to your own skin color for wearing under white or light-colored tops.

  • #4 Not Starting A Retinol Product Soon Enough

    There are no magic amulets for reversing skin damage, but products such as Retin-A are as close as you can get. They work to exfoliate the skin while you sleep, and help build collagen. (Using a retinol product on the skin makes it even more sensitive to the sun, so a product with an SPF of at least 40 is essential).

  • #5 Applying Too Much Makeup In An Attempt To 'Cover Up'

    Women over 50 often try to cover everything up by applying too much concealer, foundation, blush, everything. Foundation should be applied very sparingly, and only then will you be able to see if concealer is even necessary. Keep it light, with pinkish tones for the lips, and rosy for the cheeks. Try a waterproof eyeliner and very lightly follow the last line, top and bottom. A lighter touch is key to a fresh, pretty face.

  • #6 Going With 'Single Process' To Cover The Gray

    Using the single process approach to covering gray can create a single block of color, very often either too light or too dark, without any contrast. This can drain the face and be aging. Consider highlights along with your natural color (including the gray), or mixing highlights with the single process.

  • #7 Still Trying To 'Diet' To Lose Weight

    Diets don't work. Eating, and eating often, does. Diets that focus on a specific category of food (protein, for example) aren't sustainable. Eating small meals consisting of whole grains, lean proteins, dark leafy greens and lots of water go a long way in keeping hunger at bay, and the pounds off.


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