Dan Vs. Shoes

02/21/2017 05:22 pm ET

Yesterday, I added a new chapter to that soulful saga of soles that has become an extreme exercise in extremity anxiety. As usual, the outcome was a stalemate, and a tie always goes to the running-shoe. Facing the archenemy of arch-support is exhausting, and even when I win, finding cleats that fits my feets is always a bittersweet feat. My piggy-curator is ready for a pygmy-castrator to end the war of me vs. shoes once and for all.

You don’t know how lucky you are. Anyone reading this who is wearing anything on their feet right now – a Manolo Blahnik Strappy Sandal, a Nike running shoe, a paper bag tied with bakery string – you have been given a magnificent gift that I’m one-hundred percent sure you are taking for granted. You get to cover your floor-touchers without the ridiculous discomfort that comes with arthritic feet. What’s that you say? You’ve gotten a blister breaking in a new sneaker? You’ve hurt your inbetween toe-space with new flip flops? You’re a Hobbit? Well, guess what - Frodo ain’t got nothin’ on me. Getting shod is an exercise in futility when I have to face the foot-man.

After years of autoimmune arthritis, my feet look like, well, actually that’s difficult to say. My left foot looks like a boomerang that got too close to a radiator, and my right foot looks like, ummm, a pile of burning garbage. So, finding shoes in size 10, width dumpster fire, tends to be difficult – and that’s only one foot. The other one is size 11, width divided by zero. Basically my feet look like a Salvador Dali painting. I used to go to those posh shoe stores in the mall, where the people help you find exactly what you need and even lace up your shoes for you. Unfortunately, after the third time the person helping me had a panic attack, I was discretely informed an informational warning pamphlet about handling my feet had been circulated. Whatever, f-them anyway, their breath always stunk like trash in June. If you’re going to be five inches from people’s faces – try a Mentos. It’s the freshmaker.

So, on my own and despondent about my sit-shoe-ation, I told big shoe to go lace themselves and I went to one of those shoe-castles. You know the ones – they are housed in buildings the size of a small Central American country, and for some reason one corner of the store sells handbags that are bizarrely high-priced. When I walked in I thought I had found the answer to my problem. There had to be at least one pair of shoes in this footwear zip code that would softly caress the Rorschach drawings I call my feet, or at least bear hug them like a Mexican wrestler – I wasn’t picky. So I traveled upstairs to the men’s county, and began my search.

There were so many different kinds of footwear to choose from, I didn’t even know where to start. I decided to try on a pair of boots that looked fairly forgiving. At first, it seemed promising, but after squeezing my right side barge into the boot, a passing shopper told me I was “wearing them wrong.” Since that doesn’t mean anything (how can you wear a shoe wrong?), I simply took it as a sign that my feet made things look so awkward that it moved a woman to disgust. So, I moved on. Next I thought maybe a nice pear of penny loafers would do the trick. I searched for a pair made of especially supple leather, but the only loafers soft enough also looked like someone had removed them from a corpse at Off-Track-Betting, so I moved on again, hoping the third time was a charm.

Ah, the sneaker department, built for comfort and motion, I was sure I’d hit the jackpot there – and I did! I actually found a number of sneakers that fit my feet and didn’t feel like I had strapped a live hornet’s nest to the end of my legs. Could it be true? Dare I dream? I stood up to take my first step, cautiously excited, and it worked! I was overjoyed with shoe-love, overcome by the relief of a long journey completed, and then, without thinking, I took a step with my right foot – and promptly tumbled, knocking over a can of used temporary socks in the process. As I got back up, covered in other people’s foot fungus and bunion-juice, and after I vomited, I diagnosed the issue. It seems that even though my right shoe fit, it rested at a forty-five degree angle to the floor because my foot was curled so far under. My hopes had been dashed, and the shoe-warehouse suddenly began to feel like that nightmare where you keep running down an infinite hallway with something chasing you. There were endless rows of shoes I couldn’t use, and I was being chased by my own feelings of self-pity - a pushy and handsome version of myself. So I left, dejected and under-shod, resigning myself to wrapping my feet in old washcloths and duct-tape.

For a while I wore slippers everywhere, and even though a disturbingly large percentage of individuals never noticed (look down, people!), I knew it wasn’t a long-term solution. I consulted with my doctor about specially crafted shoes, but then I found out what custom orthotic shoes actually looked like. Picture the dress shoe of Frankenstein’s monster and add a 3-inch sole, and you have your answer. Wearing the wingtips of a 1950s catholic nun doesn’t exactly scream sexy. So the best I could do was wear the only pair of sneakers I had that didn’t feel like my feet were being pressed into a Jell-o mold in the shape of a trout, and didn’t make me feel like I was balancing on a tightrope all day long, and I’ve been wearing them ever since.

Yesterday’s attempt to cobble and alter my own pair of sneakers, and by cobble I mean buy and by alter I mean cut with a razor blade, worked about as well as you’d think. When the procedure resulted in the loss of the patient, I had to fish my old sneakers out of the garbage and patch them up the best I could. There’s no telling how long they will last, but as of now I have no other alternative. Unfortunately, after 20 years of rheumatoid arthritis, the battle of Dan Vs. Shoe rages on, but there’s hope of surgery on the horizon, and, if that doesn’t work, there’s always that washcloth-duct tape thing.

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