Let’s talk about shoes, sort of


Maybe you saw my Instagram or FB post about it, but if you didn’t…can I ask you about why you wear the shoes you do? And what are your formative memories of shoes?

I recall some of my early shoes: I grew up in the final years of the pre-internet age, where shoes were something that you had to go to a dedicated shoe store for, or a very large department store. And as a kid, the shoes were carefully scrutinized for their ability to be “broken-in”, and “worn out”. This meant shoes of thick, unforgiving leather that got comfortable only months before you outgrew them, and handed on to some other kid, who got to enjoy the luxury of the broken-in, softened leather. As a kid whose feet grew to a surprising size for her height, I outgrew a lot of shoes. I endured a lot of cycles of very painful shoes. And so did everyone else I knew, unless they had older siblings to inherit them from.

As an adult, then, I didn’t think I had a right to expect shoes to NOT hurt. Shoes…hurt, and I counted myself lucky to not come from one of the previous generations, who wore tights and heels, girdles and garter clips – the whole purpose of which was, I guess, to make you so uncomfortable that you couldn’t properly think about the fact that you weren’t allowed to have a bank account in your own name, or rent an apartment as a single woman unless your dad signed the lease. In short, I thought I was lucky that I had a lot fewer clothing conventions to deal with, so I put up with painful shoes, because they looked good. They made my feet look small. They made me walk slower, and not in my usual, rangy bounce that doesn’t work well with skirts or dresses. In short, the shoes tamed me. The dull throb of my aching feet numbed me to the reality of the expectation of a woman’s body – that we be slender, but not skinny, and tall but not too tall, and to have the slightest of curves, so that our clothes looked “nice” on us instead of “slutty”. (What the hell, especially on that last one?!)

We’ve all been locked up this last year and a bit, away from the world that wants us to strive to be compared, measured, crammed into shapes that our bodies don’t really want to make. Can we make a promise to ourselves to continue to prize our beautiful bodies that carried us through a pandemic? And can we start to look at the things we carry with us, the tight & high shoes that twist our feet and tighten our tendons, and the shoulder bag that digs a furrow into our right shoulder, the jeans that painfully crease our skins – can we start to see them as what they are? They’re a way of showing the world that we say YES to looking a certain way by saying YES to our collective discomfort, accepting it as yet another ‘cost of being women/fashionable/beautiful/chic’. Try saying NO.

Try saying YES to:

  • things that make us feel stronger
  • things that make us feel more powerful
  • things that make us feel more comfortable
  • things that let us run
  • things that let us sprawl on the grass
  • things that let us stand as tall as we are, because that’s tall enough
  • things that let our curves breathe, because we all need to breathe
  • things that we would wear like every day was Saturday