Ugly Feet and Beautiful Shoes

I have a lot of conversations about feet. With family, friends, soon-to-be-friends, and anyone who’s willing to take part in the discussion. I don’t have a foot fetish, but I do have (insert echo and amplifier here) “BUNIONS” so I’m a watcher of feet if not so much for the observation of foot health—but to see what part of the population is stricken with “foot bumps” as my nephew Max has named them. Are you bunion free? I’d like to talk with you. I’d like to hear you to tell me what it’s like to wear shoes—heels—without pain or discomfort, or your toes bulging out like an ill fitting bra. I’m a practicer of yoga, so I see a lot of bare feet on a weekly basis, and I do compare my foot bone structure with that of my fellow yogis. I used to make apologies for my feet, or before anyone could beat me to it I’d point out that I have hideous Paul Bunions. I don’t say anything anymore. I just let my feet speak for themselves.

As an aside, I have really, really strong feet and hands—and in line with my 5′ 2″ stature, they’re fairly small. I wear a size 6.5 shoe, and about a 6 on my ring finger. As if God were playing a joke—my knuckles are large and my grip is strong, so sometimes it’s difficult to get rings on and off. Back to the strength part, I can open jars without asking for help. In yoga, holding the prapadasana is no problem for me.

I use my feet a lot, meaning, I walk for purpose and for pleasure, so I log a lot of steps. I’m the person who parks as far away from the entrance on the parking lot regardless of the weather. It’s melodramatic to say that I use my Fitbit as a success meter, but it does elevate my day when I reach the coveted 10k steps.

I used to think that my foot bumps were caused by the very pointy and narrow shoes that I like to wear. My shoe obsession began in high school with a discount shoe store that sold designer shoes. The year was 1979 and I remember a pair of buff colored leather “Chandler” loafers—my first beautiful shoes. They were ultra pointy with a stacked leather heel and leather soles—and they attracted a lot of attention from my classmates. I don’t think I had the whole ensemble thing down at that time, so some of the attention was probably about how weird I looked with a hand-me-down Catholic school uniform, bad hair and well-made, stylish shoes. Express yourself, I say.

Since I was a teenager, I’ve been a shoe trend watcher and wearer. You’ll recognize some of these brands which protected my feet during the 70’s and 80’s: Kelso Earth Shoes, Stan Smith Addidas, Converse All-Stars, Bass Ballet wedges, P&Hirsch Saddle Oxfords, Sperry Topsiders, Sporto duck boots (still have those from 1981). I embraced the chunky shoe trend of the 90’s, and owned my share of nuevo platforms. I still have my Doc Martins, circa 1996. Even today, one of my go-to shoe styles are oxfords. When the Hush Puppies renaissance happened, I was all over it and today one of my favorite pair of treads are these Sperry white bucks. I own some very pretty 3 and 4 inch stilletto heels which I still wear on special occasions. I have some classic and well-made boots which have been a staple of my shoe wardrobe since 2009. Also have an extensive flip flop collection so that on weekends and evenings, my bunions can recover. Last but not least, I do have a pair of Uggs which are classified as slippers in my shoe repertoire. While I admire and covet Gucci, Louboutin, Choos, Weitzman and the likes, I don’t wear the heels very often so I tend to spend my paycheck on athletic shoes, and Frye and Old Gringo boots. I’m a practical person, so of course I own a pair of Sorrel Joan of Arctic’s. I pray for snow so that I can shovel in style.

There is so much to appreciate about the design of footwear. Enough can’t be said about the thought put into the engineering of comfort and style and making sure that it evolves every season so that consumers like myself will continue to expand their wardrobe. We are a captive audience. We NEED shoes. We don’t just want them, we NEED them because they get worn out and we NEED to replace them every season. We NEED to protect our feet with the latest high tech materials. Plus, the old ones aren’t appealing to us anymore. And they don’t go with anything else in the closet. And I want what she’s having.

The St. Louis Art Museum has an Andy Warhol piece on display in which he used a shoe form to apply his own design. It is quite beautiful and worth a view and maybe not typically what you’d expect from Warhol. My philosophy about gardens, museums, churches, etc. is that you don’t need to spend the entire day, but go see one exhibit or installation and really take it in. This Warhol shoe will either inspire you to make your own shoes, or go ahead and spend the money on that pair of Louboutin’s for your next event. Go see it.

This is probably the first of several musings about shoes and feet. If you’re a person who experiences foot pain and discomfort, know that you’re not alone. I hope that whether you have “beautiful” feet, or “beautiful” shoes (or both) that you’ll appreciate your own foot beauty and dress them as they deserve.


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