Shoes, Disability and Me
The first pair of shoes I remember loving were bright orange. Neon orange. They were gaudy, cheap trainers; not Nike or Adidas but some other unremarkable, unfashionable brand — the kind of brand other kids at school would mock you for wearing, like the “two stripe” knock-off Adidas tracksuits that were all the rage among parents who wanted their kids to fit in but (not unreasonably) baulked at the obscene prices of the high-end brands for what was identical clothing to the cheaper stuff.
I didn’t get mocked for my cheap orange trainers — at least, not that I remember. And at least not to my face. Even would-be bullies, I suspect, drew the line at mocking the disabled kid’s shoes.
It’s hard to know how long those orange beauties lasted, but it couldn’t have been long. My shoes never last; cerebral palsy means I blow through them in weeks and months rather than years, holes torn through the soles and toes by being rather dragged along unforgiving pavements.
I alternate two competing strategies to cope with this.
- Buy cheap shoes by the boatload. Who cares if they fall apart after two weeks? They cost £4!
- Buy expensive shoes and hope the better quality makes them last longer.
Neither strategy is foolproof. My way of walking means I need quite a specific style of shoe, high on the ankle. Think basketball trainers, Dr. Martens, Converse.
Most of the time, I settle for the cheap options. I can get off-brand Converse imitators cheaply and sure, they might only last a few months but at that price I can’t complain.
On the occasion I’ve gone for the high-end option and splurged on actual brand name stuff (even a pair of the presumably limited run basketball shoes Nike made designed by — and for — people with cerebral palsy) the outcome has been the same, only with extra disappointment. I’ll be walking in the rain only to find water pooling around my toes. Sure enough, the shoes have holes in. Cheap or expensive, trendy or unsightly, casual or formal, every shoe I try ends up unceremoniously thrown away — and much sooner than I would like.
Walking boots are probably the easy solution. Expensive, maybe, but they are strong, sturdy, and high enough on the ankle to stop them slipping off.
The only problem? I don’t like them. It might sound stupid of me to reject the simple solution to my shoe problem, but walking boots always feel too heavy, as though I’m clomping around in a pair of clogs. Why shouldn’t I get to wear comfortable shoes?
Someday maybe I’ll find shoes that fit well, are comfortable and long lasting. Until then I’ll keep wearing through cheap, flimsy pairs of trainers; wasting money while trying not to waste money. Still, at least I’ve moved on from neon orange.