Thursday, December 27, 2012

Orthopedic shoes.

I wanted to wear tennis shoes as a child, yet I couldn't. Everyone around me got to show off their latest Nike, Puma or Adidas models, while I was stuck with orthopedic footwear. I knew why, of course- the hard  leather kept my feet from twisting to the side while the firm shoe went above the ankle. Still, they were ugly. They were made from an outline of my feet, to tailor my individual needs. They were practical and they  were the right choice, but they were not pretty. I don't know what they do now, but back then they only came in one design, with one color to choose for the entire shoe and laces that were a pain to tie. I kept going back to that place perhaps twice a year hoping that as I grew older I'd get more variety but that never happened. My shoes always look the same. If you ever watched classic films about nuns or old spinsters this is what I had to wear every day. And I was 7, 8, 9, 10 at the time.  I was a child wearing an old person's shoes. It was difficult enough having a disability without sticking out in every other way. You can think, a shoe is just a shoe. But that was the way they approached every disability assisting device at the time. Big and bulk and heavy. And dark, depressingly dark. If it was practical apparently it didn't need to be pretty.  It was always one or the other it seemed and there was never any attempt to make those things colorful or fun, kid friendly. If only I could have stripes on the shoe, or Velcro to break the ugly monotony of the brown or grey shoe. It almost felt like I was being punished. I never quite understood why a disability needs to be such a serious and sad matter, so basic, stripped down and generic. Between my shoes, wheelchairs, sticks and braces I was the one ultimately stuck with those things, the one who had to wear and use those things and one other thing I didn't really need was a constant reminder of my disability. And as soon as I started my early to mid teens I wanted to be stylish as much as I could. I wanted to look nice, I wanted to wear nice things. I wanted to be trendy and fashionable, and yes the shoes had to go. I didn't care that my feet were not aligned straight, I wasn't walking that much anymore at the time. And yes, if I stand, my feet turn inwards. I probably stretched  out and destroyed plenty of pairs  over the years , and my flat feet clearly didn't help, but I felt better about myself. My feet still turn to the inside, even as I sit and I know you can undergo a procedure now that will limit how the leg moves from side to side at the ankle but it's not a big deal. Know this- if you think that a child is not impressed by the big orthopedic devices or doesn't want to wear or do what other kids are, just because it may be the right thing- you're wrong. Aesthetics is important, even if not practical. Why else would people replace their black tooth fillings with the white onces, get veneers or whiten their teeth. It's easy for kids to feel like they don't belong, others may be cruel about it as well, why add to their problems?Should I have not wanted nice things because I have a disability? If Gucci can design eyeglasses, why can't they design orthopedic shoes? My first experience with a wheelchair was with one of those big and scary hospital things. Back then I thought that's all you can expect. My chair now is light and bright yellow. It not only takes me places, I'm making a statement. Of course the issue is not shoes. Or wheelchairs. It's the feeling I grew up with that I should expect less because I have a disability. That I can't like things that are modern,  smooth and sleek. So you'd just settle for ugly. What is the justification for all that ugliness and what does it do to your self image and psyche?


  1. I do not wish to offend anybody, but I am hardly the first to remark over the course of the last sixty or so years that the providers of conductive pedagogy have on the whole tended provide an aesthethicly more pleasing aspect than disabled children and adults, and their families, may meet in the persons whom they meet from other callings. Indeed, MH once told me that this was one on AP's principles in selecting his staff.

    Never mind the bodily aspect, there has also beena tendency towards a certain spiritual beauty. Yes, I know that there have been some truly awful exceptions here too, but again it was one of AP's things to seek out workers with a certain lightness of being, born of a satisfactory love life.

    And what do these aspects of CE do for children's and adults' self-image and psyches?

    Shocking, isn't it!


  2. Interesting post. My son is mostly non-verbal, 9, and very into fashion. They still sell the very same Piedro boots you probably wore at 9, but I recently found some Piedro boots that look just like hiking boots. It helps that we live in MN and hikers are stylish! Someone agrees with your point and they are trying to do something about it =)

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