The importance of being grounded: what you need to know about shoes and wellbeing
(This is a follow up post to my previous post about two essential items for every woman. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so here.)
Full disclosure. I have scoliosis. As you may know, one is born with scoliosis, and mine has always been mild. But still. And as you may know, scoliosis doesn’t get along with all shoes, even less with hard in-sole high heel shoes. Well, you may not know it, and hence my personal shoe-rney, best illustrated by two weddings.
When I lived in Buenos Aires before moving to New York, I went to a conference in Berlin. And it was summer, and summer is beautiful in Berlin, while in Buenos Aires it was winter. I am a walker. I remember walking the whole city with my brown high heel open wooden sandals. Granted, Berlin is a flat city, but a huge city as well. And I was with my friend Sofia, who was also a walker, also a Political Scientist, and we were happy to walk the whole city, from Charlottenberg, all along the Tiergarten, Mitte, Branderburger Tor, Kreuzberg, and along the Spree. (Little did I know that I would end up living in Berlin 10 years later.) All with my wooden high heel sandals. I remember the brown leather strap attached to the wooden base by a row of copper studs, my toenails out in the air, my heel on a high hard stand. And I was fine at the time, even if the mere writing of these words make my back hurt right now.
(This sandal gives a general idea of the shoes I am talking about. Add a thinner heel in the shape of truncated inverted pyramid, and remove the buckle to keep you foot in place).
Once back from the conference in Buenos Aires, I remember that I went to see my orthopedist and family friend Susana, and I was serendipitously wearing those same sandals. (For very unclear reason.s, as Buenos Aires is in the Southern hemisphere and it was the end of winter… even if winters there are not too cold, as Italians would say “non essaggeriamo!” – let’s not exaggerate, yes, funny, right? Maybe I was still in planet summer. Or maybe I was young – not maybe, I was.) And she said: “you shouldn’t be wearing those shoes with your scoliosis. Actually, you shouldn’t be wearing those shoes punto. I know you are young and those shoes are cool, but still.” (I remember smiling to her choice of word for my translated cool, it was a Buenos Aires slang word in vogue at the time for young people) “The day will come when you won’t be able to wear high heels anymore” – she added portentuously.
And you know what’s coming. A few years later, in New York, I went to a wedding, I was wearing black satin pumps by a French designer, as stylish as high and completely un-ergonomic. Something like this:
Besides being a walker, I am a dancer… well, rather, I love dancing. And as it was an Armenian wedding, there was tons dancing, the kind of dancing I love. I was on the dance floor all the time until the last minute. Only when the disc jockey started to take away the equipment, did I sit down. And I could not stand up. I felt a wrench twisting a nerve where my tailbone meets my spine (or so I remember), the most acute pain radiating to my four cardinal points. I took off my shoes (lovely, stylish, silk black pumps, did I tell you?) and my pain persisted. I could picture every single nerve in my body through the pain I was feeling. And I could not walk. I had to be carried in arms to the elevator of this fancy midtown hotel, everybody probably thinking that I was drunk (people are absolutely sure I am drunk when they see me dancing, but I do not drink… another full disclosure). And I was thinking about how done I was with heels. I could feel the premonition turning into reality. After being carried to a cab and then up the two floors of my brownstone building in Park Slope, the pain was slightly subsiding, probably due to tiredness taking over.
The next morning was a day of atonement. I purged my closet of scoliosis-unfriendly shoes, to the happiness of my size 40 friends. I had experientially learned what I informationally knew: that I could only wear really good, supportive shoes, with medium heel, gentle to my back. I knew I had a long road ahead to build up my shoe “supply” with items that accommodated my scoliosis with quality, color and style. Well, a good fit style. Now you understand.
Fast forward to another wedding. Mine. I got married in Buenos Aires, after moving to the Bay Area from Beirut. My husband Daniel and I had two months to put it together, with 140 people, coming from over 10 countries. Daniel was very much involved in the strategic thinking and event planning, but he is not from Argentina so I was the one in charge of navigating logistics, culture and social networks. You know everything that is involved in making a wedding happen, from the purely practical (food, hall, music, decoration, drinks, accommodation for guests) to the more interpersonal (our families meeting, divorced parents, friends travelling long distances and not speaking Spanish, carrying out our wedding in two languages when it is not a common thing among my friends there, etc. etc.). And all of this, in the context of months of inflation in Argentina, where prices of contracted services were changing and needed to be re-negotiated on a rolling basis. (Have I mentioned cultural navigation?)
And guess what, my one and only source of stress was? Which shoes I would wear. Not the family. Not the dress. Not the seamless unfolding of the party. Not the ceremony. That would be put together by two friends of ours (without our knowing). The shoes. I had stress dreams only with my shoes.
I started looking for “bridal shoes” in bridal stores. What a mistake, because my dress was not the typical bride’s dress,. It was a re-styled vintage pearl color dress. The “bride” shoes were awfully un-ergonomic (and many times awful). It is as if you get married and you are condemned to have back pain for days. I refused. I wanted stylish AND comfortable shoes that would allow me to dance all day (yes, our wedding started at 12pm and ended and 10pm, and there was a lot of dancing) and enjoy our collective honey moon hiking in the North West of Argentina. I looked for shoes for my wedding in stylish non-bridal stores (this is the language I used, because when I would enter non-bridal stores asking for wedding shoes they would look at me so funny), and when I found them – good supportive shoes with a wooden-like platform, which accommodated my insoles, and were of a shiny pearl color – I achieved a zen state, and everything was smooth and seamless.
That is how much I care about shoes and comfort. (In case you are wondering, our wedding was a blast… It was a dream coming true, because we had our family and friends from all over the world… it was a real putting our lives together... What could be stressful about that – that is, except for shoes that ground you?).
Fast forward to the present. I am not someone who would give up wellbeing or style. I want both. And I only get shoes that are both.
I would love to hear your shoe-story. For some reason, mine is related to two weddings! Such is the texture of our lives. Leave your comments below!
Be stylishly grounded,