Sunday, June 7, 2009

Herp’s Curse

When my mother and her younger sister were young women, living at home to help care for their invalid mother, the family had a housekeeper named Mrs. Herp. There are no photos of Mrs. Herp, but I envision her as a solid “traditionally built” woman (as Alexander McCall Smith might say!). In my mind, her hair is rather austerely pulled back from her face with a middle part, and she wears a housedress, apron and sensible shoes.

Mrs. Herp always complained about her feet. I’m not sure why – bunions? Heel spurs? Ingrown toenails?
The reason is secondary. The point is, my mom and Gracie would tease her. “Oh, Mrs. Herp – you can’t possibly have feet that hurt that much!” (Ah, the callow youth, still able to wear heels and look rather snappy, clicking along the city streets.)
Apparently they harangued her so much, that one day, Mrs. Herp said, “You just wait. One day, you and yours will have feet as bad as mine!
They laughed. And years later, they, too, had what came to be known as “Herp’s Curse.” Mom had bunions, ingrown toenails and who knows what else.

And, then I came along.

Corrective shoes when I was in elementary school. All my friends had cute little shoes. I had big, brown oxfords. Huge white saddle shoes. Metal plates inside. Jump rope was hell.

I had to go to a shoe store downtown. Shepherd’s Shoes, the only one carrying corrective shoes. At each visit, I would see Glenn Sine. Apparently, he was the only fellow in town who knew how to fit bad feet.

In college, my feet became so badly injured walking to and from class, I was taken to a podiatrist from China. (Years later, as I was walking my post-surgical route to the bus, I passed by that office everyday!). He bound my feet. I can’t say it helped. It did, however, increase my empathy for those in China who endured this as children.

I’ve had plantar fasciatis. Heel spurs. Fallen arches. Callouses. Some weird thing with the big toe that forces me to cut it in the shape of a “V” so it doesn’t hurt (as much). If it wasn’t for the pedorthist I wonder if I’d walk at all.

(I'm sorry -- that's a gross photo.)

Needless to say, I hate buying shoes. I’ll never have Jimmy Choos. Imelda Marcos or Carrie Bradshaw and I would have little in common. Probably 355 days out of 365, I’m in my tennies with orthotics.
Which brings me to this weekend.

With the Paris trip a week away, I knew I needed shoes (and accessories) that could withstand walking miles a day, standing in galleries and walking again – and then let me do it all again the next day, and the day after that. These would never do!The accessories were easy. Gel tubes for the calloused toes, moleskin for the more vulnerable areas.

The shoes were another thing altogether. While my orthotics fit my little brown shoes, they're not great for all-day.

And I will take my sandals, but again, they won't withstand the 10-hour test.

One of the things I’m most looking forward to in Paris is going to a flea market with Tara (aka Paris Parfait). I asked her about clothing and shoes and her words were clear. Good walking shoes, even sneakers. But not white. Definitely not white. “Seriously, the French hate white sneakers - they consider them the tackiest of the tacky - and won't treat you so well, if you're wearing them," she warned.
Well, scratch new tennies. I’m looking for not-white shoes that my orthotics will fit that will last me for hours on the street.

And they won’t be pretty.

Now, my tennie faves for my pronated feet are Brooks Addiction. They live lifetimes on my feet (and look it after about eight months or so!)
So, when I went looking, I stopped first at this display, and – could it be? They had Brooks Addiction in black leather. I’m not talking about fashionable black leather, but I’m talking about not-white!

The lovely woman who helped me dutifully waited while I placed my orthotics inside and efficiently laced and tied them tight. I stood and walked about, stopping by the small mirror showcasing one’s feet.

They look like the shoes I wore in fourth grade. Only black. They look like shoes a nun would wear. Not a hip nun, but a very conservative, traditional nun who had to be on her feet all day. They reminded me of “Good Morning, Miss Dove,” which will resonate with you only if you are a serious movie buff or over the age of 55 or 60.

I took them.

Rick said they were ugly. (He may have said frumpy, or some other term. He meant ugly.)

Kate was more tactful. But I knew what she meant.

But they feel good. Very good (at least in the first day). And under pants, who’ll know? (OK, I’m going to the most fashionable city in the world, but trust me, no one is going to pay any attention to me; it wouldn’t matter if I was barefoot.)

Take that, Mrs. Herp. I will triumph over the “curse” you put on our house. Or at least have a darned good time trying!
(Note: Photos of pretty shoes with big heels are from Nordstrom's...Photos of shoes that aren't so pretty are from the Marmelade Gypsy Collection of Sensible Shoes.)


Annie said...

What a great post, Jeanie. I recognize some of those real world shows from MY closet. If I even look at a heel these days, I get dizzy. To hell with style (even in Paris). Have a blast and walk, walk, walk, in comfort.

Mary Timme said...

I have often said that one of the hardest things for me to endure was giving up sillettos, the higher the better. I love pretty shoes, but Brooks is my brand and I didn't know they had some in leather. I get my new pair at Runner's Roost as they always have some to fit.

BONNIE K said...

Comfort is the most important thing, and I'm glad you found that. Also, that was very interesting about the white shoes in France being a no-no.

beth said... poor thing !
foot pain is something that can't be ignored AT ALL, as the rest of your body depends on those tootsies !

just in the past year, I've had to be careful as my feet want to hurt, too and it's an awful feeling, so my heart totally feels for you !

and a trip like that.....YES, you need to be comfortable as that's what will keep you happy the whole time !

Anonymous said...

Ah yes. We aren't actually built to wear shoes!! No wonder we have so many issues - and when I say we, I definitely mean me too! I have searched for the perfect walking shoe too, and came up with some pretty comfortable ones - from Land's End no less. We shall see how they hold up.
I can't wait to start reading your French posts!! :)

JessInFocus said...

Although the high heels are beautiful they hurt! and are not made for waling all day. Go for comfort! :)

Oh said...

Oh, Jeanie! When you say that Rick didn't say "ugly" but that's what he meant, I finally laughed. Right out loud. Because I understand the feet thing. I grew up in saddle shoes and things for good arches, etc etc and it all worked out pretty well, but now, after all this time and fads and trends and boots with heels (always a favorite), I have settled for the sensible, for the ballet shoe with inserts, for the tennies that feel like walking on clouds.
You may have to hcange your shoes a couple times a day in France but OMG, France!!!! You're going?!!!! I declare, you are the fourth friend whose headed there this year! Amazing! I know everyone must be giving you something you should do or should see. But really if you can get to the bookstore Shakespeare and Co (no longer the original location but who cares?) that would be awesome. Left Bank. Anyone will point you there.
this is getting too long. I'll email you!

...... Bobbi said...

I'm sorry for your feet, but that was a hilarious post! You gave me my first laugh of the morning. I have never been a shoe person, preferring sneakers or crocs only second to barefeet. I do have one pair of very low heeled dress shoes, but I can't remember when the last time I had them on was. I've been known to wear my sneakers to church - scandalous, I know!

anno said...

I embarrass my daughter constantly with my emphasis on comfort over fashion: what's the point, though, of being in the most beautiful city in the world if you can't enjoy it because of your feet? Glad you found a pair that will keep you lively! Also, remember... for all that Paris is a great place to walk, it is also a city of a thousand cafes, beautiful parks, and the always fabulous Metro.

Beth Leintz said...

Be comfortable- you know that after walking 100 yds, you won't care what your feet look like, only that you can keep going.

(and lucky you to get to go to PARIS!)

My best friend was 5 mos pregnant when she went to Paris and already had swelling feet problems- she cut holes in her shoes so her little toes could stick out.

joyce said...

Bloggers are so witty. I love it. There's something about adding pictures to words that makes it so unique. But, glad you found suitable shoes.....I couldn't walk in heels of any type either, without twisting my ankle.

MSchuess said...

Well, you COULD look at what the Parisiennes are wearing and buy something there. What a souvenir!

I've been wearing paddock boots since the leg brace came off in February. They would carry me a hundred miles, if I wanted. Not cute, no, but so comfy and sure-footed.

Bon voyage, Jeannie --!

Anonymous said...

OMG, that was a HOOT - I am sorry about your pain (I'm right there with you), but well written!


Karen Owen said...

Jeanie, I enjoyed this post so much. Such witty writing! Sorry about your foot troubles, but I bet you'll triumph over the arch (fallen, that is!) in Paris.


Beth said...

Ha! I have some New Balance Tennis shoes that look just like your new black ones. They are ugly but very comfy if I have alot of walking to to. PARIS????? When did I miss that you are going to Paris??? Oh how lucky you are!!!
Wah,,,,I want to go too!

Kristine said...

I felt I was reading a biography! I have terrible feet, went to Shepards, wore the oxfords. oh my!
I longed to wear the flashy shoes and sometimes tried but was always sorry. It has gotten so I wear tennis shoes, with orthotics, or Birks. That's about my selection. ugh
Such good advice from Tara! I will remember it too when traveling.
Thanks for the funny (ouch!) post.

Linda said...

Oh my gosh! We need to talk! I'm planning to call the podiatrist tomorrow! I have a Morton's neuroma... self diagnosed. I buy all my shoes at a special store because my feet are so WIDE. Right now my left foot is a problem! I'd be wearing your black shoes to Paris, too! Walk with pride my least you can walk.

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Laura said...

I would have never believed that "Herp's curse" could be so bad....until about a year ago! My feet started hurting; aching by the end of the day. A few months ago I was forced to the Dr. Scholl's aisle at the drugstore. I bought some gel inserts...they helped so much!!! However, I see a trip to the podiatrist in the future!!! Darn you old age!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, and please take lots of pictures at the Paris flea market. That is a dream of my friend Jane. She is frothing at the mouth to go there. I am so happy for you that you are going!!!!

Joanne Huffman said...

I am so into comfortable shoes - I haven't worn heels for about 20 years.


Beansieleigh said...

LOVED this post!! I'm not having any foot problems YET, and am grateful for that much! I too spend most of my time in sneakers; but I love that one, maybe two days a week I might find occasion to toss the sensible ones aside, and wear the pretty girly-girl ones!!

Rosa said...

Hey, I've never been one for fashionable shoes (until recently--go figure). When you're overseas and sightseeing, comfort is the main thing. They look great! xo

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