Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 2, 2008

These shoes are made for walking

As I pulled on my worn, grass-stained white tennis shoes, it occurred to me that I've had them for 11 years. Because I inherited a tendency for bunions and other assorted foot problems from Mom, it's not easy to find shoes that are comfortable.

So I prefer to just buff up my leather dress shoes and take them to a repair shop every few years to get new soles put on rather than buy new ones. I don't really have such an excuse for keeping my old tennis shoes because new ones are usually comfortable within the first few hbwearings. But I guess they and an equally old pair of black tie shoes have become like old friends.

I bought the black ones several years ago as walking shoes for our trips to Europe, and my attachment to them is that they look fairly dressy and are very comfortable.

But my fond regard for the tennis shoes is more than just comfort. Mom and Dad bought them for me in 1997 when I was in a Kansas City hospital with an auto-immune disease that had left me unable to walk or move much of anything except my left arm. After a couple of weeks, the doctors said I should have shoes on throughout the day to prevent my ankles and feet from atrophying.

One day, when Art tried to put the then-new tennis shoes on my feet as I was lying in the hospital bed, I somehow indicated to him that something was wrong. He and the nurses thought I was trying to say the shoes were hurting me.

And they were, but it didn't have anything to do with my condition. He was putting them on the wrong feet!

Despite not being sure I would ever walk again, I found the incident extremely amusing and it became a standing joke that Art used when my spirits started to flag.

But I did walk again and those shoes were the ones I wore when I took that first step. And, when I finally got out of the hospital after three months of intense physical and occupational therapy, they were the ones I walked out of the hospital in.

However, unlike baby shoes that a person outgrows and has bronzed, I've honored those first-step shoes by wearing the heck out of them. I have worn them while driving the car, painting the house, mowing the lawn, walking to the park, buying groceries and going outside to get the mail.

And recently, they and the black shoes have once again come to the rescue. A few weeks ago, I jammed the little toe of my right foot into a door frame. As soon as I did it, I knew that the toe was either broken or severely bruised. Art told me there probably wasn't anything a doctor could do about it.

So I just put on my old black tie shoes and trotted - well, limped - off to work. By the end of the day, my sore toe was a pretty interesting shade of purplish black and I decided to see what the doctor had to say. True to Art's prediction, the doc told me he could take an X-ray if I wanted, but there really wasn't anything he could do. He said my toe would hurt for two weeks if it was just bruised and about four weeks or so if it was broken.

Either way, he said, his advice was the same: "Don't run any marathons, wear comfortable shoes and keep your foot up when you're at home."

Ever since, I've alternated between those old tennis shoes and the old black tie shoes. Occasionally I've slipped in a day or two with other newer more dressy ones when I felt the occasion or my vanity dictated I should. But as I was warned, when I got away from the old standbys, my toe suffered.

So I guess these old grass-stained, worn-out shoes are definitely made for walking - and I don't have plans to retire them any day soon!

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