An ode to the clomping of clogs vs the clicking of heels
I bought my first pair of clogs when I quit my admin job to become a software engineer. But then, later, when I needed to be able to assert dominance in an overwhelmingly male profession without, you know, actually asserting dominance, I learned the value of footwear as a tool of indirect dominance, specifically boots, specifically very tall boots ( see instagram.com/amywearsboots for an endless catalog of said boots). Boots with stiletto heels clicking on the concrete floor of the tech company where I was director of engineering. Heels that made people say "wut? She's an engineer? wait, she's The Director of Engineering?" I still can't get over the feeling of personal power conveyed through those footwear choices.
But the truth is now I mainly stick to flat or platform boots for daily wear and save the stilettos for the photo shoots and parties, not running errands around town.
Protip for folks who do love heels but struggle with foot pain -- check out dance brands like Burju Shoes https://burjushoes.com/ (women owned, too!) They offer choice of heel height and style as well as extra comfortable insoles that can make pretty shoes feel less disastrous.
As a chiropractor I have worked on hundreds of lovely feet with these kinds of problems. Fortunately I live in a small, mountain town where I don’t get push back when I tell folks they need roomy, Mom type shoes. We literally live in Blundstones (at least mine are red).
I came of age in the 80’s and lived in heels until I became a chiropractic student and they had to go. Now I occasionally still wear a heel to wall from my car into my office, just so I don’t forget how to do it!
It took me a decade to stop buying shoes for the life I wish I had rather than the one I do have. (I love the life I have, it’s simply devoid of heels and sparkle of any kind!)
I fell HARD for clogs in the late 70s, as a middle schooler and aspiring, bandana-wrapped, fringed-vested, wizened art teacher (old soul, eccentric trappings), and thought they were beyond cool. Until the mid 80s, when I joined the HS debate team and dressed like an aspiring, pencil-skirted, bow-bloused baby attorney, and forced my ballerina feet, already compressed by pointe shoes, into the cheapest Payless pumps my babysitting dollars could afford. Mid 50s now, with high arches and bunionettes which are happiest in Dansko, Teva, Sanita, and Saucony. I still think clogs are cool, and haven't worn pumps since 1991.
Like you, though, I grew up listening to my grandmother bi*** about her feet endlessly, and suffered mall pilgrimages in search of the perfect orthopedic pair (why were they all bandaid colored?) while I draped myself over those mirrored fitting stools the salesmen used, and drooled, daydreamed, overdramatized the wasted hours away. Now I GET IT. Shoes are...challenging, expensive, disappointing, occasionally heavenly. And feet rebel, shift, swell, revolt.
Feet, man. Fricking feet. When we moved to Colorado in 2018 (from Dallas where some gals majored in Shoes), I gladly dove head first into the land of Birkenstocks. I thought surely they were the cure for my back and foot troubles.
And they sort of were ... until I got pregnant and then found myself hobbling to a podiatrist, begging for help. He rendered my birks as “the reason your feet aren’t in worse shape,” but then he handed me five pages of shoes to choose from. 😬 He also said orthotic inserts should be used in whatever I wear.
Living in Colorado, folks don’t really think twice about what they wear or how they look. They’re very function-forward folk (whereas I unwittingly wore makeup and perfume on my first hike). But our family is considering a move back to the Dallas area and I confess that I’ve thought more than a few times about the shoes I wear and feeling like Ronald McDonald in the land of dainty shoe misery. 🤷🏻♀️
FWIW, I performed copious amounts of research trying to find a “shoe for busy moms” and dug my way to a site for Kizik shoes. They’re wide enough to fit my orthotic inserts and they have a mechanism so I can slide my feet in while holding my daughter in my arms. And they even won over my much-trendier cousin.
At 16 my heels bled in the cheap pumps I could afford. But it was the 80s: no pain, no gain. My prettiest shoes I called ‘dinner shoes’ because I only wore them when I was only walking from the car to the restaurant. In my late 20s I slipped on some rain-damp granite steps (in my corporate mid height heels) and sprained an ankle. That put a hold on heels and I had to wear (gasp) flats. A few years later I noticed that foot puff up like bread dough whenever I wore heels. I stopped wearing them out of vanity. Then I left the corporate world and discovered the joy of pain free feet, and I haven’t looked back. Now I wear compression stockings so even sandals have to have toe and heel coverage. I wore ankle boots to a recent wedding. Mostly I look down and see what I was taught were “old lady” feet. I reject the ageist stereotype but the programming still pops up in my mind.
My feet are so narrow that I never have had the opprtunity to wear heels. Ever. None of them fit. I walk right out of the shoes (or, in the case of heels, my foot just slides down into the toe). Even stores that offer narrows do not make them until at least size 7, and that's also too big. As a cild, every Easter my mother would tell me, "Don't worry, I promise, next year you will grow and you can have new Easter shoes." When I got engaged, at age 30, this is the actual conversation I had with my mom: "Guess what! I'm engaged! And it's okay, because I already have a pair of white shoes that I can walk in." Fortunately, my first career was as a sportswriter, and I could wear lace-up athletic shoes almost all the time (and was still the best-dressed person in the sports department). When I moved into a government job in my 30s, for awhile I could get by with flats from Naturalizer. Once they stopped making "short and narrow" shoes, I began to order custom insoles from a store in Nashville -- and I lived in Virginia -- and those took up enough space (and cuddled my foot so nicely) that I could buy a few "mom shoes" in a that strapped on. To this day, I can't wear clogs, or most flip flops, or most sandals. I try to make the most of this sad reality by embracing the casual look. I also deeply resented the messaging that came from Sex in the City, that confidence and self-worth were most easily found in extreme heels. Now that I'm pushing 70, I'm glad I never ruined my feet with them.
What a gem - thanks for sharing!