Special Shoes. Yeah, that’s what they called them!



Clink. Clank. Clunk. Clang.

“What’s that rattling sound?”

I sit very still in the circle, afraid to move, afraid I will rattle again and everyone will discover it’s the gravel stuck in the heel of my cheap shoes.

“Hey, your shoes are coming apart and you got gravel stuck in the bottom.”

Quick tip: If you don’t want anyone to know your shoes are worn, don’t sit with a group of kids Indian style with your shoe heels exposed…tough lesson for an eight year old.

“Why did your mom buy you such cheap shoes?” This comes from the same friend who exposes me to the other kids. The others seem to have moved on. I’m scarlet faced as I have no answers to her probing and embarrassing questions. I glance down at her bright orange Converse shoes and wish I had a pair.

That night I tell my mom the horrifying experience. She places the shoes in a paper bag and tells me to wear my old shoes until after my doctor‘s appointment. I am baffled because I am not sick. She explains she bought me cheap shoes so she can show the doctor how my feet turn and wear my shoes down. I look at my feet. They look fine to me. I pull my shoes out of the bag and examine them. I notice the sides of my shoes on the inner portions (insteps?) turn inward, almost as if my arches have fallen. Still, I think I walk fine. She tells me I might have to get corrective shoes to fix my feet. I shudder at the thought of brace-like contraptions on my feet. I dream of Cinderella shoes though I know that will definitely not be what I get, even if the doctor says my feet are fine.

It seems like only a few days and Mama and I are off to the city. We have to drive to a huge parking lot and take the bus over to the university. The bus ride alone makes me nervous, and then we have to cross the busy street with college students and working professionals clustered about. We are ushered from one waiting room and examining room to another. Each time I have to strip to an embarrassing nakedness of “underpants only” and be touched, poked, and prodded by a team of doctors and students. I am instructed to walk, bend, turn, reach, and jump. I want to cry. I hate this place more than any place I’ve ever gone. And this is only the first of many visits.

Then my mother and I head over to the “expensive” shoe shop. It’s one we can’t afford to shop at; one I’ve only walked by and glanced in the window. She hands the prescription to the salesman and he measures my feet. He places the box on the floor and pulls out the ugliest shoe I’ve ever seen. I slowly die inside. I can’t believe they expect me to wear these horrendous brown leather oxfords…they look like old man shoes, expensive old man shoes. To my dismay, my mother makes me wear them from the store. She even has the salesperson throw out my old shoes. I nearly die. The cashier tells my mother the price, and she nearly dies. I actually hear her breath catch in her throat and I wonder if she will ever exhale. I remember they cost forty-two dollars which was a lot of money back then for a pair of shoes. Heck, my mother probably paid less for a week of groceries.

Not only am I expected to wear them, I must wear them daily. I even have to wear them with dresses. I have to run in them and play kick ball with them on. There are absolutely no exceptions. I am reminded of their cost. I am told it is for my own good. I hate my life. I am the only one at school with “special shoes”. Yes, that’s what the grown ups called them. If they thought they were so dang special why didn’t they want to wear them?

I was the brunt of all jokes at school for the first day, and on occasion thereafter. It eventually turned to pity as the other girls were thankful they didn’t have to sport those “boy shoes” on their feet. I made it my goal to not let them slow me down. The only justice was that I still came in first or second in all the playground races. I roughed and scuffed those suckers (shoes) up! My mother was appalled at how I tore them up. They seemed less noticeable when the shine wore off. I don’t know who hated it more each time I had to get a new pair, me or my mother. Fortunately, I only had to wear corrective shoes for a year or two. In the meantime, my dad’s friend had a daughter who also had to wear “special shoes”. At least, hers were a pretty reddish burgundy color. Still, she and I spent many hours commiserating the sheer torture of having those ugly things on our feet. We both dreamed of patent leather Mary Janes and white canvas Keds like the other kids wore…we continued to dream as we donned our ugly boy shoes wherever our legs led us.

Needless to say, I had a real thing about shoes when my kids were little. I refused to buy them cheap television cartoon character shoes like many of the kids wore for play. I only purchased well made (yes, expensive) name brand shoes for my children. I hoped (and prayed) this would be enough to help their feet grow and form properly. I prayed they wouldn’t have to go through the pain I endured from other kids. This had plus and a minus side…my kids did grow up with nice feet; however they also now have expensive taste in shoes!

I also have a thing for pretty shoes. Still, I like functional. But I’m trying to make up for lost time…you do not want to know how many Keen Mary Jane shoes I own! So, yes I do own way more shoes than I need; especially considering the fact that I work from home and go barefoot unless I leave the house. I suppose some things from childhood haunt us forever….and don’t go judging me unless you were made to wear equally horrendous ugly brown leather oxfords!

Before you even ask; yes, I do donate shoes to Salvation Army at least twice a year. I go through my shoes and donate anything I haven’t worn. Dirt Man tried to convince me to donate a pair every time I purchase a new pair, but that just is not going to fly…besides he didn’t have to wear ugly “special shoes” when he was a kid so he isn’t allowed to judge me either!

36 thoughts on “Special Shoes. Yeah, that’s what they called them!

  1. Oh, I am so sorry your little eight year old self had to go through that. I am sorry it made a mark on you, but you know that your mom was right. And she was pretty damned smart buying shoes that you would wear out quickly so the doctors could see.

    I bet that you are thankful for those ugly shoes because they did their job and helped your feet, yes?

    • My mom did do the right thing…I would have done the same as a mom. As you can see from this a child’s perspective is quite different. In retrospect, I am probably the only one from elementary school that remembers I even wore those horrid things! I wonder if my siblings even remember!

    • I think that most often the things that hurt us that we remember, most people don’t. Even if they were the ones that caused the hurt. Glad your feet/gait/stance (whatever the shoes were for) is fixed and now you can buy and wear pretty shoes!

  2. I can so relate. When I was five I had fallen arches. They were so painful, I would sit in a chair, hold my feet, rock back and forth and cry. Yes, I had to wear special shoes, although they called them corrective shoes, but they were the same thing. At five, I wasn’t quite so fashion conscious, so it didn’t make quite the same impact, but I hated wearing them when I dressed up and felt very self conscious.

    I was quite the tomboy though, and if anyone laughed at me, I got into a fight with them and generally ended up beating them up. It really eroded their machismo if they were a boy, because it was very uncool to be beaten in a fight by a girl.

    Strangely, I didn’t get a thing for pretty shoes. If they were comfortable I was happy. If they were comfortable and looked good, I was ecstatic. Aren’t you glad you survived and made sure your kids didn’t suffer the same thing?

    • I’m so sorry you endured physical pain. I don’t ever remember any physical pain with my feet back then…however, I have a very hard time with them these days.
      I wonder if those boys remember getting beat up by a girl…probably one of those things they’d rather forget!
      And yes, I am glad I had it taken care of then. I am especially glad I was careful with my own childrens feet.

  3. Headgear. Red hair. Freckles. And the all-around-insecurity of divorce. Yep. I think most kids have something they’re carrying from childhood. It’s amazing how many stories I hear.

    I’m glad you feed your desire for shoes today. Because giving in plenty, with no apology, is the Love that heals.


  4. Awh…..poor little thing! I can’t imagine what you went through. Isn’t it funny how we remember the most awful things that happened to us? I’m glad you can wear nice shoes now and I bet your feet are very pretty thanks to mom!

  5. SuziCate, I hate the feeling as a child of being “outside” what other kids have or are doing. It is all so significant when you are very young. I remember when I was about 11 or 12, all the girls were wearing “tight skirts” or “straight skirts”. When I told my mother I wanted one too, she said absolutely not. I was think as a rail and she said I had nothing to hold one up with. My dad took me shopping and bought me a straight skirt. I never loved him more. Mom disapproved but let me wear it. I’m glad you got your feel straightened out. I too love pretty shoes. I have perhaps 40 pairs that need to go to Goodwill because I don’t really wear them anymore. But I’m having trouble parting with them.

  6. While not exactly special shoes, I had to wear arch pads in mine and I had AAA narrow feet. Hard to find shoes that fit a child. Buster Brown made AAA shoes but they were also not stylish! As for giving up a pair each time a new pair is bought….is he kidding? Seriously.

    • I had narrow feet too and you’re right very difficult to find shoes that fit well…unless of course, they are corrective ones, lol! Glad you survived your ordeal as well.

  7. I had hard to fit feet as a kid and still have to wear ‘good’ shoes or else I’m in pain – I have abnormally high arches that tend to start falling if I don’t wear supportive shoes. Now in my 40’s, the pain will travel up my bad knee to my hip and all the way up my back.

    My husband calls it a ‘no net shoe gain’ – in order to get a new pair, I have to get rid of an old pair. I just had 3 pairs of Dansko’s fall apart, so I bought myself a glorious new pair for Christmas – patent leather leopard print clogs.
    I’ve tried sneaking around his rule, but he always knows when I have a new pair of shoes, even if they sit hidden for a few weeks. He claims I get a ‘new shoe glow’. It really is a certain kind of happy.

    • It must have been the “new shoe glow” that gets me caught every time! I don’t like that “no net shoe gain” -sounds like he and my hubby are cohorts! By the way, I finally got around to making those pot holders last night…thank you so much for the idea!

      • You’re welcome!

        He’s yet to actually enforce it. He also has tried the same rule with books, again with no luck. He’s convinced we’re going to be buried in a crushing avalanche of shoes and books.

  8. I remember as a young child my parents bought me saddle shoes. I suspect they were the “in” shoe at that time, but I hated them. One day I stayed home sick while they worked – apparently not really sick because I cleaned house and in the process I threw away my saddle shoes. I have a thing for shoes too; when we moved here I carried with me two large boxes of heels. It was important to have heels in lots of colors and shades, you know. Last year I finally pulled out 6 pair of the lowest heels in neutral colors and gave the rest to Goodwill. Now I should pull out 2 pair and keep only those, because I think I have worn heels maybe half a dozen times in 12 years. But it’s hard to part with them.

    • What a great story! When I used to work in an office if I found a comfortable dress shoe, I’d buy it in black, brown, navy, ivory, and red! See, working from home has been good for the purse but not in the shoe collection! It took me a couple of years of being home before I finally gave them all away…like you said hard to part with them.

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