Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Putting the shoe on the other foot

Subtitle: Why buying shoes gives me hives.

I've mentioned how Thomas had a club foot when he was born. It is nothing short of miraculous that the kid has such a straight foot, considering how much time and effort went into it. One of the things that our wonderful doctors haven't been able to cure is the fact that he has different size feet. Read: almost two sizes different.

I was so surprised when Ben came along and he had two straight feet. We bought him his first pair of shoes in less than 10 minutes one cold December day in the Kmart (I really despise Kmart, normally. But. When you have in-store credit, one pair of shoes is as good as another for a 10-month old.) It was amazing, because I had struggled with buying Thomas shoes for over 4 years by that time.

It is an age-old debate. Do I buy shoes to fit the big foot, or do I try to split the sizes? Do I buy shoes from Nordstrom who will split sizes, or buy two pair? Every side of the coin has its pros and cons. So far, we have mostly fit the big foot. To his credit, Thomas has never once complained about how his little foot bangs around in shoes that are big. For one thing, his small foot is also wider than his big foot, so it wouldn't work to buy the size that fits his small foot length: the shoes would be far too narrow. But, having worn shoes that are always a little big on one foot myself, I want to cry when I think of him wearing a shoe that is technically 2 sizes too big. It makes me sad that he has to deal with this. And so it makes me shut down when Shoe Buying Time rolls around as it does every six months.

Time was up last night.

I almost just let Shane go himself. He knew what shoes he was thinking of buying, and he isn't inherently cheap the way I am (read: I pout when we buy shoes.) But we miraculously found a pair of skate-board type shoes for Thomas right upon entering the Famous Footwear last night. They had the right size. The flat bottom will hopefully encourage Thomas to walk flat on his foot, instead of on the outside edge. I loved the way they look; they were black, and there was also a white/gray pair for Ben (who, 3 1/2 years Thomas' junior wears 2 sizes smaller! The kid has gigantic feet!!). And they were half off. I love getting good deals.

But I realized (with help!) that my not wanting to deal with Thomas' foot differential translates to me being really cheap about shoes which translates to me being incredibly grumpy and unwilling at shoe stores. It isn't fair to anyone, least of all my sweet Thomas, who is the one who ultimately has to wear the shoes. I realized how selfish I was being over buying my kids some shoes.

So here is a resolution. I want to see beyond the price of the shoes to where I'm making my son happy by getting him so new shoes. Since shoes do technically have to cost something, and doesn't make much sense to buy shoes of poor quality when he has so many feet-related issues. I need to stop burying my head in the sand and deal with shoe-buying in a more positive light.

Thomas was happy last night. He loved his new shoes. He was excited to put them on this morning. Maybe their structure will help him walk better.

Those are the things I need to be remembering.


Anonymous said...

I just came across this blog post while searching for any new sources of split sizes.

I'm a 36 year old male with a surgically corrected (right side) clubfoot. I was fine as a kid, though generally annoyed that my orthopedic surgeon -- whom I saw annually -- forbade me from wearing cowboy boots (due to the elevated heel).

At around 17 or 18 years old, I rapidly developed intermittent, intense pain in my bad ankle. It would occur as a result of running or jumping around. It became a major issue by 19, after working a summer job on my feet. It was diagnosed as tendinitis and calcium deposits in the ankle joint.

After graduating college, I finally had the financial ability to address my problems: I got physical therapy, custom-made orthotics (the elevated arch on my bad foot caused severe strain to the muscle that runs up the inside of the calf, supporting the arch), and expensive Ecco shoes.

I've found that key requirements in my shoes are a soft sole, ankle support when possible, and a beveled edge to the heel (as opposed to a sharp corner, like on most dress shoes), which reduces strain on the ankle during the heel-strike portion of my stride. I wear Ecco and Nike almost exclusively, since they almost always meet these requirements. Unfortunately, certain fashions go by the wayside in favor of pain avoidance.

I didn't discover that Nordstrom split sizes until well into college, so you're a step or two ahead of where I was! There was one independent store in town which split sizes when I was a kid, but it's astonishingly rare. Worse are the occasional, ignorant store clerks, who will treat a kid like a circus freak.

I don't wear shorts often, and people generally have no idea that I have any physical issues. I can't really run without risk of tendon irritation, but I'm an avid bicyclist, rock climber, backpacker, and do yoga with a few modifications. I'm very often aware of my ankle, due to discomfort or odd sensations, but real, debilitating pain is quite rare for me now.

Anyway, I don't know if this will be of help or interest to you, but I thought I'd write it anyway. Growing up, I didn't know of anyone with my condition, and had absolutely no idea what to expect as I grew up. I also don't know how universal my own experiences might be. So, good luck to your boy!