Isn’t it odd how if a part of your body doesn’t hurt, you don’t think about it? For example, I never think about my back if I don’t have a sunburn, my elbows are totally out of my thoughts unless I bang one of them, and for the most part, my neck is completely off my radar (except when I catch a random glimpse of it in the car’s side mirror and think ‘Holy moly, why is my grandmother driving the car?’).

But when something starts hurting, that’s all I can think about.

Like my feet. For the longest time they were just always there at the end of my legs, ready to take me where I wanted to go and willing participants in whatever I told them to do. It wasn’t until I started a job that required a lot of regular walking that my dogs started barking at me and haven’t stopped since.

The first malady was intense pain in my left heel that Web MD informed me was plantar fasciitis, a condition similar to having a burning coal implanted in your foot and trying to walk on it. Relief was finally found in a pair of Birkenstocks, the sandals I always swore I’d never wear because — even though I know they’re considered cool now — they reminded me of women who wore their hair in a tight bun, gave their offspring sugarless, flourless, tasteless cookies for after-school snacks and had a framed picture of Carl Sagan hanging in their bedroom. However, after trying a pair on, I didn’t care how unattractive they were — they became my new best friends.

The second problem occurred after slamming a swinging door — hard — onto the top of my right foot twice over the course of 24 hours. The nerves on the top of my foot hurt like the dickens for a while, but then calmed down. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that the spot I’d hit began hurting all the time whenever anything heavier than a sock came in contact with it.

All of this foot pain led to a great deal of shoe shopping in search of the perfect pair of shoes that were a little more flattering than Birkenstocks. While I enjoy shopping, shoes have never been at the top of my list since when you wear, to put it delicately, clodhopper sizes, you just can’t find anything cute. Since COVID-19 had shut down shopping in person, I began combing the internet and home shopping channels for truly comfortable shoes other than my sturdy, homely Birkenstocks.

The problem with buying shoes online is that you never know what you’re going to get. I try to do my homework by checking reviews, but I’ve learned the hard way that most of the time the shoes I buy won’t be “like walking on a bag of marshmallows” and that “fits true to size” doesn’t necessarily mean the size you’re thinking of. I’ve also learned that paying more isn’t a guarantee that a shoe will fit, although it usually helps. What I’ve mainly learned is that I wish I was rich enough to have a personal shopper to do all this grunt work for me.

The fruit of all my shopping labor lies in neat rows in our bedroom closet. Many rows with some hits and far too many misses. Looking at them is a regular walk down memory lane (“Those are the ones the QVC gal swore would be my go-to shoe for the rest of my life.” “Here’s a pair I bought for special occasions before realizing they cut the blood to my toes off.” “Who knew shoes could look THAT big in navy blue?”)

One of these days, I’ll cart the losers off to the thrift store for someone else with large sore feet to discover. In the meantime, I’ll be the lady in the comfortable if slightly dumpy Birkenstocks, but at least I won’t be the lady in the dumpy Birkenstocks wincing in pain every time I walk across the room.

Nell Musolf is a freelance writer living in Mankato with her husband and two dogs. She can be reached at nmusolf@gmail.com.

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