I made a trip back home to visit my mother once when I was in my mid-20’s. I’d lived in Florida since my early teens with my father, and usually made annual trips to Connecticut. I got along with her better than I ever had, but Mom was still Mom.
I showed her a small but prominent bump on the inside of my foot, at the joint of the big toe.
“Mom, what is this?”
She studied it for a minute.
“That’s a bunion. You’re getting a bunion.”
“Well, how do I make it go away?”
“Stop wearing cheap shoes.”
Even in normal conversation, her words had an accusing bite. I asked no further questions about these curious bumps.
What can a 24-year-old waitress and college student do about the quality of shoes she wears? I couldn’t do much…I wore what I could afford, and even at that I treated myself to only one or two pairs per year. I got by.
Over the years I occasionally studied these bumps on my feet. There was no pain, just a small protrusion that seemed to neither grow nor diminish. I wore sensible Payless heels to my first “real” job, and occasionally wore higher 4″ heels at my next real job as I sorted out appropriate vs. inappropriate work attire.
The first time I noticed my feet really hurting was with some low-heeled black fabric mules I wore about ten years ago. I walked through the mall wincing after working all day and then shopping that evening. The balls and sides of my feet hurt so that I longed to take them off and walk barefoot through the parking lot. Looking back now, I know that they were too tight across my feet.
The last time my feet truly hurt was when I was five months pregnant and wearing 4-inch heels. I stopped off at a store on my way to meet a friend for dinner and bought some flat sandalls.
Since then, I have done my research and learned some things. Here is what I wish my mother had told me:
“You may not be able to afford expensive shoes right now, but nothing is more important than the fit. Don’t kid yourself into believing that you will ‘break in’ ill-fitting shoes, or that your shoes will stretch out to fit your foot without doing irreparable damage to your big-toe joint in the process. Take a good walk up and down the isles before you decide if they fit. See if they rub you anywhere, particularly, the “toe box,” that area from the ball of your feet to the tips of your toes.
“Don’t go higher than 3″ heels on a regular basis and when possible try to keep it under 3″. If you wish to go higher, do it sparingly – perhaps for a wedding or a night out or a special date. Keep some cute thongs in your car in case you have to do any other running around before or after your special occasion. The more you try to save your feet, the longer your feet will be there for you, and the longer you will be able to wear any type of shoe you want, within reason.”
Now, I don’t blame my hurting, tired feet on my mother, but I wish that she had shared what she had known with me. There’s nothing to do about it now…except to remember that as my daughter grows up, she will need her mother to teach her things. She will need a warm and open relationship…no judgement, no accusations, no guilt.
And people, please take care of your feet. And with that, I leave you with a parting shot of Victoria Beckham’s bunions: