If there are words that strike fear into my very core it is ‘shoes for weddings’. Not that I am not overjoyed at sharing in my friends’ happiness, that is a given, but it’s the thought of what I am going to wear on my feet on a day that involves lots of standing and hopefully lots of dancing (just because I have arthritis doesn’t I mean I don’t love to dance, it just means I can’t do it as much as I want). I find it very difficult.
I have made a LOT of mistakes when it comes to choosing shoes for weddings, the most memorable was when my arthritis was at my worst and I was a bridesmaid for one of my best friends. I panic-bought a pair of, admittedly beautiful, silver ballet flats from LK Bennet. The leather was quite firm and in my mind going to be supportive, but in reality it was unforgiving, just rubbed my feet raw, offered no support, restricted my movement and my ankle was in agony. You think I would have learnt my lesson, and yet I just repeat the same mistakes flitting between a pair of super-ugly yet comfortable ballet shoes until they finally fell apart and buying shoes that I wear once, kick off when I hobble home and pass on to someone else at the first opportunity.
The only guideline I now give myself for purchasing shoes for a wedding or party is that they have to be soft leather or textile. I have an ankle with reduced mobility and, in order for me to walk around, my other joints have to flex more or in a different way to people without this problem. Thus I find shoes that are restrictive in the toe and foot region very difficult to wear, they will rub me and will generally make my ankle work harder, making my leg completely miserable by the end of the day. Pain in my bones is one thing, but when it is coupled with blisters I start to fall apart because, cumulatively, the pain adds up to be more than the sum of its parts. In the summer I can wear strappy sandals, which are less supportive, but also less likely to be restrictive, and I find that is better for me. But what about spring and autumn weddings? I can’t wear strappy shoes on cold days because having cold feet makes the pain worse. It’s like a horrible catch 22.
These shoes have all successfully been worn to a cooler-weather wedding. I can’t say my feet were in paradise or anything like that, but in terms of working with my outfit and not ruining my day, these were OK. Despite having quite a small area for the toes, they were soft enough (and for the blue ones, this involved stretching with newspaper and warming the leather with a hairdryer… I have learned that dealing with arthritis takes prep) to allow my feet the extra movement that they seem to require.
As you can see, I have usually gone for ballet shoes, and the total flatness is not a particularly comfortable thing to deal with (especially for the standing around that tends to come with weddings). So, I have been on a bit of a quest to find something fashionable that isn’t totally flat. Kitten heels are out (were they ever in? I mean it always seemed like a non-committal response to a high heel, and no one wants non-committal at a wedding), they are too tottery and unstable for my ankle; the surface-area of the heel is just not large enough.
But fashion may have dealt shoe-lovers with arthritis a good hand this year: the granny shoe!
I say may, as, first, I find this shoe is difficult to style without looking like my nana (she was awesome but not a glamour-nana). You have to pay attention to look ‘ironic’ by making sure you’re looking supercool in the clothing department (I’m not great at this as I tend to gravitate towards my natural inner-geek, but that’s why instagram exists, right?).
Second, the heel is maybe a smidge too high for me at 2 inches (and I am going through a ‘good period’ in terms of pain at the moment, there’s no way I could take this height if I were worse). But I’ll you know how it felt in the following shoes and you can decide whether to take the plunge and see whether they work for you.
I know it seems like I live in a Clarks shop, but there’s one right next to my station and I am very, very good at missing my train, and I can either wait for half an hour on a draughty platform or I can try on more shoes. I choose shoes.
Weirdly, I couldn’t find these particular ones on the Clarks website, or any website, so they may have been a limited run, but they also come in fuchsia or black, I found an ivory colour in Next (yeah, I don’t get it either) or if you like this aqua colour, you can get an unadorned version called the Chinaberry gem (!) from Sarenza. I also tried on the Chinaberry pop, but I didn’t like the strap across my foot, it seemed less elegant than without.
I hated to admit it, but the granny shoes looked pretty good on. The assistant even remarked on it (I know that’s their job, but it did seem genuine) and was surprised that I didn’t buy them (I didn’t tell her I had arthritis, I never seem able to get the words out). The problem was they just weren’t very comfortable. Because the leather was patent, it felt very hard on the toes and across the foot, despite the cushioning underneath. The heel itself felt OK; they were very stable, and if requiring stability is your main issue you should definitely give them a go. The height was surprisingly OK, it certainly felt higher than normal; it wasn’t instantly more painful, but I wasn’t sure how long I could deal with that height. To me the main thing putting me off was the restrictive nature of the shoes, and I was prepared to leave granny shoes on the ‘no’ pile. However, I figured just trying one shop was not good enough for it to be a proper review, and in any case my interest in these shoes was piqued.
It’s a bit of an effort for me to get to a decent Topshop (my local one is small and never has anything interesting in), but I have heard the Juno shoes praised so highly from various sources that I went to the absolute chaos of Topshop Oxford Street to try them out. You are welcome!
I’ll admit now have a bit of a thing for metallic shoes! I am a bit of a magpie, and I like to look down and see the shiny leather. Fortunately, it seems that metallic is in at the moment! The Juno shoes did come in other colours, but I went straight over to the gold and fell in love.
These were really lovely shoes, the leather was really soft and felt nice over my toes. I walked around in them a fair bit (again, I didn’t mention the arthritis so the assistant probably thought I was crazy), and they seemed OK. To be honest, as much as I liked them I just didn’t think I could last that long in them. They were just maybe half an inch too high and I think I would wear them and regret it.
I also tried on the Juliette shoe, which comes in silver, but found the leather to be harder and more restrictive. Also, the size was a bit weird. I am a 6.5–7, but the 7 was very big.
So, the jury is still kind of out on this one. I am not convinced enough to part with £50+ on the shoe gamble, but I would love to know how anybody else gets on with these. There are other options for weddings, however, so I will look further into this soon.