So, given that it’s nearly June and ergo technically summer, and to be fair we did have a week in which it was possible to not wear socks, I think it is time to talk about summer shoes.
In addition to the approach shoes, Birkenstocks are my other ‘go to’ arthritis shoe. I don’t particularly love it when they are the only sandal I can wear as find their ‘utility’ vibe kills quite a number of outfits (call me old-fashioned, but I love a tea-dress and they need ladylike shoes). However, if it is summer and can dress quite casually, and I know I have a bit of walking to do (or I am sore), these tend to be what I’ll be wearing. When I got married, my arthritis was giving me a lot of trouble, and I quite literally could only wear these or trainers, so I bought a silver pair of Birkenstocks to wear on the day. Of course, they looked hideous with my wedding outfit and, the day of my wedding, I bottled it and went barefoot instead, rather than wear any shoes! Barefoot actually kind of worked, and nobody batted an eyelid, but it helps if you’re known for throwing that boho stuff down too.
So, these shoes and I have a history; even my slippers are Birkenstocks! When I was working as a freelance editor, and I worked at home, slippers were the shoes I wore the most so I decided to treat myself to a decent pair and, having worn them, I don’t ever want to go back to regular slippers. My feet love the arch support, and my joints love not being on a cold kitchen floor (I love a bit of wool). Yes, they are more expensive than regular slippers, but if you wear slippers or house shoes a lot, they are really nice, especially if your feet need comfort after a long day.
In terms of acquisition, Birkenstocks are pretty ubiquitous but, if you live in London or are just visiting, it’s well worth checking out the Birkenstock shop in Covent Garden. You can try the different footbeds, to get the right fit and width, and also see which style suits you best. Personally, I always go for the single strap Madrid, as I find the versions with more straps to be more restrictive and, as the footbed is rigid, this is not good for me as the flex has to come from my ankle.
I am always surprised that a shoe with so little support around the ankle can feel OK to wear, especially as flip-flops are so terrible for people with arthritis; If anyone is wearing flip-flops as a shock-absorbing shoe to relieve knee pain, throw them out. The feet have to curl over to keep them on, and the lack of arch support encourages overpronation. There are better shoes for knee pain, such as the Clarks trigenic shoes. With the Birkenstocks, the arch support and shaped footbed seem to keep my ankle aligned, despite there being a bit of toe-curl when I walk, but there are strappier options if this suits you better:
And then it’s just a case of finding the colours and material that you like (there is a vegan range, and they are very good). The Birkenstock online store has a good selection, but it’s by no means comprehensive. My current favourite being these with the orange sole (I like orange at the moment):
And it pays to look around to see what colours are out there. I couldn’t find these on the Birkenstock website, but I love these Orange EVA ones at Freepeople (even if they are expensive compared the other colours at the Birkenstock website), Freepeople always know how to style something too…
Birkenstocks are also available at Office and Schuh, and I particularly love this copper pair from J. Crew. Yes, they are ridiculously expensive but they are so shiny! And coppery! This may be as beautiful as Birkenstocks get.
My only caveat with Birkenstocks (apart from making any attempt to dress elegantly a joke) is that if you have flat feet, you may find the arch support too high for you. I’ve seen them give flat-footed people blisters on their soles (ouch!), but otherwise invest in a pair.