I’ve never been much of a fan of the Nike Air Max as I’ve always favoured a slimmer, retro trainer than something very typically 90s (though I guess 90s is retro now). Also, since getting arthritis, I don’t think that very chunky shoes are flattering to swollen, chunky ankles, as rather than hiding the swollen ankle, it just adds to the overall mass.
However, as I mentioned, chunky trainers can be super comfortable, and many people with arthritis will find the cushioning beneficial. And as they seem to be in fashion at the moment, it’s nice when your footwear, mediated by necessity, suddenly becomes the cool choice.
Anyway, Nike brought out a super-looking version designed by Sean Wotherspoon, the Air Max 1/97, albeit in limited quantities (of course) and only in men’s sizes (of course).
They were released in the UK on the 24th of March, so I doubt you’ll be able to bag a pair now, but in the US they were only released yesterday so you may be in with a chance.
If you don’t manage to get your hands on a pair, admiring at these shoes has made me appreciate the design more: I like the fluid curves of the shoe, it’s very iconic, and I think if you like a chunkier trainer or a 90s aesthetic, these do look really good.
My favourite colour is the black, mainly because I’m in a black-trainer mood at the moment:
but I think that if you really want to embrace the 90s aesthetic, you should really go for a metallic pair. When the originals were designed, futurism was an important part of 90s aesthetic: the internet was kicking off in a big way, sci-fi was in, the new millennium was coming, people thought that all computers would stop working at the turn of the millennium and we’d have some sort of dark age… they were simpler, interesting times. These metallic cashmere ones are very nice: metallic, but not in your face, a hint of millennial rose-gold. Perfect for 2018:
We’re well into 2018 now, but I got very busy before Christmas, then got flu, then had to catch up on all the work I didn’t do because of the busy/flu’y situation so it’s only now that I am blogging. I am sure everyone found suitable Christmas party solutions/had a lovely Christmas/picked up a bargain in the sales so I’m going to just gloss over all that excitement and get back to blogging about awesome shoes for arthritic girls (and guys) who still want to look cool.
So, my beloved Adidas gazelles finally died just before Christmas after being worn to death, and my first thought was, naturally, to buy more gazelles. However, the question of the correct colour combination reared its head, and as I was trying to determine what I really wanted, it came to me: I wanted leopard-print trainers.
Leopard goes with everything (except maybe more leopard, but you know what, if you want to go full Big Cat then do it, if 2017 has shown anything it’s that rules are just an abstraction) and it looks especially smart with black, which makes up 90% of my winter wardrobe (and also my heart).
So, there is a lot of choice around at the moment, at a range of prices. In the end, I went with the Air and Grace trainers, because I was so impressed with their espadrilles in the summer:
Air and Grace have memory-foam in the soles and provide a lovely cushioning when you walk but without being unsupportive. They also look really good, and really pep up an outfit based around black jeans, which is basically my go-to on dark mornings when I have 5 minutes to get dressed before the school run. They are a little heavier than I was expecting (it’s not a massive issue, but it’s worth noting if you get tired legs).
Other notable mentions that competed for my attention included these Hush trainers, I really liked the black facing edges, but they are quite expensive (though they do look very classy, check out the gold lace tips):
At the other end of the price spectrum, New Look has these reduced from an already bizarrely low £19.99 (I mean, how is it possible to pay someone a reasonable wage on top of materials, if the shoes cost only this much?) They don’t look cheap though, I really like the colour and the velvet, although the soles look maybe a little thick to give a comfortable flex:
If you need a wide shoe, Superga are a really good bet, and this mini-leopard is currently in the sale, reduced from £55:
And finally, if you prefer a traditional sporty trainer shape, rather than he flatter soles of the sneaker styles, Scandinavian brand Woden, which have ultra-lightweight, cushioning cork insoles, have a leopard offering, which is currently in the sale:
And although this is not leopard, an honourable mention goes to the new Rogue Matilda sneakers. I love everything about these: the colours, the heart on the heel… [spoiler alert] these will probably be my next trainer purchase:
I have had my eye on a pair of Onitsuka Tigers for some time, and I’ve been waiting for the perfect pair. I did have my eye on a yellow pair (I love yellow), but I decided the black stripe was a bit too waspish for me: I want the yellow to be mellow, not invoke a fight-or-flight response when you look at them.
A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing the Onitsuka website when I noticed they had brought out a new selection called ‘Soft Marty‘. I think it was the basic and minimalist approach to these shoes that grabbed me, coupled with the ‘micro-knifing’ technique used to give a raised texture to the accents. They were just a bit different to the millions of other trainers on the market:
There are two models available on the UK website, the Mexico 66:
and the Corsair:
I didn’t realise this at the time, such was my fervour to put a pair on my legs, but they’re also made with leather produced without using chromium-based tanning methods. Chromium IV, used in leather tanning, is harmful to the environment and to the people doing the manufacturing. So hurrah for not using this method! However, they don’t explicitly state which leather tanning process they do use, and given the colour of them I am assuming they probably use the aldehyde method rather than vegetable tanning methods. Formaldehyde is pretty toxic to the environment and people, so I don’t think we can be claiming any bold step forward just yet, but it’s a nice try for the marketing department. I am not going all eco-warrior here and demanding we boycott leather; leather manufacturing is toxic by its nature, and as long as we protect workers and dispose of chemicals responsibly I am happy. I just don’t think non-chromium leather can make any outlandish claims about being eco-friendly if they use formaldehyde instead.
Anyway, back to the shoes… from an arthritis point of view, the Corsair would be a better choice. They’re more stable, with great cushioning and arch support and not as slim-fitting as the Mexico 66. However, with my slim feet and love of the shape I went for the Mexico 66.
I was very impressed from the start. They’re very, very soft and light-weight, and although they don’t offer a lot of support along the foot because they’re so soft, there is enough arch support to stop me over-pronating, meaning I can walk a reasonable distance in them.
I also love the detailing on them, the cream colour is a quite like ‘cricket whites’, which I find very pleasing, and it goes with everything, especially denim. I quite like the fact they are not just another pair of white trainer that look the same as all the others. The micro-knifed texture is a nice touch, they feel good when you hold them, which, again, I really like. The narrowness and close-fitting form, coupled with the lightness, makes me think of fencing shoes, which for me is tremendously nostalgic (yes, before I was f*cked by the arthritis, I was handy with a sword and used to represent my university at fencing), but I realise that won’t be for everyone, but the Corsair is not so fitted…They’re also very flexible, which is great for tired arthritic feet that don’t want to work hard. I can’t imagine they will be so great when the temperature drops because the leather and soles are thin in order to accommodate the softness and flexibility, and cold is worse for arthritic bones but, for the cool summer the UK is having, they’re perfect. I also wonder about how hard-wearing they are given their delicate feel, but I can report back next year.
So, in summary, I really like these shoes and I would heartily recommend them.
Citadel is a newish one-day festival. Three years old this year and set in London, it is, on paper, a festival I would enjoy: it’s close enough to my house not to have to stay over anywhere, and it fields the sort of music that I like. However, it’s been my experience that festivals in or close to London are not as fun as those outside London. In order to live in London, people forget how to interact with each other in a civil manner, which is fine on the tube but not so fine when you’re supposed to be feeling chill listening to your favourite bands. To put in bluntly, people in London can be arseholes (and I am sure I am guilty of this at times, especially when people are STANDING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ESCALATORS. YES, IT DOES MATTER!!!), and so London-based festivals have to be pretty special to get my money.
I was tempted by Citadel this year, I really liked two of the bands — Sylvan Esso and Wild Beasts — and quite liked many of the others: Laura Marling, Nadine Shah, Foals. However, because I had seen Wild Beasts twice last year I didn’t think it was worth spending the money on seeing them again, but then I had the chance to meet an old friend there as part of her birthday celebrations (I was missing her party), so I was sold.
Being a London festival, it does mean that one has no excuse to look like you’ve just crawled out of a tent. If I owned anything sequiny I would have donned it (gonna trawl some charity shops with this in mind for next time). The weather was also being a bit of a pain: it was warm, but in that ‘going to be muggy and rain in a minute’ kind of way. I the end I wore a light dress with an awesome print, but with fish-netty leggings because it wasn’t the weather for a short skirt, and a long cardigan for layering.
I also struggled with what to wear on the feet, even though it was technically a local festival, I actually did more walking because I used public transport, so I wanted something really comfortable. The leggings made it hard to wear sandals (and also you have to be quite brave for sandals at a festival, they can be grim and I wanted my toes covered) so I went for glittery hi-tops. Glittery hi-tops are totally festival shoes.
This outfit worked really well on the day. I could take the cardigan off when it got really hot, I had an umbrella for when it rained (too hot for a waterproof), the dress was floaty and summery but the print hid the muck and beer spillages, and the leggings prevented my legs shocking any teenagers. There were a lot of people in festival gear — glitter-galore and flower crowns, but I can’t be bothered frankly. However, I can recommend an eye pencil for some grown-up sparkle at festivals or otherwise:
I’ve been wearing this Charlotte Tilbury eyeshadow pencil over the summer and it’s great. Long-lasting and easy to wear, it’s got a nice starry sparkle that isn’t too over the top. I bought the champagne sparkle, which is for blue eyes, but there are other colours available. This colour does like nice with my grey–blue eyes, but it would suit most people.
So to review the festival itself, Citadel was a lot of fun, and they managed to cram a lot in. Victoria Park was a lot bigger than I had realised, but I think the organisers had tried to cram too much into the space, there wasn’t enough distance between some of the smaller stages to be out of earshot of other stages, and this was really detrimental with the spoken-word events, such as the comedy and the science talks as you just couldn’t hear them.
That said, the bands were really good. The main stage was huge and had lots of screens that were so high-definition you could read the waist size on the band members’ Levis. Wild Beasts were, of course, belting out some solid tunes, although I think they do better headlining their own smaller stage.
They were on at a bit of an awkward time and overlapped with my favourite set that night, Sylvan Esso. I don’t have any pictures of Sylvan Esso because I was dancing so much; they really seemed to be enjoying being on stage, and it whipped everyone up. People were really getting into their songs, which created such a special moment, and one that seems to be rarer as I watch live music as I get older. So in the absence of a picture I’m posting a youtube of one of my favourite songs. I don’t love the video, but this song got everyone dancing:
Margaret Glaspy also did a really good set. Short, snappy grungey New-York rock, I was surprised as I always assumed she was folky. I will definitely be checking her out in the future.
So in summary, Citadel was enjoyable, but it’s not one of my favourite festivals. Maybe because it’s a London thing but it feels kind of manic, like there were just too many people and pineapple workshops and not enough thought about the spacing of the music or the comfort capacity of the area. If you have to queue to get into a bar, you know something is wrong. Also, I hate a lot of corporate sponsorship at festivals. I realise that without it, the ticket prices would be a lot higher (it was close to £60 including postage and booking fees, which I think is reasonable for a day’s entertainment), but it really felt ridiculously in your face at Citadel. It just wasn’t needed to have Jagermeister branding all over the Jagermeister tent. All you could buy at the bar was Jagermeister (which smells so potently of regret) so it was bloody obvious. It didn’t feel like there was a square metre that didn’t have some corporate branding on it… not my thing. Also, the litter situation was atrocious. I know it’s a festival and people want to get drunk and not put things in the bin, but when I look back to other festivals such as Greenman and Bluedot, they are pristine: they have reusable cups and the litter-pickers work very hard.
Walking out to the periphery to take a photograph of the main stage when Foals were playing, the were plastic cups everywhere. It looked like a rubbish dump. I took a quick snap (above) and put my camera away, it wasn’t very inspiring.
I probably would go again, given the ease of getting there, but they would have to have some really good bands playing and the bonus of catching up with some old friends, which was by far the best part of the day.
In terms of attending with a disability, it was good. the ground is smooth and flat and there are accessible toilets if you need the extra space. It was hard going, but I limped home happy.
Today, after much deliberation, I decided to buy some new yoga trousers, which got me thinking about arthritis and how this affects how we exercise. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that exercise makes people feel good by releasing endorphins; however I have always found exercising with arthritis difficult, embarrassing and frustrating, and often leaving me feeling bad about myself. So this post discusses how I have learnt to deal with these feelings and find things that have made exercise positive again. Hopefully, other people will find is useful too…
Accept your limitations
This was the hardest part of my arthritis journey — my gut reaction to being limited is to fight it, and boy did I fight. However, I found very quickly that I only hurt myself when I didn’t listen to my body. I had real grief over the loss of my functionality: denial, anger, bargaining, depression (with minor cycles of anger–depression) before acceptance. No, I will never be able to run a marathon. Most days I won’t even be able to run for a bus. I’m now OK with this, and I think the fact that I have tried to concentrate on the things I can do has helped enormously, but time has been the biggest factor.
Find something that works for you
Not all sports are going to work for arthritis, but it really depends on your body. Swimming is the first thing that the health professionals recommended to me, and it was the only thing I could do for many years (I was kindly given a waterproof MP3 player when I was really struggling and this was a total game changer as I find swimming lanes to be very dull). Now I row, which I enjoy because it doesn’t require much movement in my ankles and feet, where I have most of my problems. I couldn’t recommend it to anyone who had problems in their hands. I also ride, which works for me because he arthritis is in my legs. If you have hip problems or hand problems, you will struggle. I think you have to find something you find fun otherwise you won’t stick with it. If my body could cope and there were a cheaper way to Go Ape, I’d do it every day!
Don’t feel embarrassed
This is easier said than done; I really couldn’t face going to the gym and exercising in my special wonky way in front of people so I bought a rowing machine and I use it at home. Equipment is expensive, but I use it a lot, and it is worth it for me because I can’t make use of most parts of gym membership. I also do yoga at home. I have done classes with the arthritis, and most yoga teachers are very happy to help me find a variant to a position that works for me; however I don’t have a local class that suits my timing at the moment; I prefer not to sign up for a block of classes in case I am too sore, which limits me.
Get some decent gear
While it’s perfectly possible for me to row or do yoga in an old t-shirt, I don’t feel very motivated when I do. I find what I wear affects my mental state, so I have some nice things to work out in. I was in Primark recently, and discovered a very pretty pair of leggings, which are very similar to these from FreePeople:
Only the Primark ones cost £7:
I’ve always been a bit wary of Primark since it was reported that their factories used child labour in 2008 and 2014. But they seem to have upped their game (however, it seems all a company in trouble has to do is deny the allegation then quietly change working conditions, and in these days of ‘alternative facts’ I am not sure what to believe).
The channel 4 Dispatches programme about River Island, BooHoo, New Look and Misguided was an eye opener. I like cheap clothes, but I would rather not buy something than know that someone was earning less than the minimum wage to make it for me; however, it seems to be an ethical minefield — if these guys were caught red-handed, who else is at it? There are fantastic companies that promote ethical production. I have some lovely t-shirts from Kindred, for example; however, I wouldn’t want a horse to sneeze all over a £25 t-shirt.
In the end, I decided to buy the trousers, the fabric on the Primark leggings is a little thin — they’re certainly not as nice as the FreePeople ones, but for a bit of in-house yoga or rowing, they look great, and are a fantastic price if you don’t need to invest in gym wear.
Not including something like riding, which requires specific safety gear, the one aspect I wouldn’t skimp on is a good sports bra. I can only speak for someone with big boobs, but moulded-cup crop-tops won’t cut it because if you can stretch it enough to get it over your head it will not hold the boobs still. You need a bra with a clasp. I once broke a regular bra while horse riding, so it does matter. I don’t get on at all with the Shock Absorber bras, I find them really uncomfortable and their sizing weird. Triumph have a good selection for the DD+ sorority; many have racer-backs, which I find more comfortable when I am moving my arms a lot, which are harder to find on DD+ bras. I can also recommend this bra from Debenhams:
It’s great value and really supportive. It feels much more expensive than it is.
And for tops, I’m a big fan of long vests (I don’t like exposing my post-child tummy). If money were no object and I didn’t have to wear a hulking great bra underneath it, I’d buy this:
But back in reality, H&M have a good selection; there are lots of pinks, which seems to be this season’s colour and perfectly apt to match the colour my face goes:
So, I guess I should stop procrastinating and actually go and do some. I’d love to hear any tips regarding getting active, from people with arthritis or otherwise. I’ve purposefully not discussed trainers here, because yoga and rowing don’t need specific footwear, and I don’t feel qualified to recommend anything, but if anyone has any recommendations of footwear for particular arthritis-friendly sports, let me know.
One of the very first blog posts I ever wrote was in reaction to having to wear the same biker boots over and over to gigs because they were the most comfortable and supportive for my arthritis, but they were also beginning to bore me rigid, and they’re hard to dance in. I decided then that I would be on a ceaseless mission to find acceptable alternatives to big clumpy boots so that arthritic girls like me might not feel so bored and limited, when our surroundings was making us feel inspired and limitless.
So, at the weekend I was back at Brixton Academy watching Cage the Elephant. They’re a great band to see live — they have so much energy, and it’s impossible not to want to move while watching them. Although there were far fewer stage dives and crowd surfs than I was expecting after seeing them previously, maybe Matt Shultz had hurt himself in a previous gig, but it didn’t really matter because they have such an energetic stage presence anyway. They were great.
Last time I was at Brixton, I had noticed that the floor was significantly more sloped than most venues (meaning you get a great view) but this is a bit of a gift to people with arthritis in their ankles as it means your shoes can be flatter, as the slope of the floor takes some of that ‘flatness-pressure’ off your feet. So, of course I wanted to wear my kick-ass converse-style hi-tops that I bought from Zara in the sale:
Unfortunately, the weather in the UK is below freezing at the moment, and keeping arthritic joints warm is REALLY important. I nearly cried these off in favour of a pair of big ol’ clompy boots, but I figured I wouldn’t really be outside for that long (if Southern Rail didn’t cancel my train) and I wore my lambswool liners and my favourite catherine tough wool socks, and this combination was actually pretty good at keeping the cold out, and my joints were comfortable throughout the gig.
So, that was my feet sorted, but I really struggled with deciding what to wear on the rest of my body. I only have joint problems in my legs, but I really hate the rest of my body being cold too. Looking at the kids that were at the gig, it would seem that a bralette and pair of high-waisted jeans are all that’s needed when it’s –5°C, but being over 30 I have the wisdom of just not giving a **** any more, and I wore a merino vest with my high-waisted jeans.
I swear by these wool vests for walking the dog when it’s really cold. They’re lightweight merino and the business for adding a warm layer without bulk.
Of course, I didn’t go out in just a merino vest, I wore a denim shirt over it, and a cashmere jumper over that (I think I must be the only person to have worn a cashmere jumper to Brixton Academy — I wasn’t feeling decadent, I had already wrecked it by washing it on the wrong cycle, a bit of beer flung on it wasn’t going to make it worse). I felt great: not too cold when I was outside, and not too hot when inside… merino wool has excellent thermoregulation qualities.
Then all that was needed was my leopard coat over the top and I was ready to go. Southern even ran all my trains on time!
So there we are, if you know your music venue, it is possible to tailor your shoes to it and get away with shoes you wouldn’t normally think you could wear. I think the trick is to know your body’s triggers (for me it’s standing on with flat feet and the cold) and then to try to find ways to look after those aspects without having to give up how you want to look. I’ll hopefully test some more shoes out this year (Maxïmo Park are touring, so that definitely has to happen!)
If there’s one time of year that makes me strive for hitting above my usual scruff-bag status, it’s a Christmas party. In fact, shove the word ‘Christmas’ in front of a generic state of being, and the dress code suddenly gets elevated. My saviour for Christmas parties and lunches has been this jumper from Next:
It’s great as it’s massively over-the-top sequiny, but it can be worn with jeans and an awesome pair of shoes and suddenly jeans + sweater = party wear. I can go from school-run to party-time in seconds, and (most importantly) I feel really comfortable as I’m basically wearing my favourite clothes.
My dream awesome pair of shoes of choice would be the Gucci mid-heel loafers. They’re so lovely, and they go with everything.
They also come in a fantastic yellow colour. I really want them! However, my finances can’t stretch to that at the moment (still living in hope…), but there are alternatives on the high street (though sadly not leather), such as these from Kurt Geiger:
And these from Office:
For my last Christmas night out, a celebration of Scottish food and drink at the Dram and Smoke (great if you like massive amounts of delicious food), I wore the sequin jumper with cropped jeans and leopard boots. I had literally 10 minutes to get ready after work, so it was the perfect choice.
However, sometimes, you do need to dress up properly. When I got invited out for a dressy Christmas meal, as a plus one, with some sensible types I had to behave in front of, it kind of threw me: jeans were not appropriate. So, how does a girl with arthritis and a natural affinity with scruffiness scrub up?
A dress is the easier option to looking put-together as you only have to put one thing on. I love this dress, also from Next (they are really hitting the mark at the moment). It’s so pretty (and although I would normally steer clear of ruffles, these are helpfully kept away from the bosom area), and this would work well with flat ankle boots.
I also love, love, LOVE these velvet trousers from M&S:
I think I’ve been inspired by Porpentina Goldstein from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but I love the wide-legged trousers and velvet combination.
These are so opulent, that, with a shirt or t-shirt, you could easily wear these with a pair of trainers and still look like you have made an effort.
Finally, still with velvet, I also really like this velvet sweatshirt from Other Stories:
I would normally steer clear of baggy tops because they tend to hang from the boobs and make me look round, but a baggy sweater works with a structured skirt or pair of trousers, and the velvet fabric makes this seem dressy without going over the top. This would go with my metallic skirt bought from Zara in the autumn (which is lovely, if a little prone to static):
As in the picture, flat ankle boots work with this as well… of course the Gucci loafers would make these outfits go stratospheric in my opinion, but I’m trying not to pine for them.
The velvet sweater also has the added bonus of being able to wear my Ramones t-shirt underneath, because I can’t pretend to be ladylike all night; you have to stay true to yourself.