Getting the slipper

Ahhh, yes, autumn, the time of year for crisp mornings, conkers and slippers (unless you’re me, in which case every day is a slippers day because slippers, like napping, rock).

I’ve written about my preferred slippers before, the brilliant Birkinstocks, and don’t get me wrong, I still find the support from these slippers to be fantastic for people with arthritis and joint problems, and I’m especially enjoying the benefit of them now that I work from home and I spend a lot of time in them. They are slipper numero uno.

However, as the mercury drops as autumn closes in, I’ve found myself desiring something else in order to fix a problem I have, and that problem is other people’s houses. Like a good guest, I take my shoes off before traipsing around the houses of my friends and relations, and now that it’s fashionable to hate carpets I have found that my arthritic joints get cold and really sore when I am in contact with cold floors (stone especially, but wood will also set off the dull, niggling little ache that just pulls the joy out of my day).

Of course, I could (and have done in the past) take my slippers round to other people’s houses, but this requires a level of organisation that I have not yet achieved. Especially if I have the kid and dog to take too because when you’re carrying all their crap, remembering to take slippers in an extra bag is just a step too far. So I decided to get myself some Mahabis.

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Mahabi classic: £79

Mahabis have been around for a while, I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard of them, so I’m not pretending to tread new ground here, but I have been so happy with my Birkinstocks until now that I didn’t see the need for them. Mahabis have a removable outer sole, which allows you to wear them outside and, when you get to your destination, take the outer sole off, leaving you with clean indoor slippers, and nobody has to remember extra bags of anything. Now, I’m not talking about wearing these on the tube to get across London to see my friends, I’m talking about people who I have to drive to see, where I will literally walk to the car, drive, park a short distance away (if not bang outside) and then walk up to the (cold-floored) house. You may not do this that regularly, maybe you live somewhere where the public transport is top-notch or the parking is a no-go but, in my suburbs, this pretty much describes all local family get-togethers, as well as my daughters play dates, not to mention brunches and lunches with friends. Staying in is the new going out, after all.

For me, and my achey-breaky legs, it made the (rather large, let’s be honest) expense acceptable. So, are they worth it? As you can see I went for the classic wool grey (more expensive ‘luxe’ versions are available) and yellow sole combo, and they are very snug and comfortable.

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They have a soft sole, unlike the Birkinstocks, so there is no support from the slippers, but the wool makes them warmer than the Birks, and they stay on thanks to the stretchy rubbery bit behind the heel so I can wear them to climb into the loft (bonus):

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The outer sole clips on and off at the back, and this is a pretty neat idea, but it’s no quicker than just changing into some outdoor shoes so it’s not a game-changer for just nipping out to do the bins:

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And you do have to try not to lose your soles, but I reckon I will soon be leaving these by the door (in the shoe pile that I really need to sort out but can’t bring myself to face) for easy on-off visiting:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It helps that they look kind of scandi-cool too. I won’t feel ashamed rocking up to a play date in these rather than feeling like a granny (in a bad way, not in a cool wearing-purple-giving-zero way), which is also nice. When you have arthritis, feeling like a premature granny is sadly inevitable and, when you have bad days, it helps to still feel cool on the outside, and these are definitely warm on the inside, cool on the outside.

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Birkenstop!

So, I received an email today informing me that the British Birkenstock website birkenstock.co.uk was soon to cease trading from the end of May. Oh no!

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What? It’s about shoes

You will still be able to buy Birkenstocks (and other foot-loving shoes) online in the UK from thenaturalshoestore.com but the brand’s own website is being decommissioned, which I hope is not a reflection on how the company is doing nor an unwillingness for European companies to stay in the UK.

In any case, Birkenstock are offering a 20% discount across The Natural Shoe Store (non-sale) range with the code: BIRK-SS17-20

I’m a fan of Birkenstocks, and they’re the only slides I seem to get away with (though I wouldn’t do any long-distance in them). They’re what I tend to wear around the garden, and I always have a pair of the excellent wool slippers:

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Amsterdam slippers: £44.95 (£35.96 with discount)

Although I am kind of tempted by the Mahabis slippers. Does anyone know whether these are any good? They’re a lot of money to take a chance on when the Birkenstocks (although not exactly a cheap slipper let’s be honest) suit me very well…

Anyway, Birkenstock, I am sad to see your online presence diminish somewhat (although your website was particularly convoluted and unfriendly), though I am sure The Natural Shoe Store will provide an adequate fix for my arthritic pins.

What not to wear, but sod it, wear them anyway

It’s a rare moment in Shoeslifeblog towers that I sit back and think to myself, ‘well, I seem to have enough shoes at the moment, I do not wish to buy anything right now’. However, recently, that’s how I have been feeling, and I think the reason for this is that, although there are many beautiful shoes around at the moment, they’re not particularly good for dodgy feet. They mainly fall into these categories:

  • backless loafers
  • backless slides and mules
  • ballet pumps
  • strappy sandals that wrap round your ankle

The first two are everywhere, and in so many tempting designs, like these lobster shoes from Kurt Geiger. These would look great with a casual t-shirt and pair of jeans. Oh, how I have been tempted:

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KG otter loafers: £130

The problem with backless shoes is that in order to not kick them off when you walk, you have to arch your feet, and this movement will exacerbate any bone issues you may have in the foot. I do wear backless birkenstocks in the summer, but I’ve come to realise that there are better shoes out there for walking, but the moulded, rigid foot-bed on birkenstocks does a lot to keep your feet supported and prevent arching, so if they work for you, stick with them. Free People have this lovely metallic pair I’ve been eyeing up but there are much cheaper ones available on the birkenstock website and other outlets:

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Arizona Birkenstocks: £118

An alternative to the backless loafer is, of course, the non-backless, and I do like the lightening bolt and lobster design on these from Mango, but let’s be honest, they’re not as nice as the Kurt Geiger ones (though half the price, they look it):

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Mango loafers: £59.99

Also from Mango, I really like, but have no intention of buying because I know I will be kicking them off all over the pavement, these pompom slides:

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Mango pompom slides: £49.99

They won’t break the bank and really go with the boho–pompom trend that shows no sign of going away. Even if you don’t feel comfortable in a floaty dress made of fabric wisps and embroidery (my boobs can’t do this sort of dress, having a bra ruins the effect), your feet can get in on the boho act:

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Freepeople boho dress: £88. My boobs are laughing…

Ballet pumps are the next big no-no. People assume that, because they’re flat they must be good for people who can’t wear heels. However, if you can’t wear heels because your foot bones are not quite right, ballet shoes are not your friend because they’re so unsupportive. Any kind of pavement-pounding distance means your joints have to be really stable to avoid any over- or under-pronation. The soles are also very thin because of the lack of shock-absorption in the sole and so the cartilage in your joints has to take all the shock (and if you don’t have the cartilage, the bone is taking that shock). They do, however, look very simple and pretty, and they go with anything, so if you know you’re not doing a lot of moving about, or you’re on grass they’re not a terrible idea. Zara has some nice ballet pumps at the moment, I love the interchangeable ribbons (if you can find out how to try them on; this is a real bugbear I have with Zara. Am I supposed to sit on the floor? I can’t just stand on one leg, I will fall over):

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Zara leather ballet pumps: £29.99

And Asos always has a good selection. I like these Charlotte Olympia copies inspired ballet pumps:

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Asos Lexa ballet pumpsLexa ballet pumps: £25

The opposite problem to having backless shoes is having too much back. It’s not that I can’t have shoes that go around the ankle, but when it’s the only thing keeping the shoe on your feet it puts a lot of strain on the ankle joint. So, these beautiful Boden sandals, that are just so pretty it hurts, are off-limits to me (Boden shoes not being that comfortable to start with, they are narrow):

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Boden tassel sandal: £85

And likewise these Kurt Geiger shoes, that look like they have celebratory bunting:

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KG Raphy: £65

The most supportive shape is to have straps across the shoe too,  like on these beautifully simple Cara sandals:

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Apedi cara: £80

But the caveat is that the straps around the ankle can’t be too tight, in order to give some movement. This is harder with shoes like espadriles or laced ballet shoes, where the ribbon is supposed to criss-cross up the leg rather than pool around the ankle:

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Zara espadrilles: £45.99
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Mango velvet sandals: £19.99

It’s not that any of these shoes are off-limits or will damage your feet, you just have to be aware that you might not find them as comfortable as people without foot problems. I certainly have been disappointed by people raving about the comfort factor of a pair of shoes, only to find them lacking support and hurting my feet. I think you have to factor that in the price, because you’re not going to enjoy wearing them as much (though for the Mango velvet sandals, at £20 these are a bargain!).

 

 

Birkenstocks: essential shoes

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.

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Best slippers ever… Birkenstock Amsterdam: £37.50. Awesome flamingo pyjamas from Hush

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.

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Classic white in some classic sunshine

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:

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Yara: £64.95

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):

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Madrid: £44.95

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…

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Freepeople EVA Madrid: £26

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.

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J. Crew Arizona: £135

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.