For the love of shoes

I love shoes. I really do. Even though I’m tall—over 6 foot—I would wear 3 inch heels proudly. When multiple sclerosis came along, it messed up my shoe choices. I could no longer wear heels because my numb feet and legs were unable to manage even the slightest of wobbles or unsteadiness. I also had a tendency to walk out of a flip-flop without even realizing I had done so and slip-ons, well, let’s just say they wouldn’t stay on.

I remember the day I decided to pack up my unwearable shoes to donate to charity. It was a hard hitting blow of reality for me. One I didn’t want to face but knew I needed to undertake. I couldn’t walk in most of the shoes I owned and they were just filling up space in my closet, so instead of seeing them every day and feeling sad because I couldn’t wear them, I decided to pass them on to those who could. It was a tearful time, but a freeing one as well.

And for anyone thinking, “Oh, just save them to wear anyway since you’re in a wheelchair.”

That’s not actually as simple as it sounds. It’s amazing how unstable my feet, ankles and legs are even from a seated position in a wheelchair. Flats are my only option, although I have been known to leave the house barefoot more than once. Besides, I can still look stylish in flats.

I knew by giving away my unwearable shoes, I would be able to bring smiles to people and that someone would be walking tall and proud in a new pair of heels—new to them at least. That made my heart smile. Knowing that I was helping someone else made my day brighter.

Over time, I have realized that there are moments when reality knocks on your door and other times when it smacks you upside the head opening your eyes to what you’ve known for quite some time…that multiple sclerosis has changed your life. But don’t let MS change your heart by allowing it to grow bitter and resentful of what you are no longer able to do.

I guess some people could see me giving my shoes away as not being hopeful enough. That I am giving up and allowing MS to call the shots, but I don’t see it that way. To me, if I’m not using something, I would rather give it away to those that can than keep it stored away for a future time that may never come.

That’s reality, not hopelessness…and besides, they are only shoes. If the time should ever come when I’m able to walk free or even dance, at that time I will go shopping and buy a new pair of shoes.

Life is so much more than shoes and, oh, so much more than things stored away. Life is for living now….today. Don’t hold onto what used to be. Move forward into the now and live, letting go of those things that hold you back.

MS Gets on My NervesMS WarriorMS Superhero  

About the Author

Penelope Conway

Penelope Conway
Penelope started Positive Living with MS as a way to help others with MS stay positive in the midst of a terrible disease. She believes that staying positive and holding onto hope is the key to waking up each morning with the strength to get through the day. Multiple Sclerosis may never go away, but neither will her determination and her drive to help others through the journey.

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  1. Meeya
    Meeya says:

    Lucky me… have always been a sneakers girl, and must be one of the few women who hate shoe & handbag shopping! 😁
    MS finally provided me with a good excuse to avoid all this…

  2. Kay Hoecker
    Kay Hoecker says:

    Maybe you can donate your beautiful shoes to Goodwill. My husband has MS. We are in our 70’s and I can’t wear heels either. God bless you!

  3. Rodger Ashton-Smith
    Rodger Ashton-Smith says:

    Thanks Penelope I have had to think about all my tools that I can’t use any more. It is hard to let go of the things that a make your life but that is what MS does to us. I have to change my ‘ normal’ more to fit this in.

  4. Ashley Bryant
    Ashley Bryant says:

    I decided earlier this week that I would sell my unused heels. For over two years I’ve let them take up space in my closet, for that “what if”.The what if came and cause such bad joint pain it’s no longer worth it. You’re not alone! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  5. Sharel OConnell
    Sharel OConnell says:

    I have 1 pair of black Clarks for work, and 2 pairs of Clarks sandals for everything else. I gave up all my other shoes to charity.
    It was cathartic to pass them away. I assume all my size 11s are helping someone.

  6. Annette Jolly
    Annette Jolly says:

    My whole body is affected by which shoes I choose to wear albeit that they are all flat or have even the slightest heel. My whole body alignment is changed resulting in lots of pain all over – just because I chose to wear different shoes!

    • indulge
      indulge says:

      I agree Annette. I have to wear flat lace ups and really the ‘old’ ones are the best.

  7. Tina Berry
    Tina Berry says:

    My feet and legs hurt for days but not prepared yet to give up my heels no matter if I look drunk or topple when walking I will be buried in heels. Dont do this daily however just if out at weekend mostly sitting down and 5 steps to the loo, lol x

  8. Cathy Bauder
    Cathy Bauder says:

    Yes I was a shoe person, so when it got where I had to wear a leg brace and orthopaedic shoes it Was not fun but when I realized how much they helped I was fine with it. I now can hardly walk so I do not have to wear the leg brace just orthotic form in my shoe.

  9. Marian Fuller
    Marian Fuller says:

    I Love, Love, LOCE READING every word that you SHARE WITH ALL OF US , Penelope!
    As another stated, your words, Feelings, Perspective, and
    As another said, “TO A TEE!!!…”

  10. Irene Dalzell
    Irene Dalzell says:

    I haven’t had any ‘nice’ shoes for years. Sneakers mostly with the odd flat which usually go out of style before I wear them out. Always have to check for good grips on the soles. Slipping and falling is a big concern of mine. Always barefoot inside.- I feel like I have better control.

  11. Lisa Critch
    Lisa Critch says:

    Anyone that still can wear heels(able bodied) would hardly ever understand. I gave away my shoes 4 years ago. I would rather still be standing than have my pretty shoes.

  12. Barb Kirby Lannan
    Barb Kirby Lannan says:

    I miss wear any kind of shoe . I have to wear gym shoe all the time. I have a drop foot & have to wear a brace on my right leg & its hard to find shoe to fit the brace. With the drop foot I fall & trip a lot .

  13. Tanya Millspaugh
    Tanya Millspaugh says:

    The last time I put heels on was years ago for my daughters wedding. Within five minutes I almost fell. So I wore them long enough to do pictures. After that I was barefoot.

  14. Sue Smith
    Sue Smith says:

    I hate it. I hate having to wear flats. I never feel dressed up. I hate other people saying they feel the same when they DON’T! They can wear heels for special occasions. I can’t.

  15. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    I love your sentiment about not letting MS change your heart despite it changing your life…

    I too still grieve for the loss of my lovely shoes…

  16. Martina Reck
    Martina Reck says:

    I’m the same. I miss wearing heels but my balance issues force me to wear just flats. And even with them it is still quite difficult to find the right one

  17. Melany Kimbler Farr
    Melany Kimbler Farr says:

    Had to do the same … so now I have tons of cute, patterned/flowered/glittery Keds and keds-style sneakers. I may habe had to give up my heels and flip-flops – but they can’t make me give up fun shoes!

  18. Amber Barney
    Amber Barney says:

    I am 6’1 and wear a size 11 so finding cute shoes was always a chore anyway! When I did find heels that I loved I bought them and wore them proudly even if they did make me 6’7!! Now it’s all flats but I did find a cute pair online. I’m grateful to still be walking and having the energy to fuss over shoes!

  19. Sue Martin
    Sue Martin says:

    I’ve also got rid of 29 pairs of heels and Wear flats but even they cause me an issue – even flip flops trainers seem to stay put but I still trip over! Doh may as well be drunk if I feel like one…bring on the wine

  20. Willamena Espinoza
    Willamena Espinoza says:

    this really hit hard for me . I had over 100 pairs of high heels , I used to wear heels every day , and slowly they have all gone for the same reasons . I can say I am fine all day long but all of these little things MS has robbed just add up if you think about them .

  21. Ruth Love
    Ruth Love says:

    I truly understand. I loved my shoes but I can’t take one step in a high heel shoe. I really don’t feel dressed up without heels on. MS for 34 years!!

  22. Bonnie McCrane
    Bonnie McCrane says:

    When I had to retire, in 2008, due to my MS I didn’t realize how devastating it would be to give up my Professional life, clothing and shoes (heels – 2 to 3 1/2″). I don’t go to a shoe store anymore and order my “shoes” online. I usually purchase the brightest colors. Unfortunately these “shoes” are costly.

  23. Kim
    Kim says:

    My husband said just yesterday. Why do you have so many shoes. I’m sure they all look alike to him. They are there same brands but in different co!ors. Shoes I can wear. My evening wear is actually a pair of side zip ankle boots with a little heel. My favorites. Initially the heel was to tall for me to walk in I until my sister suggested I take the to a shoe store and see if he could reduce the heel length. He did and now I feel stylish when I have an evening event. MS always challenges me find ways to feel like I used to before MS.

  24. kARL
    kARL says:

    Thanks for this article. My life before MS was about TOOLS. Now its one day at a time. Life is good without those tools , SMILES Karl . ms,”15″

    • Sharel OConnell
      Sharel OConnell says:

      Even without MS, it is hard for me to find comfortable size 11s – especially in stores. So, last fall, when I had to find something I could stand for a days’ work, I went onto Macy’s,com and bought one of every kind that were highly rated for comfort.
      6 pair of shoes arrived, and 5 were returned. The Clarks were the only ones that I could stand.

  25. Jeanne Lindsay
    Jeanne Lindsay says:

    While my MS isn’t terrible giving up my shoes was necessary due to balance and leg pain/numbness. I truly have a love of beautiful shoes and leaving them behind for comfortable sensible flats shoes has been very hard. Jealousy of women who wear them peeks its ugly head at me. I have to remember that I’m lucky to still be walking.

  26. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    I have a pair of bright red Converse that I know will never wear out, but, as Albert (from The Birdcage) said, “One does want a hint of color.” Even though I’m in a wheelchair, I can still be hip.

  27. Erin Haley
    Erin Haley says:

    Giving up my heels was much more emotional than I thought it would be. It was more than giving up something fashionable. For me it was like closing a door on a huge part of my life, my career, dating, dancing, going out to concerts and being able to go out with friends and socialize more than once a month.

  28. Sarah Scott
    Sarah Scott says:

    Never bothered much about shoes but lived in high heels then ms happened kitten heels were too high in a wheelchair can’t manage to put shoes on so unless I get them put on either socks or slipper boots. I have foot drop so it’s easier to get rid of shoes heels then I can’t dwell on what was and enjoy what I can do

  29. Leah
    Leah says:

    I hear ya! I too was faced with this same reality and gave my heels away to a friend that wears the same size as I do. I must admit it wasn’t easy…I too had a good cry. Thank heavens for wedge sneakers which I have a variety of styles and colours in. They stay put on my feet because they’re laced and add that extra 1-1 and a half inch height to my 5″6 frame. I usually buy a half size larger so I can fit an AFO in the ‘left’ shoe due to drop foot issues. The right shoe fits well by inserting a thin inner sole.

    • Susan Mooney
      Susan Mooney says:

      Oh me too lol I love my wedge sneaker boots after giving up heels! At 5″2 I need all the help I can get and I was always known for my sky high heels before MS diagnosis ❤️

  30. Cheryl Cabot Tarter
    Cheryl Cabot Tarter says:

    Never been a big shoe person, raised barefoot on the beach, but they are necessary. When I worked it was in the professional sector and wore heels, didn’t enjoy that but sure miss what I can’t have anymore sometimes (work and heels!)

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