One bride's search for chronically fabulous footwear

September 19 | Guest post by Mishy
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We featured Mishy's wedding a few weeks ago, and did you notice her shoes? Based on reader feedback, we know there's a lot of interest in truly orthopedic footwear for brides who are dealing with disabilities and chronic conditions, so we asked Mishy to share her advice…

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Mishy's AFO brace, and bridal shoes. Photo by Caroline Alden Photography

My personal motto is "Chronically fabulous," since I honestly truly believe that my disabilities can't prevent me from being as fabulous as I can — in fact, they just add to it. They are part of me, and frankly those medical devices make my life a lot better.

That said, shoes have been my constant struggle. I've worn an AFO brace for eight years now. And have struggled with general limited mobility most of my life. So I need pretty comfy shoes. And for years, I've mostly worn one pair of shoes. (Actually, I wear two different shoes, because I like the way it looks and the comfort I get from the two different shoes.) So when Offbeat Bride approached me about this article, I really struggled. Because it's incredibly hard to find "stylish" shoes that work with things like braces. But I felt that it's important to contribute some words, and possible choices.

When you look at weddings, shoes tend to be a pretty big part of the whole "bridal look." So for those of us who struggle just to find regular shoes, it's pretty easy to feel left out. I will admit, it was hard for me to find "nice" shoes for my own wedding. I did feel a bit left out from choosing super cute shoes. I had to remind myself that the goal of the day is to be comfortable and be able to actually enjoy my day.

That mindset helped me a lot to be happy with my choice to wear my regular shoes. And to actually be proud of my brace.

So based on my own experiences with finding shoes, these are the things that have worked the best.

New Balance - WW928 (Black) - FootwearMy first favorite choice would be these that I wear everyday. They are New Balance sneakers. They fit my AFO brace perfectly, and provide as much comfort as possible. They're quite practical and with mobility issues, this is generally a priority for me.

Plus they come in pretty neutral colors. So you can easily fit them to the proper occasion.

Propet Mary Jane Walker Medicare/HCPCS Code = A5500 Diabetic Shoe (Black Leather) Women's ShoesI also own these beauties by Propet. They are quite supportive of my foot, and look nice.

I have found that while trying to find shoes that fit bulky braces like an AFO or feet that swell easily, diabetic shoes are your best bet. There are diabetic shoes that are often made in extra-wide sizes, so they can accommodate various different foot needs. Zappos has a really great selection.

My biggest advice I can provide is this: embrace all the things about yourself. I know that sounds super cliché…but it's the truth. Embrace all the parts of yourself. Confidence and body acceptance are key. I would say, society doesn't really think that we can be both disabled and fabulous. And often assumes that to do this, we wish to hide our disability. I personally take the radical approach of not hiding it away. Those devices help me lead my life, on my terms. And ultimately, being fabulous is how you carry yourself. The goal here is to be happy with yourself.

I hope this is helpful. And remember, stay chronically fabulous.

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  1. Mishy, I read the original post about your wedding when it was first posted. I thought you were pretty schnazzy then, and now you give us this post. What is schnazzier than schnazzy? I am not sure, but you are the picture of it! I know the word strength is loaded with both admiration and burden, but thank you for sharing your strength (and your frustrations).

    I became physical disabled nearly five years ago as a result of domestic violence. I now use a cane or a wheelchair depending on the day and the circumstances. The surgeries are finished, and the therapy and pain management are ongoing; and I am planning a new wedding. My fiancé is amazing and supportive in all ways. He knew me before I was disabled, yet it has not changed how he sees me as a human or woman. (My ex was–is–a cruel person. After I became disabled, he said some pretty mean things meant to dehumanize and desexualize me. I wish that I can say I am over it, but it has been a struggle.)

    Prior to all this, I owned six pairs of shoes, three of which were high heeled (and four of which were more than six years old!). You can guess that I was never really crazy over shoes, but now that finding shoes is difficult, I actually find myself looking at them more often. Not only do I have to find a shoe that I can wear, but I would like a pretty pair.(And for those who wonder how hard it is to find flats, trust me, not all flats work for disabilities.) Looking can bring me nearly to tears some days. For example–Yesterday.

    Today, you made it a lot less upsetting. You said that is cliché to say embrace all of yourself, and I must agree. I have been so upset with people who have told me that and similar because often they seem to be implying that I am feeling sorry for myself, when I am actually trying to deal with a very real issue. Your post expresses the frustration without indicating that frustration is a weakness.(I can be frustrated without feeling sorry for myself. I want to be comfortable and beautiful on my own terms. How is that bad? Isn't that me embracing myself for myself?) I may never belly dance again, or walk without some assistance, but that does not mean that I have to "embrace" someone else's idea of what defines me.

    Thank you again for sharing your beautiful wedding and your extra schnazzy self!

    15 agree
    • I just want to say, my heart goes out to you. In the sense, of how closely I can relate to what you've said. And, there isn't really words I could say to truly tell you how amazing I think you are, just by being able to talk about the situation, and god knows it's not easy to talk about domestic violence and everything else you mentioned.
      Sadly, disabled people are far too often are dehumanized and desexualized. And it's not okay, it's not right. And I am very sorry for what you've experienced. I am so happy to hear though that you have found a good person who loves you. I try to remind my friends and those I meet, that you are a worthy human being, who deserves love and good things in your life. I wish you the very best for your wedding.

      I was not a big shoe person before either, I owned like four pairs of shoes. (And two of those were crocs and Uggs. No shame. Comfy has always been a priority for me.) And now, I look at shoes and occasionally get very angsty about being unable to wear them.

      I'm sorry someone makes you feel like your pitying yourself, or anything of the sort. We're human and and we have a right to feel the way we do. I would worry if you didn't feel the way you do. I do hope you have more better days. 🙂

      And thank you for sharing. 🙂

      6 agree
  2. My sister has feet that have been through a bad break and a botched surgery, and she's a devotee of Dansko. They've got a lot of good clog-type shoes (I have a pair myself, and they're fabulous on my not-so-fabulous feet), some in really fun colors and patterns, and they've also got some cute Mary Janes, boots and sandals. My mom prefers Josef Seibel. Neither brand is especially inexpensive, but those of us with problematic feet know that good shoes are worth their weight in gold.

  3. I say chronically awesome, but I feel this. While I don't need special shoes, I do need a cane sometimes, and I have amassed quite a collection. Everyday, fancy dress… Why should our disabilities stop us from being amazing?

    5 agree
  4. Hi,
    Thank's for this, I have ankle mobility and knee issues that mean heels just aren't option. Luckily my sister painstakingly applied hundreds of swarofski crystals to a pair of silvers mary-janes for me, which are gorgeous and sparkly and I can walk, but I still felt silly explaining to dress shops that no, I really am going to be in flats, and no I wouldn't like to try any colour matched shoes.

    2 agree
  5. YES! "the goal of the day is to be comfortable and be able to actually enjoy my day."

    Also, hooray for DM's!! I don't have significant mobility/disability restrictions at the moment but my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome does seem to contribute to an overwhelming preference for boots at all times. I also have a couple of friends who wear leg braces and seem to get along pretty well with Dr Martens.

    Here's my wedding footwear 2 cents:Strips of pretty lace as shoelaces. This was my wedding footwear… comfortable and a little bit special-feeling:
    https://scontent-a-lhr.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xaf1/v/t1.0-9/p417x417/320086_10151350398741576_1367012711_n.jpg?oh=1a843441d5d3e03f7d7089a96003473b&oe=54CDB25F

    1 agrees
  6. I have to admit that I got a little teary-eyed reading your story. I have rheumatoid arthritis and it definitely has impacted my footwear and clothing choices. Before I was sick I loved high heels, the higher the better. But since I've gotten sick that's just not practical or an option for me any longer. It has been a bitter pill to swallow. It seemed unfair that I have finally found the love of my life and was going to be married. Surely should I not have a fabulous pair shoes to go with my fabulous man? Much like a previous poster said not all shoes will work just because they have no heels. My feet often are swollen and tender Due to neuropathy pain; open toed shoes are my best bet. I've even consider going bare feet just to avoid the hassle altogether. I love how you embraced your disability as a part of yourself. Because it is true it is one and the same with you. I am sure that if I strut into my wedding with confidence no one will know the difference. I will try to remember that, that day is filled with all the people that we love. Plus with a little extra work I can definitely be fabulous.

    1 agrees
  7. Hi Everyone,

    Great story! I just wanted to suggest using decoupage to decorate your comfy wedding shoes. I don't have mobility issues, but nevertheless I am a bride having trouble finding shoes that will be sensible AND stylish enough for my backyard wedding this June. My mom went to a second hand store, spent $5 on a pair of pumps and then used Mod Podge to completely cover them with beautiful fabric in my wedding colours. Problem solved! It worked out so well I'm making a second pair for the reception. *On a side note, I do have some serious digestive issues and everybody is worried I'll spend my wedding day throwing up. Like this bride, I've decided to own this unique aspect of my wedding day, and my soon to be mother-in-law has made a blue heating pack in a sparkly satin case, so I can look stylish with a sore gut. (Bonus: there's my something blue.) I was super excited when she surprised me with it this Christmas. Her thoughtful gift is just one more wedding day memory that will be uniquely ours. 🙂

    1 agrees

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