Saturday, May 14, 2011

There's No Place Like Home!

Okay...that title's a little deceiving!  This post is not about home, really--it's more about dreams.  And dreams that involve...well, sparkly red can't-wear-them-but-REALLY-WANT-THEM shoes!  That's where the title comes in...stay with me and you shall see!

A few days ago I was fortunate to meet a new friend on Facebook who is in the process of getting a pair of helios braces (like the ones I wear.)  I explained how that process went for me in a previous post entitled Miracles Do Happen, as I consider these braces (and how I came to get them,) to be a miracle!  This new friend had a lot of questions about fit, function, whether or not the expense of the helios was worth it...and was curious about shoes that would work well with these types of braces.  And I was glad to pass on any information I had, because when I went through the experience I had the same concerns...but didn't know anyone else who wore helios.  I had to be content with finding things out as I went along, because I didn't have much of a choice.  The doctor who made my braces answered questions as best he could, even the ones I had about shoes...though it wasn't quite the same as speaking to someone with first hand experience.  As you can imagine, shoe shopping is NOT very fun when you wear braces...and it was helpful for the doctor to point me toward what brand(s) would work well, which cut down on the amount of shoes I needed to try.  This was good, because trying on shoes is NEVER fun for me.  And let's be honest...shoe shopping is a girl thing!  I've never overheard a couple of guys talking about getting together for a shoe shopping trip (and actually being excited about it.)  Most men I know wear their shoes completely out...until they are forced to buy a new pair, or break out the duct tape.  (Sometimes it's easy to spot the single guys if you look at their feet, self respecting woman would EVER allow their man out of doors with dirty, holey, duct tape-covered shoes!)  And even though I AM a girl and have that 'shopping gene' that most girls tend to have, for me the thought of shopping for shoes is pretty close to a nightmare.  Though I must admit that nightmare has calmed down over the years since I got the helios...but it's still a process! 

For those readers who don't wear braces, I thought a little background might be in you could understand why I might view shoe shopping as a scary thing.  I actually thought a few pictures might help, and surprisingly enough I have kept my old braces.  Why??  I really have no idea!  I certainly could never walk in them again, if for some reason my helios were destroyed in a fiery explosion, or stolen by bandits in the night.  Trying to walk in the old braces after all these years of adapting to the new ones would be like trying to walk through tar...I'd be unbalanced and uncoordinated, and most likely would end up flat on my face.  So maybe I've kept them for sentimental reasons; for those moments that pop up where I'm frustrated with my CMT, and angry at having to wear braces at all.  I can open my closet and take a peek at my past, and remember how far I really have come!  Don't get me wrong...I am very grateful for my initial braces, even if I didn't like them very much.  They got me through a lot of years, and opened doors for me that initially had been closed.  But they also created new struggles and frustrations, such as shopping for appropriate footwear...which leads me back to my shoe shopping nightmare.  First of all, it's just plain embarrassing to sit down and try on shoes in the middle of a crowded store, when your legs are covered in plastic, bolts and straps.  My old braces were thicker and had more parts, making me feel like Frankenstein's monster as I strapped them on and attempted to shove my feet into a pair of size 8 1/2-9 sneakers before anyone saw me.  Which is virtually impossible to do--quite frankly, it's HARD to shove your feet into sneakers in a hurry when they're covered in heavy plastic with bolts on each side.  Eventually someone will notice!  I have long since gotten over the embarrassment of trying on shoes (well, mostly...) and don't try so hard to hide myself in order to accomplish it.  It is what it is.  Though things have improved with the new helios...they have helped me face those fears, and I hold my head a little higher as I enter a shoe store and sit amongst the racks.  

For one thing, my helios have no straps, or bolts...except for one strap that goes behind my knee.  They are thinner, and do not cover the entire backs of my legs like my old pair--which is a lot nicer in the summertime.  My balance is improved by the bar that sits in front of my knee, and essentially allows me to lean into them as I walk, which stabilizes me.  As for shoes?  They give me a few more choices...I am not bound solely to sneakers, and the majority of the time I wear sandals, like the ones seen in this photo.  I also get to wear shoes closer to my actual foot size, which is 5.  This also improves my gait, as increasing someone's shoe size 3x's tends to throw off their balance a little!

Though even a woman like me, who can't wear fancy heels and hasn't had many positive shoe shopping experiences, dreams about slipping on a pair of sparkly, high heeled shoes once in a while just to see how they would look.  I've never actually had the courage to do that before now, as I feel a little silly...I'll never be able to wear heels, unless someone creates braces formed like Barbie's feet so I can slip on those 5 inchers, and be on my way!  But's fun to dream, and I've always wanted to see my tiny feet in sexy red heels.  And so I finally did it!  Walking through Macy's with my friend and coworker K, we hit the shoe department...and I found a seat.  I wasn't intending to try anything on, as their prices were well out of my reach.  I was sitting and resting while K looked through the racks, being quite practical about the whole thing...when I looked up and saw a pair of 5 inch, sparkly red heels balanced in her hands.  "OOOHHHH!"  I exclaimed, and all my practicality went rushing out of me.  They were Dorothy's shoes from the Wizard of Oz, with a kick!  Immediately I could see myself wearing them, clicking my heels together and saying there's no place like home!  K soon shook me out of my fantasy, by making it a reality.  "C'mon, Christine!" she said to me, "take off those braces.  You're trying these on!"  And so I obeyed...I just couldn't resist!  And you know what??  It was FUN.  I've never had a fun experience in a shoe store before, and I guess it was about time!  You might think I would find a pair of heels depressing; another reminder of what I CAN'T do, but you'd be wrong.  I'm not upset that I can't walk out of the store in those heels--I'm under no illusions of that ever happening, and that's okay.  The practical side of me still exists...but these weren't practical shoes--they were DREAM shoes.  And now that dream has been fulfilled!

For those readers out there who do wear braces, I've narrowed the field a little...and found a few brands that seem to work the best.  New Balance sneakers fit well, as they come in wider sizes which allows for the orthotics, and you can easily remove the padded inserts since they are not glued down.  Another shoe that works well is Teva, though they are harder to find in stores.  I found one pair of Teva sandals in a store (the ones in the picture,) and went to their website: and bought another pair in a different color.  They also sell other shoe choices on that site, and I'm hoping to get a different style sometime soon.  Till then?  I'll keep being practical of course...though once in a while, I'll let the dreams slip in, and take those fun opportunities when they present themselves.  And since I listened to K (instead of my fears) I'll forever have that memory of my feet in pretty, red heels...and that will always make me smile!


  1. Hurray for Dorothy , I mean "Christine " !
    I must say you looked wonderfull in those shoes ! What a treat for you ! [ Leave it to K to start the process ... lol ]
    I'm so very happy for you that you were able to have your "Dream Time " in a shoe store .....
    with those great looking "Red Shoes " !
    It shows us all that even with your very practical approach to yout " CMT " , and the limits it might place upon you , it surely can not dampen your "dreams , hopes , wishes , and joys of everyday life " !
    Never stop Dreaming Christine , for that's where true insperation comes from .......

  2. Good for you and K!

    Lucky for me I'm so tall that I never dreamed of wearing heels. Instead, I'm constantly searching for flats, which will fit over my braces. New balance sneakers add about an inch to my already conspicuous height.

    Your posts always make me smile!

  3. Hello,

    I have a boy who has hyper extension of knees and drop foot. He also has ataxia.
    He has been evaluated as a candidate for Helios.
    Can anyone please tell me that which doctors will prescribe specifically a helios instead of just an ankle foot orthotics?

    I live in Tampa, Florida.

    Thank you
    Jayita Bhattacharjee