If I’ve let on that finding a magical pair of shoes is the hardest part about dressing a fused ankle, it’s not.
Finding someone who has the skills to shape them into something I can wear is the real challenge. This has become a big issue for me this past year.
I found my first “shoe guy” in 2005, a couple of years after my injury, when I started to walk again. He owned an orthopedic and prosthetic company for years and taught me how to manage my ankle fusion through footwear — what sole shapes to look for, the best brands to use, ideal materials, etc. I worked with him over 10 years and we came up with some new twists on the old orthopedic shoe varieties.
Then he retired. The nerve, right?
I was referred to a different orthotic/prosthetic company and was shocked to find shoe guy #2 on the first try. Bonus: He wasn’t even close to retirement age. He modified 4-5 pairs for me. They’re some of my favorite shoes to date.
Last summer I heard through the grapevine that shoe guy #2 had gotten into some trouble. After a quick Google search, I found his mug shot. The accompanying article included a messy tale involving impersonating an officer and assault with a firearm.
Needless to say he no longer works at that office. So began the hunt for yet another shoe guru. I talked to local cobblers and met with another prosthetic company but ended up back at office #2. (stay with me here)
Unfortunately, they were scrambling to find a qualified replacement for the alleged criminal. They hooked me up with shoe gal #3. She was green and I was her Guinea pig.
I brought in two pairs of shoes that ended up under construction for over two months. She really wanted to get them right. She listened to my concerns and specifications — she even brought in reinforcements! Unfortunately, they aren’t great but I gave up and wore them anyways.
Shoe gal #3 and I never found our shoe groove.
This year I’m back to square one. After feeling overwhelmed and frustrated for the last eight months, I’ve recently found a shop that has me hopeful.
I dropped off my new pair of Converse with the cobbler/owner of Sierra Shoe Repair and saw no trepidation in his eyes. That’s a good start. A lot of local cobblers will do shoe lifts or “build ups.” I haven’t had good luck with them in the past but I’m willing to give it another try.
The eldest son now owns the shop and it feels legit. Rockabilly music, antique sewing machines and framed photos of Italian relatives make for a unique and welcoming vibe. Along with lifts and repair, they also craft custom shoes and handbags using materials imported from Italy.
My shoes will be ready this week. I’m excited but nervous that I might have to start from scratch again. Will this be a disaster or did I just find my shoe magician?!
I’ll keep you posted.