Old Lady Shoes

Since my recent hip surgery, I’m loving my old lady shoes. These shoes are flat-soled lace-up styles or flat-soled shoes with a MaryJane-type strap across the arch. They give stability rather than style. 

I’ve traded style for comfort and it hasn’t been easy.  However, if I want to walk through the rest of my days, I’ll wear old lady shoes that allow me to walk without discomfort or wobbling.

I always loved shoes and, over the years, acquired many more shoes than I will ever wear. My shoe wardrobe is carefully stored in a seasonal closet in the basement; occasionally I take out a pair and try them with an outfit.  Unfortunately, I can hardly walk more than 20 steps in many of these shoes.   Most of these will get donated so someone else can enjoy them.

Reluctantly, I search for a pair with flat soles or a pair with just a bit of a heel.

My Ruined Feet

During my career, I wore pumps every day.  As the years passed and the decades advanced, the heels changed from stiletto height when I was young to the standard 2-inch heels I wore during my last few years in the office.

My closet always held several pairs in black leather, black patent leather, navy leather, and red leather. I hated wearing the same pair on two consecutive days. The shoes provided choices for my mood and also the day’s schedule. Most were standard closed pumps for business wear; a few were sling-back styles.

Since I live in Canada, my shoe wardrobe included several kinds of boots — some fashionable and made of beautifully soft leather; some practical for walking in deep snow; and some ankle booties to wear for fun.  Various kinds of sandals to keep my feet cool on hot summer days completed the array of shoes.

Unfortunately. cramming my feet into pumps every day and walking for hours on hard floors ruined my feet.  Bunions, corns, and hammer toes started to bother me.   

My New Best Friends

Podiatrists became my new best friends. 

After consultations, gait assessments, and a few plaster casts, I was prescribed custom orthotics. Most of these could only fit into my running shoes. Interestingly, I found that I could walk without pain when I wore the orthotics.

I bought several pairs of custom orthotics over the years — some made of foam and plastic, some all-plastic, and some made of carbon fibre and designed to fit into low-heeled dress shoes.

I also consulted an orthopedic specialist about bunion surgery — ouch! 

When I asked what she would recommend for her mother, she said “I would tell her to buy bigger shoes!”  What a strange comment from a surgeon who breaks and re-sets toes and knuckles for a living.

After having watched a couple of my friends limp for months after bunion surgery, I decided against it.  Too chicken!

Buying Old Lady Shoes

I took the surgeon’s advice to buy bigger shoes not only to accommodate my bunion but also because my feet gradually flattened as I aged. I learned to assess the size of the toe box as a deeper toe box doesn’t pinch. 

Good old lady shoe options are made of durable materials that provide foot support.  I avoid the squishy soft slipper types of shoes as they provide comfort but offer no support. I also look for sturdy soles, usually made from some type of rubber to provide grip and avoid slipping. 

Some of my Favourite Old Lady Shoes — These shoes were made for walking!

My old lady shoes need to accommodate my orthotics. They include brands like Finn Comfort, Clarks, Rockport, and Mephisto. Some of these companies make shoes that look ‘dressy’ usually featuring a MaryJane type of strap that fits across the arch and holds the foot in place. When buying sandals, I look for built-in orthotics that suffice for casual summer days when I  don’t do much walking.

When I found a couple of low-heeled styles that included a Mary Jane type of strap across the arch that looked moderately dressy, I bought them immediately.  They work when I have to dress up — but, I pay the price of sore feet for a few days after wearing them for an evening out.

Taking my favourite stylish shoes out of rotation has been a tough decision as I always notice shoes people wear. When I worked, I amused myself during boring meetings by peeking under conference room tables and assessing the shoes worn by colleagues.  I confess to giving poor grades to the men who didn’t wear leather-soled shoes with their business suits.

If I were still going to meetings, I’m sure I would get the same poor grades for my rubber-soled flat shoes. Or, would I?  Perhaps people are waking up to the need for comfort and good balance over style.  Here’s to more people proudly strutting their old lady shoes!

10 Replies to “Old Lady Shoes”

  1. I’m 64, and I’ve been wearing old lady shoes for years! I can’t walk in heels more than an inch high, and I only wear them when I absolutely have to. Comfort is key, and some of the flat styles actually look good. Good for you for making the switch!

    1. I plan to walk for the rest of my years. At age 77, I’m not as interested in fashionable shoes as I was in the past. I ad mit, though, that the first thing I notice when I meet someone is what kind of shoes they are wearing!

  2. Linda Goddard says: Reply

    Your comments are so much appreciated Jeannette…I enjoy reading them I too buy only New Balance running shoes and wear shoes that I have bought in Victoria years ago.

    1. Most of the ‘old lady shoes’ tend to last for years. Perhaps we don’t walk as much or as far as we once did — or is the sturdy construction of the shoes the secret? I didn’t write about my running shoes, but I like the New Balance brand as they have a roomy toe box.
      Be well,

  3. richard newton-smith says: Reply

    Jeanette, I never realized that at all those meetings over the years you were checking out the bottoms of my shoes and those of everyone else. I really hope I had shoes with leather soles on every time, but somehow, I doubt it.

    1. Hi Richard, I must confess that I don’t remember your shoes which I’m sure were impeccable. I do remember some of the shoes worn by others who regularly attended those meetings. They shall remain nameless!
      Be well,

  4. sheila newton-smith says: Reply

    Also enjoyed your post. As someone who now needs orthotics plus has 2A feet with a narrow heel and a bunion, the only shoes that allow me to walk at least an hour a day are New Balance 847 AA – have a nice wide toe box. After extensive searching I also found a SAS shoe, Mary Jane style, called Roamer that accommodates my bunion. Not exactly the shoe I would have worn in past, but I am grateful to have found them. SAS also has sandals that provide good support and have velcro straps (Cozy).

    1. Hi Sheila, Thanks for the recommendations. I will look for SAS shoes and sandals as another reader recommended them. I have New Balance running shoes but didn’t include any runners in the photo or commentary. I will ask for the 847AA model. Sometimes I have difficulty fitting orthotics into shoes with a narrow heel. Oh, the joys of getting older…… Be well,

  5. Yes! These days I also value oh-so-comfortable and supportive over fashionable. My triple whammy of arthritis, bunions and a AA heel have resulted in a similar shoe wardrobe. I buy SAS Shoes; they offer narrow widths and luckily there’s a store nearby.

    1. I will look for SAS as I also have a double A heel. Some brands are more difficult to find in Canada. You are lucky to have a store near to you that carries comfy shoes. I’m fussy about shoes and like to try them in a store rather than buying them online.
      Enjoy your walking!

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