Three old pairs of shoes cost $125.87 to be made “new” again. The total is routinely surprising, even though I’ve spent it many times, and I always try not to let the surprise show on my face. Instead, I carefully inspect the shoes my shoe guy holds up for me, noting the stains and scuffs, making jokes about how dirty they are. I tell him that I should clean them, and then I peer more closely at their soles. We laugh, acting out a familiar scene.
The three left shoes are slightly taller than the right ones. That’s because the soles are meticulously cut away from the rest of the shoes so that platforms measuring five-eighths of an inch can be sandwiched inside. This creates “lifts,” small yet vital details in my life. It looks good, I say with an appreciative smile, staring closely at the shoes to be sure. When I’m done, we put them in paper bags. Then I tell him that I’ll see him soon and walk out the door. Hopefully, it won’t be too soon.
I don’t buy new shoes very often. For me, shoe shopping is an experiment with unpredictable results. My shoes have to be flat, they have to be sturdy, and they preferably have to support my ankles — my shoe guy and I exchange glances when they don’t. This checklist means that I can play a game of Guess Who? while perusing the shoe aisles in stores around Los Angeles, quickly knocking off ones that don’t fit the requirements and figuring out if I like and can afford the ones that do. Once I have a few options in mind, I can finally check if it’s possible to walk in them. If I have a winner, I take the pair to my shoe guy and wait three weeks for him to do his magic. More often than not, it’s cheaper and less stressful to repair the rundown lifts on old shoes. I wear them until they’re disgusting.
I have cerebral palsy, which affects my legs and turns my knees inward as I walk. Finding the right shoes is essential to maintaining my balance, minimizing muscle pain, and ensuring that I can move independently. It’s a necessity that’s not covered by my insurance (trust me, I’ve tried). As a member of the disabled community, I’m not unique for spending time and money on my health and autonomy. But how much do non-disabled people know about the relationship between disability and money? I…