photo4Much has been written here and here and here about the comfort/style balance, particularly as it pertains to footwear, and how as as I surge forward deeper into Formerlydom, it is ever more precarious.

Even since I began this blog three or four years ago, I’ve become more strident on the importance of perambulating pain-free, something young women do not appear to value. It’s certainly an age thing and at 44, I’m a few years late to the party on this one. Thank you to the many wiser women than I who have long since traded in their stupid shoes for clogs and flats for welcoming me into your community of comfort footwear with understanding and acceptance. My name is Stephanie, and I’m a recovering fashion masochist.

Well, I fear I may be overcorrecting here, and I could use an opinion or two. Perhaps someone from the fashion departments of one of the women’s magazines I write for needs to come over here, wedge my size 11s into pointy, ridiculous, sky-high stripper shoes to remind me what’s really important for a woman: To be propped up like a Barbie in the corner of the party, unable to move for fear of my disproportionately gigantic breasts toppling me forward. Oh, wait. I’d need implants for that. Never mind.

Anyway, neither comfortable nor stylish, the above Vibram Five Finger foot coverings are my latest addition to my footwear collection. Tell me they don’t look like dinosaur paws, or like several million years from now they may evolve into actual human-looking feet!

I bought them because I haven’t been able to run in 20 years. I used to love it. My knees are kaput and after working on a article about barefoot running–and hearing many an anecdote about fat old guys who’d been sidelined for decades being able to do marathons barefoot–I thought, I see my future, and it’s that of a fat old guy, except not a guy.

(The theory, in case you’re curious, is that far from protecting your feet with all the cushioning, most running shoes encourage a heal-striking stride that is injurious to your body; running barefoot or in minimal, un-padded footwear like this helps you land lightly on the balls of your feet, a more natural way of running that is better for the body. There’s no proof that barefoot running prevents injury, but it makes intuitive sense, and of course there’s the fat old guy anecdotes. More about it here. It’s too early to tell if I’ll be able to run any distance in them. I’m easing into it, and so far my ankles aren’t so happy but my knees are fine…stay tuned.)

The point is, they are so GODDAMNED UGLY and yet that was barely a factor in the decision to buy them. My only aesthetic consideration was that they came in blue, and I figured if I was going for the sea monster look, I should commit. That’s how far I’ve fallen, fashion-wise. No one can make the argument that, like Eccos or certain Dansko models, they are arguably passably OK-looking, and that the comfort trade-off is worth it. In no universe are these orthopedic hip. A friend of mine said that the 20-year-old coffee dude at her cafe in LA makes them look cool, but even he’d have to be incredibly, compensatorily hot to pull that off.

And yet, I not only leave the house in them, but I endure the giggles of children on the bus and console myself with the knowledge that there’s a method to my madness, one that may or may not pay off in the ability to run again.

Opinions? A sign that I am healthfully balancing the desire to engage in a loved activity that will ideally result in a happier, fitter me with a huge fashion sacrifice? Or an indication that I have been working at home too long and have lost all perspective and altogether given up on that which remains important–self-respect–and require an intervention?