Foraging for footwear

Yesterday Brad and I took a trip to the outlet mall to search for a new pair of winter shoes for me.

Since I injured my foot, I haven’t been able to do my morning walks in the winter shoes I already own. I have beautiful red boots, but they hurt my foot when I walk in them, and there is no way to add an insole to them.

Last winter I just wore my Mary Jane sandals all winter and had cold feet! I decided not to do that again this year. I looked online at shoes and thought I found some good ones at Clarks. So off to the Clarks outlet we went.

All the accessible spaces near the main entrance were taken and the parking lot was very full, so we had to look for other places to park. Eventually we found a not-heavily-used corner of the parking lot with two spots next to each other. We pulled the van in at an angle to take up both spaces so Brad could get the ramp out.

I decided to bring my wheelchair because I didn’t know how much walking it would be to get to the Clark’s store from where we parked, and I am glad I did! It was at the other end of the outlet mall!

While going through the mall, we stopped for some pictures of course! We got some beautiful ones of Hestia and me with the nice roof/canopy architecture. And Brad got some with the automatic door button for the bathroom hallway entrance.

I am wearing an orange and teal Bohemian dress. Hestia is a black and white Japanese Chin wearing a green harness. Brad is wearing a blue blazer with a shiny blue vest underneath and a blue rhinestone bow tie with a blue and black hat. Both Brad and Veronica are in power wheelchairs.

We eventually found the Clarks store and I found a few pair of shoes that I liked the looks of. But I put them on and while they were an OK level of comfort, they weren’t super comfortable. I walked around in them a bit and thought they might be fine to walk in, but I wasn’t sure. They did not have removable insoles, either, so if it turned out that they weren’t comfy to walk in, I’d be stuck in the same position I was in.

Brad got some pictures of me in the Clarks store trying on shoes. Hestia does an excellent job of finding the camera and looking directly into it!

In the end, I found my favorite pair of shoes from the store and asked them to hold the shoes for me while I looked around in the mall more.

Again I was SO happy I had brought my wheelchair, because the other stores I wanted to look in were all at the other end of the mall again!

We went to two or three other shoe stores in the mall, but struck out at all of them. You see, most places don’t have a lot of fun colored shoes. Most people want black or brown shoes, whereas I like shoes that have a lot of color and interest to them.

Brad got some pictures of Hestia lounging on her throne (my lap in the wheelchair) and looking around the shoe stores. He got one photo of a no-dog sign outside of one store where the dog’s head was missing! So I guess that means no headless dogs? He also got a shot of his favorite store name “Zumies” which he thought sounded like “zoomies”—the wild running excitement that animals get.

As we were going in and out of stores, it was really comical how people reacted to us. Many people completely stopped and stared as we zipped by. Brad is perfectly able to get doors for himself and for me most of the time, but people would fall all over themselves grabbing the door out of his hands (causing him to become unbalanced), then holding the door at such an angle that it was now difficult for Brad to get into the store. I know people mean well holding the door for two wheelchair users, but really it’s much nicer to ASK first. Just a simple “do you want help with that?” would save both the person and us from a lot of hassle!

If I’m out by myself, I will often pause in front of doors hoping someone will assist me. But Brad prefers to get doors for himself and be more independent. Both of our approaches are fine, but it’s good to respect that not every wheelchair user wants to be treated the same way. A lot of people appreciate being offered the option, and don’t appreciate their independence being grabbed from them without asking!

Just like sometimes manual wheelchair users welcome a little push to help them get where they’re going. But other times they might prefer to get there under their own steam. There are a lot of horror stories in the community about wheelchair users being inadvertently—but scarily—kidnapped by people with the best of intentions, who nevertheless think it’s okay to move someone else’s body where they assume the person wants to go (or should go, even over their protests). One advocate campaigns for disabled people to be treated with respect as actual people, spreading the catchphrase “Just ask, don’t grab!”

In the end after visiting several stores and thinking it over, I decided against the shoes from Clarks. I just wasn’t confident that they would work. I had found a pair online that didn’t have a store near us for me to try them on in, but they have removable insoles and seem like they’re very comfortable. So I decided to just order those instead.

On our way out of the mall, we passed by a beautiful fountain in the sun. Of course Brad had to stop and get pictures of Hestia and me in front of it!

I attempted some modeling with brushing my hair out of my face several times. And Hestia posed really well for the camera, too.

We had a fun little outing, and even though I didn’t end up with shoes, at least we got good reconnaissance done!

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