Patient Story - Shoes and Lymphedema: How to make shopping less stressful.
Lower Extremity(LE) Lymphedema is found primarily in women. Unfortunately, also primarily for women, are plenty of shoe choices that no longer work if you are a lymphie. Shoe shopping can be one of the most frustrating, anxiety-provoking, humiliating experiences if you are someone with LE Lymphedema. Especially if you, like me, struggle with the most swelling in your foot and ankle. We all know that when we find a good pair of shoes we wear them until they barely resemble a shoe anymore. Finding dress shoes is like finding Cinderella’s left heel, and finding shoes that you not only squeeze into but are comfortable all day without burning pain? Basically impossible.
Luckily for us lymphie ladies out there, fashion trends are currently in our favor- somewhat. Below are some of my favorite styles of shoes to wear for every season, followed by just how they work for those of us with a few more centimeters around our ankles.
The key to dress shoes is to find shoes that can be adjustable around the ankle. In my opinion, my ankle tends to be the toughest part to work around when it comes to stiff shoes. Pumps, stilettos, et cetera, have very narrow heels, which makes us all feel like we are trying desperately to stuff a sausage in its casing. Recently, there have been many options on the market that can be decently comfortable for us lymphies. Below are a few examples of my favorite dress shoes, and why they work for me.
Less heel, more ankle strap!
These shoes work best for me as far as dress heels go. They are adaptable for any season, and the best part is the adjustable ankle strap makes them work any day, no matter how swollen you are. Especially if the base of your toes aren’t too swollen, the shoes accommodate for the somewhat disproportionate size of your lymphie foot. Another great component of these shoes is that the heel is on the thicker side. This will help balance your foot when you are walking, especially with your ankle being larger than normal. I have noticed both online and in stores that this style of shoe is practically everywhere, ranging from flats all the way to four-inch heels.
Booties are great because they end right above the ankle, which is generally a smaller circumference than your calf when you have lymphedema. The best option is booties that have plenty of room around the heel and ankle and either that don’t zip, or zip easily. They can be dressed up or down, whether it is with a cute dress and tights in the fall or with leggings and a long sweater during the winter. If you’re self-conscious of your ankle, booties also do a great job in masking that you have lymphedema at all.
For summer options I generally still stick with shoes that come up around the ankle. I love wedges because they are more comfortable and have more surface area, and then I choose either shoes with zippers or elastic straps that can accommodate my ankle. Open toe is always a plus, especially if your foot with lymphedema is a bit wider than your other foot. Zippers are great because you don’t have to zip them all the way up, and generally, no one really will notice.
Some of my favorite brands for everyday shoes include Birkenstocks, Crocs, and Toms. These shoes are well made and can mold to the contour of your foot. Another great adaptation you can make is to get the size that fits your lymphie foot, and put insoles in the one that may be a bit too big. Tennis shoes and any shoe that ties up are great options as well, for the same reason that they can be adjustable to daily shifts in swelling.