For girls in the 50’s, a Buster Brown nightmare; for women, not your Ferragamos or Jimmy Choos.

Shoes were expensive as I grew up. By the time I was a teenager, one foot was a woman’s size five and the other a child’s one or two. We bought two pair and threw out or stockpiled the odd pairs I could not wear, and then there was the expense of the orthopedic buildup. This work, done at the local shoe repair and paid for by my parents and later my single mom, only partially compensated for the two-inch length difference in my legs. Additionally, there was a little bar across the sole of the smaller shoe, which worked to have my foot rock forward after I slapped it down on the floor or sidewalk. With a drop foot, which cannot be moved up or down, I had no control over bringing my heel down first and rolling up to the ball of my foot.

As a result, since we were a family of lower middle class income, I was taught to care for and repeatedly repair my shoes, which has been not only a thrifty habit but allowed me to have several pair, since in most years changing styles have not offered something I could wear safely and supportively. Generally, oxfords were my mother’s shoe of choice for me, but I did have loafers eventually (Cordovan red with tassles! Fourth grade!). The older I got, the more I wanted flats and dressier shoes, which often were not particularly comfortable and did not offer much support to my paralyzed foot and ankle. But vanity drove me, and I tried to wear shoes as much as possible like those that other girls were wearing, though I could never wear a heel that was more than perhaps an inch and a half high… which probably no one should wear, anyway. Now even that is much too high for safety and comfort.

In high school, we learned about an organization called the National Odd Shoe Exchange, which for a small fee connected a person with one or two partners with exactly opposite-sized feet and similar tastes. For a few years I had a happy exchange of shoes with a girl up in North Dakota, but in college we lost track of each other and then NOSE gradually seemed to have a breakdown in its administration. I tried several times during my life to find another exchange partner, but they never did provide one. They still exist, and I send them the extra shoes I buy, the ones I can’t wear for the opposite feet. I imagine they sit in a warehouse until someone requests something in those sizes.
But shoes were among the more superficial problems in my childhood.