A Good Game Plan Helps Us Avoid Shoe-shopping Disasters

Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

by Sabrina L. Johnson |

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Shoe shopping with children can be frustrating. Keeping a tyke engaged while you try on multiple pairs of shoes takes time and patience. Shopping for shoes with a child with Angelman syndrome requires time, patience, and a real game plan.

Buying shoes for my 12-year-old Angel, Juliana, is a process that I’ve been tweaking since she was little. For a kiddo who already has balance and walking challenges, her shoes are important. When I didn’t know any better, I would simply head to the shoe store when I had a free moment. I also thought it made sense to get shoes for her sister, Jessa, at the same time.

No clowning around

I soon altered this ridiculous shopping whim. After the first couple of experiences had me running around like a clown at the circus, I knew I needed a better way. Even with my husband with me, there was too much chaos. It was a confusing and exhausting affair.

Juliana and I now go alone to the shoe store. I bring her iPad; her favorite toy, Ladybug; and a few jelly beans, one of her favorite treats. When we get to the store, I get Juliana’s foot measured. We sit at an out-of-the-way spot and camp out with her favorite things. Once she’s settled, I head down the aisle to get at least five pairs of shoes that might work.

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The first plan is to go with a larger size of her current shoe or the newer version of it. Juliana has a slim foot, so I know which brands work best. We also have been going to the same children’s shoe store since both girls were babies. The staff is knowledgeable about sizing and fit, which helps a lot. This extra help enables me to quickly rule out certain shoes.

Once I have several options to work with, I quickly move to try each pair and have Juliana stand in them. If she starts to get fussy, I dish out some jelly beans or change the show on her iPad. When I think we’re close to a winner, she walks up and down the aisle in them.

Angels have an abnormal gait, so I take this into consideration. Juliana swings side to side a little when she walks, but she no longer walks as stiffly. She has more muscle control, and her legs aren’t open as wide as they used to be when she walks.

‘Walk this way’

Often, Angels have movement impairments and other muscle issues that affect their gait. So it’s important to distinguish her movement from problems with the shoe. While it could just be the passing of time that has strengthened her legs, I’d like to believe that years of physiotherapy have also helped her gain more control and improve her steps. Juliana walks quite well now and even runs.

If she likes a pair of shoes, she’ll often dart off down the aisle in them. This is still a welcome sight to me after all the years of wondering if she would ever be able to run.

In our early shoe-shopping days, the biggest factor was getting a pair of shoes that fit with Juliana’s orthotics. This is another reason why dumbing down the shopping trip was important. Understanding her orthotics was a process in itself. I always opted for a more expensive shoe that would wear longer and better with the clunky insert.

When Juliana wasn’t walking, I would put her orthotics on and then prop her up to check that there was enough toe room. After Juliana graduated from orthotics, things got easier. And when she started walking, the process felt like a true progression in our shoe-shopping experience. 

Closing out our shoe purchase means a bonus for Juliana. Our shoe store closes each sale with a balloon. This perk will be going away soon because she’s outgrowing this store’s sizes. We’ll have to move on to another shoe store. Nevertheless, it’s an added treat for Juliana that has been great to have all these years. I get a treat, too: walking away from shoe shopping without a headache.


Note: Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angelman Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Angelman syndrome.

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