Exchanging a Sole for a Soul

Jennifer (Jenn) Powell avatar

by Jennifer (Jenn) Powell |

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What is it about the passage of time that can make you look at the same situation with diametrically differing points of view? I have come to find that my acceptance of, and zest for, life has been congruent with the appearance and progression of my disease. My senses have heightened, allowing me to appreciate the minutia, much of what before would have gone unnoticed.

So what does this have to do with shoes?

If you knew me two decades ago you’d have an idea, as I spent more time seeking out the racks at Nordstrom than seeking self-fulfillment. While my closet runneth over, my spirit was arid, cracked, and thirsty. Each time my soul cried out for attention I’d quell the noise by shopping, and in the process, I amassed quite the collection of shoes.

Fast forward to the present and, thanks to God’s grace, I find that hollow shell of a girl barely recognizable. While I would delight in telling you the process was simple, succinct, and straightforward, it was anything but. I languished for years before finding fulfillment and contentedness. Self-actualization came at a cost, the price being multiple sclerosis.

So what does this have to do with shoes?

Before my diagnosis, I began having difficulty keeping slides and flip-flops on my right foot. Without warning, I’d find my foot flailing, sending my right shoe flying through the air while I looked on, bewildered. After my diagnosis, I learned this was due to my pronounced drop foot on my right side, and as my drop foot worsened, prerequisites for shoes became more about comfort and stability than fashion and frills.

As superfluous as this sounds, shoes always made me feel pretty and feminine, and finding I could no longer wear the majority of them affected more than my outfit — it affected my soul.

Before my diagnosis and for a short time afterward, I clung to my vanity. Looking back, I have to laugh, as my conceit was no match for what multiple sclerosis had in store. And what a tremendous gift that was. Suddenly stripped of my veneer, I seized the opportunity to strengthen what lies within. As cliché as it sounds, it is quite true that timing is everything. As Louis Pasteur famously said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Upheaval in life is inevitable, but until you meet it with an openness to change, stagnation will perpetuate. I was ready for change and the shoes were but a symptom, the multiple sclerosis the storm. Amid the deluge, I stood still. I let my vanity wash away and intrinsically felt whole. I felt both a sense of calm as well as the desire for action.

And so I did.

The golden retriever rescue group I volunteer with has an annual garage sale to raise money. Again, timing is everything, and as I loaded up my sports wagon with nearly 100 pairs of shoes, I felt the purest sense of joy. The greatest irony is that the symptom that once gave me so much grief ultimately liberated me. Only by giving my soles did I allow a light to shine and ignite my soul.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today 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 Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Jennifer Khan avatar

Jennifer Khan

Why do people in the UK with Multiple Sclerosis have to pay prescription fee's

Barbara kidder avatar

Barbara kidder

Thank you for sharing your 'story'.
So glad for you that you learned this life-giving lesson before you were old and 'spent'.
May I say, you write very well!

Jenn Powell avatar

Jenn Powell

Hi Barbara,

I too am so grateful I learned what truly matters in this world. Thank you for reading and I hope you have a happy day


Stacy avatar


Barbara - in NO WAY am I making light of what you've experienced and succumbed to with your MS.
Probably because of my warped sense of humor - some of my best LAUGHS have been from my "invisible" trip ups and almost falls --- to complete wipe-outs. And of course, the FIRST thing I do - is make sure no one saw me! How vain can I be?!
Thank God (literally) I have never been seriously injured.
I just replay the "event" in my mind - ON YouTube - played in SLOOOOOW MOTION - especially the ones where I see the contents of my purse projecting EVERYWHERE - like a water sprinkler...
The serious side of foot drop is realizing what type of shoes are beneficial vs. detrimental.
So long to flip flops - or any type of shoe that doesn't have a back strap.
I have never been a fan of pain (I don't have much "cushioning" on the bottom of my feet) - and hats off to all the women who can wear the 4-5" stilettos and still be able to gracefully WALK in them! ?
I'll stick with my comfy Clarks & Sketchers from QVC and will forever, God willing, have perfectly pedicured toes in crazy colors.
Note: I definitely try to stay far away from the "Grandma-Looking" shoe styles, even though I AM A GRANDMA! ?

Oma (grandmother of dogs) avatar

Oma (grandmother of dogs)

Dansko shoes are great. I have foot drop but not in these as they make you stand correctly and come in fun designs as well as sandals and dressy shoes. I hear they have boots also. A little pricy but I never worn a pair out yet.


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