My Fortuitous Footwear Discovery: I Found the Right MS Shoes

Ed Tobias avatar

by Ed Tobias |

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The other night, I had an MS dream. In it, I was able to lift my left leg as well as I can my right one, regardless of my weak hip flexor.

I don’t usually know what’s triggered a dream, but this time I did: My Bioness L300 had quit working. (For those unfamiliar with the L300, it’s a functional electronic stimulator that triggers a nerve in my leg and keeps my foot from dragging.)

The L300 died at a rest stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It was working as I walked the 75 yards from the parking lot to the restroom with the help of two canes. As I began my return journey, the L300’s controller began flashing red and displaying an “E” error message. The L300 was dead.

I completed the 75 yards back to my car without the electrical help on which I’ve depended for years. And guess what? My walking wasn’t much slower, or noticeably more difficult than it was with the L300. My wife, who was watching me, said I might even have been walking a bit better.

Why was I walking well?

I’ve received treatment with Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) since December 2016. The Lemtrada may have had something to do with it, but I think the difference was something else: my shoes.

I’m retired and live at the beach, so I usually wear a pair of inexpensive, lightweight Skechers. I mostly wear the ones that look like boat shoes, and sometimes I opt for the tennis sneaker style. Neither type, however, provides much support or “bounce.”

For this trip, I was wearing a pair of Mephisto loafers. I’d worn them a week earlier for the first occasion in a long time to a conference in Boston because they looked good. So, I thought I’d try them again. I walked more than I’d planned to, and my gait seemed to have improved. But that was with the L300. When it quit at the turnpike rest stop, the shoes were put to the acid test. And they passed.

MS shoe shopping

A couple of years ago, MS News Today columnist Mike Knight wrote about his shoe problems. He wound up liking a pair of Nike running shoes. The MS Society U.K.’s website has a forum thread discussing MS shoes, and a couple of folks said they like the Skechers that I’m about to give up.

I like a smooth rubber sole that gives me a little cushion but doesn’t grab. Others prefer leather soles that allow them to slide over the floor rather than stick to it. Shoes with rocker soles are sometimes advertised as being useful for MS.

A study of this type of footwear was published in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation way back in 1981. It determined that, “Rocker shoes were effective only in patients who still retained the ability to walk independently; retention of adequate hip and calf strength proved critical.” For those people, improvement in gait varied, but using the rockers saved their wearers 150 percent in energy.

Your choice of footwear is a personal one. The shoes you select may vary depending on how you’re feeling on a particular day, and will probably change as your MS develops. I’ve dusted off (literally) another pair of Mephistos, which I’d forgotten I had, to see how they affect my walking. After wearing them for a day, I think that they — like the pair that I wore in Pennsylvania — may have found a second life.

I have no financial interest in any of the shoe brands that I’ve mentioned. They’re simply shoes that I’ve worn and have fortunately been able to afford. I know that makes me very lucky.

What type of footwear do you prefer? Share your experience with your search for the right MS shoe in the comments below.

You’re invited to follow my personal blog at www.themswire.com.

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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

Comments

Liz Colpoys avatar

Liz Colpoys

I wear an “Active Ankle” ankle brace and have trouble tying shoe laces, so my New Balance velcro enclosure shoes are perfect for me!

Reply
Anita avatar

Anita

Skechers are absolutely the worst for me. I used to like the slip on ones. No more. For me, running shoes work best. My favorite? ASICS Metarun. They are expensive but they give me the support. Mt gait feels more “ normal”. I have left foot drop and a hyperextended knee. I walk best when I wear my ASICS, hold in my stomach and tighten up my rear end cheeks. I walk my 2 dogs separately and I gauge my walk everyday. When I do the above and walk a bit more briskly, I am ok. When I meander, I sway. So I need to walk with a purpose.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Anita,

I love your "walk with a purpose" comment. I'm going to remember it for "future use." :-). BTW, I also walk my dog...using my scooter.

Ed

Reply
Elizabeth Cohen avatar

Elizabeth Cohen

I have foot drop on the right side and also have lymphedema so my shoes must be able to accommodate some swelling. In addition, I am a woman who cares about how I look so I have found Dr. Comfort shoes. The tops of the shoes stretch, they cluse with velcro and certain styles come "deep "so you can add an orthotic if you wish. They are wonderfully supportive and don't look too 'clumpy'.

Reply
honeysuckle avatar

honeysuckle

had foot drop since '87,then foot drag led to misshapen ankle.wore Adidas until feet widened,then REEBOKS W/ CANE,THEN WALKER.Now New Balance.Mephistos sound amazing!

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

I don't know if I'd call them "amazing," but they're very well made shoes that are relatively lightweight.

Reply
Nancy Zell avatar

Nancy Zell

Im looking for some type of shoe that glides instead of grasping at the floor. No luck yet. I normally use a plastic jewel bag. I have drop foot and a rt peg leg that doesn't bend at knee which throws my gait off. I've tried beclophen,botox,muscle relaxation. Help

Reply
Sherrie avatar

Sherrie

Please contact me if you find a shoe that glides. Do you have primary progressive? I can't find any shoes for me and it is VERY discouraging!

Reply
Pauline Phelps avatar

Pauline Phelps

I have been wearing a style of 'Hotter Shoes' for quite a few years summer and winter but this year they added a fur lining which is unsuitable for me. So I have to find another shoe which I can wear indoors and out.

Reply
Donna Tyler avatar

Donna Tyler

Before chemotherapy and cancer surgery, I could walk with a walker. My daughter found Adidas White Mountaineering style of shoe which has 2 Velcro closure straps. They aren’t “sticky” or “rocky”, (for I can’t handle tripping or unbalancing movement. Mostly bedridden for awhile in rehab, I used only these for transferring and exercise in PT. I can put on and remove them by myself more easily than other styles.

Reply
Monique Bickart avatar

Monique Bickart

The Aesics brand of running shoes work for me. Light weight and good tread! Not expensive. Love this brand!

Reply
csauer avatar

csauer

I am looking for a better shoe. I see several of you have posted having foot drop. My problem is hip drop. I have absolutely no strength in my left hip flexor. I am looking for shoes that will help in addition to any way to improve my walking. I currently walk with a walking stick, but can only walk about 15 minutes before my hip flexor becomes fatigued and walking nearly impossible. Will the proper shoes help? Neuropathy is also a problem.

Reply
Beth Foster avatar

Beth Foster

I use Birkenstock’s sandals. They are extremely supportive and mould to your foot. I wear them out every 6 months due to foot drop but don’t mind replacing them with a new footbed done by local boot maker. I have never had planter fasciitis since wearing them.

Beth Foster

Reply
Anita avatar

Anita

I like them but I tend to stub my toe with them. I use rubber Birks to take my dogs out in the am because grass is wet. If I keep them on inside, I tend to trip because my toe will sometimes catch. Best thing for me, ASICS.

Reply
Andrea Hinkel avatar

Andrea Hinkel

Hi. I recently discover the Ortho Feet. I don’t have diabetes; however, this shoe comes in wide, extra wide and extra, extra wide. They are deep so that I can use my orthotics. The Athletic sneakers have Velcro traps on both sides and if you prefer, you can also wear them as a tie shoe. They fit well for me and they are more stylish than most shoes I see. I rarely find a shoe to accommodate my wide feet.

Reply
Jason avatar

Jason

Great read, thanks for sharing. I find Brooks shoes to make that same difference for me with foot drop in my left leg. Better stability but seems the shoes run one size small for me.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Thanks for the comment, Jason. Like MS, the best shoe for each of us seems to be a little different.

Ed

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