Heels, Health, and Humanity: Finding Acceptable Vegan Shoes

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I’ve posted about this before, and I’ve certainly complained about it on Twitter fairly constantly recently, but vegan shoes are tough. Don’t get me wrong, there are a decent number of synthetic shoes out there, and a smaller, but still significant, number of shoes that are truly vegan. However, as soon as you start looking for specific types of shoes, it gets complicated.

Accidentally vegan shoes tend to be very inexpensive, and meant for occasional “fun” wear. They are trendy and funky. They tend toward either super high heels and punchy colors or canvas flats and laces (often also with punchy colors). The other frequent suspect in materials is rubber. Not very good for dressing up.

Purposefully vegan shoes are more pricey (often considerably) more pricey, and pretty limited in brands that make them. Some of the brands make only canvas or rubber shoes that can be worn in limited situations. A few (think Olsenhaus, Novacas, and Cri de Coeur) are more dressy (and pricey) but tend toward the funky and the very high heel. Many of them are UK based and not particularly easy to aquire out of Europe.

Once you take that small and very specific selection and add in specific size issues (wide feet, unusual sizes), or health/comfort issues (bunions, RA, heel spurs), you are left with almost no choices.

My rheumatologist is of the opinion that the welfare of the joints in my feet is most important. And, since I know that the prescription medications I take were tested with animals at some point, I can’t get too holier than thou about all of that.

A friend who is more eco focused than animal rights focused tells me that the manufacturing process for vegan shoes may be more problematic on the environment than leather. I can’t decide how to evaluate that fairly, given the multiple stages of leather production.

Another friend is very interested in human rights and less focused on animal rights. She believes that the most important factor is the working conditions of the individuals involved in the shoe production. The fact that most accidentally vegan shoes are made in China and there are such issues with working conditions in many factories there makes that a problem, as well.

I’m currently back on the market for some plain black pumps and I think I’ve spent hours looking online and reading reviews. Because I have feet that are wide in front and narrow in the back and arthritic, it’s a tough combination with veganism. I’ve already ordered and returned two pairs, and am guessing it will take another two or three at least before I find one that works. Oy.

What are your favorite shoe brands or places to shop?

 

Being Not Ok With It – or – Where Is My Equanimity?

Long time readers, if there are any of you left, have probably noticed my horrible lack of posting, and that almost no posts about yoga have happened for months (there have been a lot of posts about cookies, though, so that counts for something). The reason for my yoga silence is that I’m not in a good place in my own practice, and I don’t know what to say.

Starting in the spring, some medical problems beyond my usual rheumatoid arthritis began happening. They included a significant amount of pain and pretty much ground my asana practice to a halt. At the end of May, this culminated in surgery, and then almost 10 weeks of no-yoga restrictions.

By the end of the imposed restrictions, I had very little stamina and still had a good amount of discomfort, plus the surgical after-effects that had boosted the arthritis into high gear. But, I started slowly back into my practice.

And here we are in November. I expected that my practice would be fully back on track now, but it is not. I had to eliminate a major part of my RA medications after surgery due to some liver issues (yes, I am a mess, thanks for asking), so the arthritis won’t calm down and most weeks, there is one or more parts of my body that just won’t cooperate. This has been compounded by daily headaches – maybe sinus, maybe migraine, maybe cluster, maybe gremlins – that I often have at this time of year, but that have been particularly bad and hard to deal with on top of the RA pain.

And, even the act of writing this makes me feel like a crazy woman. When I go to practice and have to sit out poses again, I am sure I look lazy or like a hypochondriac. When I realize that I haven’t attempted wheel, and only rarely inversions, in months, I wonder if I am lazy or a hypochondriac. When I don’t go to practice because something hurts, I am sure I AM lazy or a hypochondriac.

This morning, I got up with a nasty headache. It hurt to open my eyes or breathe. Yoga class was right out. But, it was a class that I really really wanted to go to – the last class in the studio that has been my yoga home for as long as I’ve been doing yoga. I’m so very sad right now to have missed it. I feel like I let myself, my yoga mentor, and my community down.

I know that yoga isn’t just about asana. I know that practice doesn’t have to happen in a vigorous class. I know that I should let go of attachment to a certain schedule or particular poses. I do. I say these things often to students in my gentle class (and I’m not even going to go into my feelings about not deserving to teach when my own practice is such a mess). I know them, but I’m having much trouble feeling them.

I can’t find my equanimity about this. It’s in there, somewhere. But, I can’t access it.

So, yeah, I don’t have a big point to make here. I guess I am writing this partly because I’ve spoken to many people over the years who say that they can’t seem to get started in a yoga practice, or can’t seem to maintain one, or are so busy fighting their body demons that they can’t find the space for it. And, they look at me with guilt and shame in their eyes when they say it. But, they don’t have to – if it’s you, you don’t have to – because I understand.

I’m writing this partly to also explain why the blog has been quiet and focused on, well, cookies. I’m a little too mired down in my own yoga funk to have much good that I can add to anyone else’s contemplation of yoga. So, if you have hung in there waiting to read something interesting about yoga, I still hope it will be back, but I don’t know when. And, I thank you.

Namaste,

Lorin

What Will You Let Go Of?

LettingGo by Mr Littlehand

Many parts of life are a process of letting go (or, at least they are to get through them in a healthy way). Having children means letting go of the self you were before children, and letting go of your privacy and “me time.” Raising children means gradually letting go of what you expected/planned they would be like so that you can see and enjoy who they are. Looking for a new job means letting go of the understanding of self as being part of the company you are leaving, and the idea that they can’t function without you. And there are so many more examples.

Sometimes, this process of letting go, or aparigraha, involves things that you expect to let go of. For example, all parents understand that they need to let go of their children some when the children start school. But, sometimes, it turns out that what you thought was not about letting go really is, or the letting go is really about something different.

Recently, I’ve been experiencing two “letting gos” that I didn’t realize were happening until they were (there are actually four, but I am going to only discuss two here).

After an odd conversation with a medical practitioner who didn’t really know me, I decided to grow my hair. This is a big deal because I’ve been bald for 15 years. I don’t really know if my hair will grow (due to autoimmune disease, which is why I shaved it in the first place), but I’m giving it a try. I went into this not realizing how much letting go it would require. The understanding of myself as a bald woman has apparently become very deeply ingrained over the last decade and a half. It’s a big part of my identity and has come to symbolize, for me, things beyond hairstyle: buddhism, rejection of gender standards, individuality, etc. As I watch my hair grow (very very slowly), I’m struggling with how to let go of this part of who I have been for a long time. It’s interesting to me, because I expected it when I cut my hair, but didn’t realize it would happen when I started growing it.

In a second experience of unexpected letting go, I’ve had an ongoing increase in body struggles over the last year. This has resulted in a range of things including, but not limited to, decreased strength and range of motion, reduction of fresh fruits/veg in my diet, and increased fatigue and tremors. The combination has had an interesting impact (and I probably mean awful) on my understandings of self as yogi. A few years ago, when I completed yoga teacher training, I felt so strong. I had a 5-6 day a week practice and it was kickin’. Headstands, handstands, arm balances, I was developing new abilities all the time. My diet was very sound, with about 80% raw food. I was meditating regularly. There have been a lot of changes in all of that. I’m finding it challenging to adjust my understanding of self as a yoga practitioner with a very different practice – very challenging. I didn’t expect this to happen, yet is has.

Despite the struggles that I’m having right now on my physical yoga practice, I know that yoga is a good way to practice letting go, and finding out what you need to let go of. The act of taking a pose and scanning the body and mind to see where the resistance is to moving into the pose is helpful and instructive, and good practice for the letting go we have to do in so many other arenas.

So, I keep practicing, because that’s what it is, right?

Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it. It’s like boats. You keep your motor on so you can steer with the current. And when you hear the sound of the waterfall coming nearer and nearer, tidy up the boat, put on your best tie and hat, and smoke a cigar right up till the moment you go over. That’s a triumph.
~ Ray Bradbury, Farewell Summer