My Secret Shoe Shame

I just returned from a professional conference where I presented my research, reunited with my Ph.D. peeps, and got some uninterrupted sleep (sorry, honey, it was blissful). To put my best presentation face on, I packed a suit and a pair of nude patent leather pumps with a fierce heel….

I interrupt this blog post to talk about shoes: Like many of you, I love shoes. Shoes are what Dorothy Boyd was to Jerry McGuire–they complete me. So forgiving, those shoes. No matter what your weight, they are always a perfect fit. Feeling blue? Get out in the sun with some wedge-heeled sandals. Need to clear your head? Walk around your favorite shoe department and you’d swear you were in an oxygen bar. I’ve bonded with girlfriends and sisters over shoes, trying on and exchanging affirming (enabling?) words that they are such a great deal! So cute! You can’t afford not to get them!


Okay, back to the nude patent leather pumps. I’ve always believed that when heels entered the room, they looked smugly at flats, kitten heels, and Danskos, knowing they owned the place.  If anyone asked how I managed wearing heels all day, I had two words: work ethic. As I watched my demographic slip out of heels and into more comfortable shoes, I dug in my heels (pun intended). I thought that wearing heels meant that even if mama was tired, I was committed to maintaining my sharp professional look. I would not go quietly into that dark, frumpy night. Heels were the magic cape to my working mama identity. Whenever the hem or occasion called for it, I slipped into my heels and POW! Let’s get to work, people! 

SecretShoeShame1Behind that patent shine, however, was a truth: My feet hurt. A lot. I was living in secret shoe shame but too stubborn–vain, even?–to admit that I was in pain. Time and again I would go shoe shopping, try on stylish heels that felt great in the store and then after a day of work or travel, the pain would set in. Pain as in, blisters and inflammation. As in, packing Band-Aids for regular triage.  And this trip was no exception. The convention center was about a half mile from my hotel and about halfway on my walk on day one, I was in trouble. I could already tell my feet were going to hurt if I walked all day in my shoes. I practiced positive affirmations to distract from the impending blister on my big toe. Then, in between telling myself, “I’m sure they’ll stretch a little” and “But they are really shiny!” I looked up and saw a woman walking a few feet ahead of me. She was another conference-goer, looked to be around my age, and armed for the day with her sharp-looking suit, bag, and a pair of fierce high heels…in her hand. She was wearing a pair of sensible shoes for the walk and brought her heels to wear on arrival. I would have sworn that those flats looked at my heels and said, “Oh honey…”

Like so many life lessons, I may take a while to learn, but once I did, there would be no turning back. In that moment, I decided I was not going to spend one more minute in self-inflicted pain. I turned around, returned to my hotel room, found my trusty ballet flats and slipped my heels into my bag to wear for my presentation. Talk about magic! Later that day, I marched to the mall nearby, found a Clarks store with stylish yet comfortable-looking kitten heels in the window and let the healing begin.

shoe heights

Tell me smart-yet-stylish mamas: What are your favorite stylish- yet-comfortable shoes? Leave a comment and let me know!



Sherri is a transplant from Oregon who came to be a Hawkeye in 2006 and stayed for the sweet corn...and for the Iowa boy she met along the way! She and her husband (Kyle) have a 9 year-old daughter, Aissa. Sherri earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs at The University of Iowa and works for Ruffalo Noel Levitz as an Enrollment Marketing Consultant for colleges and universities. When she's not working, you can find her with her family, enjoying Iowa City and cheering on the Hawkeyes.


  1. You made me laugh this morning!! I have no advice about stylish shoes…sorry! But summer is coming and everyone needs comfy cute flipflops! Go by some Sanuk Yoga Mat Flipflops! Or they have wedges too! Most Comfortable things EVER! Buy them in every color!!!


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