Sensible Shoes by Ona Marae


Happy Wednesday, folks! Today we’re doing things a little different here at Women and Words. Long time reader (and commenter) Ona Marae is our guest blogger today.

Ona contributed to the collection 25 for 25 with her essay on how she was inspired by the work of Katherine V. Forrest. She’s also published several other short stories and essays.


Sensible Shoes
by Ona Marae

The nights are getting cooler. That’s our first hint that fall is coming to Denver and eventually to the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. Fall is my favorite season. Cooler evenings growing dark earlier, baseball playoffs, warm clothes, and books tucked into cozy chairs, the season also heralds the return of the sensible shoe.
Sensible shoes never left us, but they stayed tucked away in the closets. They aren’t the shoes of the beach, the lake, or poolside. I’m talking about solid shoes—not flipflops or sandals. It totally depends on what you are doing and what is sensible for you: running shoes, clogs, bedroom-only-spike-heels, cowboy boots, steel-toed work boots, hiking boots. (You can’t tell I have a thing for boots, can you?)

favorite cowgirl boots
Ona’s favorite pair of cowboy boots!

I have wonderful memories of Alix Dobkin and Meg Christian singing about women in sensible shoes, which is probably where all of this originates. I think about those memories when I attend the women’s basketball games at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I sit and watch women and what their feet are wearing: such an awesome gathering of luscious lesbians of all shapes, sizes and persuasions, and such delicious footwear. Remember my mantra, when in doubt, check her shoes.

The only complication to this system is that the closer you get to mountain living, the more confusing the women are. Mountain women are far more invested in sensibility than passing fashion for the most part, including their haircuts and hairstyles. I’ve even been misled by a few straight mullets since I moved here twenty five years ago. And in the mountains, by necessity, shoes are sensible.

My everyday shoes, day into night and summer into fall, are a lovely pair of black orthopedic shoes. This is why any indication of the yearly return to sensible shoes makes me happy. My feet blend in with the masses easier. The shoes aren’t so bad. They serve me well. Diabetic shoes, like these, tend to have a larger toe box. (Time out: I have heard every variation of the ‘larger box’ joke before, so bring it on and just watch my Boi sit back and grin.) They protect my toes, which have no feeling from neuropathy, and swell with my feet through the day. Particularly elegant with custom compression stockings, they are sensible for every occasion.
orthopedic shoesWinter comes quickly in Denver, much to my chagrin. Denver winters are bearable as long as you have the proper shoes. Quickly melting snow causes moats to form off curbs and these must often be forded, as they are too wide to step over or jump. And with the quick melting snow comes vats of mud. Mud is also manageable with the proper shoes, but it is just not much fun.

Every winter, across the country and around the world, thousands of women and children flee their homes to escape domestic violence without their sensible shoes. The women are often displaced homemakers who lose their partner’s income by leaving or working women who give up their jobs to go into hiding. Finding a new job is difficult for these women because they may not have interview clothes, or childcare, or shoes or boots. Enrolling their children in school is a requirement of all the shelters where I have worked, and walking to school is the typical form of transportation. Again, that pesky need for sensible shoes raises its annoying head.

While we can’t take up all the needs of all the women in distress we can help a few. Perhaps the women in sensible shoes can each help one woman and provide them with sensible winter shoes. Shoes are a personal thing and while your gently worn winter boots are graciously received, they may sit for months waiting for a woman who wears just your size. I encourage you to take the time and make the effort to go to your local shoe store and buy some gift cards for your nearby women’s shelter. Please meet a need as soon as you can and donate a $20 gift card or several. Help a generation of women and children for whom life is not sensible in any way. . . at least they can have warm, dry shoes this winter. You’ll feel good that you did. They’ll feel even better. Thank you.


Ona Marae lives, loves, and writes in Denver, Colorado, not necessarily in that order. She is a Women’s Advocate at a battered women’s shelter. She’s been writing stories since she was six and lesbian stories since she was twenty-five. In the early 90’s, she was a writer for LIC (Lesbians In Colorado) Magazine, covering politics, religion and humor, not necessarily in that order. She was the companion of a beloved cat for seventeen years, but now has a cranky laptop that takes up even more of her attention.


  1. Great blog post! As a person with foot-pain issues and a wide toe box, I thoroughly enjoyed your creative way of writing about something that makes my heart sing–sensible, comfortable shoes! The way you tied two subjects together–sensible shoes and women in dire circumstances who need them–was exceptionally well done.


    • Of course what is “sensible” is totally based on what you are doing. I had a pair of shoes built for 6 steps or less, on carpeting, max when I was younger and wilder !


  2. I enjoyed your post, Ona. 25 by 25 looks interesting–is it actually published? I couldn’t find it on Amazon.


    • Sharon,

      It is an ebook that is a fund-raiser for Lambda Literary Foundations 25th Anniversary. You can purchase it from them for less than $10 and the money supports LGBTQ Literary efforts. There is a significant crossover between GCLS and LLF, for example KG McGregor is on LLF’s board right now and Katherine V. Forrest was a former President of their board, and an instructor at their Emerging Voices LGBT Writer’s Retreat…the only queer writer’s retreat in the world, held yearly for 40 emerging writers in California. I was a Fellow at in in 2011 and it changed my writing forever. Yes, this is a shameless plug to sell the book! It has essays by 25 excellent authors and 25 emerging authors who are introducing the one who influence them. go to and find the Contact Us and drop them an email. You’ll be glad you did!


  3. Thanks for the blog. I love my sensible shoes and living in an area of the country where there are 4 seasons…..sensible shoes change every few months. I absolutely love your idea of donating shoe gift cards, it’s something that I never had thought of and yet, makes so much sense.


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