So there I was a year and a half ago with a brand-new (used) dog, a circumstance that came about in part due to my desire to drag my ass away from my computer a few times a day and stave off full-body atrophy. You know.

But after three months of glorious, invigorating walks with my new little buddy on the oh-so-picturesque and lumpy-as-hell cobblestones of Paris, I found myself in the doctor’s office because my right foot didn’t bend anymore and it hurt so much I couldn’t stand the weight of my blanket on it. I got x-rays and a diagnosis:

I’ve limped along in denial on considerably less vigorous dog walks for the last year or so and watched helplessly as my favorite shoes and boots, two by two, gradually wound up in the no fucking way pile… I can’t tell you how much this sucks.

It all really hit me last month when there was this fancy conference (attended mostly by women, mostly in high to very high heels, from half the Fortune 500 and all of the CAC 40, the French equivalent), where I worked as a conference reporter. The dress code was “business/creative casual,” and I had to go buy shoes because all my hot business/dress shoes are in the NFW pile. I ended up with this shoe more or less, but with a leather button instead of the silver thingy. The least frumpy I could find and wear with relatively little pain:

The brand name of these shoes? Dorking. Yeah, I know, salt in the wound. But I kinda like their logo… And I can do the sexy schoolmarm thing.

Have I mentioned I live in Paris where if you wear tennis shoes (other than the decorative kind) eyebrows rise and nostrils flare as you pass? Have I mentioned I really, really don’t like flats? Ballet flats, the Parisian ingénue standard, are fine for the 30-and-under, which I’m obviously not, or I wouldn’t be having this particular conversation with myself.

Dorky shoe shopping was the straw that got me to the podiatrist this week, where I got the final answer: “You’ll never wear high heels again, honey” (only in French). I honestly teared up. Seriously.

She said this condition was either the result of a foot trauma (nope) or a number of “micro-traumas.” Since I have it in both feet, I’m thinking every hour (and there were thousands) between the age of 16 and 20 when I stood, walked and danced on five- or six-inch stilettos, micro-traumas were occurring. I asked her if there was a brand of shoes that was even a little sexy that I could still wear. She said she had no particular brand to recommend, sexy or otherwise, though she did have a Mephisto catalog on her desk (frumpalicious). When she recommended thick soles, I suddenly felt myself aging at the rate of hundreds of years per second, like Katherine Deneuve at the end of The Hunger. Then my podiatrist described a surgery (last resort, I’m not there yet) where they fuse that nasty painful joint (at a slight angle, not flat, so you can pretend your foot still bends) when the pain gets unbearable and can’t be treated with painkillers and having some goo injected into the joint. She just looked confused when I asked her if they could fuse my joint at a Barbie-foot angle…

About now the feminist outrage, if you have any, has probably bubbled to the surface and you can’t wait to get to the end of this so you can leave a comment about how we’ve all been screwed over. Trust me, I’m with you. I know all the things you want to say and agree and understand — intellectually. And I am now painfully aware of what heels did to me, and I suppose I should blame society for making me think I look hot in high heels. But I do. Did. I’m the product of my conditioning. So shoot me. I’m fighting other battles, but if this is one of yours, Bad Shoes and the Women Who Love Them looks like a good read. I may get it myself, though I’m beyond salvation. This book is what I found when I googled the keywords sexy shoes bad feet.

If you’re in Paris and a size 8.5 (39), I’ll invite you over to pillage the NFW pile. But I’m having those black suede pumps I got in 1987 (and have kept practically pristine because they are perfection) bronzed. Too many good memories…

At least I can still wear my red cowboy boots.