Veronica With Four Eyes

My Favorite Shoes For Chiari Malformation

While I did learn how to tie my shoes when I was in elementary school, I have great difficulty tying shoes due to poor coordination in my hands from a neurological condition called Chiari Malformation, as well as generally poor hand strength. However, I do have a large collection of shoes that I can easily put on and take off, and over the years have found multiple styles that allow me to comfortably walk without feeling like my shoes (or myself) are about to fall down. Here are my favorite shoes for Chiari Malformation, and how I choose or adapt shoes without shoelaces to fit my own needs. This post does not contain any affiliate links, though I have shared links from select stores/product listings.

Adding performance elastics to athletic shoes

For sneakers or tennis shoes, I purchased performance elastic shoelaces when I first bought my shoes from the store and asked an employee to thread the laces at checkout. These elastic laces have a spring-loaded lock that keeps the elastics in place and can be tightened or loosened by the user to make it easier to take the shoes on or off. Performance elastics can also be purchased in store or online for about $10 and can be threaded through other pairs of shoes, though I have not personally done this due to the aforementioned poor coordination in my hands. Performance elastic shoelaces come in a lot of colors, so it’s easy to match the elastics to the original shoelace color.

It’s worth noting that some stores will give people performance elastics for free if they are purchased along with the shoes, though this policy will vary by store. I had mentioned in passing that I was getting the laces to adapt the shoes for Chiari Malformation, and my local shoe store gave them to me for free, as long as I gave them the shoelaces that came with my shoes.

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Using elastic laces for more casual shoes

For more casual shoes with laces, elastic shoelaces or no-tie shoelaces are strips or threads of elastic that can easily be threaded through the existing shoelace holes. Unlike performance laces, these elastic laces are slightly looser and easier to slip on or off, though they are not recommended for more intensive forms of exercise such as running. I’ve linked the pair of elastic shoelaces I have on a pair of casual sneakers below.

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Purchasing slip-on casual shoes/sneakers

One of my favorite styles of shoes are slip-on shoes that are stretchy at the top/sides, eliminating the need for additional laces or elastics. Several different companies make gender-specific and gender-neutral shoes in this style, including Skechers, Allbirds, Rothys, Vans, and many more. TOMS is another brand that makes slip-on casual shoes, however I found these difficult to walk in because of the lack of traction on the bottom of the shoes.

Buying laceless versions of popular shoe styles, i.e Converse

I love the style of Converse shoes and used to have several pairs of Converse with laces, though I found it frustrating that I couldn’t put the shoes on myself and would have to ask other people for help in tying them. In college, I was excited to discover the Converse Shoreline style, which are “low-top” slip-ons that have an elasticized back and the appearance of laces, and now the slip-on Converse are the only style of their shoes that I own.

Several other popular shoe companies have started creating similar shoes that copy the silhouettes of popular styles without the need for laces. Another option is to search for adaptive shoes that are made by various companies on a website like Zappos, as these shoe styles are designed with ease of use in mind.

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Wearing ballet flats that can accommodate different insoles

Instead of wearing heels or other fashion shoes, I personally love wearing comfortable ballet flats that can accommodate different insoles and that have adequate traction on the bottoms (typically with a rubber sole). While everyone’s needs and preferences vary, my all-time favorite ballet flat brand is Rothys, as their shoes are flexible, comfortable, and come in a wide variety of colors- which is something I appreciate since a lot of traditional ballet flats designed for comfort don’t come in a lot of fun colors. Other brands of ballet flats I have found that accommodate my feet well include Allbirds and Skechers Cleo flats.

For people purchasing from Rothys for the first time, there is an option to receive $20 off with email signup or through coupon codes shared by other Rothys fans. I can’t share a coupon link on my website per Rothys terms and conditions, though it’s easy to find a coupon with a quick web search.

Choosing closed-toe sandals

I have trouble balancing when I wear traditional open-toed sandals or flip flops, so my favorite sandals to wear are the ones that are closed-toe and that often have another strap on the back. My sandals of choice are the Earth Origins Nellie or Berri shoes, and I wear them all the time in hot weather or when walking during the summer.

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Having slippers without an open back

While I know the point of slippers is so you can easily slip them on the foot, I have trouble with slippers that do not provide support or that have a low back, as I often find they fall off my foot easily. Allbirds makes Tree Lounger/Wool Lounger shoes that are as comfortable as slippers, though they can be worn outside as well. Allbirds has a program where customers can buy gently used shoes at a discount, which is great for people who don’t want to pay full price for house shoes.

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Other tips for choosing shoes with Chiari Malformation

  • Abnormal gait is a common symptom with Chiari Malformation, so it helps to choose shoes that are made of slightly heavier materials that don’t slip easily
  • Keep shoes in a place that is easy to reach such as a shelf, since bending over to pick shoes up off the floor can trigger an increase in pain for some people
  • Have a symbol or sticker inside the shoe if identifying left/right shoes is a challenge

My favorite shoes for Chiari Malformation. How I choose and adapt shoes without shoelaces as someone with abnormal gait and balance issues