I have always indulged myself with shoes, not limiting myself to 2-3 pairs per season. While working in the office, my wardrobe included options for driving, low-heeled office shoes, heels, sneakers for everyday wear, and trekking shoes, as well as casual boots for Fridays. My footwear has always been branded, often niche brands from Yoox or trusted American/European ones, with Carvari being my favorite among Ukrainian brands.

Shoes, for me, meant additional self-care. In 2017-2018, during a tough period of personal unemployment, I bought two super-expensive pairs of pumps, without a clear understanding of where or why.

Then came 2019 – the birth of my third child, and soon after, almost in a daze, 2022 – the fourth. For me, children meant breastfeeding, slings, hands, and all in the same way. Initially, dealing with shoes became difficult due to a growing belly, then due to the pace of life with a small child, and even more so with two. Heels, shoes with fasteners, and many models and forms became impractical. However, parting with them was incredibly difficult. So, temporarily, they went into the closet until better times.

Since 2020, I have been living deep in the forest, in communion with nature in every sense. And a little before that, in 2018, active and quite logical nuances in the back-leg connection began. The first step in changing my mindset was Birkenstock. Sandals or slippers occupied my feet almost year-round. Exceptions were driving (sneakers) or forest walks (sneakers in spring and fall), and some felt boots/socks/uggs in winter.

Birkenstocks are good, but only in combination with massage courses or visits to an osteopath. Because when you take them off, your foot/feet hurt. A kind of crutch-helper.

Then it worsened. Even familiar pairs with orthopedic insoles started to malfunction. Wearing cool boots while driving, and after a couple of hours, the foot swells or hurts so much that stepping is impossible. Birkenstock – and everything is good again. Ugg boots, bought in winter 2021, I couldn’t wear. Soon, I couldn’t wear some pairs of sneakers either. Oh, Under Armour, for a moment. Summer 2023 passed entirely in soft Birkenstock flip-flops. One pair of shoes in the arsenal for many months. Couldn’t handle anything more. For autumn, I put on hard flip-flops to wear socks. And I thought, what’s next? What should I wear now?

Seemingly, the children are older now. Seemingly, there is an opportunity to spend a couple of minutes lacing or fastening something more than flip-flops. But I can’t. I measured all my shoes and couldn’t find a single pair that would give me the same pleasure of wearing… which means the “crutch path” I was following before hit a dead end. I need to find a new one. Moreover, the request was to find a path where I can solve my foot problems independently, without massages and osteopaths.

And, as usual, when you ask a question, the Universe immediately gives an answer. The key was to understand that it was the answer. Silently, from all sources, an “anatomical footwear” or barefoot footwear melody began to flow. In parallel, I was thinking about children and, in particular, about the feet of my youngest daughter. Since she’s the only girl of mine, smart and beautiful, I wanted to do no harm. Temporarily found a solution with Chicco. Firstly, because you can find models close to anatomical ones, and secondly, because the new footwear from the brand is often quite affordable on OLX or Shafa.

On myself, as always, I tried to economize at first. So, the first barefoot pair of shoes for myself, Hobibear, called me from Instagram, and then it was bought 4 times cheaper on AliExpress.

What is the right footwear for me at this stage of my development? It’s a flat sole for living in the forest or a small heel lift for wearing in the city, a flexible sole where the foot bends without any shoes, namely between 1/4 and 2/4 of the sole, attention! – not in the middle!

It’s an expanded toe, allowing toe movement without squeezing them. It’s working on the foot while walking, which initially intensified unpleasant sensations (well, how without it, they had been forming for years), and then – a pleasant relief, like after an osteopath or massage.

Further – more. I bought a course from Natalia Tatarintseva “Dream Posture,” 159 UAH!!!, ladies and gentlemen, and realized that spasms and cramps that had been occurring in me since childhood with a certain foot position were better worked out, stretched, proactively, rather than preserving myself, “not allowing” them. I ordered socks with fingers and toe spreaders on AliExpress to increase the discomfort zone and the speed of change. Subscribed to various brands and channels on “Barefoot” on Instagram, started to systematize the information.

It works. The story with anatomical footwear is relevant in many aspects. The niche is not empty. The first thing that comes to mind is to buy shoes in Europe and bother with its delivery to Ukraine. Spend time and money. For example, I bought winter Be Lenka boots for Leo. Again, you can check options on AliExpress. So, for almost a month, Lilu has been waiting for boots from there. There are also adherents in Ukraine. Everyone goes their own way. For instance, Svetlana Zamkova or Dijoule boast to make shoes on an anatomical last. Moreover, it seems not expensive. But what I see, they don’t do it in a systematic way. Therefore, there is no guarantee that we fully coincide in understanding anatomical or barefoot. Thus, I’m not ready to risk 2-3 thousand UAH to try. But for a long time, in waves, I’ve been observing the development of Anastasia Merle’s brand (Merle). They came into my field of interest even before I realized what I was looking for. So initially, it was just background observation, of their self-discovery, changing assortment, and pricing approach. Somewhere from the summer of 2023, I remotely tried on my “desire to buy” a pair of Merle shoes. I missed out on pre-orders for the right models and colors. I can’t afford such investments without instant return right now. But then, month by month, I “caught” my pair, also relying on emotions from the color and shape of the model.

I understood that the brand’s philosophy and the founder’s fundamental approach resonate with me. And now they are with me – 4962 UAH per pair + 2*394 UAH – care. 5800 UAH – an investment in my health with immediate returns. I hope I have enough courage to pamper myself with a purchase every day, not just admire it in the closet.

And yes, I am ready to give away, give, sell my entire huge collection of narrow shoes to those who have not yet gone my way and even after the above text, have not chosen anatomical or barefoot shoes. If any of my pairs of shoes are valuable to you – I am ready to pass it on to you at the price you evaluate it.