Ugly footwear is the bane of some diabetes sufferers' lives, so fellow patient and artist Eleanor Leinen started a company to give others more fashionable options. This segment aired during NBC4's special "A Silent Epidemic" on April 6, 2013.
Eighty one year-old Charles Ashley has a thing about shoes.
“I'm a fanatic for shoes. I’ve got so many shoes,” she says.
However, they’re the types of shoes her doctor tells her not to wear. That's because she has diabetes.
“You wear them and your toes rubs and you have blisters and that scares me -- because I don't want them cutting off my toes," she says.
Diabetics are often unable to feel pain or pressure. A simple injury, even a tiny cut or blister that doesn’t heal or goes unnoticed, could lead to serious complications.
Dr. Franklin Kase, a podiatris, says therapeutic shoes offer the greatest protection.
“That person certainly is at risk -- if they don't wear proper shoe gear -- for infection and subsequent amputation of part or all of their limbs," Kase said. "So, it's very important to protect the foot.”
However, some diabetic patients are torn between style and function.
“My husband and I, we like to go to casinos. I like to go to parties. I like to do a lot and I like to look nice, and those shoes are ugly. They are ugly!” says Ashley.
Eleanor Leinen, an artist, diabetic and entrepreneur, decided to do something about it.
“I'm real fashion forward and I'm not going to wear dowdy looking shoes. That’s just out,” Leinen said.
Leinen took therapeutic shoes, hired artists to hand paint them with her designs, and launched an online business called Walk Another Way.
“If you have to wear these shoes, and you've been wearing what in your mind is considered to be monster-looking shoes, anything that gives you a fashionable alternative is going to make you feel great," she said.
Leinen was profiled in Diabetics Forecast Magazine. The article caught Charles Ashley’s eye.
“And I said 'My, my, my, diabetic shoes? Oh oh this is just great,'” Ashley recalled.
With Velcro or lace-ups, cushions and pads, lots of color and 60 styles, the shoes give diabetics a way to follow doctors’ orders with style.