Jessica Gray is looking for her shoe twin.
Gray of Sudbury, Ont., was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly. It can cause mobility problems, orthopedic complications and a range of other related health issues.
In her case, she was in Grade 6 when she and her family realized that her right foot was still growing but her left one wasn’t.
“As I kept growing, I realized that the left foot was always sore. It always didn’t feel comfortable in my shoes,” said Gray, 25.
Aside from the health complications — Gray said her left foot is sensitive and prone to pain — there’s also the challenge of buying shoes. Stores won’t allow her to get one size 7 and one size 9.
“I have tried so many times. I’ve tried in every store around here, and they do not like that,” Gray said. “I actually thought they were discriminating against me for having a disability.”
Before she decided to start wearing two different size shoes, Gray suffered wearing the same size shoes.
I can’t even fathom putting my little baby foot into something that’s so much bigger.– Jessica Gray
“After about a year of wearing the same size shoes but on two different sized feet, I got so sick of that.… I’m not going to let my little foot, which is the one that needs the most attention go without comfortable shoes. That’s the one that’s in pain. That’s the one that’s sore — the one that needs the extra work to become stronger, so I eventually just started buying two different size shoes,” she said.
Gray said now she buys two pairs of the same shoe, one pair in size 7 and the other in size 9, often stocking up when discounts are offered.
“If I need something more trendy, I can just go and buy a $5 pair of shoes at Ardene’s, and I get two pairs for $10, and it’s great,” she said.
She said that people are often surprised her feet are so different, but more so that she’s willing to pay for the second pair.
“Someone had commented [on Facebook] saying, ‘You are buying two different pairs? Like, that is a luxury I’ve never even thought of, like, you are really living.'”
“And I was like, ‘Well, it’s not really a luxury. I spend a lot of money that I don’t always have. But I can’t even fathom putting my little baby foot into something that’s so much bigger.'”
Gray said she’s now looking for someone who shares the same sizes. A mirror image, she said.
“If we don’t have the same style, that’s OK. But just know that my style is a diverse range,” she said. “I have very interesting taste, and it always is changing.
“So no matter what the trend, I’m sure I have a shoe in that style.”
Until she finds that twin, Gray said she is looking for ways to donate the single shoes she has collected over the years. She said she’s heard that elementary school teachers use single shoes to teach kids how to tie laces, and amputee groups are often looking for single sizes.