The Ordeal of Buying Orthopedic Shoes in Cuba

Mercedes Gonzalez Amade

Shoe repair person in Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — As I understand it, orthopedic shoes are a kind of medicine, for they correct one’s posture and help patients walk with more confidence. Many people, children, young or elderly, rely on this special footwear for their daily routines.

Here, in the capital, we have only two centers that produce this kind of footwear. One makes shoes for the general public, while the other only offers services to those who reside in the municipality or require special shoes for prostheses.

All others have to go through a veritable ordeal to buy these. The waiting time from the moment one gets the prescription, to the taking of measurements to finally having the shoes in hand – or, better said, on one’s feet – can be anywhere from six months to a year. I feel for parents who have children in need of these shoes, as these little angels grow every day and, in six months, their measurements change entirely.

Then there’s the issue of quality, which isn’t the best, not the mention the fact the models are horrific, such that it’s hard to get teenagers to wear them. They have to be made aware that it’s like taking medicine.

The only positive thing about them is that they’re cheap.

I think they should be made available or be within the reach of people like me, who needs them to be able to walk.

Since they’re not good quality, and because it is hard to actually purchase them, one has to turn to the self-employed, who sell them at extremely high prices (20 times their value) and, sometimes, if not always, they do not have the features we need. Ultimately, we can kill ourselves looking for them and, when we find them, they’re no good.

So, we regard them as medicine, but, it might be better if no one used them, for people get sick looking for them.

Mercedes González

Mercedes González Amade: I'm 38 years old and physically challenged. I struggle daily in this life be it on crutches or in a wheelchair. I have a 12-year-old son who is my main inspiration and for who I have fought tooth and nail. I hold a position in the governmental institution that serves the handicapped in my part of the capital. In the afternoons I practice tennis well away from where I live. My intention with Havana Times is to help spread the desire to live and to do so with dignity, especially to persons with physical and motor difficulties.