I have always loved shoes. I have a killer collection that ranges from perfectly comfortable and sensible flats, to impractical, not all that sensible – but damn gorgeous – heels. My boot collection is enviable – current faves are the animal print stacked heel ankle boot, and tan coloured knee highs that wouldn’t be out of place in an ABBA revival band. Shoes can be works of art – the elegant black suede pumps with stunning bright coloured embroidered flowers now sit on a bookshelf, too worn to wear anymore, but too beautiful to throw out.

I remember the shoes I was wearing at important times in my life – they mark significant moments, sending memories flooding back to me. My wedding shoes were white satin pumps, comfortable enough to walk in all day long and dance in all night long. They are decorated with beads from my mum’s wedding dress and are still one of the prettiest pairs of shoes I have owned.

I dread being told by the podiatrist on my not-frequent-enough visits that I need to start to think about wearing more sensible shoes all the time. But so far, that’s not happened. She tells me that I can continue to go about wearing what I have, as long as I remember to regularly check my feet and get anything unusual checked out as soon as I notice anything.

I get to keep walking in my shoes, and not worry that the heel could be lower or less stiletto-y, the base slightly wider and orthotic-friendly.

I frequently hear cries for others to ‘walk a mile in our shoes’ as a way for them to get an idea of what living with diabetes is all about. It often happens after a particularly lousy piece of journalism that just gets diabetes wrong, or when yet another comedian makes yet another lousy diabetes joke. These days, it happens a lot when politicians say ridiculous things about why they won’t fund diabetes products, services or programs.

I guess the idea is that if someone walks in our (diabetes) shoes, they’ll know what diabetes is like.

I have no interest in people walking a mile in my shoes (or boots, more likely at the moment in freezing cold and wet Melbourne) because really, how effective is this idea in getting people to truly know what diabetes is like? What will someone learn in that mile, especially with the knowledge that they can take off my diabetes shoes once they’ve walked that mile…something that those of us living with diabetes can’t do.

Just like puppies, diabetes shoes are for life…not just a mile.

It’s for this reason that I have always questioned the value of hypo simulators. (I wrote contributed to a piece for Diabetes Mine a few years ago after first seeing – and sitting in – a hypo simulator at the first EASD I attended, and pointed out how absurd they are in my talk at the HypoRESOLVE kick off meeting earlier this year.) Anyone using the simulator can get out at the end of the demonstration and they’re done. There isn’t the thought of another simulator hanging over their head forever, or doing whatever is possible to avoid them – which is what living with diabetes and the threat of hypoglycaemia is like. Or suddenly becoming immune to actually seeing a hypo simulator until they find themselves in one, like what happens with impaired hypo awareness.

And it’s why I’ve questioning exercises where people are asked to wear diabetes devices for a few days. (Such as the time I was highly critical of a doctor who, in a piece about wearing a pump for a few days, declared she understood the frustrations of living with diabetes.) I remember standing in a room of first year med students explaining diabetes and as part of the talk, they were asked to do a blood glucose check and inject saline into their stomachs to get an idea of what we go through. Some of them refused, so perhaps the value of that session was explaining to them that those of us required to do such tasks don’t have the privilege of choosing not to because we don’t like needles.

My criticism of these sorts of activities is not to make people feel bad. I’m simply attempting to bring some perspective to what they can actually achieve. Suggesting diabetes is about merely wearing devices (or wonky vision when hypo) is reducing it to a condition that can and should be easily managed, and is easy to live with.

I don’t want anyone to walk in my shoes. I can do that for myself. But I’m always happy to have people walking alongside me. There is always room for that. Especially if we’re going shoe shopping!