Shaquille O’Neal wears a size 22 shoe. It’s enormous. To say it looks like a boat would be an understatement ”“ it looks like a yacht, a ship, an ark.
The only thing larger in Dr. Robert McConekey’s unusual collection is a plaster cast of Sasquatch‘s foot. And that’s only about an inch longer than the basketball star’s sneaker.
McConekey is a podiatrist, a foot doctor. He and his wife, Dr. Carine Khouri, operate Southeastern Foot & Ankle Associates.
He has a shoe collection, which he displays in a glass case for the amusement of his clients. He rotates the items on display since he doesn’t want to turn his 17th Street office into a full-fledged shoe museum.
He’s got Cher’s shoes and Bette Midler’s, both very stylish. Football great Paul Hornung‘s has a foothold in the collection, and there’s a pair of shoes from the movie “Forrest Gump.” Tiger Woods‘ shoes are out in the waiting room.
There’s a pair of World War II boots and a single shoe from the bloody Civil War battle at Shiloh, in Tennessee.
“Who knows, maybe this was on an amputated limb,” he said. “Or maybe it got stuck in the mud.”
Not far from Shaq’s huge shoe is a tiny Lotus shoe, made for a Chinese woman whose feet were bound in childhood. It was a cruel practice, now outlawed. A little girl’s feet were folded so the toes touched the heel and then tightly bound to remain that way.
McConekey’s shoe is four inches long and belonged to an adult.
This woman couldn’t walk. It was a status symbol for men to have as many feet-bound women as they could afford to keep, a mark of beauty and dependency.
Sasquatch’s “foot” is cast from a footprint supposedly found in Washington state.
“I have to assume that somebody made this, and it had to be somebody with a little knowledge” of foot physiology, McConekey said.
The toes go in slightly different directions, he noted, an irregularity that makes the footprint seem more realistic than a perfectly shaped foot might appear.
McConekey’s favorite shoe doesn’t involve celebrities or abominable snowmen.
“It’s my father’s baby shoes, his bronzed baby shoes,” he said. McConekey’s mother sent them to him about six months after his father passed away.
McConekey and his wife moved to Wilmington in 2003, taking over the practice of the late Dr. Frank Costin, who was transitioning into retirement.
So what is podiatry like?
“We see everything from toes to heel,” McConekey quipped.
He said there’s a seasonal aspect to podiatry, with more sports injuries in the summer along with the hurts that come from going barefooted.
Fall brings a return to closed shoes and accompanying bunions. Bone spurs pinch more in the shoes of autumn.
Serving our market, the couple sees occupational injuries that occur in a service economy from people who spend long hours on hard floors, working in restaurants and medical facilities.
McConekey laments that people often wear the wrong shoes.
He’s not a big fan of “minimalist” shoes that provide little support and cushioning.
“Some people like the way a shoe looks rather than how it feels,” he said. “You want a shoe that feels good rather than looks good.”
Our feet swell during the day, so for a better fit buy shoes in the afternoon, not in the morning.
He recommends women wear heels of an inch or less.
“High heels change the center of balance,” he said, putting more pressure on the ball of the foot.
And a pointed “toe box” is trouble. Just look at them: Pointed shoes don’t look like feet. Squared-off or rounded shoes will cause less damage.
“Be kind to your toes, leave them a little more space,” he said.
Column idea? Contact Si Cantwell at 343-2364 or Si.Cantwell@StarNewsOnline.com, or follow him on Twitter.com: @SiCantwell.