A T1D Cinderella Story

WRITTEN BY: Shelene Knisley

There’s something magical about a great pair of heels. In many ways the life-changing effects Cinderella experienced occur in my own life. How, you may ask? Well, it all started at the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed age of 12, when I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It was at this time that protecting my feet became a priority so as not to lead to complications in the distant future. My parents turned this into a positive by providing me with brand new shoes all the time to protect my feet. However, my only options that provided daily protection and support were tennis shoes. So the struggle to find stylish and feminine footwear began (challenge accepted).

Shopping for stylish yet comfortable shoes meant that I left many a store empty handed. It was time that I took matters into my own hands and I began sketching designs to send out to luxury footwear companies in Europe. My eagerness to learn about structuring a perfect fit lead me to job shadow with a few designers here in Los Angeles, who in turn, encouraged me to apply to one of the most covetable fashion schools in the world.

I submitted my work and before I knew it, I was jet-setting across the world to attend university in London. One of the biggest adventures of my life grew out of accepting the importance of taking care of my feet alongside managing my diabetes as wounds and scratches have the tendency to heal slower with irregular blood sugar. My passion for shoes and taking care of my health became one of the same.

So just weeks before I boarded the airplane with my one way ticket to London, I purchased my very first insulin pump, (as if moving to a new country by myself wasn’t enough adjustment to handle at one time), and boy was I glad I did. The support my insulin pump provided, gave me an extra timeframe from day-to-day to pursue my goal of becoming a shoe designer.

It wasn’t long until I found the courage to hunt down the hard to get internships at major fashion houses on my off hours from class. I proudly strutted into Vogue House and multiple luxury headquarters down Old Bond Street, chin high, stilettos on, CV in hand. Type 1 diabetes couldn’t stop me, so I certainly don’t let anything else.

With my drive and determination, I received the opportunity to intern at three of the world’s top luxury shoe brands and gained a best friend and mentor at Vogue. Classes continued but I was learning so much more valuable insights into shoe design and running a successful luxury brand at work, that I dedicated most of my time to my job. It was here that I was taught the value of the following:

  • arch support – not enough shoes have it due to importing costs, which is why I tend to add SuperFeet inserts to most of my shoes
  • constructing a stable heel – for back support and the enhancement of the silhouette
  • design and craftsmanship – aid in stabilizing distribution of body weight (those strap placements and buckles aren’t just for aesthetics).



My eye for detail sharpened and I tried my best to make minor adjustments to my insulin calculations as well. I was on my feet a lot running errands as every proactive assistant does (like in the movie Devil Wears Prada), which brought on a lot of low blood sugar readings and a lot of over correcting. I was lucky to have a supportive health-conscious team to work with who balanced my duties when I had to attend to my blood sugar. As cliché as it may sound, eating healthy at work wasn’t a problem because everyone (and I do mean everyone) in the office lived off of sushi, lemon-ginger water, and a good hot yoga class. I felt right at home!

Finally I found my family of healthy, active, fashion-obsessed, intelligent go-getters! There were times when we hosted events for top publications and ambassadors of the brands, when I had a low blood sugar while greeting the guests. Great timing, right? I graciously introduced whichever co-worker was nearest and excused myself to the staging area. I always keep a few energy bars in my purse, and good thing I did. I find that in these dire situations people in close vicinity to me who don’t understand Type 1 diabetes, at least understand that I need help and are courteous in keeping a watchful eye on me until I gain clarity again.

The support that I am constantly surrounded by fuels my desire to bring it full circle. Now that I’ve finished college, I’m back living in Los Angeles, pursuing my goals of designing and running my own business, all the while sharing my abundant adventures on my blog Tales from a Type 1 to bring courage to those living with Type 1 to go after their dreams with gusto. For me, I’m living out my Cinderella story; who would have known that getting diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes would inspire me to design shoes, thus building a supportive platform for women to stride with elegance and achieve their goals.

Shelene Knisley

Born and raised in Southern California, Shelene currently lives in Santa Monica after attending fashion school in London for shoe design. Having recently finished college, she came across an incredible opportunity to speak out about Type 1 diabetes (she was diagnosed at age 12 and is now 24). Realizing the positive impact she made, she started a blog, Tales from a Type 1 to grow awareness, research and help encourage her fellow community on how to build confidence in blood sugar management with the help of nutrition, fitness, adventure and the desire to follow your passions. Her passions include luxury fashion industry, shoe design, classical ballet, architecture, travel, writing, photography, cooking, fitness and public speaking. Follow her on Instagram @talesfromatype1 and visit her blog www.talesfromatype1.com.