I have a love/hate relationship with shoes. I love them, because they keep my feet warm, dry, safe, or a variety of other desirable states, depending on circumstances. On the hate side is the difficulty of finding shoes that fit. My feet are what are known in the footwear industry as “low-volume.” They are long, but incredibly narrow and very flat, so they don’t take up much room inside of a shoe.
Plus, I walk a lot. I didn’t realize just how much I walk until I got talked into a step tracker. Then I discovered that between my twice daily trips to work and back, and walking my dogs four times a day, I cover about eight miles a day. Walking is good on a number of levels, including the fact that it always helps me solve writing problems. Whenever I’m stumped by a plot problem, I just walk it out, but that means my shoes don’t last as long as most people’s shoes. This year was especially fraught with that problem.
I present my year in shoes, the practical edition:
- These are only the second pair of Keens that I’ve ever owned, but probably my last. I don’t expect my shoes to survive my walking regimen for very long, but I do ask that the traction strips on the soles not begin to peel away after six months. At first I thought I’d stepped on a particularly insidious clump of gum, and then realized the weird sticky sensation was produced by loose chunks of rubber and glue. Which is too bad, because they were otherwise pretty comfortable. Now they’ve been relegated to junk shoes, to be worn while painting, mowing, etc.
- My knights in black armor: Boggs rainboots. I wear these all year-round to the dog park, where there is always mud and often other unpleasant things to step in, as well. It only takes three levels of inserts to make them fit and they’re headed into a third year of keeping my socks and pant cuffs dry.
- This year’s splurge: Fluevogs. My sister and I traveled to Chicago in June, and made the trek out to the suburbs to the Fluevog store. Despite a variety of temptations, I went for the practical Derby Swirl 6-eye. They have required some breaking in, but I feel about them the way I once felt about my original made in England Doc Martens. I feel cool and badass while wearing these boots.
- The summer juggernauts: Chaco Z1 sandals. They are starting to show their three years of hard service, but are still holding up. I wear these basically every day that I wouldn’t be in danger of losing my toes to frostbite, because the feet need to be free!
- The traitors: Dansko Sabrina. First of all, I hate shoe styles with women’s names. Since I was a child that trend has set my teeth on edge. Second of all, $130 shoes, no matter how well they fit one’s awkward feet, should last more than two months. These didn’t. On Monday, after less than 45 days of service, the soles of these shoes started peeling away. The worst part is, I’m not even willing to indignantly demand a replacement pair from the manufacturer, because I wouldn’t wear another pair. Before the soles self-destructed they were stiff and slippery.
And so I entered the new year in need of new shoes. I went back to a trusted friend. Ahnu has long produced reliable waterproof, lug-soled walking and hiking shoes. So today I face the hill in these comfortable but not so attractive canoes: