Monday, November 5, 2007

Tale of a shoe

No good deed goes unpunished. I start back on my morning walks and am rewarded with a blistered heel. What the heck is going on here? I have worn this style walking shoe since 1988. There was a short gap where they were hard to find (but then I discovered online shopping!) and they always fit the same. The last pair I ordered to replace the worn-out (or, in my words, the well-broken-in) tan ones I had relegated to garage cleaning and outdoor work seemed just a little, well, short. I wore them on jaunts to the grocery and such to soften them up. They still seemed maybe a little smaller than usual. Shoes always stretch, I told myself, and these always have.

So, I donned them this morning and drove to the park. About three laps of the park later, my left heel is starting to smart. I make it several more laps, and call it a morning. Sure enough, when I get home I have a doozy of a blister on the back of my heel and my toes feel scrunched. Have my feet grown?

In a word, nope. I had them measured at the shoe store today while on the hunt for a new pair of walking shoes and they still size out at a healthy 11B. So why are my new size 11 walking shoes short now? And why are my other new size 11 dress shoes and loafers just fine? Why can't we have consistency?

Let me tell you, finding size 11 shoes is no picnic any day, and certainly not where I live. If you wany any variety and selection you are forced to do mail order. Sites such as Zappos do provide the service of user reviews, which give you an idea of how the product is going to fit and perform, but shoe fit is so personalized you can't tell until you order them and try them on. And return them and swap them. Over and over. To illustrate how often this has to happen, my husband calls the UPS the "shoe delivery man". Ouch.

Today I went on a flesh-and-blood shopping trip (as opposed to my usual point and click in my jammies shopping trips) and finally found some walking shoes I hope will work. It must be something about walking shoe construction nowadays but all the 11's seemed short. I needed an 11 1/2. Hah! Try finding that. Most of the shoe store clerks blush and avert their eyes when you ask for an 11. It seems that they get just one pair of each style in an 11 and they go fast. Meanwhile, multiples of 7's and 8's are languishing on their shelves. It's a fact that women's feet are trending larger. The stores should stock accordingly.

My solution wasn't optimal, but it will probably work. I bought, gasp, a size 12. Admittedly, it was a very skimpy size 12, more like an 11 1/2. They have enough room for my toes and won't cram my heel back against the shoe. They're also the size of canoes. And they're white. I kinda hate them. But if they will keep me from blisters, I'll wear them.

As white and canoe-sized as they are, these sneakers were head and shoulders about the other shoes I saw, appearance-wise. It's probably the most telling statement I can make to reflect my age when I say, when did all the athletic shoes get so butt-ugly? Color combinations I swear they told me in home economics class didn't go together. And not just two colors. Three or four, with swooshes and silver piping and mesh and funky spring heels and flared soles that look like hooves. And a lot of technical-sounding hoo-haa about ergonomic research and energy return. It's a shoe, people, not a rocket to Mars.

Remember when sneakers looked like Converse Chuck Taylors? With that flat rubber sole and the little circle patch on the side its only ornamentation? Of course, Chuck Taylors are all spiffed up nowadays; they have one with a double upper, which looks like the shoe ate another shoe, with two sets of laces and everything. Another one has a cluster of three eyelets at each spot where there's usually one. Kind of looks like the suckers on an octopus tentacle.

I didn't need any of that. I just need consistently fitting support for pounding around the park, not shoe bling. Like my new big white Nurse Ratched shoes. Thank God I have no vanity.

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