Submitted by Susanne Bacon
Not every woman loves buying shoes. I, for example, am one of those who don’t. Though I certainly have enough pairs to complement my diverse styles and color schemes of clothing. What strikes me most these days is how my shoe styles have changed. And how it has been dictated by my lifestyle.Ugly, but functional and comfy is what the great Washington outdoors sometimes dictate on my shoe style.
Maybe my dislike for buying shoes leads back to my childhood days. As soon as I entered school, somebody decided I needed special shoes for insoles. My parents, my pediatrician, and some orthopedist, even the shoe sales people seemed to be in cahoots about this. Accordingly, I never ended up with any of the fancy, fun-looking shoes other kids my age used to have, but with shoes that looked awkward and usually came in dreadful colors. As if having to wear specially crafted insoles wasn’t insult enough. At one time I howled down an entire shoe department swearing I wouldn’t ever wear the shoes my mother had decided I should have. The cartoon book I was given at the cash register didn’t sweeten the purchase at all. And, of course, I had to wear the ugly shoes until the next ugly pair was due.
You would think that I was into buying shoes after I had finally outgrown insoles and earned my own money. I wasn’t. As I held jobs that required business dress code, I had an abundance of high-heels going with fancy outfits that belied my age. I will never fathom how I walked trade fair floors in stilettos for eight hours at a time, sometimes five days in a row, evening functions not counted in. Somehow my feet seem to have survived this ordeal without growing bunions. Maybe because I started rethinking foot comfort and putting it above shoe looks in my late twenties.
Sneakers though had always been considered a no-go from my childhood on. They were for sports activities only – in my parents’ opinion as well as later in mine. And as I was not even trying to pretend to be sporty, I had not a single pair of those in my up-town, upscale shoe cabinet.
Enter my husband. Enter Washington State.
Have you ever climbed a steep hill in stilettos? Or walked along roads without sidewalks in shoes kind of elegant? Because that was what I brought over here from my mother country, and that is the situation I ran into, often not having a car at my behest. The stilettos were quickly retired, only to be taken out for functions that required evening dress. The other shoes served me well in good weather. But when it rains, roadsides here more often than not get muddy, and puddles quickly grow into lakes. And everybody knows how often it rains in Western Washington.
I finally bought myself some comfortable walking shoes sneaker-style for town walks. Some rustic hiking shoes serve for outings that require firm footing and material resilience, e.g. in the mountains. And my elegant shoes are in use only when I’m able to sit or stand at indoors locations. Lately, my feet seem to have changed shape due to more and more comfortable shoes. I find even one-inch-heel pumps slightly uncomfortable these days, and I keep reducing the number of those. Thrift shops have received most of my European shoes by now.
Still, my shoe rack stays full. I have all kinds of outdoor shoes – for walking, for hiking, for gardening, for boating, for clam digging, for beach walks… Most of them are ugly. All of them are comfortable. And I can’t wait for when temperatures are high enough again to wear just some fancy flip-flops outside or, when at home, no shoes at all.