Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why Shoe Shopping Takes so Long

My shoes are disintegrating. I've held out a month doing my 2.5 mile walk to and from campus while my feet get blistered all over again because the heel has almost fallen off, water seeps in, and now the plastic supports are ripping out the stitching and sticking out. But it's finally time for back-to-school sales and I announced to Joy that Saturday after the baptism was the perfect time to go to the Waterloo Outlets to buy 3 pairs for the price 1.

We were in that store for more than 2 hours. I was the one shopping, not Joy. Joy can find shoes in a magazine and be perfectly happy with them. She's amazing. I have flat feet that blister and ache in comfortable shoes. And I'm hard on shoes in return, so they need to be good shoes if they're going to last more than 2 months. I have killed shoes that quickly when I was walking less than I do these days.

I have a theory for why it takes so long to shop for shoes: I have to hurt before I can identify the shoes that hurt the least.

I get there in my nice, comfortable, loved, disintegrating shoes and start trying on these stiff, sturdy shoes that are going to have to take my torture for the next year. None of them feel comfortable. Some are merely "I'm not sure" uncomfortable. Some are actually painful to put on. Some I can't even put on even though they are "my size." My feet and shoe manufacturers just don't agree: My black organ shoes (which used to be my latin ballroom dancing shoes) are size 9 1/2 while my white temple shoes, which are only so much cardboard painted white, are size 13. I fit myself into 10.5 wides through 12s and sometimes even the 12s don't fit and I grab a 13. I feel bad for asking the salesclerk foolish enough to ask if he could help to go check to see if they have an 11wide in black... for the fifth time.

It's actually a fortunate thing that I hate shoelaces - always have - because it limits my selection or else I might be there even longer. Eventually, though, I run out of shoes to try on. I've found one that I know will work - the younger brother to my current beloved walking shoe - but I need formal shoes for church and job interviews too and those won't do for that. Or they won't in a couple months.

So I start trying on shoes a second time, and a third. Finally my feet hurt so much that the shoes that used to be merely "I'm not sure" ... feel comfortable. They aren't hurting any of the parts of my foot the other shoes maimed.

Then I pull out four boxes and line them up side by side: 10.5 wide, 11, 11 wide, and 11.5. Do they have a 12, I ask timidly? Let me check. Thankfully, no. I try each of them on and walk around some more. It's the 11 regular. But only the right foot feels right. The left foot is still just a little cramped. So I pull out the four boxes they have with black size 11 regular and try on just the left shoe from each of them, keeping the one right shoe I know already works. A little mix and match later, I finally have a second pair of shoes. Now to find one more....

Joy convinces me to just get a second pair of walking shoes and call it good. Please, honey? ...

And that's why it takes two hours. I've got to hurt before I can identify the shoes that hurt the least.

Ladies, am I right? Is this what it's like for you? Except some of you do this for fun?

PS - We met the poor salesclerk trying on blazers in the next store we went to looking for skirts for Joy. It felt awkward.
PPS - I know I got the right pair of walking shoes because it takes until I'm within 5 minutes of my office for my feet to start telling me there is a pair of matching blisters forming. I missed my bus on the way home and walked back as well and I only have one of the four blisters that threatened to show up. Not bad at all for a new pair!

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