I love shoes.
Not the way other women like shoes, though. I am a serial shoe monogamist.
Instead of matching my shoes to my outfit (like any sane, fashion minded woman would) I usually have one pair that I wear all day every day until they are no longer useful. I will search through as many stores as I need to find a pair of shoes that is sturdy, fashionable, useful, and most important comfortable. I will purchase these shoes (provided they are on sale) then I will bask in the afterglow of New Shoes until the toes have been sufficiently scuffed. These will become the shoes that I put on when I get dressed in the morning and take off right before bed every day until one day, I realize my the heels are almost completely worn down (and usually my back and knees have started to ache as well.) Then I will begin the tedious task of searching for a new pair and the process will start all over again.
My closet (and closet shoe hanger, and over-the-door shoe hanger) is full of discarded and forgotten pairs of shoes like so many ex-boyfriends. Each pair has served its purpose for its time but now their service no longer needed. But, like the photograph of an old friend, I hate to actually get rid of any of them. On one hand, I might possibly (but not likely) wear them again and my frugal side has severe difficulties with tossing things that I (or someone close to me) might need in the future. On the other, I kind of like looking through my collection and remembering fondly the period in my life that I wore them. Silly, I know, but when you commit to something it can be hard to let it go.
Since I am primarily an At-Home-Mother, and my part time job is as casual as you can get (they did have to restrict pajamas and sleepwear as appropriate work attire, but other than that, anything goes) I don't really need dozens of different shoes for different outfits. My main uniform of the day is jeans and some sort of casual top so I usually only need shoes that fit in with the Jeans and T-Shirts kind of lifestyle. In the summer, I like to wear running shoes or sneakers. In the winter, I usually find a pair of black boots that have low heels and plenty if cushion. I occasionally keep a back-up "every day" shoe available, maybe a pair of sandals or a second pair of boots in brown. These secondary shoes only get worn on "special occasions" (like when I have walked through mud and I am trying to get the primary pair clean enough to wear again.)
Comfortable shoe wear is really a very important thing for me. It could be said to be a lifestyle choice (no not THAT kind of choice...I wear lipstick.) I have found in the past years that I shop for clothes that can be worn with my current favorite shoe and not the other way around. I have even started to judge the quality of a workplace by how often they have casual dress days. If the policy is business professional five days a week, it is right off my list of potential places I am willing to work. I'm sure some would consider this being overly picky. Offices that require professional dress often pay more than casual offices do, but the trade off of comfort vs. money just isn't worth it to me.
The biggest reason is medical, of course. Fibromyalgia (or whatever the hell I have) causes random pain in my body and I can never tell where it might crop up. But, I can usually limit the potential for pain by being cautious of my actions (not lifting heavy things or bumping into corners) and by making sure that the shock of everyday walking is reduced by wearing really good shoes. I know everyone experiences pain from overdoing it or from walking too far. For me it just hurts more and it takes a lot less to cause the pain in the first place. Walking, say through a department store, for instance, is one of the most excruciating experiences ever. I don't know what kind of floors they use to make them such a torture to walk on, but I dread the mere thought of going "shopping" without my favorite comfy shoes on (pretty sad, I know.)
My love for sneakers it isn't just a matter of hating dressing up. It has more to do with the actual dress shoes. I have never found any dress shoes that I could put on in the morning that didn't make me want remove my feet along with the shoes at the end of the day. It isn't a matter if looking, either. I have bought expensive shoes, cheap shoes, high heels, low heels, flats, sandals, backless, slingbacks, shoes, ttrendy, sensible, you name it.Only the ugliest of shoes have even come close to the comfort level that I desire, and as a woman, even I have my standards. I have even tried various combinations of inserts in my least painful dress shoe to improve the comfort, if only for a few hours. I always end up with numb toes and aching arches before very long and It is just easier and better for me to skip the whole process of pain and keep my feet happy.
Another good reason for sneakers vs. fashionable shoes has to do with my dear mentor FLYLady. (I know it seems like I ALWAYS do what FLYLady says, but you should try it some time. It works.) FLYLady, or Marla to her friends, says that you should start your day wearing lace-up shoes as soon as you wake up. Yes, even before your first cup of coffee, you should be dressed all the way to the shoes with your hair fixed and make-up on (if you are the make-up kind of person.) This kind of a routine means that you are ready for anything that comes your way from the minute you leave your bedroom. Can YOU think of a situation (other than sleeping in) that would benefit you to be in your PJ's instead of your daily clothes? (I can't either.) The reason that lace up shoes are specifically recommended is that it is difficult to just kick them off to take a break during the day. You have to actually make an effort to remove them and that will make you think twice about anything that needs to be done before you take them off. They won't get lost if they are on your feet and emergencies, or even just last minute errands, are all easier to handle if you don't have to get dressed first.
I used to be very skeptical of the shoe thing that she preaches. I have difficult feet to fit - narrow heels and normal width toes so comfy shoes can be hard to find. For most of my life wearing dress shoes, I was pretty used to hurting. I would kick them off the minute I got home and stayed barefoot until I was FORCED to put them on again. Wearing shoes all day seemed unusually cruel punishment. All of her reasons for wearing them seemed smart enough, but I hadn't found a pair of any kind of shoes that I wanted to wear 8 hours a day, let alone 18.
It wasn't until I got a real fitting from a professional that I found out that shoes aren't always torture devices. I was getting fit for running shoes at the time. I was participating in the Breast Cancer 3 Day walk and I needed two pairs of good sneakers that would last me through the hundreds of miles of training as well as the actual 60 mile walk. I went into a store called Run On Footwear and I found out that their staff is very well trained on different foot shapes and sizes and fits. This guy had me walk around barefoot and examined the way my feet touch the floor and how they roll with each step. Then, he had me try on 15 different brands of shoes until I found one that fit perfectly. I don't use that P word very often, but I loved those shoes so much that I bought two pair for the walk and I wore them until I couldn't wear them anymore.
I had those shoes for a couple of years because I only wore them on the weekends and around town. (I had a regular, day time, dress shoe, office job back then.) I remember absolute amazement of walking all day and not feeling like my shins were going to burst into flames or that my lower back had ceased to support any part of my body anymore. (I really started hating my dress shoes at that point, but I had given up years before on the notion that dress shoes could be comfortable.) Once I knew what to look for in a sneaker and how to tell if they would last for the long term or not, I started to really pay attention to how each pair of shoes fit my feet. I learned that I wear a range of sizes, and that I did not have to be loyal to one size. The actual size that wear can actually range from 6-8 depending on the maker and style. I also learned how certain brands usually fit a certain way compared to another. One brand might always have wide heels while another might have painfully high arch support. Even within a brand there may be different fits for each of the styles, but at least I was able to narrow things down a bit (pardon the pun.) The bad part of all this knowledge was that I finally understood that more expensive shoes (to a point) are better than cheap shoes. The good part is that when you buy expensive shoes, you don't have to buy them as often.
These days, I can wear a pair of shoes for 3-4 months before I have to pitch them and find new ones. That seems a little odd, I know, but remember - I normally only ever wear the same pair every day. A running shoe or sneaker only has a set number of miles it can walk before it loses the cushion and shock absorbency. I can always tell when it is time to start the shoe hunt again when my legs and back are sore at the end of the day. I don't hate spending money on shoes nearly as much as I used to. I now know the difference between cheap shoes and good shoes and I know how much I can and am willing to spend for comfort.
Perhaps all this sneaker wearing has spoiled me and my feet. I'm not sure that is a bad thing. I have an early March birthday which makes my Zodiac sign Pisces (for those of you who actually believe in that stuff.) What I have been told is Pisceans are loving, laid back, empathic, and HATE to wear uncomfortable shoes. Most Pisceans, like me, can be spotted in a crowd easily because they are the ones wearing the most ragged-looking shoes. Apparently this whole worn-out-shoe business has to do with the feet being the ruling part of a Piscean's body so when the feet aren't happy, the rest of the body isn't either. It can be so difficult to find shoes that make their feet happy that when they DO find a good pair, they hang on to them until they can't even be considered foot wear anymore. I'm not sure if the Zodiac and all the descriptions are true 100% of the time, but I know that when my shoes hurt, I can be a real grouch.
So, if wearing sneakers and makes me a happier person, so be it. I'll wear my sneakers and be happy. And if my some chance, I get called back to work in an office, I hope they have a relaxed dress code, because running-shoes look pretty silly with a dress suit.