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The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Like, OMG! Shoes!


I got shoes that fit for the first time in 1994.

I have very wide feet, and prior to that I stuffed my feet into whatever shoes (usually shoes designed for older, adult women who were on their feet a lot… nurses, for example) I could. My feet are actually deformed from this. I used to literally walk on top of my little toe, which was turned entirely under my foot. I know a lot of women who have this problem. In the summer of 1993, I’d gone on a trip with my mom to Australia to spend a few weeks with her best friends who’d moved out there years before (this was back before the internet was commonly used, before email was pervasive, back when Air Mail still existed and my mom would get packs of Onion Skin Paper (translucent!) and write in tiny, cramped handwriting on both sides of the paper, and it was so incredibly expensive to send just a letter, never mind an actual package, and phone calls were arranged far ahead of time and were short because of the expense) and for some reason we went to a discount shoe warehouse place while we were there and I got a pair of cordovan leather lace up shoes that almost fit, and the shoe seller told my mom to look for Dr Martens when we got back home. They were this shoe from England that ran wide, she said, and were very sturdy. Hard to find outside of England, a little pricey, but worth looking for.

We called around and eventually found a pair of 3 hole greasy black leather shoes at, I think, Marshall Field’s… not just any Marshall Field’s, but the one in down town Chicago (which is now a Macy’s because hey, who needs history or continuity?). I was appalled at the price, something around $100. People actually spent that much money on shoes? Really? This is a thing, that people do? But we got them, shoes that fit, sturdy shoes, shoes that didn’t cause pain. They fit like a dream. The actual topography of my feet started changing, to the point where my toes now look like normal toes and not like those weird sausages you find in jars that started out round but turn kind of square from being packed so closely together, and my pinky toes are straight and I walk like a normal human being, and I have better balance and posture and my foot bones don’t ache the way they used to. I wore those shoes until I literally wore them out. I wore them every day for five years, and that wear involved building sets and getting drywall screws and broken glass stuck in the soles and digging them out with pliers, and walking all around campus both High School and College, miles and miles of walking, and walking in the hot summer and walking in the freezing cold (and well salted) winter. The leather got softer and softer and conformed entirely to my feet. I replaced the laces multiple times.

And then one day I was walking across the quad after a rain storm and realized that my feet were soaking wet. Like, sloshing slopping squishy wrinkled feet wet. I’d worn the tread off the soles years ago (and this was back when Dr Marten’s had deeper treads, so that’s saying quite a bit) and now the soles had deep splits in them and every time I walked through a puddle they sucked water up.

And I was heart broken. I actually held on to those shoes for something like 5 years after they bit the dust, with grand plans to take them to some magical cobbler and get them resoled. At one point the company used to resole shoes but in general they don’t do that any more. And no pair of DMs I’ve gotten since them, even the same style, has fit as well or lasted as long or been as comfortable. Maybe it’s because my feet have changed shape, or because I’m older; maybe the quality of the shoes has gone downhill. But I’ve bought, in my life, 5 pair of DM shoes and 2 pair of boots (prices ranging from $100-$150 each) and after that first pair have only gotten about 2 years worth of wear out of them before they start getting really uncomfortable (one pair barely lasted a year. A buckle broke off after a month or two, only, and they became extremely uncomfortable to wear after about 11 months, and I still have them because Christ they were expensive and I hate the idea of throwing out money like that. I’ve gotten more wear out of $20 kicks from Payless.). They just wear down in ways they didn’t used to. The uppers are mostly fine, but the bouncing soles, the flimsy-seeming (to me, anyway) “new” treads, the inner foot bed… they wear out so fast. Most shoe repair places explicitly state they don’t repair/resole DMs because of the bouncing sole/AIR WAIRE. There’s a place in Boston that will resole SOME DMs for $60 if you also pay postage both ways (or, you know, are in the neighborhood and bring ’em in).

So I was kind of excited to see that Dr Martens has a line of shoes and boots with the label “For Life.” They’re guaranteed, you see. If they wear out, they will repair or replace them. That’s exciting! They cost more (The style I love and keep coming back to costs US$95 for “regular” on their site and US$130 in “for life” version) but not that much more, right? $130 is a big chunk to drop on shoes, but if I can wear them for 4 or 5 years, that amortizes out pretty nicely.

Except on top of the premium you pay for the shoes, it also costs $25 in handling fees (and additional postage both ways) to get them repaired or replaced. And damage to the “foot bed” (aka insole or inner sole) isn’t covered. I don’t know about you, but my shoes? Show wear in the foot bed. I have worn through the foot bed and into the filler (the material between the foot bed and sole) in some shoes, which is not very comfortable at all, but shoes aren’t exactly free so I just keep limping along. I don’t know how one would prevent wear in the foot bed, either. Would an insert-able insole be enough protection? And would there be enough room in the shoe for both an insole and my foot? (possibly not)

I’ve been looking for shoes both online and in retail stores for months now. I do not currently have a pair of shoes I can wear to walk or stand for a long distance/period of time, which is severely curtailing my physical activity and outings with my kid. The closest parks/play lots to use are about a mile away and if I walk there and back with Niko, I wind up with pain in my feet, ankles, left knee, right hip, and lower back (I supinate when I walk; the outer edges of my shoes wear out faster than the inner edges. When my shoes get old/worn enough the difference in wear is enough to throw my entire body– feet, ankles, knees, hips, back– out of line and puts tremendous stress on my joints). I spent 20 minutes at a shoe store last night (that doesn’t sound like much time, I guess, but they primarily had high heels, clogs, and boots in the lady section and no smaller men sizes, so I was picking over the same handful of shoes over and over and over) and couldn’t wedge my feet into most of the shoes.

So, you know. The idea of quality, comfortable, fitting shoes with a guarantee is appealing as hell. But I don’t think this guarantee covers the way I wear shoes, and honestly, I’m not entirely confident in the quality level of DMs anymore. So I’m still looking.

It’s really frustrating.

One Comment to

“Like, OMG! Shoes!”

  1. On December 12th, 2010 at 12:22 am Trina Says:

    B, have you tried new balance? You can get the men’s shoes (width D) or the wide men’s shoes (width EE I think, or maybe EEE) a lot of places. I usually wait until Kohl’s has a sale.

    bigfoot T