Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Long ago and far away, I realized that my footwear of choice -- when I had to wear some -- was going to be sneakers. Back in the day, my mode of dress was: T-shirt, blue jeans, sneakers. In the hot part of the summer, it was T-shirt, shorts, sneakers.
I have had no reason to change those preferences since I developed them.
This was long before running shoes. There were Keds, and there were Converse, and then there were ... well, that was pretty much it.
Of course, sneakers evolved. I got my first pair of running shoes about 1975. They were racing flats, and I didn't know the difference between those and training shoes -- they were what was available at the local sporting goods store. I ran in them until the soles wore down, then I Shoe-Goo'ed 'em, and wore them some more. Kept them for probably fifteen years, knocking about in the closet, as my dirt-digging shoes, long after I quit running.
This was in the days when the Runner's World Magazine's shoe issue was one page long.
The gumshoes have evolved a lot more since, but the basic sneaker design is still pretty much a rubbery, cushion-soled thing that allows you to move about without slipping as much as you do in brogans or boots. For a time, I had jazz shoes, for kung-fu class, but you couldn't walk anywhere in them, they were no more than paper-thin leather uppers and soles, with a minimal rubber heel. I won a kata trophy wearing those once, and was the only guy on the floor wearing shoes at all ...
Now, there are specialized sneakers -- every sport you can think of, from walking, running, basketball, skateboarding, bicycling, tennis, weightlifting, mountain climbing, martial arts, to, well, you name it. If it's a sport you ever heard of that uses shoes, there are dedicated hoof-covers for it.
Generally, the more esoteric the activity, the more expensive the basic shoes. For the super-star jock signature models, we're talking a lot more, of course.
I've tried a bunch of them, looking for foot comfort. Being slightly north of two hundred pounds, I am hard on my shoes. Cross-trainers seem to be the best for me. They have more lateral support than running or walking shoes, heavier uppers, and enough padding so I can walk the dogs for a mile or two, do my martial arts dances, and like that.
However, no matter how expensive they are, my everyday shoes don't last very long. On the average, three-four months. At the end of that time, they are either coming apart at the seams, the soles are worn off, or they are beaten down inside, so the cushioning is dead. Entropy eats them.
So, a pair of nice Nike Air Whatevers that run sixty bucks on sale are good for three or four months. Top of the line basketball ego-boosters bearing the name of some guy who can play above the rim that that cost twice as much (even on sale)? Why, they last twelve to sixteen weeks ...
They are all made in China or Indonesia or somewhere, and the workmanship is generally pretty good, but that extra money you spend isn't for durability, it's for the look. You aren't paying for the difference between a Mercedes and a Kia, but between a stock Earl Scheib paint-job, and one by Don "Big Daddy" Gartlis. The frame and motor are the same.
For me, comfort and function are paramount, but wear and price figure in.
Lately, I have found a way to maintain happy feet at a reasonable cost:
I go to Costco, and buy their generic Court Classic. I dunno who makes them, but like the house brand shotguns used to be at Sears (J.C. Higgins), it is doubtless a major maker who does them sub rosa.
These are your basic white tennis shoe, and currently run $14.99 a pair.
Then I go the sporting goods store and buy a set of high quality insoles. These usually go about $15 to $18 a set, more than the shoes themselves, but they instantly convert the made-by-the-same-folks cheapies into shoes that feel as good and last as long as the high-end makers. So for thirty bucks or so, I can pretty much match footgear easily costing twice or thrice as much.
The only drawback, far as I can tell, is that, if you travel a lot by commercial airline, you aren't supposed to wear shoes with gel inserts, according to the TSA. If they spot 'em, they'll make you toss the insoles.