As a child I loved our family trips to get new shoes. The shoe store was locally owned and the children's section had a raised platform with a bench where we got to sit to be measured for our Stride Rites. The friendly salesperson would help us choose them, then obligingly put our old shoes in the box so that we could wear the new ones out of the store. They also gave us helium balloons. When I close my eyes I can still remember quite vividly how it felt to walk out of that store wearing brand-new shoes with a balloon tied to my wrist and bobbing above my head. The rubber on the new shoes seemed to bounce against the pavement - or maybe my joy at having them just made it feel that way.
I've enjoyed shoes ever since. My parents always provided one good pair of name-brand tennis shoes, plus dress shoes and sandals (in keeping with my grandfather's adage that you can spend your money at the shoe store and the grocery store or at the doctor's office), but when I was a teenager if I wanted extra just-for-fun shoes, I had to pay for them myself. This meant I got them from Payless, which did not bother my teenaged self. I'd spent my childhood going barefoot whenever possible, so supportiveness in shoes was not a priority for me. I had a short attention span, so durability was not a priority either. Cheapness and cuteness were the priorities.
By the time I packed up all my stuff to go to college, I had a couple dozen pairs of shoes. This was a few more than most of my close friends, but I didn't (and still don't) think it was excessive. The grand total I'd spent on those shoes was still far less than one pair of designer boots would cost.
During my early college years I was consistently broke and didn't even have money to spend on cheap shoes, but once I got married I was able to pick the habit back up again. And since we had a real income rather than just babysitting money and checks from Grandma, I upgraded my tastes a little. I discovered DSW, and a while later Zappos. You can imagine how excited Bryan was about this, but I am very good at sticking to a budget and never spend money we don't have, so the only thing he could complain about with the new shoes was the space they occupied.
When we moved into our house in 2004, I had about fifty pairs. I still don't really think that is so many, but Bryan rolled his eyes every time the subject came up. I decided I could pacify him by getting rid of two pairs of shoes every time I bought a new pair, since quite a few of the shoes still hanging around were holdovers from my Payless days that I had no plans to wear again. I would have been willing to throw them out anyway, but I didn't tell him this part, since they made such a good bargaining tool. Things went along like that for a while, and I threw out several pairs of junky shoes and collected a few new pairs that I still wear today.
Then - and I never would have believed I'd do this, which proves that you should never say "never" - I pretty much stopped buying shoes. I was infertile/unemployed/pregnant/dealing with a newborn and too sad/unmotivated/swollen/busy to shop. There was one impulse purchase from Zappos when I decided I had to have this totally adorable pair of Pumas (I was right), but other than that, I didn't buy any shoes for nearly two years.
In that time, I had a baby. I felt pretty lucky afterward because my recovery was easy, but a few months post-partum I started noticing that my body was falling apart. I'd get this sudden shooting pain in my hip, and sometimes it would give out completely. My back hurt. My legs hurt. My feet hurt. Surely this couldn't all be attributed to the rigors of baby care!
I inherited my mom's feet, which are bad. I wear flats all the time, not just because I'm 5'9" and tower over everyone when I wear heels, but because I know that if I wear heels more than just occasionally my feet will have their revenge before I'm thirty. My mom wears SAS shoes pretty much exclusively, but I've always managed to get away with relatively unsupportive footwear, as long as the shoes were flat.
It took me more months than I'd like to admit to figure out that pregnancy had changed that for me. (Although my feet did shrunk down to pre-pregnancy size, ha!) I'd been wearing flip-flops all summer and it occurred to me a month or two ago that this could be connected to all the weird aches and pains I'd been having, especially that hip-giving-out thing. So I made sure Bryan wouldn't be needing anything from that month's clothing budget, winced a little at the price, and ordered a pair of Dansko clogs.
I've had these shoes for two months, and I am not exaggerating when I say that they have completely changed my way of thinking about the ideal shoe situation. I used to think that more was better, that having four dozen pairs of shoes from which to choose in the morning was an ideal situation. Actually, I still think that would be an ideal situation... but only if all the shoes made me feel as good as the Danskos do. I love them so much that I've been wearing them basically non-stop since I got them, and my hip hasn't given out and my back and legs and feet feel great. Who knew that high-quality shoes could make such a difference?
The other day Bryan got out a big heavy-duty trash bag and I went digging in the closet and we got rid of a lot of my shoes. I now own just twenty pairs, many of which I know I'll wear only on special occasions, and I don't expect my collection to grow much over the coming years. I feel good about this. I've always loved shoe shopping for its own sake, and I'm sure I'll still browse the aisles of DSW from time to time just for fun, but for the most part I expect my future shoe purchases to be investments in shoes that are really good for my body. And even if my shopping-loving self doesn't appreciate this, my body does. Which is, of course, what counts.
(I really finished exactly at midnight, I promise, but I set the post to publish at 11:59 so that it'd still be technically on the 15th. I didn't know it was going to take so long! Who'd have thought I could write more than 1,000 words on the topic of shoes?)