The Thinker

If the shoe fits, wear it

I need to add owning good shoes to my list of things I must do from now on.

Finding properly fitting shoes is no problem for most people. Go to Payless, find something that fits and feels sort of comfortable, spend fifty bucks or less and you are done. Finding comfortable shoes is harder. Sometimes you can find a comfy pair at Payless, and the younger you are the more likely they are to feel comfortable. Get up in years and even with a pair of custom orthotic shoes inserts (like me) and a pair of Payless shoes is still likely to feel uncomfortable, if not hurt. If you have larger, wider or narrower feet than average (like me), you often find yourself buying okay shoes instead of the right shoes.

That’s what I have done throughout life. I generally don’t shop at Payless, but have bought most of my shoes at DSW, where it is hard to walk out of the store without a good pair of shoes. However, even DSW does not normally stock unusual sizes. If you are a guy with long feet like me you can usually find a size 13, and sometimes a size 14 but if you want a 13 ½ then you are out of luck. Moreover, if your feet are size AA, like mine are, then likely whatever you buy will not feel snug. In my case, the right foot is size 13 ½ and the left foot is a size 14. When I slip into a size 14 at DSW unless I wear thick socks its extra width means my feet will tend to slosh from side to side. Size 13 is usually a wee bit too small; my toes end up right against the front of the shoes. This means that if I kick something with my shoe, it is usually a painful experience. What this has meant is I have bought size 13 shoes most of my life, because a size 14 was either too big or not in stock, and a size 13 ½ was simply never available. My feet have not been that happy with my pragmatic choices, but there did not seem to be a whole lot of alternatives.

Yet in any city of any appreciable size, if you search them out you can find stores that sell odd sized shoes. The Holy Grail is to find a store that has both odd sized shoes that are also well-constructed, well-engineered and attractive shoes. I struck out at the first store my podiatrist had on his list. I was told to try the store’s web site. The idea of buying a pair of shoes via the mail seemed a bad approach. Still, having dealt with more than my share of foot problems over the years, and with my new orthotics in place, I was determined to get shoes that both fit and were well constructed.

I finally found a shoe company that met my standards. Now I could kick myself for having settled for less for so long. Wearing shoes has finally become a comfortable if not welcome experience. I don’t mean comfortable in the sense that my feet now feet like they are walking on pillows. I mean comfortable in the sense that my feet now feel solidly anchored in my shoes, they don’t hurt from an active day of walking around, my toes don’t end up occasionally sore and squished and, thanks to these foot orthotics and a lot of chiropractic therapy, my chronic case of sciatica is largely gone. I am considering taking up running again, but I want to take things slowly. I am afraid that I will jinx things otherwise.

I never spent more than $100 for a pair of shoes before. This pair of “slim” size 14 shoes cost me $159 at a SAS Shoes outlet. Moreover, I discovered that Made in America can mean much better quality than Made in Some Third World Country. SAS stands for San Antonio Shoes. They are hardly alone in the high quality shoe industry, but they do not outsource their shoe making. Their shoes are meticulously crafted in their factory in San Antonio, Texas. It’s clear that whoever is making these shoes knows how to engineer shoes, and part of it is making them in half sizes, often going up to size 15, and making normal, slim and wide width shoes in all sizes. “Slim” is probably an A width, not a perfect fit but so close to my AA width that I cannot tell the difference. I’ve rarely been able to find a size 14 shoe, but never found a size 14 in a narrow width before.

Weeks into wearing this new comfy pair of shoes, I keep discovering features of this Pathfinder model that I bought that attest to its quality. One is the quality of the leather: soft, flexible and yielding around the sides but engineered with a sole just a tiny bit larger than most so that, at least so far, I’ve managed to not scuff them even once.  Inside I find that the shoe has a sturdy floor with partially aerated pads near the toes and in the heels.  The ringlets for the shoelaces are a brushed metal, and the shoelaces are wide, flat and nylon reinforced, which makes them easy to tie and unlikely to untie themselves. The shoe’s tongue has a small piece of elastic connecting it to the inner side of the shoe, facilitating proper placement and movement of the foot in the shoe. The stitching is well done and flawless. Aeration holes on the shoe facilitate the shoe’s ability to breath. My only complaint about the shoe is that it cannot be re-soled. But I do like the style because it allows me to wear it both casually and as a dress shoe.

People with unusual shoe sizes have always had problems finding the right size of shoe, but I am suspecting that Americans overall have elected to trade a shoe that fits for a shoe that is okay to save money. Now that I understand otherwise, it is unlikely that I will ever spend less than $150 for a pair of shoes again, unless maybe I am in San Antonio at the SAS Shoes factory outlet. I don’t see myself traveling to San Antonio any time soon, but if I do I have found a new destination.

It’s better late than never for me and maybe you as well. $150 is actually a reasonable price to pay for a comfortable and well fit pair of shoes. I am glad to know that in doing so I am employing actual Americans.

Some things are made better here in America if you don’t mind paying the actual cost to manufacture them here in America. I will not rue that cost anymore.


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