The Shoe Problem

My Irish step dancing career came to a screeching halt when it was time to buy new shoes. “I’m not buying you another pair of shoes”–my mother put her foot down.

ghillies, photo from Wikipedia

Somehow it seems that nearly every extracurricular activity I participated in during my childhood required special shoes. Soccer–cleats. Softball–different cleats. Horseback riding? Boots were just the tip of the iceberg. Even one of my instruments–pipe organ–required special shoes (heel with leather soles).

Ice skating required yet another form of weird foot apparel, totally useless on regular ground of course, and Irish dance just pushed Mom over the edge.

I went on to eventually take up running, Scottish Country Dance, and ballet, so despite the line being drawn at Irish hard shoes (instead of the soft ghillies), I have ended up with a closet full of ridiculously specialized footwear.

And then there are my regular shoes–the dress shoes for church and special occasions, the 4″ high heeled boots I bought for various misguided reasons my senior year of college, the pairs of sneakers in various states of degradation, the odd unclassifiable vaguely casual shoes I’ve bought at various points in time to appear respectable (or at least more respectable than I would in Converse).

Let’s not even get into the boots (muck boots, paddock boots, duck boots, hiking boots, ankle boots) or the fact that I still don’t feel like I have quite the “right” pair for certain activities.

On top of the sheer volume of footwear, I have two other problems with shoes. (1) I spend a lot of time looking at shoes online, and yet I categorically refuse to buy shoes unless I can try them on first and (2) I walk everywhere and sometimes end up accidentally walking 15-20 miles on pavement, and I have sort of weirdly shaped feet, so there is some legitimacy in my quest for the perfect shoe.

Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

One of my friends in high school claimed superiority because he only owned two pairs of shoes–a sort of hiking shoe hybrid and dress shoes. When I explained that that wouldn’t work for me–among other things, I was going to church every week at that time and wore a variety of outfits that wouldn’t all coordinate with the same shoes–he scoffed and derided my feminine vanity.

Ever since then I have been wondering if it would be possible for me to only have two pairs of shoes, or if that’s even a desirable goal. For one thing, I can attest that his feet always smelled horrible, and it wasn’t just because of questionable hygiene practices–wearing the same shoes day in and day out gives them no chance to air out, leading to a proliferation of nasty, odorous bacteria.

Secondly, he always wore the exact same clothes (sweatpants, tee shirt, sweatshirt if necessary), and clearly matching his attire wasn’t a priority. While I’m no fashionista, I do have a little more variety in my wardrobe, and I find it necessary to be able to adapt my attire to various levels of formality with different situations. In general I can get away with basically any casual shoes, but there are times when I can make a better impression with ‘appropriate’ footwear. Since my future is uncertain, that better impression might be a factor in a job offer or future networking contact. You never know.

Finally, the health of your feet matters, and it seems like one aspect of foot-related stress injury or damage prevention is to rotate between different pairs of shoes, since each pair offers slightly different balance and support. (This is even more vital if some of those pairs are high heels.)

So I have a lot of shoes, and I’m not proud of it. And my favorite shoes are still no shoes. But I also wonder if focusing on the number of pairs is such a good idea–it’s driving me a little batty. What are your considerations for footwear? What do you think would be a reasonable number?

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