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Monday, Aug. 01, 2005 - 2:54 p.m.

~ these shoes were made for walkin' ~

I have new shoes. Two pairs of new shoes.

In my Old Life, two pairs of new shoes would be nothing more than the result of a ho-hum half hour wait while one of my children was at a lesson. Two pairs of new shoes would be just one more bag in the pile of bags I would bring home from any mall trip. Two pairs of new shoes would be an appetizer during a outdoor plaza shopping walk with my friends.

But these two pairs of new shoes are different.

Shoe shopping has stopped being a sport I revel and excel in and has begun being a workout I dread.

Then: Every pair of shoes was matched to a particular seasonal outfit. There *is* such a thing as a "Spring sandal" versus a "Summer sandal."

Now: Every pair of shoes has to be able to be worn with at least a quarter of my wardrobe for at least two of the approved four New England seasons.

Then: Shoes were bought judged on snazzy little details such as bows, sequins, strappiness, and leather detail.

Now: Shoes are bought judged on sturdy treads, ankle support and heel cushion.

Then: A shoe only had to last until a good photo was taken of me in it.

Now: A shoe has to last until I have the money, time and freedom from guilt to buy a replacement, and based on the holey, squashed-down, and beat-up looks of my current favorites, some shoes have to last well beyond their normal lifespan.

Then: I bought shoes in a rainbow of colors.

Now: I buy shoes that are black, white, or "neutral".

Then: If a shoe hurt my foot when I walked, I either wore it anyway, since most of my shoe-wearing happened in cars, or I blithely passed it on along the Size 10 Shoe Underground my similarly-sized friends and I supported.

Now: If a shoe hurts my foot, I continue wearing it until I actually bleed to be completely positive it is actually hurting my foot.

Then: I bought shoes from Payless, Target, KMart, and Fashion Bug, and from any clearance rack I could find in any department store.

Now: I still haunt the cheap shoe stores and the clearance racks, but mostly I come away empty-handed, unwilling to buy yet another pair of shoes that are going to last a month and beget blisters that leave scars for a year.

With my shopping budget being tight, I've been relying upon a variety of not-great walking apparel. I walk at least two miles a day right now, so walking figures largely into my world. The following shoes have been in rotation:

-- White pleather-y loafers. Their blue brothers, identical in every way except color, were my hands-down, happy feet walking shoes for three years, limited only by their hue when it came time for me to choose shoes to match my outfit in the mornings. Sadly, the white loafers lasted only half of one season before ripping at the seams.

-- Pink perforated ballerina flats. Seen in many colors at Payless, these shoes begged me to buy them and promised that they'd not only match my suddenly overwhelmingly pink wardrobe, but that they'd be as comfortable as all of the ballerina flats I'd worn in the 80s. Despite my black, white, neutral rule, I relented. But while the pink shoes did match almost half of my outfits, they somehow started off feeling roomy and airy and ended up feeling constricted and pinch-y.

-- Sneakers. The last time I willingly bought sneakers for myself, I think I was in seventh grade and desperately wannnnnted Pumas. I am not a sneakers-kind of girl. I appreciate them on other people, but when I try them on, I either feel like I have cement blocks on my feet or that my feet are in a weird kind of athletic bondage, complete with mummification (socks). But my mother gave me a pair of Saucony sneakers in which to walk around France. I ultimately traipsed around Paris in a pair of huaraches (the blood would pool in the leather heel each evening) and the sneakers never set foot on French soil. When my Queer Friend saw them recently as part of my gym bunny attire and found out they were from the early 90s, he asked, "How do you keep them so clean?" It's easy," I replied, "I just never wear them." Well, with two miles looming large in front of me each day, I tried out the sneakers as a daily to-and-fro option. Comfy? Why, yes. But that cement-block-bondage thing persists and when I free my feet at work to slide them into the cheapo sandals I keep under my desk, the stankimus that emanates from my newly-emacipated, furiously sweating feet is horrific.

-- Un-labellable black shoes. I love these shoes. I bought them years and years ago, and used to wear them only three or four times a year, saving them "for good". They are slip-ons with a thick rubber sole and a thin strip of metallic tape running down the entire front. They sound spacemannish and I definitely do feel as though I'm walking in low-gravity when I wear them as I bounce along merrily down the street. However, my alien shoes are not Summer wear. They are big, black, bulky Autumn and Winter shoes and my feet, my poor feet, they gasp at me, "Please, release us! We have done nothing wrong to you!" when I wear these shoes on hot days.

An unexpected and hardworked-for mini-windfall of money made me look at my much-abused feet and promise them a much-deserved treat. So, I hied myself off to a nearby shopping district and bought a pair of pricey shoes. And then I logged onto a lovely online shoe store and bought myself a second pair of pricier shoes.

And lo! The tootsies rejoice.

The first shoes, a not unlovely-pair of basic black Tevas, have been thoroughly tested and found to be as easy and comfortable to wear as promised by my Teva-wearing friends. I'm looking forward to a nice Summer shower so I can skip through puddles in my water-tough Tevas and emerge triumphantly. The second shoes, a pair of strappy Earth shoes with an interesting "negative heel technology" may or may not be wild successes. I'll be trying them out around the office tomorrow and if I don't like them, back they'll go in exchange for something else as suitable.

But for right now, I am blister-free, well-ventilated, and rich, I tell you, rich!, with two pairs of new shoes just begging to be taken for a walk!

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