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Volume 15, Issue 35 ~ August 30 - September 5, 2007

If the Shoe Fits Wear It

Crocs are a Man’s Best Friend

Old friends are best. King James used to call for his old shoes; they were easiest for his feet.

–Table Talk, 1689, John Selden.

As one who has endured chronic discomfort with my dogs the past 25 years, I wholly agree with that old monarch of England, though I would phrase it differently. Old shoes rank above real dogs as man’s best friend.

Being diabetic, neuropathy has pretty much robbed my feet of feeling, except discomfort. I would also add that it’s easier and quicker to make new friends than it is to break in a pair of new shoes.

I have perhaps 75 pair of shoes of all descriptions, some as old as 40 years. I keep hoping some day medical science will find cures for foot woes and once again I can wear them. Many have been worn only a few times, some of them handmade — prescription footwear. I can’t walk a hundred yards in any of them.

Until several months ago, I wore my New Balance sneakers until they fell apart. A good waterproof glue can make a cobbler out of anyone, and I patched them until there was little left to patch.

Truthfully, with few exceptions (funerals and weddings), I wore the same white walking shoes wherever I went, much to the chagrin of wife Lois, who has more shoes than Imelda Marcos. You can’t wear those, she would say as I appeared ready to head out for an evening — or any social event more formal than a drive to the market.

Being a Yankee, I can be stubborn — especially when it comes to shoes. If they fit, and comfortably so, they go on my dogs, I’d protest, my declaration usually followed by a silent drive to the function. When I told her no one would pay any attention to me or what I wore when she was around didn’t cut the ice.

With clothes of any kind, my thinking is if it’s wool or cotton, it’s appropriate; with shoes, comfort is the only consideration. Underneath shoes, there must be cotton socks in summer, woolen in winter.

Whenever there was a function that called for reasonable footwear, I wore my best white sneakers, it was a way of breaking them in for when the old ones fell completely apart. These still didn’t get Lois’ complete approval, but we did talk a bit as we drove to an occasion.

Finding Comfort in Red Shoes

Early last summer, I went on the hunt for camping gear with daughter Heather and granddaughter Grumpy, AKA Mackenzie Noelle Boughy, trailing along. Our target was Hudson Bay Outfitters in Annapolis. Grumpy was fascinated by a new model of clogs of varying colors, full of holes, made of a somewhat flexible plastic. She was five and a quarter years old at the time, old enough to begin appreciating the in-thing in what she wore — and this was the latest fad.

Not infrequently, when Grumps and I go shopping we end up with something for both of us, so as soon as I got her a red pair of Crocs, she decided I needed a pair so we could wear them together. I hesitated: to me they looked more inappropriate then my old sneakers. But readers know who wins when arguing with a preschooler.

I gave in, choosing a pair in black. But that wouldn’t do; they had to be red like hers. Me, in red shoes almost the configuration of a duck’s web feet, holes all over them, slits on the lower side to drain water … no way. I’d rather wear a live crocodile.

Grumpy insisted. I lost that one, too, to the tune of about $50 bucks for both pairs.

Once outside the store, Grumpy decided we had to wear them. Now. I figured that once we were in the van, no one would note how my feet were shod, and once home I could use the Crocs for winter slippers. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them on the street.

I stayed in the van while Heather and Grumpy made a few more shopping stops. By the time I was home, I was amazed to find my feet were as comfortable as with my old sneakers. When we went out to a fancy restaurant for Father’s Day the following day, they were on my feet; if all around laughed, including Lois, Grumps would be with me.

I’ll take a pile of humiliation to keep Grumps happy — and there were more than a few questionable looks as I wore my new red shoes with coat and long trousers. After dinner we did a good bit of walking; by the time I returned home, my dogs were as cool as the proverbial cucumber, but red not green.

They were on my feet again the next day when fishing, during which others on the boat had a few remarks, and the following day while gardening — and almost every day since. I attribute their comfort to two things; they are ultra-light, putting them in the featherweight category. Also, the plastic on the bottoms is spongy enough to absorb the shock of walking.

Stocking Up for the Future

I had to do a lot of rummaging before I came up with a pair of red socks to match the shoes. With holes nearly the size of a dime all over the tops and big drainage slits at the soles, my customary white socks gave the impression of an exotic leopard.

Comfort had won out. But now I feared that Crocs (and their copycats at much less cost) might be just a fad. Then I’d be with one pair of the most comfortable shoes ever to adorn my feet, and no more available. Seeing as I hope to be around for the next five years or so, I stocked up. I bought three more pairs of Crocs, two black and one tan with socks to match.

There might be snickers headed my way, but at least I’m color coordinated. Grumps is happy; so is Colorado-based Crocs Inc., whose stock is skyrocketing (now up 452 percent) and who is now making ambitious plans for targeting upscale footwear. What’s wrong with comfortable downscale shoes? We Vermont Yankees say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Enough said. …

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