My old work shoes finally hit the point of decay where I decided to replace them. There is only so much water seeping through the soles I can stand before it starts to impact quality of life.
I do not buy shoes very often. In fact this last pair I had bought coming out of grad school 6.5 years ago as interview shoes. So I started by asking all my friends on facebook what they thought were some comfortable, durable, work shoes. I got a number of suggestions that looked good.
The next step was finding a local shoe store. I did not even bother looking at the big box stores. I knew I wanted to walk into the store and have somebody who actually knows about shoes sit down and work with me on finding something that fit well. I found two locally owned stores within a reasonable distance.
Saturday, I had a round of errands, so I picked the store that was closest to the other errands. Tyson came along, though he probably wishes he had not. First walking into the store, I was surprised at how big the store was. Then I was a little dismayed at how busy it was. Getting one on one attention was not going to be as easy as I wanted. I browsed their selection a little bit, and then found a salesperson. I explained that I wanted a work shoe that fit well and was decent quality, and that I was less concerned about appearance. He measured my foot, ran off, reappeared with boxes, and then ran off again to go help another customer. None of the shoes was a convincing match for my foot. One was definitely too big, another had a definite pressure point. For the rest of them I could not identify any particular flaw, they just felt a little too sloppy or a little not right. When the salesperson next ran by, I told him the one shoe was too big, the other too small in the toes, and the rest not quite right. So took all the boxes back and returned with just a few boxes this time. The smaller version of the one that had been too big did seem to fit, though it still had that not-quite-right feel. The others were not any good. Unfortunately, the salesperson was so busy with all the rest of the crowd, that he did not have time to discuss any of the shoes in detail with me. Tyson was no help at all and really wished I would stop asking him questions about shoes. I did manage to get one more shoe out of the salesperson, but that was it. There were no more shoes to try. I hemmed and hawed and complained to Tyson, but after having spent what felt like an hour there trying to find a workable shoe, I decided I should probably just get the shoe that mostly fit even if it didn’t really make me feel great. At least that way I would avoid having to try again at some other store and get equally frustrated.
So we bought the shoes and went on to have a fun afternoon, but that is a different post.
Come Monday morning, I wore the shoes to work. Walking around, I felt like I slid around in the shoes. I am active enough that I do not like my shoes tripping me up. With these shoes I could not swing around corners as I like to. I also noticed that they had a bit more heel than I thought they had when I tried them on in the store. The net result was that by mid-day I decided it was worth trying again to get a pair of shoes I liked. So I left work a little early and went to the other small shoe shop near home.
This time I got more of the experience I wanted. I walked in, browsed the shoes, and was greeted by a salesperson. She listened to my concerns on fit an function, measured my foot, compared to my current shoes, and came back with the proverbial pile of boxes. The first shoe was pretty much dead on. The fit was not perfect, but it was a respectable leather shoe that the salesperson explained would break in over time. Or the shop had the ability to stretch the shoe if needed. The next few were nice, though not as good as the first one. I think I had more stylistic issues than fit issues. And a significant fraction were better fits than what I had bought two days prior. I go through a few more rounds of boxes. There were several shoes that did not fit quite right initially, but she added some shims and then they fit nicely. In the end, I came down to a choice between two shoes that both seemed reasonable. One was the first pair I had tried. The biggest issue with that pair was that it had more heel than I like. However the fit and quality made up for it. The other pair was a little more casual. It needed a shim to fit, but then fit reasonably well. However, it was the same brand as the pair from Saturday that I did not like, and still had some of that slippery/floppy feel. I ended up deciding on the sturdier pair.
I was much happier with the service at this second place. Part of that is probably because it was a monday and there were only a few other customers around. The ability to add custom inserts and shims really opened my options. And this salesperson was able to much more quickly get me some shoes I actually liked.
Now we’ll see what I think tomorrow after I wear them into work.