Now… I am really dating myself. Once upon a time, there was popular shoe style called Penny Loafers. And (special head’s up to any Canadians reading this) there was a coin called a Penny, which was 1/100th of a dollar. And perhaps for millennials and others who were raised purely on plastic, Venmo or Bitcoin, there was this way to pay for things called ‘cash’, of which pennies were the lowest common denominator. Penny Loafers featured a penny slipped into a slot on each instep. Genesis of the concept? Back in the 1930s, to allow the wearer to use the 2 pennies to make a call from a Pay Phone! A what?! I know. But I digress… wayyyy off course.
Back to today – timeless concept, how to maximize the value of your quality footwear.
1. Differentiate between high price and high value. At the risk of too many clichés and phrases which too often get accepted as valid, in most cases in footwear, you do get what you pay for. Even ignoring interim foot health and fitness, most higher priced footwear lasts disproportionately longer than the cheap crap. Add in the benefit of ‘good for your feet’ features and function, and expensive shoes crush the value of low priced footwear… in terms of long term value.
2. Water is a universal solvent. Want to prematurely dissolve and break down the foams and other materials in your shoes and especially the footbeds? At the end of every day, kick’em off and leave them. Average human feet have 250,000 sweat glands that produce 240 ml (8 ou. or 1 cup) per day. When taking your shoes off in the mudroom at the end of the day, reach inside – think your shoes are dry?? Guess again. No matter what you feel, they are not dry. The residual water in your shoes breaks down the foams and all materials in the shoes. Easy solution? Pull those removable footbeds out and simply lay them on top of the shoes. Chances are the relative humidity of your mudroom is much lower than inside your shoes, so the footbeds and empty shoes will give up much of their moisture overnight.
3. Use a shoe horn. This lowly, underrated, simple tool can greatly increase the lifespan of your shoes. One of the most expensive and functionally important components of quality shoes are the heel counters. In haste, many of us crush these down when inserting our feet. A shoe horn will make your mornings, or the start of your walk or run just that bit easier as you slide in with ease.
4. Footbeds/orthotics/inserts – Same item, by a number of different names. Yes, yes, buying good solid stable shoes are important, but ultimately, what is more intimate, closer and often has more affect on your ‘foundation’… your feet, is the footbed. The removable part that you stand on. Most quality manufacturers have removable ones in their shoes, and provide a .10 cent (factory cost) flimsy footbed, knowing the smart people like you will remove that and use either custom orthotics (by prescription from a Dr., $250-$800) or a semi-custom over the counter footbed/orthotic, $40-$120. Grossly oversimplified, these provide a balance or prioritization of stability, arch support and/or shock attenuation. Truly some of the best pennies you can spend in a good shoe store.
Gary Richter is a manager of the locally owned New Balance store in Maple Tree Place, Williston. Gary has a B.Sc. in Kinesiology and specializes in foot morphology and sexual dimorphism of feet and footwear. His colleague Sara LaBarre is a board certified pedorthist, practicing locally for 12 years. Sara works with local health professionals, transforming their footwear and orthotics to maximize their mobility. Between the two, they have 55 years of experience at all levels of the industry, many marathons, triathlons, soccer matches and a wide range of footwear applications. They continually interact with the biomedical community in Vermont to continually upgrade their experience.