fitness · shoes

These shoes were made for walking (no, really!)

Guest post by Pamela Hayes-Bohanan

My exercise regimen is pretty low key: walk the dog every day and on nice days ride my bike a bit too. New England winters keep me off my bike for about five months of the year, but it takes some incredibly severe weather to keep me from my daily walks.

These constitutionals on the sidewalks and streets of my neighborhood have been taking their toll on my almost 57-year-old-feet. The soles of my feet, especially the heels, just really hurt – a lot – which in turn occasionally causes pain in my knees and hips.

I determined that I needed some really good shoes, with good support and shock absorbtion – and I wasn’t afraid to pay for them. The pandemic and ensuing lockdown have meant that I’ve hardly had to buy anything new for the past year. Neither have I eaten out (or even gotten take-out) more than half a dozen times. I was flush with discretionary spending money.

A FB Messenger exchange with Catherine W. (who I refer to as the “guru of all things athletic for the non-athlete”) convinced me to check out REI for possibilities. She also recommended a couple of specific brands. I went to the REI website, where I was overwhelmed by all the choices. I noticed an option to set up an appointment via Teams with an REI rep who would help me to select some shoes. I filled out the request form and picked a time and date a few days in the future.

At the appointed time I left a Zoom work meeting with some campus muckety-mucks in order to meet the REI rep online in the hopes that I would soon have happy feet. I felt totally justified in leaving the work meeting because

 a) the meeting with the REI rep had been scheduled first;

 b) the work meeting was scheduled at the last minute and for a time when my workday was normally over; and

c) I simply did not want to be in a meeting with muckety-mucks any longer.

After exchanging the usual pleasantries with the REI rep (Adam) I was given instruction on how to measure my feet using a set up involving a tape measure, masking tape, a big book, and a chair.

As I said: a tape measure, masking tape, a big book, and a chair (nice green patterned rug optional).
As I said: a tape measure, masking tape, a big book, and a chair (nice green patterned rug optional).

I measured both feet standing and sitting, length and width. I also put on my current pair of inferior walking shoes and determined that I could indeed put my index finger into the heel of the shoe when it was on my foot. Once my shoe size was determined Adam asked me some questions about where and how my feet hurt, how much I walked, and if I ever walked on surfaces other than pavement. Once all pertinent questions were asked and answered we started to explore the options online together.

We immediately dismissed the shoes in the “Casual” category. I suggested they would be good if I just needed something to slip on to run outside for an errand, but were clearly not going to be the heavy duty performers that I sought for my daily excursions, so we moved on to the shoes in the “Hiking” category. Adam explained about differences in shoe weight, as well as other features that I should consider for cushioning my feet and providing support.

After looking at three different types of shoes I settled on the Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero Hiking Shoes.

This is so not like me. I really dislike shopping, online or IRL. If I want or need to buy something I generally find something that’s “good enough” at a decent price and am done with it. In this case, though, I realized that “good enough” really meant superb. I’m glad I spent the time and now am as well shod as I’ve ever been.

An impatient dog, some snazzy pants, and good shoes.
An impatient dog, some snazzy pants, and good shoes.

Readers: have you had recent experiences with online shoe fittings or other fittings? Have you been satisfied? Is it not working? We’d love to hear from you.

Pam’s bio: In addition to being a librarian Pam is a book-loving, dog-walking, Spanish-speaking feminist. She is unapologetic about the fact that she rides her second-hand, three-speed bike only on horizontal surfaces.

equality · fitness · gadgets · hiking · shoes · stereotypes

Do ice grippers/traction systems really have to have genders?

Cue scene: It’s a Thursday afternoon and I’ve finished teaching for the day. I’m looking online for ice-gripper/traction thingamies for my boots. I go to the site of my favorite national outdoorsy merchant– let’s call them REYIYI– and look up popular brands. Quickly settling on two different models, I begin the consumer cogitation process. To give you a picture of this, here are some pictures.

Next step: look at reviews. Both score decently, with more expensive ones rated more highly. To be expected. But how to choose? Which one is better for ME?

Enter the promotional/instructional videos. First, the $29 model.

Please watch this. But if you don’t want to, here are the highlights:

Opening shot: intrepid little yellow-and-white flowers in early spring, off a slushy nature trail. Very subtle music playing in background. A woman is hiking, then one foot slides a little on slush. She puts on her ice traction thingamies. There’s lots of ad copy, pointing out they are packable, lightweight, with a removable strap, blah blah blah. Then, she moves confidently through ice and snow, beginning her trail run. She stops to admire nature. Yay woman! Yay $29 ice traction thingamies!

And then there’s the video for the $59 model.

Here are the highlights for this one:

Right away we hear loud music, like you might hear in this Ford F-150 truck ad. There is ad copy, featuring the words “steel”,”bite” and “aircraft grade steel”. Steel seems to be an important part of the messaging here. We see a man walking in the snow, ice traction thingamies already on. He also shovels snow while wearing them. Then he takes them off to a resounding guitar riff, his large truck in the background. Rock on, man! Rock on, $59 ice traction thingamies!

Here’s what I think.

Angry orangy-yellow face saying Grrr.

Really? All I wanted was to figure out if I wanted the base or upgraded model of the ice traction thingamies. Instead I got treated to throwback SuperBowl truck and beer ad stereotypes.

For the record, I want stability while shoveling snow, walking around my neighborhood and also hiking. It looks like both models do that, but the more expensive model has fancier and sturdier components. That was useful information. Oh, also FYI: both come in sizes that reflect the entire range that men and women wear.

But it’s not useful or nice or even accurate to gender the crap out of otherwise-unsuspecting ice traction systems through dopey and stereotyping ads.

Can advertisers and merchandisers and stores and vendors just stop?

I’d really appreciate it.

Penguin says "STAHP!"
Penguin says “STAHP!”

Readers, have you run into any seriously-gendered advertising of items lately? Care to share? Penguin and I will give them the stink eye on your behalf.

fitness · shoes

These shoes were made for walking

A couple of weeks ago, I was in NYC for the weekend, visiting dear friends and going out for some cultural fun. I even blogged about the burlesque body positivity fest here. But those shows don’t get started until late, so one has to fill the hours until the doors open with something.

So we went shopping. Shoe shopping! This is, in one way, my favorite kind of shopping; I am lucky to happen to have feet in a standard size (8.5–9, depending on brand) and a medium-to-narrow width. This means almost all shoes in my size fit me. It’s just a matter of chance, and not everyone has this experience. I have friends with wider feet, longer feet or narrower feet, all of whom find shoe shopping a pain.

There’s another way, though, in which I find shoe shopping challenging. I’m always, always, searching for that elusive, perfect, unicorn shoe: the super-comfortable-but-snappy-looking work shoe. It has to be pretty flat (and I mean hardly any heel at all), but supportive. And I have fussy princess feet that get blisters just being in the same room with tough shoes.

Lately, I’ve added another item to my already-burdened shoe wish list: I have to be able to walk for a decent amount of time/distance in above-mentioned dream shoe. Why? Convenience and comfort. I want to be able to take advantage of opportunities for more everyday movement (say, a walk during lunch or striding across campus/around town comfortably for meetings, etc). For me, work shoes don’t tend to feel good enough to stand up to longer walks. So I have either suffered and then bitterly regretted wearing them, or turned to my low-rise hiking shoes/sneakers. The latter is fine– lots of people wear casual shoes on campus, which is a lucky thing for me. But I still yearn for a magical combo of fashion and multiple function.

Readers, I am here to tell you today: I’ve finally found it!

In the course of two weeks, I’ve found not one, not two, but THREE pairs of shoes that 1) fit me perfectly; 2) look snappy-to-me; and 3) are sturdy and supportive for a decent walk in everyday life. YAY! By the way, I’m not hawking brands or anything, but I did want to share my shoe solutions, also in hopes that you’ll share some of yours in the comments.

Now, to the shoes themselves.

In the 90s, I wore Doc Martens. I had two pairs: a regular lace up pair, and a 3-tone Mary Jane pair. They were soooo cute! However, because of the narrowish-feet thing, they never fit me properly. However, I decided to check them out again in New York, going to an actual store (which was filled with 20-somethings who have recently discovered Doc Martens for themselves). Herewith my new Docs!

Black patent-leather Doc Martens.
Black patent-leather Doc Martens.

I love love love them! They didn’t even need breaking in– they fit and were comfortable for conference wear immediately after purchasing. This model was a bit narrower than the usual DMs, so they fit really well.

For my second dream-2019 shoe, I went to the Camper store (also in NYC). They have a variety of fun color shoes that tend to be very functional (read comfortable). Yes, they sell shoes with heels, but there are no stilettos in sight. I love me some slingbacks, so I bought these for wearing out on the town.

Oxford slingbacks. One shoe with yellow side panel, and the other with blue.
Oxford slingbacks. One shoe with yellow side panel, and the other with blue.

These are super-comfortable, and also stylish-to-me. Many of the Camper shoes have complementary colors on left and right shoes, which is nothing but fun. I wore these to a dance concert in Brooklyn, taking the subway and walking at least an hour or so in them the same day I bought them. And my feet gave me no complaints.

Finally, I ordered some sneaker-ish shoes I saw online. I love sneakers, but like to look a little more formal in the feet sometimes. Here are my new orange nubuck walking shoes:

Orange nubuck sneakers, complete with toe cap.
Orange nubuck sneakers, complete with toe cap.

These are by Ecco, a brand of comfy walking shoes. They come in many colors. Orange for me as a no-brainer– I think it goes with everything. They’re not a totally perfect fit (they come in whole sizes only), but so far I’ve been very happy with the support and comfort and style.

Maybe it’s some kind of shoe-cebo effect, but I’ve been wearing my fake-o Fitbit and noticing my step counts going up. I’m taking the opportunity to get more steps in at work and while out at activities, in part because I can. MY FEET DON’T HURT! YAY!

What about you, dear readers? What cute-to-you shoes work for you in regular non-athletic contexts? I’m always on the lookout for new solutions to the elusive search for the perfect shoe, so don’t hold back if you have valuable information… 🙂