by Max Sirak
Step-by-step, breath-by-breath, thought-by-thought, our feet carry us toward our future. (How Things Find Us, Kevin Dann)
All of our contact with the world starts with our feet… (Yoga Ranger Studio, Aprille Walker)
They are our vehicle. They move us in any direction we choose. They are the first impression we make. They are our calling card, hug, and handshake with the world.
They are our feet.
It Was A Day Like Any Other
I needed a new pair of shoes. Need is the appropriate word. Despite my intellectual acceptance of impermanence, I think anything I buy should last forever. (See this shirt? I bought it at a concert in high school.)
It’s also fair to note – sartorial excess isn’t a vice I embrace. For example, I own a single pair of jeans. When they begin to fall apart, I’ll get a new pair. This is the general way I approach my wardrobe.
So, as I was trying to tape my left shoe back together, it became apparent the time for patchwork fixes had come and gone. There was no re-attaching my sole.
It was time to discard the old that I might regard new.
My first instinct was to go online. It is, after all, 2019. I have the power to click buttons and make things appear, as if by magic, at my door. However, having been burnt once or twice (three times a lady?), I’m wary when it comes to ordering online the wears I wear.
Lucky For Lucky’s
Fortunately, the loss of my sole stuck while I was visiting my parents. They live in Northeast Ohio. And, little known fact it may be, Northeast Ohio’s shoe game is strong.
Lucky Shoes is locally-owned. This year marks their centennial celebration and the store is a family favorite. It’s where my grandmother took my mom and her brother to get their first pair of shoes.
My grandmother, (ain’t she cute?), was a woman who knew the sorrows of a sorry fit. She was in her 20s, a full grown woman, before she got her first pair of new shoes. Prior to that, she was stuck with hand-me-downs.
Into Lucky’s I went. Being a relic of a different age, Lucky’s stays true to the old ways of retail. Things like customer service and a knowledgeable sales staff matter. Upon entering the store, you sign in. When it’s your turn, your own personal shoe consigliere comes to your aid.
My name was called.
And That’s When I Met A Girl Named Maria…
(And my feet will never be the same.)
After getting a sense of what I was looking for, Maria lead me over to the appropriate section. She showed me some shoes and asked me to choose a few I liked. Then, she told me to have a seat and busted out her trusty Brannock Device.
(You now, the thing-a-ma-jig people at shoe stores use to measure your feet.)
Charles Brannock was a man after my own heart. Or, to be more temporally accurate, I his.
He built the prototype of his titular device out of an Erector Set while in college. Also, I’m guessing because he too believed the things you buy should last forever, Brannock refused to manufacture his device out of plastic. He instead chose steel.
Feet, it turns out, are like folks. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Meaning one-size-fits-all is a poor strategy.
Brannock knew the importance of getting the heel-to-toe length right. No one likes having their tootsies mashed. However, he also realized there were other equally opportune metrics.
Back to Maria…
She adjusted the Brannock device. “It looks like your toe-length is about an 11. But you’ve got high arches. So, I think an 11.5 would be a better fit for you,” she said. “Let me run into the back and grab a couple for you to try on.”
Back she came, boxes stacked high over her head. When she sat, I asked her about arch length.
“Feet are all different,” she replied. “I’m not sure most people appreciate what that actually means. Personally, I think fitting for arch length makes way more sense than toe length.”
“Makes sense,” I said. “Bodies are all different. Feet are parts of our bodies, that means feet are all different too. Tell me more about arches.”
Maria laughed. Evidently most customers aren’t as inquisitive as I am. “They’re weird,” she said. “We aren’t born with them. They develop on their own. Usually, when we’re between the ages of five to seven. Do you have kids?”
“Well, if you’re ever hanging out with any kids that age, and you notice them walking kinda funny, that’s their arches ‘coming in.’”
“Get out!” I said. I meant it too. I have a strangely vivid memory of overhearing my grandfather talking to my dad when I was kid. It was summertime. I was barefoot. We were all at a pool and he wanted to know why I was walking so funny.
“So, then that makes shopping for shoes online kinda tricky, right?” I asked.
“It does.” She continued, “Most people don’t know their own arch lengths. Honestly, I’m not sure most people even know that arch length is a thing. Plus, there’s no industry standard between toe length and arch length. Each manufacturer does it a little different.”
She finished lacing me up and told me to stroll the store.
The shoes felt good. They were roomy, which I liked, but to a hazardous degree. My heel kept slipping out.
I returned to my seat. “They’re great,” I said. “Except my heel’s swimming around back there. Is there another pair I could try?”
“Actually, let me try something else first,” said Maria. “I’m going to give you a ‘runner’s lace.’ It should stop that from happening.”
I think the ambient overhead Muzak record skipped.
“Wait. What?” I asked.
She laughed. “Yeah, so it turns out there’re many ways of lacing up shoes that change the way they fit and feel. When I started working here, they made me learn some of them. There was even a quiz. This any better?”
It was like I was walking around in a totally different pair of shoes. But I wasn’t. It was the same comfy shoe I’d enjoyed a moment ago, but my heel wasn’t squirming. Maria was right.
I sat back down. She must have read the surprise on my face because I didn’t speak a word.
“Crazy, right?” she said.
“I feel like I’ve been lied to my entire life,” I admitted. “I had no idea there were other ways to lace shoes. Not to mention how lacing affected fit. Plus, everything you taught me about arches? Maria, you rock.”
I gave her a high five.
“I hate shopping but this has been one of the best retail experiences of my life.” I said. “I learned so much. I’m going to tell everyone I see. People have to know.”
She laughed and walked me to the register. I paid for my purchase, thanked her again, and stepped out in my new shoes.
Keeping My Word
I learned a while back the importance of being impeccable with my word. As good as I’ve been about my podalic preaching, telling those who’s path I crossed, I knew I could do better.
This being the largest platform I’ve got – I decided to take it to the Quarks.
Below are some lacing links. The first one is my favorite. What can I say? Like finds like. Steve the Faithful Runner had me with the all the action figures in the background of the intro.
His video features lacing techniques for a wide foot, a narrow foot, a high arch, for heel slippage, and for black toe nails.
If Steve isn’t your speed, try these:
Aprille Walker and Kevin Dann are right. It’s with our feet we meet our future and the world.
Don’t we owe it to both of them, and Maria, to make sure we put our best, most comfortably supported foot forward?
Max is almost finished ghostwriting his second book. He really appreciates being able to write for 3qd.