A year in my shoes.

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This was supposed to be easy.  Throw a picture up, toss out some words and poof!  Instant post.  Instead it’s over four days past my plan of posting and I’m still struggling.

I fell into the trap of overthinking. I needed new work boots and wanted to explain why I picked those originally and why I switched to something else.  The idea was good, but the words that came were so sterile and analytical.  Completely uninspiring and off-putting for me. I wanted something else, something better.

Kinda like my boots.

The boots I had were so disappointing this time.  They were Wolverines.  I’ve owned four pair of Wolverines in my life and three of them were this style. This pair just did not work.

You see the toes?  It took just one day for the leather covering the steel safety caps to wear off.  I was weeding and the shuffling of my feet against the asphalt wore the leather off by the time I was done.  The boots were one week old at that time.  I’ve had that happen with $30 boots, but never Wolverines.  There was no way I could explain this as normal wear and tear either, so I didn’t bother to call or write about warranty work.

The rest of the boot was fine.  They still were comfortable and supportive.  Together, we dug, moved, pushed, hiked, crawled, and even kicked through our work time.  I had noticed that this set of boots wasn’t as flexible as the earlier ones.  It took more effort to flex on the balls of my feet.  Still they did their work, but the stress was showing.

Then the rains hit.

Florida is known for its torrential rains, but this one was impressive.  It wasn’t tropical in nature, but the results were the same.  Roads closed, traffic diverted, trees fallen, electrics under water, and hundreds of fire-ants huddled together in a ball, just waiting for some poor soul to latch on to.   The last time I saw flooding like this was after tropical storm Gabriel.  The water was so high that the utility vehicles stalled from the strain.  I pushed mine off to the side.  It took three days for my boots to dry completely.  The leather never fully recovered.

The final straw came when the left sole split completely through.  I hadn’t noticed it until the day I had to clean brush out of a drained canal.  The area was drained, but not dry.  Its mud was slick and water seeped up with every step.  My soaked sock alerted me to the crack the boot’s sole.

It was time for a change.

But to what?  I sifted the search engines, read articles, and waded through the horribly arranged Amazon filters.  (It was easier pushing the utility vehicle through the flood than it was trying to find decent work boots with specific requirements on Amazon.)  Given the events of the year, I came up with an unusual result.  Jungle boots.  What other style would handle the abundance of water, humidity, and mud?

Jungle boots are not the easiest things to find.  Rack Room Shoes, Sears, and all the other usual stores were out and while I will buy some things online, boots aren’t one of them.  You have to go to an army surplus store.

Army surplus stores are very interesting to visit.  Tucked in the corner of a strip mall, they can be as bright and organized as Dick’s Sporting goods, or as dark and cluttered as a Hollister’s run by teenage boys.  The store I found was a mix of both.  The lights were low, but everything was organized.  Unfortunately they didn’t have any Jungle boots.  They did have other choices.  Desert boots, training boots, combat boots, parade boots, boots for almost anything.  I had no idea what to look for at this point.

So I asked for help.

The lady listened to what I wanted as well as the price I was willing to pay.  She offered a pair that is light, flexible, durable, and well-constructed.  They aren’t water proof, but they are good against high humidity and dry quickly.  They also are bought by police and fire fighters who are used to standing in their boots for long hours at a time.

I’ve had them for a week and they have handled having the toes scraped against the concrete, heavy mud, miles of walking and flexing of the soles.  So far I’m impressed.  Only time will tell if they last they year.  A future review will be coming.

In the end, this article is similar to my journey into new boots.  I struggled with it at the beginning and took many unexpected turns along the way before ending in an upnote.

With the creative damn broke, I look forward to the journey ahead.

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New shoes

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The standard rule of thought is that men are different than women when it comes to shoes.  Women will spend hours at the shoe stores looking at and trying on multiple brands while their boyfriend or husband will silently wonder if the spike heel on that sandal on the shelf is strong enough to pierce their skull and put them out of their misery.

Shoes, for a woman, are seen as more than a functional part of clothing.  Shoes are a statement that is spoken loudly wherever they go.  Their choice of shoes describes their choice of fashion, their level of professionalism, their outlook on life, and their very personality.  The shoes are the Facebook of a woman’s wardrobe.  They speak volumes.

Men could care less.  Shoes, for men, are items that must be purchased when worn out.  True a man will spend a little amount of time making sure the shoe is somewhat decent looking, but for the most part, they just buy the closest thing to what they already have.  There are only two situations where a man will step onto the woman’s side of the isle and women never see it coming.

The first is when the shoes are not for them, but for their vehicle.

Whether a sports car, truck, or motorcycle; when it comes to replacing the tires, men will give a long, hard thought on what new shoes to give it.  Those tires, those shoes on that vehicle shout out the exact same statement for a man that a pair of Prada sandals does for a woman.  Men will spend hours online researching the newest and latest to see if it measures up to what they had and what they want.  Speed rating, load handling, corner holding, tread pattern, and looks all go into the decision making of the new shoes.  It doesn’t matter if the vehicle is a minivan or family sedan either.  The man will go out of the way to make sure he has the best shoes on that rig possible.  That also includes fitting the shoes to the car’s personality.  I once owned a station wagon and I made sure that the tires on it had whitewalls.  The lines of that wagon demanded them.  When I had my Beetle, I put on blackwalls to match its beige paint.  If you want to know what a man is about, just stroll out to the parking lot and check out his ride’s tires.  They’ll tell you all you need to know.

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The second time when shoes will be important is when there is either a historical moment to them or an emotional one.  If the shoes were part of an epic journey or were a faithful companion during moment of that man’s life, the man will try to preserve them or put the same work into replacing them as he does for tires.  The boots pictured fall to the emotional side.

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See the brown pair of boot on the left.  Those were bought for me sixteen years ago by my wife.  They were a statement from her showing her investment into our relationship.  I’ve taken those boots everywhere. I wore them on our honeymoon, camping, on horseback, to the country club on holidays, and on our trip in Ireland.  I’ve taken good care of them and polish them roughly four times a year.  I will keep them as long as possible.

The boots on the right are new and also a gift from her.  I wanted a new pair not to replace the old ones that are now worn at the heels and in need of resoling, but to continue the symbolism if the original pair are ever lost.  Being a gift, they are linked to the first and ensure that the thoughts of the past will continue forward.

So there’s the viewpoint of shoes.  For women all shoes are special and deserve attention, while men give attention only to their special shoes.