On Good Shoes

By Joyce

I love my shoes. Seventeen years ago, I ordered a pair of these custom made shoes at Michigan Women’s Music Festival, and have enjoyed both their durability and perpetually hip style all these years.  Currently, with these shoes and my black skinny jeans on, I fashion myself as one of the original albeit unrecognized Beatles. I love you ya ya ya.  Maybe it’s because I love them so much that I started fearing their inevitable break down, and so three Sundays ago, I went in search of new ones at the DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) store in Tukwila with best friend Anna who was on her own shoe hunt.

After entering the store, I initially felt confident I would find something with aisle after aisle of shoes and boots awaiting me. But, I wasn’t in the store more than ten minutes before I starting seeing all the single shoes on display more like cheap chess pieces than footwear.  I had the sick-in-my- gut feeling that if I bought a pair, I would end up being the pawn, the loser in this consumer game.  Upon inspection, and after trying on different shoes, I started feeling even more revulsion creep under my skin.  All these made in China shoes, even the brands I preferred like Keen or Merrells, were cheaply fabricated at a not-so-discounted price.  It was probably the sheer volume of shoeboxes that reminded me that every square inch of the store was designed to capture my money. Regardless, we both left DSW without spending a dime and feeling strangely vacant, at a loss for how to fulfill the longings which brought us there in the first place.

Which is why I redirected my attention and gave my old favorites some love this weekend.  I brought them to a shoe repair store for new heel plates (only $4.00), bought some soft insoles (only $3.95) for added comfort and then gave them a shine at home.  Taking good care of these well-crafted (and repairable) shoes reconnected me to their integrity and value.  With good maintenance, they could probably serve me for another ten years at least.

When I was in acupuncture school, I learned about the significance of taking care of one shoes during a session with a middle-aged man who came into the student clinic. He was an unusual patient because unlike most other patients who dressed casually, he came dressed in a nicely pressed suit and tie. I remember when the other intern and I sat with our supervisor discussing our observations and diagnosis, and she asked, “Did you notice his shoes?”  In fact, I did.  His shoes were old, worn and scuffed, and not at all in keeping with the rest of his expensive outfit. She reminded us that the state of his shoes suggested a kidney deficiency pattern because he was not taking care of his root, his feet. Other symptoms like fatigue, back and knee pain also supported this diagnosis.

I am reminded time after time that doing basic maintenance, whether
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