Thursday, June 13, 2013

The shoe conundrum: summer edition

As I may have mentioned at some points, one of my hobbies is filling out consumer surveys online. I get points for taking them, which I can turn in for cash or gift cards, but mostly I do it in the hope that my opinions will actually have some influence. And while most of the surveys I get sent tend to focus on topics that I don't actually care about all that much, such as airlines or frozen foods, this morning I happened to get one on a subject I do feel strongly about: shoe shopping.

Unfortunately, the reasons I have such strong opinions about shoe shopping didn't seem to be the same reasons the survey's creator had in mind. I answered a lot of questions about how important it is to me for shoes to be fashionable (not at all) or to "express my personality" (nice in theory, but way down on my list of priorities). I never really had a chance to explain just what it is that I really need most from a pair of shoes, as I explained in this entry back in January: a comfortable fit, non-leather construction, and reasonable value. If I could find a store that consistently offered well-made, leather-free shoes in my size, I'd never go anywhere else—but so far as I can tell, no such store exists.

So, in its absence, I've been forced to resort to a variety of stratagems for hunting down shoes that fit. For instance, as summer approached, I found myself faced with the problem of attempting to replace my worn-out Teva sandals. Fortunately, since Teva is a well-known brand, I figured I could simply find another pair in the same size from the same maker, and it would be sure to fit me comfortably. (Teva makes most of its women's shoes only in whole sizes and standard width, but I'd already discovered that a youth size 4 would fit me reasonably well—even offering a bit of arch support, which most sandals lack.)

However, since Teva isn't exactly a budget brand, I figured I'd save a bit more money by looking for a pair in good condition on eBay. After a couple of unsuccessful bids on pairs in the "sport" style, I finally secured a pair of "Tirra" sandals, which cost me only $12 including shipping and looked pretty cute to boot. The problem was, when they finally arrived, I quickly discovered that these sandals aren't built on the same footbed as my old ones. So while they are the right size, they have no discernable arch support. It only took one walk to the store in them to convince me that wearing them every day throughout the summer was not going to work.

At this point, I could have just written these off and resumed my search for a pair like my old ones, paying more careful attention to the design of the footbed. But I still had hope that it might be possible to make the new ones wearable. A standard molded insole, designed to tuck into a shoe, obviously wouldn't work with sandals—but what about some sort of cushion that could stick onto the shoe surface, right where the arch of the foot should be? Did anything like that exist?

A quick search proved that the answer was yes. had several different kinds, ranging in price from $1.66 a pair to $16.41 for a three-pack (for those who have three feet, presumably). Since I couldn't be sure how well they'd work until I'd tried them, I decided to minimize my risk by going with the cheap ones. The only downside of that is that they ship from Hong Kong—so Amazon is saying I shouldn't expect them until sometime between July 9 and July 25. But I figure I can manage to make my old pair last until then.

If this works, I'm planning to order several more pairs, in the hope that it will extend the range of footwear available to me. I might even be able to get away with wearing those cheap little canvas slip-ons again.

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