Monday, November 8, 2010

Culture: Ode to a Pair of Shoes

My last pair of walking shoes were photographed shortly before their retirement on 2-November-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - I'm not especially proud of my shoe-buying record. Over the years, I have tended to purchase Chinese-manufactured shoes from discount retailers like Payless Shoe Source (or of late, at Sears Canada). I keep coming back to this practice because the shoes I purchase there consistently provide good value--especially when on sale, they are as cheap as any I can find and they last much longer than any other shoes I can find.

A clear case in point are the pair of shoes pictured above that I finally disposed of last week after the soles started to come unglued. I purchased them in early 2009 and started wearing them essentially daily in June 2009--whenever I wasn't wearing steel-toed shoes or dress shoes for an interview, I was wearing that pair right up until recent weeks. In that kind of situation, I would be happy with shoes that would last through six months of daily use; in fact, if they were as cheap as these were ($30), I wouldn't complain if they lasted only four months of heavy use. These shoes lasted almost sixteen months.

Furthermore, they didn't receive light usage. These shoes went hundreds of miles, walking significant distances in places like Seattle, Washington; Sacramento, California; Portland, Oregon; Owosso, Michigan; and Windsor, Ontario. Here in Toronto, Ontario, they could easily see twenty-five miles a week or more, as I might do two roundtrips to downtown Toronto (six miles each way) in that time, not to mention more routine trips around my neighbourhood. Even if a very conservative estimate of 10 miles per week is used, these shoes did more than six hundred miles--I'm pretty sure the real figure was closer to one thousand.

I purchased their successors--a very similar design from the same off-brand--when the front of this pair started to fray in spring 2010, but they seemed to be completely repaired with a bit of glue and served on for another half-year, with a break only on a June trip when I decided not to trust them in favor of the new pair. It's really hard to argue with this performance. If the pair I'm wearing now lasts as long, I might be wearing them when the next US Federal election occurs in 2012, if I ultimately wear dress shoes instead of walking shoes to a job on weekdays.

I was briefly excited that the Dakota-brand work shoes that I bought at Mark's Work Wearhouse and still wear on average one day a week have lasted since spring 2008, but then I realized that they are made in China, too. Whatever else we think of that country, China knows how to make durable shoes.

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