I guess this could only happen in California.
I made the mistake of going shoe shopping with my Mary Ann yesterday.
I say mistake, because I have a firm and fast rule against such madness. But
she had me at a disadvantage. I had my pupils dilated for some eye tests
and couldn't drive...so I was a captive shopper. I knew I was in for it when
she told me that "this could take a while."
Usually, she is just going to "run right in and be right back."
We drove to an industrial strip mall near the city landfill. I couldn't see
very well, but I know the sweet aroma of a dump when I smell it.
The place was called Road Runner Sports. When we entered, a greeter
took us by the hand to introduce us to our Personal
Fit Expert (everything is personal in CA)...in my case it was George.
My wife asked specifically for a woman and was taken off to another part of the store.
We weaved around a bunch of young people in jogging shorts and
sneakers to what looked like a mini gym.
George, my PFE and a kid young enough to be my grandson, has a routine called "Shoe Dog."
Here's how it works:
You take off your shoes and socks and roll up your pants (unless, of course you came
attired in jogging shorts or a bathing suit).
You stand on what feels like a small pool of gel for 15 seconds. The have a screen
showing two feet with various parts in red, yellow and green. This is called a "paw reading'
and supposedly shows them the 3-D peak pressure of your feet. Mine were "balanced."
You then jog on a treadmill for 20 seconds at about 2 mph and they take a video of your
ankles from behind. This is the "Trot & Analyze" part and supposedly shows your foot flexibility.
Mine was rigid or "neutral."
I would find out later that these scientific tests were to determine what type of little inserts they
would sell you for the sneakers you bought. Mine were "neutral" ...because, after all, everything
about my feet and stride was "neutral."
Then they slid my feet into a measuring stick and George proudly announced that
I took a size 11 1/2 E. I had been wearing a 10D for 50 years, but I didn't say anything
because I was there for the experience and maybe I could learn something.
I was then seated in front of a display showing sneakers in various degrees of flex. I sat patiently in front
of the "neutral" section. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see George trying to convince a young
lady to wait on me. She seemed reluctant or so I thought. Maybe it was because she kept looking at
me and rolling her eyes back in her head. Eventually, she came over with a sheet of paper the results of my "Shoe Dog" testing and sighed that she would "be right back with your selection."
I waited about 20 minutes and finally decided I better look at the display and see a) how much sneakers cost these days and b) where they were made. Sorry I got up.
The sneakers ranged from $124 to $159 and were made either in China or Vietnam.
I sat back down dejectedly. I hadn't paid more than $12 for sneakers in my life...OK, that was also 50 years ago. In fact, the last pair I got were Tony Lima tennis sneakers I won in a golf tournament because that's all they had left in the pro shop. $19.99.
I finally saw a guy two rows over who was about my age. So I went over and asked him. "What are the best sneakers to buy?" "Well, I have been wearing Nike Air for years, but today I thought I would try these..." he said, holding up a
pair of black sneakers with while bone-like skeletal designs on them.
"Kinky," I said and sat back down.
Eventually, the sales person returned, dropped three boxes down next to me and left. I may not be the
sharpest knife in the drawer, but I figured that these must be my "selection."
I got a pair of Nike, something called New Balance or something and Basics. The Basics looked like those skeletal
wanabees the guy had. The others were fancy sneakers with all kinds of tread patterns under them. Each said "neutral."
I never saw the salesperson again...mostly because I left.
But first I wandered over to the women's "Shoe Dog" testing center where I found my wife standing in some blue pillows while another woman shaped some inserts around her feet. She looked happy, so I figured I wouldn't whine at her just yet.
Instead, I just said I couldn't find anything in my size and I would be in the car... but certainly take your time
(I think there is a novel or two in the trunk).
Instead, I shielded my sensitive eyes against the bright Southern California sun and walked around the corner
There were racks of sneakers out in the parking lot, under a sign that clearly said "Clearance." I had to ask someone.
These were sneakers that people bought from the store out front and returned after wearing them once.
No really...it even said so on the racks.
I found those Nike Air in the 10D section and tried them on. They fit perfectly. I began to wonder about my
"neutral" inserts so I asked. The clerk snickered and said simply "Why would you need neutral inserts if you
your feet are already neutral?" Wow, good point...I never thought of that.
The price tag on these used sneakers was $49.99.. a steal compared to the original MSRP of $159.99.
And whomever wore them once to jog in, never even sweated in them or puked on them.
Reality struck, however, and I thought of my $12 sneakers at home. I walked away from the deal.
I found my wife at the cash register in the real store. She was buying some $129 sneakers with $80 inserts...
but she got a really good deal. If you spend $20 on a VIP membership, you get a discount on your purchase.
I hope the discount added up to more than $20, but I was afraid to ask. Why start trouble? Besides,
the VIP card was good for any member of the family. Let's see...there is only she and I and the cat.
Today I am wearing a pair of 9 1/2D Brockport walking shoes that were given to me by a friend whose uncle
bought them a day or two before he died. They feel really, really good even if they are light gray and look like
some thing a nurse would wear in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."