What do you look for in a shoe? And how do you prioritise it?
- Comfort: I need to be able to walk five hundred miles, and then I should be able to walk five hundred more. I ain’t gonna be falling down at no one’s door.
- Durability: They shouldn’t be falling apart at no one’s door either; common wear sites for me are the heel (I heel-strike very strongly, which is probably why I have knee issues) and around the Achilles tendon. I also hate it when a shoe starts squeaking from torsional stress. Over time, this happens to most shoes, but some start doing it after only a couple of months.
- Style: Second to comfort for me, because I’ve bought shoes on the basis of comfort over style before, but I would never spend big the other way around. I would also say I’ve spent too much money on great looking shoes that are useless after a few months. Nevertheless, it’s important that you feel good wearing what you do – but I am not often staring at people’s shoes, so it’s third place. I appreciate that I fall short of the stereotypes of my people. #sorrynotsorry
- Waterproofing: Many are the days I’ve arrived at work with waterlogged feet after cycling in. Overshoes are only so efficient when the rain won’t abate, and I’m definitely not abandoning ship for the nightmare that is the London Underground. A degree of waterproof, or at least, the ability to be made so, is a desirable though not essential criteria for me.
For several weeks I was promised to be taken to a Doc Martens shop so that I could try on some new boots. I had never owned a pair, and was dissuaded by numerous tales of having to ‘break them in’.
I’ve not had a lot of patience with shoes that need significant wearing time before they’re comfortable. Running a marathon last year has given me a few problems with my feet and knees, meaning I suffer bad shoes even less gladly than I did then.
Some of the key considerations were durability, weatherproofing, and style. I tried on a number of shoes, and the first problem I found was that the leather was going to be too hard for my heels and feet. The breakthrough came when I tried on the ‘Hard Life 1460’s. The leather was softer and more supple, more willing to accommodate my foot rather than the other way around.
Shoes are the last ‘bastion’ of non-vegan clothing I still purchase. Vegan alternatives for a durable waterproof shoe or boot are often, quite simply, less comfortable. Before visiting the shop I read a review of vegan DMs which didn’t advertise them well; it only pre-confirmed how I felt when I picked up a number of the range in the shop. They were stiff, and even harder in all cases than the toughest leather alternatives. I knew my feet would need serious conditioning and protection if I was going to buy them, and they would likely never fully feel comfortable. It’s great that they exist, and I hope that the trend towards vegan alternatives to leather continues, prompting better, softer plant-based alternatives.
The final acceptance that I needed these shoes came when my friend picked up the ribbon laces for her pair (exactly the same as mine, just one size smaller). So that we could tell them apart, she got black ribbons, whereas I got brown – and they really do set off the whole shoe.
Having worn them for a week now, I can confirm that I’m in love with them. Having applied dubbin to the outside to protect them against the elements, I’m hoping these will be my go-to shoes in bad weather, and that I’ll get many years of solid wear out of them.
May they never squeak.