Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wet Shoes Can Kill You


Photo courtesy Flickr

One of the great consumer luxuries of the last forty years has been being able to assume that shoes are waterproof. Now and then a new pair disappoints. It’s important to consider whether it’s worth the bother to keep them in inventory.

To its eternal credit, a couple of years ago The Great Big Hiking Co-op accepted without a hiccup the return of a soggy pair of walking shoes. Of all stores, they’re the one that understands that cold feet are more than a psychological problem. The maritime climate of Western Washington is just as dangerous as the Arctic. Damp chill paralyses judgement, volition, and ultimately all vital functions. 

To save space and simplify decision-making, I shop for things that can function in a wide range of environments, from cutting-edge urban architecture to the trail. As a voluntary pedestrian, it’s important to have footgear that can get me safely home in a storm. Early last summer I picked up a pair of leather slippers from a well-respected manufacturer. A few weeks later, wearing them in warm rain chilled me nearly to the bone. It took four days for the leather to dry. I pulled out the insoles and threw them into the garbage, because I didn’t want anyone to take the risk of owning them.

The slippers came from a small, local, independent shoe store, so I decided not to ask for a return. Having the store on my shopping trail is worth more than the price of the shoes. Interestingly, the Deep South America brand of urban/wilderness fusion clothing sells a pair of featherweight, fast-drying slippers in a suede/mesh hybrid that’s just the ticket. They're a good end of day alternative to hiking boots in the woods, while the boots carry me here and there in town, with the slippers as civilized back-up indoors.

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