Stewardship of Life

Footloose…but not Free from the Tyranny of Stuff

Posted in Just Living by Sharron R. Lucas on April 10, 2010
Tags: , , , , ,

So the daughter needed new tennis shoes for wellness class. Two options were available: 1) hop in the car and drive to any one of several national chain sporting goods stores, or 2) walk about a mile and a half on a beautiful spring day to a locally owned, really cool running/tri store. If you’ve read any of my posts this year, it’s not rocket science to know what happened. Yes, amid mild protest tempered only by the prospect of shiny new shoes, we set out on foot for Fast Break Athletics.

It was by far the right choice. Not only did we get over two miles worth of round trip exercise and some mom/daughter bonding time, my teen got a great fitting and the right shoes for her gait and activity level. Thank you, Erin! Not only that, we were able to support a local business that’s been supportive of Chattanooga athletes and sports enthusiasts for 33 years. And hey, they even threw in a pair of insoles for my almost-worn-out Asics so that I could get a few extra miles out of them before happily hoofing it back to invest in a replacement pair.

What does buying a new pair of tennis shoes really have to do with living justly? Well, frankly a whole lot. First of all shoes are important because feet are important. Did you know that your feet on an average day endure the cumulative force of several hundred tons? How about the fact that one fourth of the bones in your body can be found in your feet? It’s also a fact that the state of your feet is reflective of your overall health; arthritis, diabetes, and many circulatory disorders show up feet-first, so to speak. Considering the fact that your feet support you, good shoes are important. Such a purchase deserves careful consideration.

Just out of curiosity, how many pairs of shoes do you own? According to various sources, the average American woman owns between 12-27 pair of shoes and spends an average of $277 a year on footwear.  The average American male owns between 6-10 pair of shoes.

So what’s in my closet? Here’s the inventory:

Black leather LL Bean all-weather boots

Brown leather and suede Børn riding boots

Black all purpose dressy flats

Black Keen sport sandals (my favorite all purpose shoe)

Brown leather Italian sandals (these belonged to my mother and are more than 50 years old)

Black dressy thong sandals

Black dressy high heels

Asics running shoes

Ideally, as my present inventory wears out, I’d like to get the number down to no more than four or five pairs—three would be preferable.

For the record, my 16-year-old daughter owns 10 pairs of shoes and boots at present count. My 22-year-old daughter wins the family minimalist footwear prize at only seven pair. By contrast, one member of my extended family owns more than 200 pair, proving that “enough” means different things to different people.

Still, when one considers that most of the world’s population is fortunate to have one pair of shoes–more likely none at all—enough takes on new meaning, convincing me that I still have more than enough, too much in fact. What about you? How are you feeling about the number of shoes in your closet? I’d love to hear from you.

For further discussion: Choose a pair of shoes from your closet and trace their journey. If you need help, check out the “Just Look at our Shoes” curriculum from the University of Iowa Center for Energy and Environmental Education or read Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things from the Sightline Institute.

Note: Foot facts from

4 Responses to 'Footloose…but not Free from the Tyranny of Stuff'

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  1. Terri said,

    I have problematic feet. I love shoes, but have trouble finding fashionable, comfortable, wearable shoes that I can afford. Right now I have about 12 pairs of cheap footwear. I feel guilty having that many; yet, I never seem to have just the right shoe to wear…

    • Hi, Terri.
      I understand completely. I have problem feet that makes it difficult to get a good fit. My experience is that cheap shoes (which of course fit my budget better) generally do not fit as well and wear out much faster. I’m trying to move to a more uniform color scheme based around black, khaki, gray, and blue, adding color through scarves and t-shirts. This will allow me to have fewer shoes of better quality. I’m trying to get to the point that I can have one really good pair of black flats, a pair of running shoes, a pair of good sandals (like Teva thongs), and a pair of comfortable sport sandals (like my Keens) or fashionable light hikers.

      Of course, lifestyle and vocational requirements at least partially dictate one’s wardrobe. Perhaps look at manufacturers who carry a lifetime warranty or who will resole your shoes for a nominal price–L.L. Bean, Columbia, and Birkenstock come to mind. Plus, with a better quality shoe, you can often take them to a cobbler for minor repair–like my 50+ year old Italian sandals that were my mom’s. Try going to a good, local mom and pop shoe store if one still exists in your town. You’ll get a good fit and good advice.

      Another way to look at it is this: If one buys a $20 pair of shoes and wears them 40 times before they fall apart, then the cost per wear is 50 cents. If one pays $100 for a pair of shoes and wears them two times a week for six years, then the per wear cost is about 16 cents. With resoling the cost per wear can be reduced to pennies. That changes the picture considerably.

      Good luck! Take care of your precious feet–and don’t feel guilty.

  2. Susan Snyder said,

    I just discovered your website and I couldn’t agree more. In running shoes, I’ve often found it’s the fit that’s more important than the price in getting good results. My local running takes the time insure I’ll get a proper fit, something simply not available at a big box stores.

    As for my collection (16 pair as of today), my Lady Red Wings, purchased in college some 20 years ago are now on their fourth soles, confirming your thoughts on quality. If it were not for work, I wonder if I would ever put on anything else.

    As to your relative with 200 pair, I have to wonder where she stores them all !

    Thank you for reminding us of the value of shopping locally and that less can be more.

    • Thanks, Susan, for joining the conversation. That’s great that you still have your Lady Red Wings. A really good shoe also conforms to the foot of the wearer, thus adding to the comfort and value. I hope they last you at least 20 more years! Thanks for supporting your local economy, too! Blessings on the journey.

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