Thursday, May 26, 2016

Death of shoes

In memoriam: five pairs of shoes and a handbag that have served me well throughout college. And now their watch is ended. I'm trying to think critically about my belongings, lifestyle, and habits. Materialism, consumerism, my relationship with the things I own and use, etc, etc.

Clockwise from upper left: H & M black faux suede ankle boots, Converse, H & M brown faux leather brogues, black canvas martial arts shoes, Zigi Soho Fantasy brown leather boots

In cleaning out my apartment and moving out this week, I finally put to rest some shoes that I wore during college that have done their duty and died. The point of this post isn't really to shame myself for how shabby I wore these shoes, but rather to compile some lessons I've learned through them. I have seldom seen reviews for garments, shoes, or accessories well into their lifetime, much less at the end of them. I have learned a thing or two about shoe construction from these ones and I hope this post will be a cautionary tale for those who look to buy cheap shoes.

Before I get to the reviews, a note: I tend to wear one pair of shoes for weeks on end. This is unwise. There is value in letting shoes "rest" after each wear, and I am hoping to add another pair of shoes into my wardrobe come autumn so I can extend the lifespans of all those I own.

  • Black faux suede ankle boots from H & M - $20 (50% from $40) - Nov. 2013 to Dec. 2015 - these shoes were actually quite comfortable and good for walking up and down the hills of UC Berkeley campus. Problems occurred in the following order: discoloration of the material from black to a hideous purple, deformation of the metal toe pieces, heel wear, sole wear. During the autumn and winter, I wore this shoe about 75% of the time, even though it is not rainproof. I like the look of a black ankle boot, and see that this boot has design ancestry in the famous Dickers by Isabel Marant, but suede is not for me. I looked a long time for a replacement pair of black ankle boots, but never got around to buying them. In its final season, these boots were seriously affecting my gait and causing pain in my knees and thighs. I wore them far past their intended lifespan to the point where the heel was worn to metal nails and the sole at the ball of my foot worn to membrane thin.
  • Black Converse sneakers - ~$20 from Marshalls - May 2013 to Aug. 2013 - I wore Converse all through middle school and high school as my default shoe. I went through them one at a time, purchasing whatever dark color was available at a cut price from Marshalls. This was my first that was not of the classic design, but rather has a strange cuff around the ankle. These were monsters to walk in, and I limped through the summer before giving up. They lived on our apartment's shoe stand until I donated them today.
  • Black canvas martial arts shoes - $15? - Aug. 2013 to Dec. 2014 - I stopped wearing these when I stopped doing martial arts. One of these has a crack running across the sole, and though the local co-op residents had taken these up for fashionable, I wouldn't wear them outside of wushu practice. The Chinese person's gear is the white hipster's fashion statement against capitalist pigs, right? Anyways, they're trashed, but I'm bringing them with me to med school to wear during gross anatomy.

  • Brown faux leather brogues from H&M - $20 - May 2012 to Sep. 2012 - How H&M hurts me! The heel for one of these came clean off and was lost in a friend's car on my third wear of these. Like an idiot, I kept on wearing them in spite of discomfort, to the point where the rest of the shoe started coming apart. However, I did learn that I liked the look of non-boot leather shoes, though I still think the brogue or Oxford style is a bit too dandy for me.
  • Brow leather ankle boots from Zigi Soho - $50 (from Marshalls) - Sep. 2013 to Jan. 2015 - I really liked these shoes, but the heel just wore down too quickly and was coming to bits. This isn't so much a problem with the quality of the shoe, but for my tendency to wear them weeks and weeks on end without respite, to not look after them, and to be irresponsible. No close-ups of the heels, but I assure you they are very worn on the lateral edges. Funnily enough, we had a discussion about this in my orthopaedic biomechanics class in Fall 2014 during our homework about gait, and it turns out this wear pattern is normal. The photo is a bit overexposed, but the aging of the leather looked pretty nice, and the uppers looked good. Note that the stitching came apart on the toe. Overall, I like this style of boot and hope to find something similar in darker brown later on.
  • Brown faux leather satchel from H&M - $24 - Nov. 2011 to Dec. 2014 - I had this as my only handbag in this period and it has served me well. Since its retirement, I've used it as a storage place for important documents and items, but now it's time for it to go. It's a good size and shape, but began peeling not quite one year after I purchased it. I do want a satchel like this in the future, but of course in real leather and from a brand I feel comfortable throwing money at.
Long story short, I'm trashing all but the Converse (donated) and the wushu shoes. None of the others can be reasonably worn by another person at all, and I have foolishly tried to push them beyond their expiration to decrease cost per wear and avoid buying a replacement. Heel wear patterns are consistent with neutral, normal gait, but wearing overly deformed shoes will have negative consequences. Finally, there is no point in striving for a minimal shoe collection for the bragging rights of being minimal, when there is value in cycling between pairs.

My goal in medical school then is to wisely and deliberately grow my shoe collection by slowly incorporating high quality, reliable pieces. So: more wardrobe planning and more research. Now, I'm done.


  1. Such a unique posts. I am definitely not much of a shoe person and always find it so difficult to find nice shoes, but this is great. Love, Eline |

    1. Thanks! I suppose all the shoes shown here are learning experiences about quality and consumption rather than wise purchases in their own right. I've certainly become more of a shoe person after having these fail too quickly on me.

  2. Interesting post! Haha, I had no idea those types of shoes were martial arts shoes. I think I'm most willing to spend more $ on shoes because they can make or break how comfortable you'll be. I generally like to buy shoes that would be worth resoling at least once after the soles wear out.

    1. My threshold for reasonable amount of $ to spend on shoes has certainly increased over the past few years. Not included in this post are the many < $50 boots that my roommate bought and wore out over the course of a season, much to her frustration. Since my next purchase will be winter boots, I will be very careful to look for reliability, durability, and overall quality.

  3. Oops I always wear the same shoes, or I'll rotate between two. I always like wearing things until they wear out rather than wearing them for a bit then ditching them for another pair that catches my eye. Of course, it is quite unfortunate that H&M brogues fell apart so quickly ): I like the style though! / For shoes I'm a big believer in quality, and I don't mind spending a little more on them if I know that I'll wear them a lot. They usually last me quite awhile! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey's

    1. I am also very much in the "wear it out" camp, but as it stands right now, I have 1 pair for each season (by northern California standards), running shoes, and professional pumps. I wholeheartedly agree about quality, and cringe when I saw these cheap, nonfunctional, flimsy shoes sitting by my door. If only I'd learned that lesson earlier!