Footwear That Fits - Lesson Four

They were a mismatched couple. He was shorter, heavier, with dark hair that was going to gray. She was taller, slimmer, her hair was what some might call dirty, or dishwater blonde. I'm not sure how we became friends of a sort. They never bought anything, but came in to chat about this or the other thing. He was a runner, perhaps that's why he had wandered into the store initially. He acted like he knew me, so I played along. One night I was working by myself. It was the long, slow, interminable shift that seems as if ten hours have gone by when perhaps ten real time minutes have elapsed. He had a formula for his footwear, after so many miles, his shoes were done and he purchased new ones. He didn't look like a runner, but apparently he was. She did, and wasn't. This was the subjuct of our conversation that night. He wanted a running buddy, and explained that she had repeatedly refused to run with him regardless of the pace, citing pain when she ran as the problem.

It didn't make sense to me, her longer legs and leaner frame made her a better running candidate than he did with his shorter squat frame, but as I watched her walk, I began to understand. Despite her very long legs, she took very short steps. Gradually we identified what we felt might be part of the problem, the fact that her hips weren't rotating in their sockets in a manner that would produce a longer, more comfortable stride. It took some convincing before she realized that she was limiting her range of motion. We talked about striding and gradually she learned how to use more of her upper leg muscles, but that was only part of the solution. We had overcome one obstacle, but to prevent the problem from recurring, we had to learn why she was doing this, or in her case, not using her hips to help propel her forward. She was typically the more reserved of the two, but that night we got more speech out of her, than him.

We measured her feet, and just as I had suspected, they were too short. He didn't wear short shoes, his wider feet prevented that mistake, and I see this a lot. People whose feet are wide tend to go longer to get width, while those with narrow feet will skimp on length because their foot feels more secure inside of a smaller shoe. Athletes I spoke with made this mistake repeatedly, mistaking too tight footwear for a competitive edge that didn't exist in real life, eventually I learned not to argue with these types, and as an aside, it helped me narrow my focus. A lot of stores and people think that the way to sell is to have something for everyone, I try to identify who is likely to buy, and really concentrate my efforts on them. To return to my late night shoppers, by the end of the night she knew what her gait issues were, she knew why they were a problem for her, but she didn't want to spend the money to prevent this problem from ever happening again.

Footwear is expensive people tell me. Perhaps this is true. But consider my point of view. Today I stopped at the grocery store where my daughter works. I saw two Packer jerseys, his was green, hers was white. Donald Driver hasn't played for The Pack recently, but his jersey was a bright unsoiled green. Hers showed more signs of wear. I took a look around. More jerseys, hats, bracelets, lanyards, and other gear was visible. Presumably these people chose to wear these clothes as most of them were sporting shorts, or jeans. They were at the store before the game, this is a big one as the Minnesota Vikings are considered a Green Bay rival, and there is a lot of speculation over who will be the starting quarterback. I heard arguments on both sides, whether it was better to start a player who had suffered an injury previously, or someone who had considerably less experience.

Licensed NFL gear could be called expensive, but people can come up with the money for what they want. In order for people to change their habits and behavior, they need some sort of motivation, or incentive that makes sense to them. They need to be open to the idea that better footwear is out there, I doubt that would be a tough sell, but you never know what objections people will come up with during a conversation. Perhaps they think that they shoes they're wearing are as good as it gets. Their Packer gear isn't doing a thing for their health unless there's some emotional boost they get from pulling it out of a closet, dresser, or the wash when it dries. Their poorly fiited footwear is costing them in numerous ways. Out of the sea of shoppers I was the only person carrying my own bags. None of these shoppers can see the wisdom of bringing their own bags which not only conserves scarce resources and keeps the planet cleaner, it also reduces the amount of money the store has to spend on buying plastic and paper bags.

A lot of these people are comfortable with their current situation from a psychological perspective. The problem is, if your mistakes don't hurt a bit, or a lot, you don't have a reason to reform. Today I went to two grocery stores. There was a tempting array of things I would have liked to have bought and eaten. One of my bad habits is stopping at my favorite health food store, and buying sticky rice chips that I like to pair with the organic version of a Mounds bar. Today they were on sale, I had passed on the $3.99 bag of sticky rice chips, but the candy sung to me as I neared the checkout lane. I hadn't slept well last night, the line was long because there was only one checker open. I could have bought two for $3.00 rather than whatever they cost individually when they weren't on sale. Almost every other time my hand reached for the candy, my mouth watering like a dog in a famous study. But this time, I left the store without them.

While there isn't much we can do about our genetic lot in life, I will forever be short with fair skin that scorches easily, we can do a lot to improve ourselves from a nurture standpoint. Leaving the chips and candy did more for me than simply save me $6.99 plus tax today. It showed me that even though I was tired, and even though my children were up late coughing and sneezing, and even though I was stressed about starting a second job, and worried about how I was going to handle the pressures at the job I currently dislike, I was able to use my rational brain to override the emotional impulse to grab comfort foods. Quality of life is the long term, or more immediate result of our behaviors, patterns, routines, and habits. I don't really need chips or candy. I could use that $6.99 in other, smarter ways. Today I did that. Another thing I did was walk into a store where I wanted to buy something, and leave empty handed.

It isn't easy for a middle aged woman such as the one we met at the start of this post to make changes in her life. Perhaps buying a new pair of shoes doesn't seem like a radical lifestyle change, but because she had negativity bias, she would have to part with hard earned money to buy new shoes, she delayed the decision. Ignorance and apathy ruin more feet and shoes than almost anything else I can think of after careful consideration and contemplation. Either people do not know that better is out there, such as my fellow shoppers at the grocery store, or they don't care. Saving her money was more important to this woman than doing something that would hopefully increase her health. Her tendency to save is admirable, but what net gain is there if her back, neck, and knees hurt while wearing the shoes that we now know do not fit? It's very difficult to learn from your mistakes, integrate new information into your life, and remain focused on the long term gain.

Stores would save money if everyone brought their own bags. When I worked at a grocery store people would tell me that they forgot their bags in the car, or couldn't be bothered to run them back out to their vehicles after they were done unpacking the groceries they had bought. They would rather pay extra for the convenience of having the stores provide them with bags that get tangled in trees, snarled in sewers, and constitute a hazard for small children who may suffocate if they put the bags over their heads. A lot of us are like this. We want the immediate feel good solution. We want to blame the store for higher prices, wear our Packer jerseys, buy our sodas, chips, and candy without any of the repercussions. But there are no shortcuts in life. My weight problem is the accumulation of extra calories, those candy bars and chips I ate because I felt sorry for myself, or told myself that I deserved a treat.

To change requires awareness. It forces us to look in the mirror, or down at our feet, and recognize that we have probably neglected them. It means making a conscious effort to get out of our comfort zones, to learn what mistakes we have been making, and what, if anything, we have been doing right. Mistakes should hurt. People who are unable to feel emotions can't learn how to win because losing doesn't hurt. Today I feel good about most of my spending decisions even though I spent too much at both stores. But I resisted temptations that had done me in previously, and that is a victory nobody can take from me. Debates about whether willpower is finite, or infinite abound, for me it was consciously interrupting the habit I had formed whenever I had gotten turned on to those bars. I still want one, the sticky rice chips remain seductively spicy and salty, but I feel better knowing that today, I exercised control I hadn't in the past. The hardest thing to do is start, and I'm really glad that I did even if nobody's footwear was improved.

tl;dr Many people spend money they could be spending on footwear in ways that are decreasing rather than increasing their health. Rather than antagonize them, focus on overcoming more of your own weaknesses. Sooner or later someone is going to ask you how you got to where you are today. I can't wait for that question because despite the numerous mistakes I have made, it turns out that old dogs can be taught some new tricks once they start associating the pain of denial today with goal achievement tomorrow. 

Footwear That Fits - Lesson Six