Sunday, March 11, 2012


This piece isn’t intended to be an ad for any shoe company but a reflection on the necessity to care for your feet – your natural form of locomotion. Without them your life is complicated beyond belief where you by necessity become dependent on others and their generosity or lack thereof.

If you have ever developed a blister and had to alter your walk to accommodate the healing process – not to mention the pain – then you know the drill. Other complications to include bunions, achilles heel, hammer toes, ingrown nails just to mention a few, makes one heartily appreciate that desired state of good foot health.

Many years ago I developed an ingrown toenail that required surgery. A staph infection ensued complicating the whole procedure and prompting an even greater recognition of podiatry. Now given my penchant for seeking the higher places, I’ve always been very particular when it comes to my feet - toenail clipping, washing them regularly - you know the drill. No, I haven’t had a pedicure. So I was appalled that I required the good doctor’s ministrations and asked the doc why all this? He replied – SHOES. Yes, he then went on to describe the downside of inappropriate shoes and the fertile environment they create for a wide variety of opportunistic maladies. He then hit me with several shots in my big toe that hurt like hell – pain you can’t imagine, ranking in my top three negative experiences. Then with his previously (alarmingly) palsied, shaking hands the doctor proceeded to professionally and with great steady precision, fricassee that toe. Ghastly experience and one that I do not recommend.

With our technologically modern advanced foot support systems and the myriad of exceptional training, walking and running shoes that far surpass anything I had in my youth, the new generation seems to be headed in the right direction. Well, at least they have options. I still see, however, many shoes that appear to be part of an ancient initiation rite or torture chamber especially the monstrosities that women feel obligated to wear (fall down – fall off) to be part of the in-style modern world all trying to emulate the incredible multi-talented Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (Lady Gaga). My advice – abandon the blind pursuit of fashion for comfort and ultimately embrace good foot and overall health practices.

My first full appreciation of comfortable shoes was my original well broken-in Bass Weejuns that I would still wear. Not a whole lot of support but maybe great slippers? An epiphany of sorts came back in 1985 when I was being fitted for my authentic 18th century shoes for my 78th Fraser Highlanders activities. They weren’t quite the universal no left-no right straight lasted shoe but close and to the period. We bought them from (appropriately) the Sutler of Mt. Misery (G. Gedney Godwin) who this writer heartily recommends along with the extraordinary Jas. Townsend & Son for all uniforming and accoutrement from F&I forward. We of the New Inverness Garrison found a Russian cobbler right off the square in Decatur, GA who affixed the buckles and adjusted as necessary. Point of all this? He called them his, “Oogli (ugly) shoes” while commenting on their great comfort. We laughed but found that a modern orthotics insert brought them up to nearly acceptable standards – at least for some of our long parade duties.

And that brings us to this very day where I basically wear three pairs of shoes – all from one manufacturer. A couple of years ago I finally tossed all my in-vogue shoes and bought from REI one brown, one black and one rough-out brown pair of slip-on Merrells. They’re shaped like my foot, comfortable, durable and presentable for most situations. Yes, they are my modern oogli shoes… I don’t wear them to church or with my tux/tails.

My feet with their high insteps are now happy and we don’t worry about fashion any more. So, if we meet on the street and mutually and casually cast our glances downward noting our Merrells, Mephistos or like shoes we can silently smile and salute knowing that we all sentient, we unfortunately happy few, are among the smartest on the planet. Rest assured, there will be a time when common sense and comfort will eventually overtake most folks. Just go with the flow…


Ned Buxton