The only time I wish I were a man is in public bathrooms and shoe stores. While I recognize that I don’t have the anatomy to use a urinal, I am beyond frustrated with shoe stores and their lack of practical options for women. Let’s say you’re a dude, and you need some decent walking shoes. Here are a few of your choices:
And let’s say you’re a lady, a certain type of lady who travels to Europe with an 18 pound backpack full of picnic foods, often in extreme weather. Here is your selection of walking shoes:
It’s like a Beckett play whenever we go in a shoe store—HOB ambles over to the men’s area, selects a pair of Merrell walking shoes (one of dozens of viable options), tries them on, they fit and he buys them. Meanwhile, I throw myself frantically in the path of the nearest sales associate begging “PLEASE! DO YOU HAVE ANY WATERPROOF WALKING SHOES FOR WOMEN?” Invariably the answer is no, but how about these cute rain boots with ladybugs on them?
This week though, a miracle happened, the store did have one pair of women’s waterproof walking shoes. Okay, so it wasn’t much of a miracle. These were less of a shoe and more like a foam-and-Gortex floating cruise ship. My feet looked like they were stuck inside huge maxi pads—uncomfortable, ill-fitting maxi pads. Shoe store strikeout number 481.
Decent walking shoes are critical for travel. You need to be able to walk all day on cobblestones, muddy pathways and up steep hills with a backpack. Walking shoes are an investment—this is no time to be cheap.
I have found great walking shoes. A long time ago I discovered a style of Ecco and Merrell oxfords that are not only excellent walking shoes, but are rather attractive. For years I’ve bought these same shoes used from Ebay for about $15 a pair and got along well enough. The problem is now these shoes are more than a decade old, so even if I buy them in good shape, they’ve been sitting in someone else’s closet for ten years and they are starting to fall apart. Crucially, they are not even a little bit waterproof (and yeah I’ve tried all the waterproofing potions on the market).
After our last trip to Europe–you know, that trip where we followed the Camino de Compostela Pilgrim’s trail and it rained/snowed every single day–I vowed that this time I would get serious, I would find the waterproof walking shoes of my dreams. And I did it: in fact I bought two pair. As it turns out there’s a store called REI that carries shoes for women that are actually practical, and wait for it now: waterproof. Waterproof and expensive. The shoes felt great. I wore them on some short walks and then some longer walks. The shoes still felt great, but my knees revolted. I gave up after my knees swelled up so much I had to sit around for a week with my feet elevated like a gouty-legged aristocrat in a Hogarth painting. That cool store called REI? They let you return shoes you’ve walked around in for six weeks, no questioned asked.
I leave for a walking-intensive trip soon and I’m back to square one: still no waterproof shoes. Though I realize this is what we call a first world problem, it’s still a problem so I need your advice. What kind of waterproof walking shoes work for your travels? And where did you buy them?
Guess who’s the one with the wet toes?