I swore I would never buy another pair of shoes at the Payless shoe store on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, but this was an emergency. The right sole of my last pair of shoes had come completely unglued as I was walking one hot day around the corner on Collins Avenue, so there I was.
I expressed the reason for my reluctance to the Payless clerk, that Payless shoes look nice and are comfortable, but are cheaply made with cheap materials, and tend to become useless in short order.
This time the shoes were never comfortable although they were the right size. Then the insole on the heel deteriorated after two months of wear. I stopped wearing them because the heel cushioning of another pair of shoes I had purchased there, namely, the Payless Champion brand, so called fitness or athletic shoes, had deteriorated. I continued to use them, and wound up disabled, with an injured ankle that took four months to heal. Watch out for their Airwalk brand, by the way, as I had a similar experience.
I also had a pair of Levis tennis sneakers at the time. They were extremely comfortable, but I had to Super Glue the edges to the shoes after I wore the one day, and the insoles wore out in one month, so I tossed them.
I resolved to return the American Eagle tennis shoes, but both stores on Lincoln Road had closed. I walk everywhere I go, taking a bus only rarely. I contacted Payless on the Internet, but never received a reply.
Payless propaganda claims Payless is the “largest specialty family footwear retailer in the Western Hemisphere, offering a trend-right and comprehensive range of everyday and special occasion shoes and accessory items at affordable prices for every member of the family. The company’s mission is simple: To be the Go To, Get More, Pay Less shoe store for our target customers.
Payless was founded in Topeka, Kansas, in 1956. It allows customers to select their own shoes, cutting labor costs to a minimum. I arrived in Topeka in 1957, after my father bought a house at 1414 SW 7th Street. “Topeka,” as the reader may know, is a combination of three Native American dialects, and means, “a good place to dig potatoes.” It is not known as a great place to buy shoes.
I had shoe issues way back then, when issues were called problems. Experts say that is because I have flat feet. I say it is because shoes have built-in arches that hurt flat feet. A Shawnee told me that American Indians walked millions of miles on flat feet without a problem until they wore arched shoes made by the white eyes.
My dad went to high school barefooted during the Depression, and borrowed a pair for the graduation ceremony. He sold ladies shoes after the war. His advice was that a good shoe should have firm soles. He was right. Feet get used to firm insoles and get stronger. Cushioned insoles feel good for awhile, but they spoil feet and injure feet and legs and back when the material loses its resilience.
The cheap tennis shoes I was sent off to grammar school with in Topeka were killing me. I was in such pain that my stepmother was called in. The gym teacher told her I was a liar, that I just did not want to play basketball, and she agreed.
I made the junior high varsity football team in the 7th grade playing in another pair of tennis shoes. The coach said I need cleated shoes. My dad said he would buy me a pair. My stepmother was livid because she wanted a new dress. A row ensued over breakfast. I was smacked in the back of my head. I headed to the highway in a T-shirt and jeans. It was cold, so fortunately for me, I was able to hitch a ride to Chicago right away, where I arrived with a quarter in my pocket, and had to steal a coat to keep from freezing. I never returned “home,” and knew why people were saying, “You can’t go home again.”
I wore leather-soled dress shoes, after that. The soles I had were stitched onto the upper body of the shoes, so they did not fall off. They did get holes, but resoling them was cheap. The big issue was that heels wore down quickly, especially if you walked like a duck, so I got metal cleats, and thought they sounded pretty cool. I made sure the shoes had no arches. No problem walking the streets of Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and Miami.
My problem with shoes returned when the market was flooded with shoddy imported shoes made with synthetic materials. I recall something big happened to domestic shoe manufacturing.
Just lately shoe conditions have gotten much worse if you are economically challenged. Yes, you can buy a fine pair of long-lasting shoes for $400, or buy them used for half that, and you will pay even less than you pay buying several pairs of crappy shoes over the years, but it can be really difficult to put several hundred bucks up front, especially when you got used to getting durable shoes for reasonable prices when you were rather poor decades ago. Some of the shoes back then were so tough that if you could afford it you paid someone to break them in for a couple weeks.
The stock of a company called Skechers, originally formed to distribute Doc Martens, has skyrocketed lately. The founder was involved in the rise and fall of L.A. Gear. Some of the Doc Martens boots were counterfeit. A $40 million settlement was made of a suit for false claims that its “toning” footwear would cause people to lose weight and tone up their muscles. The share price fell back quite a bit from its high, but is taking off again because foreign revenue growth is fantastic. It is selling quite an assortment of attractive shoes, cheaply made with cheap materials.
I purchased a pair of “The Men’s Relaxed Fit Botein – Verman shoes. Needless to say, they did not last long, so I wrote the following letter to the Manhattan Beach office:
“Subject: Shoddy Shoes or Misunderstanding? I walk approximately 5 miles per day on concrete surfaces. The Skechers were very comfortable at first, and I was delighted by that as well as the apparently sturdy construction, which I expected to last a year or more. After four months of use, I developed pain in my big toe joint (metatarsophalangeal joint), and worried that I was developing arthritis. At that time, I noticed that my feet were sinking into the padding of the Skechers in such a manner that my feet were being twisted horizontally and vertically. I also noticed that the soles under the balls of my feet were wearing very thin. After five months of use, the stitching along one side of one Skechers shoe was ripped from the rubber, developing a hole alongside the shoe. At that time, I ceased wearing the Skechers, stored them away with the purchase receipt, and bought a pair of Doc Marten shoes with a similar appearance at about the same price as the Skechers to see how long they would last—the shoe shine man recognized the Doc Martens right away, and said they would not get a hole in the sole, as is common with other brands I have worn lately. Please advise if the shoes I identified are designed to withstand over 5 months of wear on a man weighing 220 lbs walking 5 miles per day. If so then how long should they last without holes and torn out stitching?”
Unlike Payless, Skechers customer service got back to me right away. “It sounds like you got a good amount of use from your shoes,” wrote Debbie. “Unfortunately I do not have stats on weight versus miles used but I can tell you that a man weighing 220 lbs, walking 5 miles per day for 5 months will probably go through shoes more quickly. The Men’s Relaxed Fit: Botein – Verman are a dressy, casual oxford, not an athletic or performance style shoe specifically designed for fitness.”
I had to toss the Doc Martens after 8 months, by the way, because the soft insoles caved in, putting a strain on my ankles, but otherwise the materials held up very well although a hole was almost worn through the synthetic sole below the ball of one foot.
Sometimes Ross Stores sell Doc Marten and Skechers shoes at half the retail price. If you like to walk, count on buying four pair every year.
I have not seen Payless American Eagles at Ross Stores. But I did a tennis shoe which appears to be more durable deeply discounted at Wal-Mart for $7 a pair. I purchased there instead a handsome pair of Dr. Scholls work shoes, which I am now testing. They are holding up very well so far. I do not care if people at the gym stare at them.
This I can say for sure about Payless: You will pay more to get less at Payless, and, when you go to return shoes that fall apart, the store may not be there, and you may never hear from their corporate service department.
As for Skechers, I am withholding judgment until I can lay my hands on a pair of their athletic shoes at a deep discount. Maybe I will lose weight on them.
If I were really a cheapskate, I would buy a pair of $300 walking shoes because they would cost less in the long run. If everyone got wise, and if no-interest shoe loans were available, the high flying shoe business would crash for sure.
|Voyager Walking Shoes $300|