Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Danskos: A Love/Hate Relationship

Everyone who knows me knows that, practically before I could speak, I was pointing at shoes in shop windows and thinking "I want." I don't know why I (someone who really hates to waste time shopping) have always been obsessed with shoes and will gladly say "yes" whenever someone suggests a trip to the nearest shoe store (even if that shoe store is only Payless, and even if my to-do list is so long, I'm thinking of turning it into a novel). The good thing about this obsession is that, unlike bathing suits, say, I never, ever get depressed while shopping for shoes. The bad thing is that I have crammed my poor feet into all sorts and conditions of shoes over the years and then done things like running in ill-fitting sneakers, and all this has taken a toll on said feet.

A few years back, when I started suffering from things like plantar fasciitis and other painful foot conditions, I began to fear I was never, ever going to be able to wear a lovely pair of shoes again. I was going to be forever stuck wearing ugly, comfortable ("sensible") shoes. However, by buying sneakers that fit well and were designed for the way I walk and using inserts carefully, I have discovered I can still manage to wear beautiful heels (at least, for an hour or two on Sunday morning, or to do something like go to the theater, being deposited and picked up at the door). Nonetheless, for everyday, long-term wear, I have to find things that are a bit more practical. Back then, I began looking for more comfortable foot wear and was told by everyone that the best shoe to buy was the Dansko clog.

Okay, with the exception of the Croc (btw -- you see, this shoe obsession really runs deep, to the point of owning shoes I find hideously unattractive -- I also have a pair of those, but they are never, ever been worn off my property. They were bought back in the days when Bob and I had a garden and lived on a plot of land that was often very muddy), is there anything uglier than the Dansko clog (don't let that touched up photo above fool you. Somehow, Dansko's marketing folks have managed to put their ugly duckling into the very best light. I almost don't recognize them)? I know they're ugly, because even Bob, who usually couldn't care less about such things, was not thrilled when I announced I was getting a pair -- that I was, in fact, spending a good deal of my Christmas money that could have been spent on something far more attractive (say three pairs of cheap, but dainty, little shoes from Target. Bob is nothing if he isn't into bargains) on a pair of Danskos. Luckily, they were all the rage at the time. At least I wasn't investing in something that was not only ugly but that had also gone out of style back when Jimmy Carter was president.

I bought them somewhat reluctantly, but then discovered something. They are (aren't all the ugliest things?), as everyone had assured me, extremely, extremely comfortable. I can walk anywhere in them, and my feet don't get nearly as tired as they do in other shoes. My plantar fasciitis is bothered almost less by them than it is by my sneakers, and I don't have to wear inserts with them. They are also convenient. I can slip them off and on with no bother (far more practical than some of those strappy sandals I own, for which I practically need a microscope in order to find the holes in the straps so I can buckle them. Such shoes have been known to make me late to events, when I find myself thinking, "All I need to do is put on my shoes, grab my bag, and I'm ready to go," and allot myself 30 seconds to do so).

The problem is, they make me feel like The Little Dutch Girl, which might be okay if I were Dutch and under the age of eighteen, but I'm not. I confess they look better with (some) skirts than that hideous "commuter" look of white socks and running shoes (that always reminds me of the movie Working Girl, big hair and all) women sometimes still sport in the name of comfort, and when I wear my longest jeans, they are almost tolerable, as they are mostly covered up. Still, there is no mistaking that I am wearing Danskos, and I hate the fact that I'm wearing Danskos, choosing comfort and practicality over pretty and/or sexy.

How comfortable and practical are they? Well, this week, I have been stranded at my brother-in-law's house, because my car broke down when I thought I was taking a quick and easy business trip up to Tarrytown, NY. My brother-in-law has been kind enough to put me up for three nights instead of the one night he thought I would be here. I came completely unprepared for three nights away from home, though, and had to get him to take me to Target to supplement my inadequate wardrobe . I did not, however, need to supplement my shoes, because I happened to have had two pairs of shoes with me (in case you thought I was exaggerating when I confessed to being shoe-obsessed, you should know that only the truly shoe-obsessed would have two pairs of shoes with her for an overnight stay). I had worn boots on Sunday to the work event and had packed my Danskos for the trip back on Monday. Four days without any form of exercise would be unthinkable for me. I have to do something (usually walk) at least every other day. Yesterday evening, I took a four-mile walk in my Danskos, and my feet were perfectly fine. I will do the same again this evening. Had I had only my boots with me, I would never have been able to do that without needing a visit to a podiatrist.

So, practical, yes, but how ugly are they? Let's just say that I recently had to go to the mall to buy an outfit for an upcoming event. I hate malls. I hate walking around malls. In order to do so, I need something comfortable. I also need something convenient if I am going to be going in and out of dressing rooms trying on clothes. There were piles of ice and snow melting all over the place. I didn't want to ruin any of my pretty little comfortable flats trying to walk from the parking lot to the mall, so I reluctantly slipped on my Danskos. The whole time I was at the mall, passing windows with all kinds of pretty and impractical shoes, I wanted to announce to everyone, "I'm not really a Dansko wearer. I'm being forced to wear these by aliens from another planet in a little experiment they're conducting." Ahhhh, but my feet were so grateful by the end of the afternoon when I rewarded them with a trip to Starbucks where I sat down for a leisurely cup of coffee and a scone, and they didn't throb, which they've been known to do when dressed up in something too tight and too high, even after I've sat down for hours.

Is it really possible to both love and hate a pair of shoes?


Stefanie said...

I could have been a girl with a major shoe fetish but having a wide foot and a high arch and being forced to get the ugly shoes from Stride Rite when I was a kid cured me of any burgeoning shoe love. I see the students at work wearing the cutest shoes and I just sigh because I could never get my foot in them. So I turn a blind eye as best I can and try hard to not hate shoe shopping when I am driven to do it. I do not, however own a pair of Crocs, those are the ugliest shoes I've ever seen. I do have Birkenstock sandals though. They aren't exactly pretty but they carry an acceptable hippy/crunchy granola/alternative lifestyle vibe that makes me not care about their unattractiveness.

Emily Barton said...

Stef, oh, I have a pair of Birkenstock sandals, too, bought back in 1993 just after a guy who didn't like Birkenstocks broke off our relationship. I practically had to tap into emergency funds to afford them at the time, and I hardly EVER wear them, but I'm still very, very fond of them, and I enjoy their vibe, too, although I don't really pull off that hippy/crunchy granola/alternative lifestyle look very well (that didn't stop me from desperately trying to do so when I was in college, though).

Danny said...

Am I crazy that I think your clogs look kind of cool (and I LOVE Birkenstocks!)? It's probably because I grew up in a neighborhood that was half Jewish and half Swedish and I always admired the Swedish girls in their clogs! In fact, just a few weeks ago when I was in Chicago I went to a Swedish store in the old hood and was actually wondering if I could pull off the clog look myself. (Mercifully, I decided that I couldn't! And was also shocked at how expensive the Swedish clogs were!) Just so you don't think I'm a total fetishist, I DO think Crocs are hideous!

litlove said...

Ugliness = comfort. Beauty = pain. Oh life, life, what do you do to us mere mortals?

Kristi said...

I am a Dansko convert as well. These days I actually think they're not that bad-looking. Kind of like how you convince yourself that an ugly baby is actually cute.

ZoesMom said...

This is pretty much how I feel about my Uggs.

Smithereens said...

I don't want to play my inner Parisian girl, but I can't believe those shoes actually exist, are produced and sold for actual money? Crazy world! There's no market (not even a niche) for that in Paris. I love sensible shoes for commuting, but not *that* much ;)

Emily Barton said...

Danny, I will wear them when I come to visit then. (P.S. I owe you an email. I haven't forgotten.)

Litlove, remember that portrait I painted of Heaven earlier this year? I forgot the part about everything being beautiful with no pain.

Kristi, exactly. Every time I look at the picture on this blog, I find myself thinking, "They're not really that ugly, are they?"

ZM, Uggs are some of the most perfectly named shoes, aren't they? I don't have a pair of those (yet).

Smithereens, see, you Parisians know so much more about beauty than we Americans do.