recently spent a week in Newport Beach and Avalon. I had a great time, lots of sunshine, good eats, shopping, but I came home with a fat blood blister on my toe, a matching one on the ball of my foot and crater on my heel you could fit a marble in. And that was wearing my sensible shoes.
I have rarely exhibited much common sense when it comes to shoes. Being height challenged, I can’t bear flats unless they are flip flops, and then preferably when there is a beach nearby. And I tend not to wear gym shoes unless I am in the gym or in an environment doing something gym-like. I’m not too fussy about the style. I like slides, sandals, booties, mules, pumps — just so long, of course, that they have some sort of heel. This all works well when I’m sticking close to home, but when adventure calls and I find myself logging hours on foot, it generally ends with a visit to the store for bandages, first aid cream and, as in the case last month, new shoes. On this trip, I actually started out sensibly in a pair of Croc thongs — yes, essentially flip flops. That’s when blisters one and two showed up. Our vacation had just begun. Clearly, different sensible shoes were required. Fortunately, there was a mall directly across from my hotel, so off I limped for what I hoped would be a quick shopping trip. Alas, the mall was huge, a small city in its own right. So big, they offered trolley service. Of course, I was always a block away from the departing trolley. After limping from Nordstrom’s to Macy’s to Neiman Marcus and a few places in between in search of something attractive, comfortable and with at least a bit of height, I broke my rule about gym shoes. These do, however, have a two-inch platform, so I’m not sure they count as athletic. They served me well for a day, but by day two I had developed a wound that looked like someone had taken a melon baller to my heel. The truth is, the only shoes that didn’t hurt my feet, were also the highest. But I must confess there was a moment when I lumbered up the steep ferry ramp, carry-on over my shoulder and lugging my 50-pound bag behind me that I wondered if gravity might just pull me back down. I silently acknowledged that flatter shoes might have been wiser — a realization I’ve come to countless times, but never seem to remember until it is too late.
I have not always been such a tenderfoot. I started wearing heels in my early teens (which may explain why I’ve never been able to dance in flats) and they remained my footwear of choice throughout my career. As a young journalist I once reported to the scene of a newly extinguished fire in a pair of tall, black patent leather pumps, then observed the firefighters grinning as they watched me gingerly high-stepping my way over hoses and puddles and other equipment. Even in Alaska, when the most basic common sense would dictate sensible boots, I still opted for a heel. “They act like crampons,” I recall earnestly explaining to my husband as I carefully made my way down an icy flight of stairs while he watched grimacing, certain I was about to take flight.
I am not always an idiot about my shoes, though I somehow still manage to get it wrong. Once in Croatia — a time when I was actually wearing sports sandals — I couldn’t understand why everyone was looking at my feet. It got so bad I began to think I had committed some cultural offense. Naked toes on a Sunday, taboo, perhaps? Turns out, a local finally told me, no one could believe I was wearing sandals in those cool temperatures. I finally had to agree it was a bit chilly, then went in search of socks. Try that one when you don’t speak their language and they don’t speak yours and all you can do is point to your toes.
Ok, so enough about my battered feet and shoe issues, and onto a happier footnote — I’ll be at the Nye Beach Book House on Saturday, May 27, from 11 am to 2 pm and at the Cloud & Leaf Bookstore in Manzanita from 11 am to 1 pm on Saturday, June 3. I’ll be signing copies of my novel, “Wander” and talking books. And no, I probably will not be wearing sensible shoes.
Lori Tobias is the author of the novel “Wander” and a journalist of many years. Follow her at loritobias.com.