If there’s one thing I can tell you about living in a highly earthquake-prone metropolis, aside from the nagging thought that living in a ten-storey block of flats isn’t a great idea, it’s that you should be prepared to hightail it to safer ground at any moment. Though the magnitude-nine monster that struck off Japan’s north-east coast didn’t cause much serious damage to Tokyo, it did knock out the city’s rail networks. This meant that most white-collar workers had to either spend a night on the office floor or walk home. Myself, and hundreds of thousands of others, chose the latter.
In hindsight, I should have kept a pair of good walking shoes at work for an event like this. I was wearing a pair of black oxfords that I’d bought the weekend before and were, when I tried them on in the shop, a smidgeon on the small side. But they were an unbelievable price and would, I convinced myself, stretch out soon enough. I wasn’t expecting that I’d have to do this on a 15-mile, three-and-a-half hour slog, but what can you do?
To cut a long story short, contrary to expectations the shoes didn’t stretch out at all. Instead of getting more comfortable as the miles wore on they became excruciatingly painful; in fact by the time I eventually reached my front door I was limping along like Fagin in the 1960s version of Oliver Twist.
The problem I have when buying things on sale – and I’m probably not alone here – is that a good price can sometimes overrule my gut feeling that it just isn’t right. This isn’t too much of a big deal when we’re talking about a t shirt or pair of socks, but it’s hugely important when it comes to the fit of a pair of shoes. Some aspects of a shoe, like the stiff, occasionally blister-forming edges of the topline, will break in over time; other aspects, like the width of the sole, will not.
From now on I’m going to always listen to my gut on these matters. If, for example, I try on some Derbys that feel uncomfortable across the middle of my feet – and especially under the arches – I won’t try to convince myself that they’ll be all right in a few weeks, and I certainly won’t listen to the sales assistant who says “Oh, they’ll be fine.” Deep down, I know they won’t be.
And if you’re wondering what I did with those crippling oxfords, I put them on Yahoo Auctions and gave the proceeds to charity. Given the circumstances it seemed only right.