Shoes. A woman in Houston has a three-story, 3,000 square foot closet filled with her shoes and purses. Entire DIY shows focus on shoe closets. It’s not my thing. As the owner of fewer than a dozen pairs of shoes, the only pair I care about are my walking shoes.
Walking is something I do, mindfully, for five miles almost every day. It’s exercise, yes, but it is also meditation, brainstorming, and calming. In the summer, I hit the streets right before dawn to walk before the desert heat suffocates me. In winter, walking brings me back after my morning coaching clients have been heard and are working on their ideas.
Walking wears out shoes. It takes me about three months to wear out a pair of shoes. The heels wear down first. Then the inside of the heel, where my foot tries to escape with every step.
When I bought my last pair of shoes, the sports shop maven told me that the gel-filled heel was all wrong for walking on city streets. She brought out a pair with a comfortable toe box, but an overall stiffness I didn’t like. The soles were hard, unyielding, but, she assured me, would offer the necessary support for my urban walking.
They lasted, too. The heels did not wear down. The inside of the heel did, but that didn’t bother me. Or so I thought. After six months, the shoes showed not a bit of outside wear. But my knees and hips hurt from walking. I’d come back, sit, and the next time I had to get up, the pain was sharp and mean. It felt like a small rodent chewing at my joints.
Then I dropped an earring clutch into my walking shoe. As I reached my hand into the shoe, I felt a bald spot. At the place where the ball of my foot rolled over the inside of the shoe, I had worn away padding, lining, and was down to the sole of the shoe. There was no insole left. I felt the other shoe. Same thing. The outsides looked fine, but the insides were trashed.
The next day, I used the walking time to buy a new pair of shoes. Comfy toe box, but also padded heels and arch support. Really ugly. And yes, over the last 10 days I’ve owned the shoes, I can walk easily, without pain sinking in during the rest of the day. The old shoes looked good, but the insides were killing me. And so was the stiff, unyielding sole.
The old shoes gave me a metaphor for my coaching work with clients. (OK, I’m a metaphor junkie.) It’s not the sturdiness of the plan, it’s not how it looks. It’s how it performs. If your plan (or your goal, your work, your relationship) is uncomfortable, stiff, unyielding, take a look at what isn’t working. It may not be the obvious, it may be deep inside. If you feel comfortable in your bones, you’ve made a good choice.
—Quinn McDonald is an urban naturalist. She’s also a corporate trainer who teaches writing skills and a creativity coach who helps clients discover the way to live a fulfilled life.