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Size Matters

Remember going to buy new shoes when we were kids?  It was always an adventure for me. Going to the shoe store with mom meant one of two things: Either Easter was coming and with my brand new Easter outfit, came brand new shoes, or we were preparing for the first day of school and with the new uniform came the new shoes. Either way, I loved the entire experience. It was an experience.

We’d walk into the shoe store and my eyes would almost glaze over as I looked at all the shoes on the shelves or propped on shelves against the wall. And they all smelled so good, too. But we didn’t just pick out the shoes we wanted. Oh, no. There was an entire procedure to be followed.

The “Shoe Man,” wearing the requisite long sleeved dress shirt and blue necktie approached us carrying with him a shiny black contraption with lines and numbers, a raised back heel and slide glides on both sides. I was instructed to place my RIGHT foot onto this steel plate and move my foot backwards until it was nestled against the raised heel. Once in place, the “Shoe Man” adjusted the side sliders; closer and closer, until they just touched the inside and outside edges of my foot.  He gently pressed down on my toes and recorded the point of contact.  This process was then repeated, in its entirety, for my left foot. Mom was now told my current shoe size and we were ready to buy my new shoes. Mom was always advised to get shoes about half size larger than the actual measurement to allow for “growing room.”

I have come to learn that this metal contraption actually has a name. It’s called The Brannock Device, designed and patented by Charles Brannock in 1926 and 1927, respectively. It was, and still is, the absolute standard used for measuring and determining proper shoe size. Brannock Devices are specifically and uniquely designed to measure men’s, women’s, or children’s feet. Looking back, I remember thinking that not only was I getting a great pair of shiny new shoes since I had definitely outgrown and, in all likelihood, outworn my current pair, but these new shoes would fit properly and would not bruise, blister, cut, fall off or in any way hurt my feet. After all, the “Shoe Man” had measured them just for me.

He then disappeared behind a dark curtain at the back of the store and returned minutes later with two or three boxes in which were several styles of shoe of the appropriate size. As I sat on a firm and cushioned beige seat, I watched as he removed the cover of the shoe box and unfold the white tissue paper caressing the shoes. Here was a special gift being presented just to me, just for me. He helped me put them on one at a time with the ever present silver shoe horn he kept in and retrieved from his shirt pocket. I admit, I felt a bit like Cinderella. When the shoes were on my feet and the laces properly tied, I was instructed to stand up.  Mom and the “Shoe Man” poked and gently pushed down on the toe of both shoe and inspected the heel and my foot position in the shoe. I was asked how the shoes felt. I was then told to walk back and forth to judge the feel. I felt wonderful and special, and just a bit elegant. After some additional discussions about ‘growing room’, the shoes were gently removed from my feet and returned to the box; the tissue paper refolded over the shoes and the cover replaced.  I was told to put my too tight, too beaten up, dirty old shoes back on. I sadly obeyed. I assume mom paid for my new shoes but I never paid much attention to this detail. I took the box with my special new shoes, hugged it to my chest, breathing in the newness of them, turned around, and thanked the “Shoe Man” as mom and I left the store. I was thrilled and good to go.

Now here I am; an adult. Each spring I wonder. Why do women today wear shoes, sandals specifically, that simply don’t fit? The reason sandals come in many, many different sizes and widths is simple…one size does not fit all. Ladies, if your toes extend beyond the front of the shoe bed, the sandals don’t fit. If your heel slips off the back of the shoe, the sandals don’t fit. If your feet puff out and look like wrapped sausages, the sandals don’t fit. If you teeter and totter and walk as though on a sheet of ice when it’s eighty degrees outside, the sandals don’t fit. If, when you walk, you get blisters and cuts on your feet, the sandals don’t fit.

So don’t get me started with women who wear sandals that DO hurt, bruise, cut, and cause blisters but wear them anyway for the sake of fashion. There is nothing even remotely fashionable or attractive about a woman wearing sandals and Band-Aids on their feet.

Every year, shoe designers and manufacturers flood the market with sandals that are pretty, stylish, cute, strappy, sometimes affordable, but in most cases unbearable and unwearable. Over the years, I have thrown out closets full of sandals I may have worn once or twice, because every spring I say to myself, “This is the year I will be able to find the perfect pair of sandals. They will be cute, pretty, chic, and comfortable,” And for the 90 or more minutes I spend in the store trying on pair after pair, they are all that. Once I get them home, though, and try to use them in the real world, they just plain hurt my feet. I have a friend who once told me, “Oh, sure they hurt in the beginning, but you get used to it.” This logic escapes me.

Come on, ladies, let’s be real. We get manicures, pedicures, and various waxings. We cut, color, and dye our hair. We diet (God, how we diet). We spend money of loads of makeup, jewelry and other beauty products to enhance and compliment our femininity. But then spring time rolls around and we jam our feet into sandals that don’t fit, aren’t comfortable, and that we simply can’t walk in. Tell me what I am missing.

We buy the perfect dress and the perfect shoes for the perfect occasion. We walk into an event looking like a million bucks and then the first chance we get, we kick our shoes under the table and spend the rest of the evening bare footed. We have all seen women on the dance floor sans shoes. We have also seen women walking down the street and we KNOW, as does everyone else, that she is wearing sandals that just don’t fit properly.

Ladies, my advice is simple. If you want to look good, by all means purchase and wear sandals that fit your life style. But for feet sake, purchase and wear sandals that actually fit. I have seen so many women falling out of their sandals, that when I see someone whose sandals actually DO fit and who doesn’t seem to be on the verge of falling and breaking her neck, I have an almost overwhelming desire to run to her, hug her, and thank her for all of us who are too vain, too frugal or just plain too stupid to wear sandals that fit. SIZE MATTERS, LADIES! We normally wear a size eight and a half shoe but when spring time comes we try to jam our feet into a size seven sandal. Shouldn’t we be smarter than that?

My sister recently suggested to me that I try and wear men’s sandals. My estrogen driven knee jerk reaction was “But men’s sandals are ugly.” And then I thought about it. Maybe she’s right. Maybe there is some logic there. Is there anything uglier than flopping down the street day after day in pain? Maybe men have it right. Maybe men have found the answer. After all, you would never see a man hobbling around in sandals that are too small, too tight, too narrow, or too high. Men would never walk around all day in shoes or sandals that hurt, would they? Probably not.  Buy, buying men’s sandals doesn’t seem the solution for me, though. The feminine side of me just isn’t ready to buy men’s sandals.

Find me the “Shoe Man” with his blue necktie, his shoe horn and his Brannock Device. Mr. Charles Brannock passed away in 1993 at the age of eighty0nine. Too bad, really. We need you, Mr. Brannock, now more than ever.

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