My Boring Shoes

Behold the Sketchers Men’s Diameter Slip-on, size 8.5, which just arrived here at the Scalzi Compound. This is the third pair of these that I’ve gotten, the first having been purchased more or less on a whim three years ago at Sears, back when you could still go into Sears without being crushingly depressed at how far the store had fallen. The shoes are super boring — there’s really nothing that calls your attention to them. I wear them because they’re cushioned and have arch support, and because they’re easy to take off and on at the airport. They are, in effect, designed to be worn by middle-aged men who value comfort over fashion, which is, basically, me.

I came to these shoes reluctantly, I’ll note. I was a devotee of Vans slip-ons for years but a few years ago had to come to terms that Vans slip-ons are not actually designed with the “increasingly middle-aged” demographic in mind, since they have zero arch support, and wearing mine to conventions or anywhere else that required lots of walking meant having feet that felt like they were being stabbed by the end of the day. I still love Vans and have a couple of pairs, but I save them for short trips and lazy days. For other every purposes: Super boring, cushy Sketchers above.

(I suppose I could find prettier shoes with equal arch support, but, meh. These work well enough, and they’re relatively inexpensive. I have dress shoes when I need dress shoes.)

The funny thing is that when I wear these shoes, every once in a while another middle-aged dude will compliment me on them, and I’ll look down and see him wearing the same shoes. Because he’s a middle-aged dude and he knows. Arch support, man. It’s a thing.

53 thoughts on “My Boring Shoes

  1. Hm. I’ve been wearing the Skechers Diameter Vassell, the last few years, and just ordered a new pair.

    Had no idea they had a slip-on. I’ll have to remember that.

    I wear them because they feel like sneakers, but don’t look inappropriate when I’m “dressed up,” to the extent I get dressed up. So they’re all-purpose comfortable shoes.

  2. Every year I get a new pair of the women’s version of these. I honestly think they’re pretty cute (for sneakers). I do still have to put in extra arch support, but those are just my feet.
    Honestly, I think the ladies Sketchers are downright dainty (shape-wise) compared to Vans.

  3. Have you tried adding aftermarket insoles to the Vans of your choice? The superfeet brand green insoles came highly recommended by the shoe experts at my local REI, and they would let you cling to the emblematic shoe choices of a middle aged guy who grew up in SoCal in the 70’s/80’s without needing to break out the old guy Epsom salt foot bath afterwards.

  4. I don’t think they’re boring–I really like them. If I could find them in a women’s 8.5, I’d buy them in a heartbeat.

  5. I prefer New Balance, as at least some of their shoes are manufactured in the U.S. rather than China. I haven’t found any Sketchers that meet that criteria.
    I am also a big fan of aftermarket insoles.

  6. Comfortable is the ONLY way to go when it comes to shoes. Being well past middle age, I just plain don’t care what my shoes look like, but I care very much about what they feel like.

    My feet are happiest in either Keens, Merrills or Danskos, and while all three make models that aren’t boring, none of the interesting looking ones are particularly comfortable for me. So I wear the boring ones that have arch support and ample cushioning, are easy to slip on and off, and last me for years.

  7. I, too, am at the age where I favour function over form. I have a pair of light weight hiking boots that are almost sinfully comfortable, and offer great ankle support, not a thing to be despised. They are my footwear of choice for non formal wear.

  8. I’ll have to check these out. Comfort and arch support are definitely of primary importance these days when it comes to shoes. For pants I judge on comfort and whether, as Dave Barry said, they were designed for “the larger-butted man.”

  9. “Arch support, man. It’s a thing.”

    Man, it *so* is. Boring beats all kinds of hell out of painful.

  10. In all seriousness, thanks for this post. My cheap shoes have reached end of life and as a middle aged guy with a standing desk I need a shoe with good arch support. Ordering my pair tonight.

  11. I have three pair of the same Skechers and they feel good. But they’re not particularly to my liking style-wise, or likely to last very long looking at their construction. They fit, they work well, and I bought three pair at a discounted price once the first pair seemed to work okay. They’re kinda softly floppy inside with lots of memory foam, etcz … they bend about right but they don’t do anything to help my feet much beyond that. They’re fine for kicking around and riding my bicycle.

    For a real walking shoe, I go with the Merrell “Jungle Moc” for their great supportive footbed along with excellent construction, high traction sole, and excellent materials. They last a good long while and my feet never get tired in them.

  12. I wear Birkenstocks most of the time. I used to have a black pair for formal business wear :-) I have slightly wide feet, so Vans and most “medium” width shoes don’t fit me, so I know why most people I see wearing New Balance are wearing them, and my shoe shopping trips to non-sneaker stores are mostly a quick conversation about “What do you have in a size 13 wide men’s black dress shoe?” “Nothing” “Guess I’ll get the Birks retread yet again.”

  13. I admit, I’ve never cared much for Sketchers – but that’s because I ran track/cross-country in high school, I *destroy* shoes, and Sketchers aren’t that well-built to start with. ^^;; Those years also left me with bad knees and problematic hip joints, so I get the comfort thing, *completely*; it’s just that for me, it takes a set of serious-grade shoes. The pseudo-hiking shoes work well, as do heavy-duty cross-trainers and running shoes designed for endurance training.

    And seconding the comment above about a good set of innersoles. You want the kind made out of high-grade neoprene, not memory foam; I go with Spenco products because that’s what we used on the team, they’ve got good cushioning, and the simple ones wear forever. The more complex ones, that have extra heel or arch cushions glued to the underside, can start coming apart if the glue begins breaking down.

  14. When I noticed that the postal letter carriers all wore black rebock walking shoes then that’s what I wore. When I started wearing insoles then I noticed senior citizens wearing rockaports so I started wearing them, as being even better.

    I just thought I would share this. I regret I cannot comment on the other brands people are mentioning, as I have never tried.

  15. The “good” arch supports I used to buy apparently aren’t made anymore, so perhaps I should check out Skechers or a couple of those other brands mentioned. Not a middle-aged dude, but not getting any younger.

  16. I’m all about New Balance also. I’ve got crazy wide duck feet and they’re about the only thing that fit my feet comfortably because they offer a full range of widths. Most of the time my daily thing is a pair of white and blue sneakers, but I also have black cross-trainers for times when I want a dressier look.

    Fancy shoes like high heels are reserved for occasions when I won’t be walking much.

  17. I used to use the green Superfeet insoles (I was a postal carrier). Eventually, it began to feel like there was a rock under the ball of my right foot. I went to a podiatrist and he recommended (not for the first time) custom orthotic inserts. By this time my foot was all messed up with other nerve issues and I was desperate so I finally agreed (I was resisting because they’re expensive and insurance never pays for them). I was out of work for five weeks while I decided on whether to order them and then waiting for them to be delivered.

    Long story short, I went to the doctor to pick them up. I put them in my current shoes at his office. I walked out to the parking lot and realized I wasn’t limping any more. The pain was almost completely gone (only some residual pain that eventually faded). It turns out that I have really high arches and no inserts sold over the counter can support them enough.

    So, pro tip: if your doctor says orthotics, trust them. I would have never thought that a sole insert would fix the multiple issues I was having with my feet. They worked like a charm. Worth every bit of the $400 or so I had to pay to get them made. This set of inserts has lasted for almost five full years now.

  18. Amen to arch support! Happily, I’m fine with buying men’s average-width shoes for my big, wide, middle-aged female feet.

  19. Take off and on at the airport? John, don’t you have Pre-Check? If not, you should – because then you wouldn’t have to take your shoes off at security, or take your laptop out, or liquids, etc.

  20. Soon, you will discover Ecco shoes, and your appreciation for good shoes will expand even further.

  21. Easy to take off at the airport?! Dude! All the flying you do, and you don’t have your TSA Pre-check number? Shit, I haven’t taken off my shoes or jacket or unpacked my laptop for a year now.

  22. Keen sandals, man. I’ve worn three pairs now (with and without white socks) and they are the best thing I’ve ever put on my feet.

    Yep, they’ve got arch support.

  23. Long time reader, first time commenter. I’m a middle-aged, flat-footed, size 15 wearing man. Arch support really is a thing. A glorious, comfortable thing. Testify, John.

    And Chris Walsh, don’t be a loyal plastic robot for a world that doesn’t care…

  24. I feel the same way about my old Chuck Taylors — I love the way they look, but wow, they’re uncomfortable to wear after a while and I can’t see how people were able to play basketball in those things. Although I understand there’s a new version of them out that’s improved in that regard.

  25. Oh man, I gotta get me a pair of these. Except I suspect my fashion conscious husband will ban them. I pray that I’m now middle aged enough to get away with it!

  26. I’ll chime in with the other Ecco fanatics. Only shoes I’ve ever purchased where you can buy them and immediately go on a 5 mile city walk, primarily on concrete/pavement, and have neither blisters nor sore feet the next day. They look good, and the styles range from workout gear and slip-ons all the way up to can wear with a tuxedo. The only downside to Eccos is that they’re not really resoleable if you wear through them, unlike (some) more expensive shoes with leather soles. The comfort makes up for it.

    And while on the subject of ‘items that go on your feet’, a lot of people buy the cheapest socks they can get because, hey socks. That worked until I moved back to a part of the country with four seasons, including winter. Then I started wearing through SmartWool socks in a great tearing hurry. I’ve since switched to Darn Tough Socks. They’re extremely comfortable, and so far, haven’t worn through. They’re not cheap, but it looks like they’ll last a good deal longer than SmartWools while being even more comfortable.

  27. I disagree on all points. I think the shoes look very nice! I once owned a pair of the same model. Unfortunately I found them dreadfully uncomfortable. The problem seemed to be that they didn’t fit the shape of my foot very well, and my foot is pretty normal. Not narrow, not wide, just average. I was disappointed because I liked the ease of putting them on and taking them off, and I thought they looked good too. Of course my taste may be questionable.

  28. My own shoe of choice as well. And I can only get them online at Sears because NO ONE else carries them in 13w; not even Sketchers.com.

  29. I hate the fact that practically every shoe company, somewhere in the mid-90s, decided to cut their men’s widths back to D or EE and nothing else. I wear a C; insoles can help, but not always. It was way easier to get shoes that fit me when I was a teen (and my feet haven’t grown.)

    For sneakers, Puma and Onitsuka Tiger are narrow enough to work (and both have good arch support – I have a high arch as well.) I’m set for dress shoes for life, having found a Nunn Bush boot that fit perfectly about ten years ago and bought six pair. For work boots, I was thrilled when Dr Martens came out with ‘women’s” versions cut on a narrower last – though I did have to do a bit of explaining when I sent the receipt in to my employer (they pay if your job needs safety shoes.)

  30. Second the Powerstep insoles. A doctor told me to go get them – with a note on her letterhead, which netted me a discount at a local shop (Marathon Sports). Still needed PT for a while, but was able to walk normally almost immediately. I put them in everything except my arch-supported sandals. I even made a set of slippers with a double sole and an opening at the heel that lets me slide a pair of Powerstep insoles into them….

  31. I had a pair of New Balance sneakers, found cheap at Goodwill. But they were white, and I don’t really like white sneakers, so I didn’t wear them often. And the last time I put them on they were YIKES TOO TIGHT and went into the box to go to Goodwill. I wear a woman’s 8W or 81/2W depending on the shoe. What’s the corresponding men’s size? I’m perfectly happy to shop the other side of the aisle, because men’s shoes are usually much better made than women’s.

  32. As long as they work for you and you like them, then that’s all that really matters (sorry forth the cliché). Personally, my speed is the $29 special on workboots from WalMart. More bang for the buck, I suppose. Also, less stress on my gnarly (no Spicolli reference here. my hands are actually gnarly) when ti comes to tying them.

  33. wiredog,

    I don’t mean to pry and I won’t be the slightest bit offended if you don’t answer, but did you happen to own a Warrior in the early 2000s? I once knew a person, rode with him several times, unwittingly sprayed rubber on him once (sorry!) who used the handle wiredog and it is unique enough that I haven’t come across it since, until now.

  34. For those who have grown too old for Chucks, you might try PF Flyers. The PF stands for posture foundation and they provide a bit more support than Chucks. They also have some connection to New Balance which others have mentioned here.

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