I reached for the ice axe handles and held the door open as my three children joyfully stepped inside the “store of grand-adventures-waiting-to-happen.” Wide-eyed, the kids and I stopped to stare at the hanging bicycles, the colorful walls of packs, and the people buzzing in and out of racks of clothing and equipment. The store smelled of hope and wonder. I felt out of place, like an awkward preteen on her first day of junior high school. I did not know where to go or who to ask or even what questions to ask but I had three kids with me and I was their leader in this escapade.
We had come to buy new hiking boots. Over the weekend, I thought it would be a good idea to try on my old hiking boots just to make sure that they still fit. I would be wearing these boots for hours and hours, over many miles, for several days, they needed to be comfortable and fit correctly.
I wasn’t surprised to find the boots were tight and uncomfortable. I had purchased them back when my feet were a size and half smaller (my feet have grown 1/2 inch with each of my pregnancies.) My poor, old boots had been neglected for many years. The closest they had come to gracing my feet was their placement besides my well-worn, favorite pair of sneakers. Part of me was glad and excited at the prospect of purchasing new boots but another part of me knew that buying hiking boots was not as easy as buying a pair of flip-flops. There were many different brands, different styles for different terrains, and an added expense to consider.
The kids and I found the shoe section and met a very nice saleswoman named, Helen. A soft-spoken woman in her early sixties, Helen became my BSF (best store friend.) I confessed that I had no clue what I was doing or what I needed. Helen chuckled and smiled confidently. She gave me hope that everything was going to work out and she was going to lead me to the right boot. At the shoe display, she talked about styles, terrains, leather verses fabric, toe-boxes and ankle support. All this information seemed foreign and overwhelming to me and I found myself paying attention to only two things-the two things I could understand- the cost and the look of the boot.
After some consultation, Helen went off to find some boots for me to try on. She soon returned carrying three boxes and a pair of socks. She put the boxes down and handed me the “clean” pair of socks. This was going to stretch me. Everyone has their issues. I had some doubts about the cleanliness of those socks. They did not seem like the disposable Peds that come in the unmarked, white box found in most shoe departments. No wrappers to indicate that they were new. No “SAMPLE” stamped on the sock. I could not help but wonder whose feet had been in them or if they had been washed. I looked at the socks and I looked over at my kids who were getting more restless by the minute. This needed to get done and we needed to get out of here. I pushed aside my hesitation and slipped the socks on my feet. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Helen schooled me on the criteria of a good fitting boot: 1.) No cramped toes. You have to be able to wiggle and move them. 2.) Tap the front of your boot to the floor. Your index finger should fit behind your heel. 3.) Walk on the “mountain.” Your foot should not slip and toes should not touch the front of the boot.
The very first pair of boots I tried on met all three criteria. They were in the right price range, not as bright as I would have liked, but still pretty. I tried on two other pairs just to be sure but I still liked the first ones the best. There was no time for doubts or second guesses. I looked at Helen and told her I would take them. Helen was happy to have a sale! I was happy to have come to a decision! The kids were happy to be heading to the door! It was a win for everyone!
With the hiking shoes purchased, we walked past the ice axe handles and into the fresh air. The first major item checked off my hiking list. The shopping trip had stretched me out of my comfort zone and I had learned something new in the process. I was one step closer to the mountains and happy to know that my new boots would keep my feet comfortable, dry and firmly on the ground.