Two weeks before Rose and I moved to Belize I was still in need of a pair of sandals.
I’d always been more of a running shoes kind of guy. Never sandals.
Out on the road nearly every day, I would grind a pair of running shoes down in a matter of a few months. Then they would become my regular walking shoes until the raggedness and odor were too much. At which point they would come to rest on the floor of my closet, sometimes for years. I’d also use them as hiking shoes, bicycling, water socks, dress shoes, work shoes and casual footwear. My feet were so happy in running shoes.
In a new pair of Sauconys I felt like I was flying. I felt like I could run forever.
That feeling usually lasted no more than a month, and then the Sauconys would flatten out, become thin and hard, as if there were nothing between my feet and the road.
But this isn’t about running shoes.
Two weeks before moving to Belize I had no sandals and I was pretty darn sure that I needed a pair. I mean, we were moving to a tropical island, right? What else would you wear?
Knowing this much didn’t make finding a pair any easier. With no workable background in sandal wear, picking out a pair was challenging. I needed function over aesthetics. I needed something with strap support on the heel and front — but not overly heavy. I didn’t want leather because nothing has a shorter lifespan in the tropics than leather.
In short I needed something with the lightness and support of a running shoe but the openness of, well, sandals.
It was a desperation play. They were the least objectionable of a whole lot of ridiculously over-priced sandals being sold in a California brand name outlet mall. And in truth, they were a whole size larger than I needed. And they cost a bit more than I felt a pair of sandals ought to cost — more than a whole pair of leather shoes, with sides and heels and fronts that cover your toes.
They had one thing going for them: They were comfortable.
And at least they were a brand I recognized, Columbia Sportswear.
Here’s the thing. I have worn these sandals every single day since I bought them. Hiking, biking, shopping, kayaking, on boats out to the reef and in the surf. Up and down the treacherous steps of Mayan temples. To expensive restaurants and crazy parties and trekking through jungle. In rain and broiling sun. Over time, my feet sank into the sandal base and molded them into a thing of unimaginable comfort.
Oh, there were occasions when the extra foot size tripped me up but my reflexes always managed to save me. I only looked like a stumbling inebriate.
Well, maybe I was that too. Sometimes.
I wore them all through England last summer. Except for the wedding. For the wedding, I bought a nice pair of used black dress shoes at a charity shop and donated them back to another charity shop after the festivities were over. Looking back, I bet I could have gotten away with wearing the sandals to the wedding with my khaki slacks and blue blazer — you know, playing the eccentric islander card.
In reality, my sandals are the only shoes I have. And if that isn’t good enough for your restaurant or party then I’m not the kind of person that you want there. Trust me on that one. That’s just the way I see it.
Recently the sandals started showing signs of age. Just breaking in, I thought.
Then, they just broke down.
First it was the right sandal’s strap over my front foot. It just snapped away from the base of the shoe. But I could live with that. There was plenty of backup support built into these babies.
When the heel strap on the left sandal gave way, my foot started sliding around like a sports car on an icy road and I knew it was over.
I am not ready to go native. There is just too much broken glass and sharp shells for these bare feet. And, at my age, the bottom of the feet feel more like sponges than leather straps.
For now I’m making do with a pair of super cheap red rubber Fila sandals that I got on sale a year ago at a local department store. They were super cheap and will work for now.
Tomorrow, Sept. 21, is Belize Independence Day and the red sandals with a blue polo shirt and white khaki shorts will make the prefect patriotic statement. Everyone dresses in red, white and blue for Independence Day.
Hey, Columbia, if you are looking for a pair of Size 12 feet to test drive your sandals in the tropics, give me a shout. I will work for product!
Rest in peace, my sandals. You were loved during your time on this earth.