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On Worn-out Sports Shoes of Different Brands
Now this is just a story from my eventful and colorful life. It is not an adverting slot (there are plenty of interesting adverts on all my blog pages) and none of the brand names are giving me a cut or kickback (but I will accept if they decide to offer). With that out of the way, here is my story: (and if this page's sponsors look like they are offering you a bargain, then buy up! But always remember, I have no control over the commercials, advertisements or whatever else you call the sponsors.)
One day, about twenty-six years ago, I was visiting Sydney, Australia. As usual when I go there, I attend morning prayers at the Adas Yisroel Synagogue (before surfing at Bondi Beach -- the only thing I miss in Sydney). This is a shule that was started by a bunch of ex-pat, refugee Hungarian Jews who made it to Australia after the second world war, all of them Holocaust survivors. I remember the days when the only language you heard was Hungarian. It's changed today. A few (very few) of the ex-pats' kids (now in their late-fifties and more) are still there, and a few others with them. I find today the place to be a sad shadow of what it once was. (Unlike Melbourne where a similar organisation is thriving, now into its third generation -- but not too much Hungarian is spoken in the corridors any more).
Anyway, back to my story. A guy I know, Peter, who does no sport, is wearing these sport shoes. He sings their praises to me in between David's Psalms and says you've got to get a pair of these! They were called Nikes. Now that was the first time I'd heard of this brand. He told me where he had bought them. When I was at uni in Sydney in the early seventies, at the University of N.S.W., the standard student shoe was Adidas (do you know they've been around since 1920! It was started in Germany by Adolf (ĎAdií) Dassler who made shoes at home -- he had an argument with his brother Rudy, who went off to spawn Puma) Rome. Now we thought they were the be all and end all in sporty footwear until a new pair that I had, fell apart after two weeks of my owning them. We took them back, and the response from the factory was that these shoes had "obviously been used to play squash in". I admit that was clairvoyant, because back then I played squash at least four time a week. The factory claimed that Adidas Romes were only made for walking in! Some sports shoe?!
Anyway, I went up to Bondi Junction, and got me some Nike shoes. This first pair of Nikes were really comfortable. I wore them all the time (except on Shabbat to Schule). I went through quite a few pairs, on average a pair and a half annually. (Adidas Romes had barely lasted four months, but that was over ten years earlier.) I wore nothing else. One day I went to my cupboard and picked up one of my shoes, and the poor thing looked rather sad and lonely, very lonely in fact. And indeed it was. Where was its friend, its life partner? For most people a single shoe is a pretty useless thing. You could grow coriander or parsley in it, but it's too small for a gold fish. I searched everywhere, high and low, but alas could not find the second, maroon coloured, Nike Air shoe. Every year before Pesach, my wife, Jill, would say, "Let's throw it away". I was aghast, "Throw him away! No way, his spouse will turn up". Year after year this scenario would continue, but no second shoe.
Now in the walk- in cupboard area where my shoes, (and shirts) used to live, was a chest of drawers that we had on long term loan from our nice neighbour, who doesn't like to part with family heirlooms even if she is short on space, but also can't bring herself to let them go too far away. It was a great arrangement for both of us. She would come by every few months and say hello to the furniture piece, and Jill would keep her clothes in it. Then we did a bit of a renovation in the mansion and I achieved my own cupboard on the other side of the bedroom. I moved my shirts, shoes and sundry out of the walk-in cupboard into my very own closet. Now there was room for all Jill's stuff without the requirement of the drawers. So we parted company (no more home visits) -- and guess what was under the chest? No. But yes -- the second maroon Nike shoe. It took fifteen years -- but my prophesy came about -- the two shoes were united.
I rejoiced with the shoes . . . and to celebrate their reunion, I wore them to the gym the very next day. Now that was a disaster. Sometimes it's better leave memories just as that -- memories. I should have just gold plated them and put them on the mantlepiece. But no, I had to wear them -- after 15 years I went and wore them. And boy were they uncomfortable. I thought maybe the rubber had perished, or maybe the padding? But no, I compared them to my current Nike super duper shoes, and they are built very differently today. The support, padding, soles, everything just looked and felt better!
It's amazing to think how great we thought these shoes were in the mid-80's. But by today's standards, I was unable to wear them.
Then, one day later on, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum (well funny may depend on your sense of humor). A new pair of Nikes I had bought felt like the inner sole didn't reach the end of the shoe and my big toe was irritated by it. When I checked the shoes, there was no gap inside -- they both reached the end. I thought it was some kind of slippage, but it wasn't that either. And it was only on one foot. The shoes were comfortable, but big toe thing bugged me everythime I put on the shoe. Not a big bug, but irritating none-the-less -- everyone experiences this type of annoyance sometimes. I kept on checking, but the inside of the shoe was fine. And the next pair I bought exhibited the same problem.
By chance I happened in New York, and noticed that my current (slightly irritating me) Nikes were a bit worn. At this stage of the game, I had been working out with Steve at my gym in Israel for about a year, and he always wore Saucony shoes. I had not heard of Saucony before, but Steve raved about them. So when I went into an Upper Manhattan sports store and was greeted by Nikes and Sauconys and sundry other well known and lesser known brands, I thought, what the heck, let's try on a pair of Sauconys this time around. I did and they were very comfortable (like the Nike feeling all those years before), and really light too, and no problems for my big toe. So I bought a pair and basically haven't taken them off since (I know, except on the Sabbath! and in the pool).
When I got back to Israel, I bumped into Yonatan in the lockerroom and told him I how I had just bought a pair of Saucony shoes on Steve's recommendation. He retorted, "Yeah, but Steve has a Saucony foot". I said, "a what?' Yonatan just repeated, "Steve has a Saucony foot". I asked him what was a Saucony foot? He explained that Sauconys were only comfortable only if you have a large arch. "I", said Yonatan, "have flat feet and get back aches if I run in Sauconys -- very bad for me, but great for Steve and others of his foot ilk". Oh, I thought to myself. Lucky my father realised that I had flat feet (because so did he and had problems because of it) and had me "treated". I used to hate the "treatment" but now I have arches like the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
So it really seems that is some science or at least pre-thought in the shoe industry. I now know that the shoe industry has advanced in leaps and bounds since 1920 and since 1987, you don't play squash in Adidas Romes (you have to pay double to get Adidas, non fall apart, special for Squash only shoes), if you have to have a big arch, Saucony is great, and I still don't have a solution for the big toe bit.
And at the same time, my wife bought a pair of Asics (from Japan, but made in I don't know where) -- but I was already happy.
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