January 27, 2003
My Scary Shoes

ytd: 83.99

They're not the most uncomfortable shoes I've ever owned. That honor still belongs to a pair of maroon velvet pumps I wore to my sister's wedding in November 1995. (Let's just say that those weren't always tears of joy in the Matron-of-Honor's eyes, as she limped up the aisle.) Those maroon velvet pumps were a bazillion times more uncomfortable than my new bike shoes.

So far, anyway.

They're not the most expensive shoes I've ever owned, either, thanks mostly to my wonderful, generous, thoughtful mother-in-law. Using the Performance Bicycle gift certificates she gave us for Christmas, I managed to pick up a pair of Diadora road shoes for next to nothing over the weekend. Plus I got a groovy blue helmet to match my bike, a bright fuschia jersey with tons of pockets all over the place, and a pair of socks with little red bicycles running across the cuff. Ordinarily I would have had to take out a bank loan to finance all of this stuff.

They're not even the ugliest shoes I've ever owned. (I was a TEENAGER in the SEVENTIES. OK?)

On the other hand, my new bike shoes might possibly be the scariest shoes I've ever owned.

I've been circling around the idea of bike shoes for over a year now: knowing they were as inevitable a part of my cycling future as cleated pedals and eight percent grades, but wanting to avoid them for as long as possible. I couldn't afford them, for one thing. A decent pair of cycling shoes -- like everything else bike-related, from saddles to socks to high-tech handlebar doodads that gauge your mileage/your blood pressure/your astrological forecast for the next six months -- requires a major outlay of financial resources. (I bought my first computer, ten years ago, for less than a pair of Gaerne Podium Carbons are going for these days.) It seemed like every time I got close to having enough money to buy my bike shoes, last year, some fresh new financial emergency would crop up, like an overnight blackhead: car repairs, rent increases, unexpected dental work, Tot birthdays, groceries.

There were some minor aesthetic issues, as well. Bike shoes, especially black or brown bike shoes, remind me of the ugly leather oxfords I was forced to wear in grade school. Accessorize those black or brown bike shoes with a pair of white athletic anklets, and all of a sudden I am Nine Year Old Secra again, feeling stumpy and uncool and out of the fourth grade fashion loop.

But mostly I think I was worried about tinkering with my comfort level ... especially where my feet are concerned.

Foot comfort was the big issue last year. Hand numbness, butt discomfort, chapped lips, heat stroke: all of that stuff came and went. But foot pain was the background *theme music* of the 2,002 in 2002. Even with my big comfy ungroovy athletic shoes -- or maybe because of my big comfy ungroovy athletic shoes: they're pretty much the worst thing you can ride in, short of maroon velvet pumps -- I used to end the forty- and fifty-milers in serious agony. Occasionally my right foot -- the foot with the big lumpy bone growth on one side -- would actually go numb while we were riding: it would get to the point where I couldn't even feel my foot connecting with the pedal anymore. (This is specially terrifying when one is careening down the Moraga Molehill at 43,897,621 mph.) How much worse would it be, I wondered, squeezing my ugly, deformed Hobbit feet into a cramped pair of bike shoes? Cycling shoes run markedly narrower than regular athletic shoes, and they've got extremely stiff, inflexible soles. By making the sole of the shoe stiffer, the thinking goes, the pressure you put on the pedal is spread out over the entire sole of your foot. This reduces fatigue on any single part of the foot, supposedly, and transfers all of your pedaling energy into the pedals. You ride with more power and less discomfort. In theory, of course, this sounds quite reasonable and healthy and logical.

In practice, I was afraid it would have me on crutches faster than you can say Manolo Blahnik.

Still, you can only procrastinate about some things for so long. How would I really know how uncomfortable a pair of bike shoes would be, if I didn't actually go out and SHOP for a pair? So over the weekend we found our way to the Walnut Creek Performance Bike shop, armed with gift certificates and credit cards, determined to begin the search for Secra's bike shoes. 

I have to tell you that I went into the store with zero expectations. I thought that the hunt for decent shoes would be a lot like wedding dress shopping: lots of stops and starts and snooty salesclerks telling us "You won't find what you're looking for in THIS store" ... before I finally found the one pair of bike shoes on earth that wouldn't 1.) kill my feet, 2.) cost more than my last root canal, and 3.) traumatize my Inner Nine Year Old. 
So imagine my amazement when the very first pair of shoes I tried on at Performance Bike turned out to be perfect. Or as close to "perfect" as a pair of tight, ugly black oxfords can be.

Especially tight, ugly black oxfords with a placeholder on the sole for CLEATS.

[Gulp.]

We took the new shoes on a test drive on Sunday morning, a brisk eighteen-miler around Bay Farm, and I've got to say that I was surprised by how comfortable theyare. They pinch a little around my big toes -- I can see this might be a problem during Infected Ingrown Toenail Season -- but then again, I feel that way about all enclosed-toe shoes. I'm an open-toed shoe girl all year long, even in January. (Which, of course, makes me all kinds of glad that I live in CALIFORNIA, and not in some frigid godforsaken place like Minnesota or North Dakota or NEW JERSEY.) Otherwise, though, the Diadoras seem to fit remarkably well. As it turned out, I didn't even need those pre-emptive BandAids on my heels.

And yes, I'll be the first to admit that I felt an exciting new surge of *power* when I climbed the bike bridge. It felt like the shoes were doing the work for me ... a nice change of pace.

Even David seemed impressed by how quickly I adjusted to them. "You look like you know what you're doing," he said admiringly, as we wheeled our bikes into the apartment after the ride on Sunday. "We'll have you on the cleated pedals in no time!"

And THAT, my friends, is precisely what makes the new bike shoes so scary.

Stay tuned.

i love them! [as long as i don't LOOK at them, anyway]


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am i "nuts?"
yeah ... maybe a little.
[why? does it show?]