My feet ache today. More than normal – and normally they ache a lot. I think it’s just par for the course when you’re 28 and a half stone.
This isn’t the only reason though. The soles of my walking boots have taken a pounding over the last few months and they have virtually no tread in some places.
I’ve always bought the same type of boot – and despite minor variations in design have worn nothing but Berghaus since 2008. I use these for EVERYTHING.
I even attended two weddings in them.
The very first time I put my feet in a pair they felt so at home that I bought them immediately and saw no reason to ever buy a different type of shoe.
However – over the last few years they’ve admittedly had an easier life than the very first pair I owned.
That’s not so much the case now. My Berghaus currently patrol 35-40 miles of pavement or woodland a week and at the moment they’re showing the strain.
As I walked around Arrow Valley Nature Reserve yesterday and Memorial Park this morning I could feel the pressure points on the sides and heels of my feet – and although I can walk for miles and miles they begin to complain a lot quicker than my leg muscles.
I currently have a big plaster on my heel and yet another trophy blister.
It’s annoying – and I’m really keen on dealing with ANYTHING that will derail or slow my weight loss. So (despite being on an ever dwindling budget) I decided it was time to replace them.
My initial research into this yesterday was troubling. The uppers of the (new) Berghaus boots in the style I so love remains the same in camping shops – but the tread underneath had changed from a car tyre-esqe horizontal ridge style to one more akin to a snowflake pattern. It didn’t look like it would wear well on concrete, would gather mud in woodland, and crucially it was a lot more rigid.
As I stood in (a popular high street camping and outdoor chain store) staring at boots that were still close to £100 even with 25% off (they had a sale on) I realised that the previously easy choice of what to pick had become a bit more stressful.
New boots now represented two weeks worth of groceries. I really couldn’t afford to mistakenly buy crap.
The sales assistant wasn’t helping. He seemed unable to advise me about wear on the sole material, grip patterns or my plantar fasciitis and was clearly bored to death.
‘I’m not sure I’m going to buy anything today…’ I said, looking at a wall of GoreTex and rubber, and not wanting to commit to anything.
‘… I don’t want to waste your time!’ I said apologetically.
He started at me.
‘As opposed to me wasting it by being bored to death staring at these walls instead?’ He said.
‘I might as well be helping you.’ He added, leaning on a nearby display.
It was clear all of a sudden that he needed me way more than I needed him. Rather than endure another moment alone surrounded by discounted camping gear he wanted to talk to anyone about anything – no matter how smelly their feet might have been after a day in waterproof boots.
Sadly however he didn’t seem to have a great deal of knowledge about the boots he was selling, or how they would affect or not affect my condition.
Sometimes price isn’t everything.
I exited the store without any new boots – leaving him to the mercy of the slow brain death I’d inadvertently interrupted moments before.
This encounter was still on my mind today when I went into a local shop just outside of Leamington town centre called Lockwoods.
It’s a ski and outdoor apparel shop. I’ve been there before years ago and purchased my second pair of Berghaus boots from them.
I’d known what I wanted at the time and was in and out like a whippet so I had no positive or negative impressions associated with my purchase.
Today though was different – and as I walked in I realised that it was owned by one of the lovely ladies that reads (and occasionally comments on) my blog. She immediately greeted me and said hello when I walked in.
Although I’ve been ‘online’ for a while now it’s always a little weird when someone recognises me from my blog, especially if I don’t know immediately who they are. I’m always wondering if I’ve somehow forgotten someone and have a moment of panic!
I’ve taken to writing names in a notepad with descriptions of people I meet recently, so I don’t forget them and appear rude. I’m absolutely crap at remembering names.
Therefore if I meet you and I suddenly appear to be typing on my phone this is probably what I’m doing!
The lovely lady at the front of the shop pointed me toward the fitting assistants and soon I was talking to a real, knowledgeable and INTERESTED person.
I explained to him about being on a (recently made redundant) tight budget, and also about my plantar fasciitis. He knew immediately what I was dealing with and picked up a jointed skeletal foot prop to explain the problem and what they could do to help.
To be clear I didn’t get this level of support and explanation of my condition from my NHS doctor OR from BUPA.
A range of insoles it seemed were available, sold by them (he showed me a sample) measurable and fitted to a shoe with a two month satisfaction guarantee.
If I didn’t get what I needed from them I could take them back – with no questions asked.
He then asked me why I was replacing my current footwear – something the previous guy hadn’t enquired about at all.
Lifting my foot I showed him my worn tread and then slipped my boot off and passed it to him. He looked at the wear and then said he’d be back in a minute, and walked away with it.
I moved the small wooden measuring footrest to one side and sat on the fitting bench looking at the wall of all terrain boots.
Whatever was coming was going to cost. My wallet felt like it was tightening in anticipation.
‘Try this guy’ he said handing me the flyer.
It was for a cobbler, locksmith and engraver in Leamington.
‘Your boots are in good order other than the tread. He can shave the bottoms off and put something new on. Given your redundancy it could give you a good few months more life out of them at a reasonable cost.’
‘Ask for *****’ he said – giving me the cobbler’s name.
I sat open mouthed. He wasn’t trying to fleece me or sell me an overly expensive solution. He was just taking a pride in giving me the best advice that he possibly could with what I’d told him.
I instantly shook his hand and thanked him for his candour – telling him that without doubt I’d be back – whether it was for new boots or new insoles, and headed off (via home to get my trainers) to the cobbler to see what he could do for me.
As it happened he was very pleased about the referral and showed me a nice durable sole that he could put on my boots to extend their life. It would take him a week to get them back to me – but what the hell?
The shoes he showed me as an example of his work looked frankly excellent. The cost for them was £30 – way cheaper than new boots.
If I could get them back to working order and also get a specific insole designed to treat my disorder (around £35) from the shop that gave me such good service then that would be a real win for all concerned.
On top of this both traders were local businesses and I love the symbiotic relationship between the two. Neither got commission or kickbacks – they just supported eachother and in doing so both probably have just gained a customer for life.
Before visiting Lockwoods the idea of a new insole (other than my gel ones) to treat my plantar fasciitis had never occurred to me – and after visiting the cobbler I was certain (as long as he did a good job) that I’d be back to him in the future.
At the moment I feel genuinely good about my customer experience today and I’ll go so far as to say what I received from Lockwoods was on a similar level with visiting an Apple shop, which for me is still the highest customer service watermark that I’ve personally experienced (just behind Volkswagen).
So – at the moment I sit drinking coffee and blogging in trainers and I will have to do without my beloved boots for a week.
I miss them already. My feet feel all springy and weird.
It will be interesting Internet to see how they hold up to getting me from A to B.
In the meantime I will continue walking – in the hope that tomorrow I’ll be rewarded for my efforts and maybe get a six and a half stone certificate.
If I do it will REALLY make my day. 😊