“My GOD,” he gasped, “You’re a knock-kneed pronator!”

“Beg pardon?” I asked politely. The way he was looking at my feet kinda reminded me of cat in a tuna store. Or in heat.

“Knock-kneed pronator! In my entire career I’ve only met one other knock-kneed pronator. Wow!”

I was flattered. I think. I’d wandered into the little shoe shop in the mall looking for a pair of black pumps, chosen a couple of likely candidates and asked to try them on. The shoeguy had immediately dropped to his knees, pulled out a ruler thingee…and all hell had broken loose.

“Knock-kneed pronator! See, your knees face in. See? (I knew about the knock-kneed thing, wore orthopedic oxfords–the ones that come in your choice of ugly or hideous–until I was 10 or 12. Probably scarred me for life.)

“But now…looooooook at your soles! See? You pronate! You roll your feet to the opposite edge! Do you know how rare that is? And…say, I hope you don’t want to try on those shoes. TOTALLY wrong for your feet.”

And so I met Greg the Shoeguy. To say he took his work seriously is putting it mildly. That first day he spent about 30 minutes simply measuring and examining my feet and my shoes, and telling me the history of my insteps. Then he chose several pairs of shoes, ripped out the insoles and replaced them with new, and said, “These are your choices. Which ones do you want?”

At least I got to pick the colors.

But here’s the thing: After Shoeguy got through with me, I could walk miles and miles of concrete floors without so much as a twinge in a tootsie. In dress shoes.

Over the next few months I bought three pairs of shoes from Shoeguy. They weren’t cheap, but that was nine years ago, I’m still wearing them and they’re still that comfortable.

All my other shoes went to the Goodwill–once your feet don’t hurt you’ll NEVER go back to that other kind of shoe.

I should probably backstory this: My first real newspaper job was for an editor who insisted that female reporters wear high heels and hosiery whenever they went on assignment. My beat included one of the then-largest tech shows in the world, Comdex Las Vegas.

It literally filled the city for blocks and blocks with exhibits and press meetings and demonstrations and was so crowded you had to walk to most things. During Comdex week I’d spend roughly 18 hours a day trudging an 8- or 10-block span of Las Vegas, for a whole week. And in Las Vegas, a block is one mile long.

I may have been the only reporter there in high heels. At the end of Day 1, I tearfully peeled those shoes off my feet and limped into my hotel, ignoring the pantyhose raveling up my legs and bloody footprints following me all the way inside.

The boss caught up with me near the front desk. “Why are you barefoot?” he demanded angrily, “Where the hell are your heels?”

I carefully pulled one out of my bag and threw it at him. It takes a LOT to get me into high heels now.

Over the years, my shoeguy developed a following; it wasn’t unusual to see salespeople standing around looking bored at Shoe Mill while a line of customers patiently waited to see Greg. I hurt my heel once and my doctor gave me a choice of seeing a podiatrist, “or an amazing guy, Greg, who believe it or not is a shoe salesman over at Shoe Mill. He sells me my shoes…”

I took visitors in to see Greg and each walked more comfortably when they left him…except one. That houseguest had arthritic, gnarly feet that constantly pained him. Greg told him the problem was too-small, too-narrow shoes and brought him a larger size.

“They feel like I’m swimming,” my guest complained, and refused to buy them despite Greg’s most fervent explanations.

I paid for my shoes while my guests checked out the Apple Store down the mall…and Greg clutched my arm. “Please, please TALK with your friend. He is RUINING his feet. Please! He doesn’t have to buy shoes from me, but he must STOP wearing those shoes. Here are his sizes; please persuade him.”

I promised I would.*

I’ve been threatening to drag Mom down there to buy shoes for maybe the last four years but she’s curiously reluctant. “What’s wrong with the shoe store near our house?”

I finally talked her into going to Shoe Mill last week; Greg wasn’t there. One of the salesmen–who fitted me with the wackiest walking shoe I’ve ever seen–told me Greg had been promoted to sales manager of the Gresham Shoe Mill and was no longer at our little mall store.

He sold Mom the open-toed black pumps she wanted, they were on sale at a good price, and she was happy. “But I don’t see why driving all this way is so much better. This is just about like our store at home.”

Next time we’ll have to go to Gresham.


*But I didn’t get very far. “I’ve been wearing good shoes for almost 60 years,” my guest sniffed, “and I KNOW that my feet aren’t that big.” I suspect he’s still limping around in the same shoes.