A Girl and Her Shoes

Mountain Bike for Her - - Front Page -

My shoes stink. I’ve just ex­tracted them from an equally rank bike bag where they were stowed away in a plane for 48 hours on our jour­ney home from bik­ing in the Alps. I look at their worn tongues and frayed laces sadly, and dump a pud­dle of muddy wa­ter out of them onto the ground. They were packed away wet, that’s their prob­lem. Our last ride of the trip had been down a steep clay bike park track the day af­ter a rain. Ba­si­cally, a slip-n-slide cov­ered in thick pasty mud. We’d spent hours clean­ing our bikes with a hose and brushes, but had taken less care with our clothes and footwear. Ev­ery­thing was soaked, but we had a plane to catch. There was no time to lov­ingly hang our shoes out to dry in the moun­tain air.

I pick up the black 5.10 Hell­cats and flick a clump of muck off the sole. I start think­ing about all the lay­ers of dirt that must be on these shoes. Slimy mud from Mont Sainte Anne where I tested them out on my first world cup course, red sand from our many trips to Sedona and Utah, thick, juicy loam from the North­west, layer upon layer of Cal­i­for­nia dust. I pull out a piece of sharp, brown grass from our lo­cal trails that is still stuck to the Vel­cro strap. I think about how far that piece of grass has trav­elled. These shoes have lit­er­ally been around the world with me. They’ve seen 3 con­ti­nents, and count­less miles of trail.

I don’t want to con­tem­plate throw­ing these shoes away. I’m prob­a­bly well past the ex­pi­ra­tion pe­riod for a piece of equip­ment that con­tain my sweaty feet on a daily ba­sis, but I push that thought aside. They just need to dry out that’s all. They’ll be fine.

I no­tice that the fab­ric at the back of the heels is start­ing to wear from tak­ing them on and off so many times. I think about how good it feels to take these shoes off and slide my feet into flip-flops af­ter a long ride, and in turn, how wel­com­ing they feel when I pull them back on for the next one. They’ve molded to my feet over the miles. They’re not the light­est shoes, and the sweat and dirt ac­cu­mu­lat­ing on them must only be mak­ing them heav­ier, but they feel

right on my feet. No blis­ters, no hot spots, no numb toes. I switch to other shoes from time to time, think­ing I need some­thing lighter, some­thing less clunky, a bet­ter race shoe. But I al­ways come back. I come back to them on the first cold ride of the year, when my su­per light, ex­tra well-vented shoes aren’t keep­ing my feet warm enough. I come back to them for that epic day we have planned where I might need to hike and I know my other shoes will give me blis­ters and slip around on the rocks. I come back to them when I feel like I might need to be ex­tra planted on my ped­als. Then, once I’m back, they’re al­ways just right.

Con­sid­er­ing the num­ber of miles these shoes have seen, they are in sur­pris­ingly good shape. The soles are still stiff and sticky and there are no holes in any in­te­gral lo­ca­tions. I no­tice they’ve de­vel­oped lines on the top where my foot flexes. Like the laugh lines I’m dis­cov­er­ing on my face as I get older, these flaws on their sur­face re­mind me of ad­ven­tures. They re­mind me of leap­ing off my bike to save my­self while try­ing to climb a piece of slick rock that was just a bit too steep. They re­mind me of my hon­ey­moon, bik­ing from hut to hut in Colorado, they re­mind me of rid­ing the Santa Ana River trail in the snow and rain, and of those per­fect hero dirt days on the moun­tain. If I close my eyes, I can hear the stomp­ing noise that they make when I’m push­ing my bike up a hill I couldn’t climb. The thick rub­ber help­ing in­su­late against the frus­tra­tion my body is try­ing to in­flict on the earth. I can feel their stick­i­ness as I nav­i­gate a rocky cliff edge with con­fi­dence, my bike perched upon my shoul­der. I can hear them click se­curely into my ped­als just in time to roll over a nasty nest of gnarly roots.

I pull out the in­soles, with their im­pres­sion of my feet faded into the foam, and drop them into the bucket of soapy wa­ter. I’m not ready to give up on these shoes just yet.

Mar­i­lyn Monroe said: “give a girl the right shoes, and she can con­quer the world.” Well, for me those right shoes hap­pen to be a grey-brown- used-to-be-black pair of dirty, smelly 5.10s. Surely with a wash and some time to dry in the sun, I can squeeze a few more miles in be­fore I have to trade these trail con­quer­ing beau­ties for some­thing new.

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