by Jeff Grimshaw


About eight years ago I read an interview with a man who'd been selling shoes for something like half a century and he said that if you had three pairs of shoes and rotated them on a regular basis they'd last as long as five pairs of shoes.


It happens that my shoe of choice is the sneaker, specifically the cheap sneaker. Not running shoes, nothing you have to inflate, nothing endorsed by professional athletes, nothing, to get right down to it, that costs more than 12 bucks.


So what happens when I come across this piece of advice from a shoe expert? Naturally, I start rotating my sneakers. My sneakers get two days off for every day on, and in a couple of weeks I can already tell that the shoe guy knows his stuff. My sneakers are lasting like crazy. And it occurs to me that if rotating 3 pairs of sneakers makes them last as long as 5 pairs of sneakers, adding more sneakers to the mix will only make things better. I can't see a downside. I don't see a point of diminishing returns: 6 pairs will last as long as 10 pairs and 60 pairs as long as 100.


I started out adding one extra pair of sneakers to the mix, so they were one day on, three days off. And I had this real old pair of fuzzy basketball shoes from the mid-seventies which were still in good shape since I never wore them, a gift from relatives in Texas, and even though they were the epitome of everything I dislike in a sneaker, I clenched my teeth and decided I would wear them once every two weeks, and this would give all the other sneakers a day of rest. They could hang out together in the closet, catch a matinee, rent a video, whatever. Now I have four full-time sneaker pairs and one part timer, and they still show hardly any sign of wear, and I'm a good six weeks past the point wear I would normally spring for a new pair.


So I buy one anyway, because it can only improve things, and we are now talking 5 full-time sneakers plus the fuzzy relief pair, which I am starting to get pretty fond of and am considering adding to the regular rotation. At this point it became necessary to start keeping records. I bought an account book and started making up a weekly schedule. It occurs to me that my new pair can probably stand up to more use than the older ones, so I put that one on an every-three-day routine, which gives the mature sneakers more bounce-back time. And the fuzzy guys break into the line-up full time at last, so I buy a pair of real ugly checkerboard pattern sneakers to take over the relief role. At this point a two-week schedule looks like this:


          Mon.: black high tops. Tues.: white low tops. Wed: new ones. Thurs.: white high tops. Fri.: fuzzy guys. Sat: new ones. Sun: black low tops. Mon.: black high tops. Tues.: new ones. Wed: CHECKERBOARD GUYS. VACATION DAY FOR REGULAR SNEAKERS. Thurs.: white low tops. Fri.: new ones. Sat: white high tops. Sun: fuzzy guys. 


Needless to say, this is working out quite well. Though it occurs to me that if I had ANOTHER new pair, I could probably increase the life of my OLD new pair considerably by alternating pairs in the 'new ones' slot. So that's what I do, and maybe the best thing about this, aside from the bucks it's going to save me in the long run, is: I don't even have to adjust my schedule!


Things would probably have gone on in this fashion for the foreseeable future, but one day I got the black high tops all gunked up when I was trying to drag that moose head out of the swamp, so I had to wash them.


And something happened. Possibly because they were pretty old (though of course in excellent shape), the strip of textured rubber around the toe of the sneaker came loose. I suspect this happened in the drier rather than the washer.


And under that strip of rubber was... this stuff.


The stuff was incredibly sticky. It might be some sort of glue, it might be liquid rubber, it might be some strange combination of the two. But IT NEVER DRIES OUT. And even though it never dries out, the strip of textured rubber will never stick to that part of the sneaker again.


But everything else will. Game pieces, dust bunnies, wadded up socks, cats. Pretty soon it became apparent that I would have to retire the black high tops. I didn't throw them out, because that would mean they would be gone. But I left them on the floor near the linen closet, and after a while they melted.


Not the canvas part. The canvas part is as good as new. But the rubber parts, especially the gooey parts where the textured strip came off, completely liquefied. I have these canvas uppers sitting in a pool of white rubber, fused to the floor. I suspect some sort of plot on the part of the sneaker cartel; if you don't wear the sneakers out within the allotted time, they simply self -destruct. I see telltale signs of impending doom in some of the other older sneakers.


But I'm ready. At the moment, The rotation consists of 28 pairs of full time and four pairs of part time sneakers, and a couple days a week I walk around in bare feet just to keep sneaker fatigue at bay. I buy a new pair of sneakers every two weeks, and every six weeks I add one of these pairs to the rotation. I can't even estimate the amount of money I'm saving. All I know is, I'm coming out way, WAY ahead in the long run.


I'm sitting pretty.