Do you remember your last shoe purchase? I do. It was a pair of New Balance trail shoes I found on sale marked down from $44.99 to $29.99. I was blessed with a wide, flat foot (thanks, Dad) in a size 13, so finding comfortable shoes on the cheap can be a challenge. In fact, footwear is one of the few areas I have to sacrifice a little frugality in the name of health. However, once I find a comfortable pair of shoes, I tend to wear them out, and then some. I mentioned the idea for this post to my wife and got the, “Sometimes you really take this frugal living stuff too far” look. I assured her I wasn’t the only one meticulously calculating the cost and service life of their shoe collection. She still wasn’t convinced, but I thought it would be an interesting exercise. So with my apologies to Imelda Marcos, here’s a run down of my “extensive” shoe collection.
The Ten-Year Boots
Not long after my wife and I married I found a comfortable pair of Timberland hiking boots. They were expensive, compared to my current standards, at around $70, but they do last forever. I don’t hike, but the boots are comfortable and warm in the winter, and provide a thick sole and a high ankle in case I do explore a trail here and there. They don’t see much action in the summer, but I do occasionally wear them in the fall and winter seasons. In ten years they’ve become a little scuffed at the top of the toe, and I’ve replaced the laces a time or two, but overall they are in great shape. In fact, with the weather turning chilly these last couple weeks I’ve brought them to the front of the closet for their seasonal use.
Work Shoes: One Brown, One Black
Funny how your job environment can actually make you more frugal. Years ago when I worked in landscaping part time, and in a home improvement warehouse full time, I wore out shoes a lot more frequently. I’m fortunate (I suppose) to have a desk job, so footwear is not a major concern for me. And since I’m not out to make a fashion statement I typically can get by with two pairs of work shoes–one brown and one black, with two belts (or a reversible) to match. For my feet, you can’t be a comfortable pair of Hush Puppies, but they are getting harder and harder to find, locally. I picked up a great pair of black ECCO brand dress shoes a couple years ago on Ebay, and because I wear black shoes less frequently than I do brown, they’ve held up great and are by far my most comfortable work shoe.
The Trail Shoe
Part cross-trainer, part running shoe, part walking shoe, the trail shoe is just about the best style of tennis shoe around for my needs. The toe box and the heel of this style of shoe tends to be a little wider, which works well for me since I tend to roll on the outside of my feet when I walk. Trail shoes do a better job of keeping me stable. When I inevitably wear out the inside of the shoe before the outside I remove the insole and pick up a replacement for around $15, further extending the life of the shoes. When that replacement insole wears out the outside is usually pretty ragged as well, so I pick up a new pair and “retire” the old pair to be my designated yard-mowing shoes.
I figure I walk about a mile a day in each type of shoe (averaging out steps taken around work, exercising, etc.). Some days I don’t wear any shoes, particularly in the summer, so I factored that in as well. Assuming I wear all three styles of shoes 300 days out of the year, and average a mile or so in each type of shoe, I get about 900 miles out of these four pairs of shoes each year. I replace the trail shoes and work shoes annually at a total cost of around $150 (including replacement laces, insoles, etc.). Hmm…I wonder if $0.17 a mile is a pretty good miles-per-tread figure?
While I don’t expect you to calculate your own miles-per-tread estimate, I am interested to hear about your frugal shoe collection. Feel free to share in the comments below.