When I was a kid, I got new shoes once a year at the end of August. My parents would pack us all into the station wagon and head to the shoe store where our feet would be measured for new shoes. Since we were growing children, and the shoes had to last—hopefully—a year, I always got shoes that were too big, with room to grow. Occasionally, when my parents had more cash, I would also get a pair of dress shoes for special occasions, but they were a risky investment when I was growing fast, so I didn’t get them until the pace of my growth had slowed. So I sometimes had two pairs of shoes: one for everyday use and another for dress-up occasions.
Now I have seven pairs of shoes, each with its own purpose. I have summer work shoes, comfortable and lightweight. I have winter work boots, heavy and warm. I have hiking boots for traipsing over rough trails in the Minnesota wilds and mesh walking shoes for urban rambles or paved trails. I have an old pair of work shoes for projects that might damage my shoes. I have a pair of dress shoes that I will use any excuse not to wear because they are uncomfortable. And finally I have a pair of slip-on house shoes for wearing in the house. I might have more shoes than my wife.
As a child I often went barefoot in summer. The soles of my feet grew callused and tough, and I could walk on gravel without discomfort. Now I wear shoes nearly all the time unless I am in the shower or in bed. My feet are tender and require coddling, so I pamper them.
It’s odd to me that as I have aged, I value comfort more at a time when I experience more pain that seems to have no specific cause. As a child, pain was always immediate and specific. Once it was addressed I forgot about it. I can still forget about pain, but if I think about it, I realize it hasn’t subsided. Pain forms more of the background of my life than it once did.