I believe in dirty shoes.
I believe in wearing shoes until there are holes in them and then wearing them some more.
Although my practice might seem extreme, I got this habit from both of my parents. Ever since I can remember, my dad has said, “There is no hole in my shoes that some duct tape can’t fix.”
My mother, on the other hand, has always encouraged me to date my shoes — literally write the date on them. As a runner, my mother always wanted to know how many miles she was putting on her shoes, and that ritual rubbed off on me.
So now, whenever I’m running around and for some reason need to know when I got my shoes ... the date is right there.
I could never explain why, but I always felt awkward in a pair of untouched shoes. While my classmates would be wary of walking through puddles in their new kicks, I’d find any excuse to get mine scuffed up. I even went so far as making everyone in my eighth-grade class sign my shoes on the last day of school. Those shoes were a beauty.
Why ruin a perfectly good pair of shoes, some might ask. And why hold on to a pair of shoes that are falling apart?
Because I believe a pair of worn-out shoes shows character — it proves you aren’t afraid to play in the rain or walk through the mud. It shows you aren’t afraid to take chances. You’re not just sitting on the couch, waiting for someone else to get their feet wet.
Because nothing will happen if you are too afraid to scuff up your sneakers.
My favorite pair of shoes is a pair of tie-dye Toms canvas slip-ons a friend bought for me in 11th grade. I am about to graduate from college in the spring, and my family and friends have to persuade me not to wear them in public anymore. They are ripped and filthy.
On a cool day I can feel the wind hit my toes through the giant holes. Why not buy a new pair? Because, weird as it may sound, I can’t seem to get myself to throw away a pair of shoes that has seen me grow into myself. When I look at my beat-up Toms, I remember working toward high school graduation, applying to college, learning to live on my own for the first time.
I believe your shoes should remind you of everything you’ve been through. Every step, every run, every trip, every fall. The days you never wanted to end, and the days you wish never happened. Through it all, you — and your shoes — made it. When times were tough, you fought and crawled out of the mud and pushed through.
I believe in dirty shoes. And I believe that every once in a while, we need to look down at our feet and think, remember, and reflect on the miles we’ve walked and the miles that lie ahead.
Liz Novack lives in Hershey. Her essay aired Oct. 3 on WPSU.