"Baby needs new shoes" - a phrase said aloud when one is hoping for good luck in a game of chance, especially before a dice roll... The Free Dictionary. Well, I can't speak for baby, but Marcie and I certainly do need new shoes.
After a mere 843.7 miles, our walking shoes are totally worn out. Marcie's shoes have lost all of their cushioning, have a couple of cracks in the soles, and don't have that much tread left. She's starting to limp earlier in the day now... somewhere around the 10-12 mile range rather than 13-15 miles when her shoes were in better shape. Mine are more like ballet shoes than trail runners at this point, making them great for glissading down a slope - whether I want to or not.
They actually lasted far longer than we expected. Other trekking and hiking blogs indicated we could expect 400-500 miles from a pair of good shoes, and I thought we'd have to replace them much sooner. Getting this much mileage out of them means that we should only need two pairs for the entire Via Francigena rather than the three pairs I had planned on. The only problem was how to get them.
We saw a number of runner and hiker shops in Italy, and we occasionally stopped to check out what they carried. We wanted to get the same Hoka One One trail runners that fit so well and lasted so long, and we found that some shops carried them. The prices were high, but the real problem was the available sizes. It appears most Italians don't have feet as big as ours, and shoes in our sizes would have to be special ordered. Our shoes weren't totally done in at the time, so we thought we could wait until Switzerland.
In Switzerland, the price of everything is high. Not only could we not find the right shoes, the running and hiking shoes we could find were all more than $200. Time to look online.
Did you know Amazon ships throughout Europe? I sure didn't, and while Prime next day delivery is not here yet, two to three day delivery is. Great... except they didn't carry our sizes either. REI, the outfitter we usually deal with had the right shoes and would ship to Europe for free, but the delivery time was 1-3 weeks, which didn't work well with our schedule. We finally found an online runner's store in Germany that had our shoes in stock, at a good price and with free shipping. Delivery was five days, so we figured out where we'd be in a week, giving them an extra couple of days to arrive. This turned out to be Besançon, France, (a very pleasant town to spend an extra day or two if we had to - see Marcie's blog on Monday), reserved a hotel room and had them shipped there.
That all seems so simple, but there were so many things that could go wrong: delays in shipping, strikes (which seem to happen about every week), hotel losing them, wrong sizes, wrong shoes. I envisioned us losing a week trying to track down our errant shipment, or having to ship the wrong shoes back and arrange another rendezvous point. They were being delivered by UPS, so we did, at least, have a tracking number. (Interestingly, UPS Europe uses the U.S. website, so when tracking our package, we were warned of potential delays due to storms in the Midwest. We certainly hoped our shoes weren't going from Germany to France by way of a truck in Chicago, but you never know.)
Remarkably, the shoes were delivered to our hotel on the day promised, despite the bad weather in Chicago. Not only that, they were the right size, brand and style. Truly amazing!
So Marcie’s got new shoes and me too - which, hopefully, will last until Canterbury. As for baby... she'll have to get her own.
Next week we’ll be in Champagne country, and we intend to do our part in supporting the local economy. Come explore the region with us…