Normally I’m one to buy a $25 pair of shoes on special and wear them until they break down in some irreparable way, which is generally 6 to 12 months after buying them. After some foot blisters due to having to be on my feet most of the day, however, I decided I was tired of this routine and it was time to step my game up. I thought of picking up a pair of G-Defy shoes but then I remembered a pair of New Balance sneakers I had years ago that were really comfy and lasted for years. I decided to see what the company had these days in a good quality walking shoe at an affordable price.
I got the New Balance 955 online for a reasonable $99 with free shipping. The suggested retail price is $120, and the local stores seemed to hover around $110, so as always Google Product Search is your friend. For a good quality, durable walking shoe that isn’t going to be in a precarious condition after six to nine months, $90 seems to be about the minimum you have to spend anymore anyway. Birkenstock and Converse have some good options too.
I had read online that New Balance sizes tend to run a bit small, so I ordered a half-step above my normal size, and they fit great. The shoe has a decided “rugged” look and fits well with outdoor wear, if you’re going for a Mike Rowe “working man” sort of look these are your shoes. I don’t think they would work at all in an office environment though unless maybe you work at REI or something. Anyway, it’s not for a dinner party, but if you’re going out in jeans or cargos and a t-shirt or sweatshirt they’re fine. The black leather toe covering isn’t the prettiest design but it does eliminate the problem of scuffing and having to shine, just give these things a basic cleaning when they get dirty and that’s all the more they need, pretty much the same maintenance level of sneakers.
Most importantly, they are really supportive and super comfy. After four months of wearing them now, I’ve had zero blister problems, and my usual problem areas have all healed up. They advertise “Rollbar positioning” to prevent rear foot movement – I’m not sure what that is or how it works exactly, but usually one of the first points of wear on my shoes is that the fabric of the inside heels wears away and exposes plastic, in this case, there are no signs of wear yet at all.
The only gripe I have with these things is the advertised “Gore-Tex waterproof protection” and the “Ndurance traction” systems. Both are basically bullshit. I live in Northern California, where it’s been raining quite a bit, and I can assure you that these things are far from waterproof. They’re water-resistant, but you’re still going to have damp socks if you’re out in the rain. And the traction is admittedly pretty awful on wet slick surfaces, I have to be very careful when going out in the rain on smooth pavement.
The water-based gripes are pretty minor though since I just carry a huge umbrella to cover that anyway. Aside from that this is the best pair of shoes I’ve owned in a decade. Not good for constant rain and off-road conditions, but if you live in a generally dry area that isn’t too hot these things are hard to beat for a walking shoe.