Monday, 17 May 2010

Shoe shopping

Last week I went shoe shopping, and I didn't even leave the house.

I was thinking about what shoes I'll use when I walk the Koshu Kaido later this year, and decided that of all the shoes I've walked in over the years, the most comfortable were probably the New Balance 748s I wore on the Nakasendo in 2007. The only drawback was they weren't waterproof. So I checked out Amazon to see what they had in the way of waterproof New Balance walking shoes.

This pair of Gore-Tex-lined 977s caught my eye. I thought they looked pretty cool. At US$100, the price wasn't bad either. With the New Zealand dollar so strong at the moment, even with shipping included they shouldn't be more the NZ$200, I thought. On further inspection, however, I discovered that Amazon wouldn't ship them to this part of the world.

I then checked the US New Balance online store. They had the 977s for US$140, but they wouldn't ship to New Zealand either. After trying various other US-based online shoe retailers, none of which would ship New Balance shoes here, I checked New Balance's New Zealand online store. Knowing that a couple of years ago New Balance had drastically reduced the range of walking shoes they sold here to just a couple of models, I didn't hold out much hope, and sure enough they had very little, and nothing waterproof.

There was an 0800 number, so as a last resort I decided to give them a call to see if there was any chance of getting hold of some 977s. To cut a long story short, the answer was no. But when I explained what I needed them for, the man on the phone recommended some 967s instead. I hadn't heard of these before. It didn't take long, however, to work out that they were the replacement for the 966s, a pair of which I'd worn last year when I walked the Tokaido. (You may recall that these were actually women's shoes that I bought on sale. I think they were actually too narrow, because my left little toe took quite a beating on the Tokaido walk, and I ended up loosing the toenail.)

The funny thing was I hadn't seen the 967s either on Amazon or on any of the New Balance websites. When I mentioned this to the man on the phone, he said he'd have a word to the people in charge and that they should appear the next day. I was a bit skeptical, but sure enough when I checked the US and New Zealand online stores the next morning the 967s were there.

So, I put in my order and a few days later they arrived on my doorstep. I was a bit nervous about buying a pair of shoes without trying them on. Then again, rarely have a tried on a pair of New Balance shoes that don't fit. Also, I knew they came with a 30-day unconditional returns policy. I needn't have worried, however, because they fit perfectly.

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