October 05, 2018

Running Shoes, New in Box

I found a pair of running shoes I didn’t know I had. These were new shoes, still in their box. The box had fallen behind the furniture and been lost for three years.

Those who have been following the story will immediately understand my dismay.

Half a year ago in April, I departed from my month-long shopping moratorium specifically because I had lost this pair of shoes. I had a race to run at the end of April and all the running shoes I had on hand, that I knew about, were either too worn to run in or were showing signs of falling apart — indeed, I have thrown all of those shoes away in the months since. Setting aside my moratorium on shopping, I went to a shoe store to buy a new pair of shoes so I could get through the race in April.

Things would have been simpler then if I had only known that I had a perfectly good new pair of trail running shoes, the exact kind I would want to wear in a marathon, right there in my bedroom.

It was not just that one race that worried me. Over the summer, I worried that I was almost out of good running shoes. Those worries too were unfounded.

This story of losing, then finding shoes highlights one of the risks of storing things away for later use. After I lost the shoebox, the shoes took up space with no benefit to me until after I found them again. There are many other ways that an item might not be available for use after you have saved it. I described in April how another ”new” pair of shoes had declined over time so that it was starting to come unglued. Items that you store away can be lost or damaged in more ways than you can count — misplaced, faded, stolen, eaten by rats, and on and on.

On top of that, there is a financial risk. When you buy an item for future use at what seems like a good price, you face the chance that a better product or lower price comes along later. In fact, this has happened specifically with running shoes in recent years. Shoe designers have turned away from heavy materials, leather in particular, for lightweight fabrics and polymers that cost less and weigh less. The $45 clearance price that seemed a good deal circa 2011 was the same as the $45 everyday price I paid for the new shoes in 2018 — but the 2018 shoes are prettier, lighter, more durable, and better in almost every way. The purchase of shoes in 2011 for me to use seven years later was not entirely ineffective, but it can hardly be described as a good investment.

And who knows — maybe I have made the same mistake again. In the two weeks since I found my lost running shoes, I happened to find two new pairs of walking shoes, in my two favorite colors at that, at the lowest price I have paid for shoes in probably 25 years. A few days later, I bought a nearly new pair of running shoes at the same low price. Of course, I feel like a winner with the low prices I paid, but it is possible that the price of shoes will decline again, eating away at the shopping win I was so proud of at the time.

For a few months this summer, I had thought I was running low on walking shoes and nearly out of running shoes. Now I have more than enough of both. In retrospect, I realize I had enough all along.

In this whole saga, the smart thing I did was waiting for a better deal when I thought I was running low on shoes. That better deal materialized. In shopping, there is a time to stock up at a low price, and a time to wait for a lower price. There are no firm rules and it is all but impossible to know in advance which strategy will work out better. What I can say for sure is that you cannot be stocking up on every product at every chance you get. You would be awash in clutter just from the things you were saving for future use, and inevitably, some of it would get lost along the way.

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