Dress Shoes For Men

Although many believe that women control the footwear market some of the costliest shoes in the world have been designed with men in mind. When I sold shoes in a retail environment I came to appreciate the differences in the way that men and women approach footwear. Many who walk into a store are guarded. They fear that an aggressive sales person is going to chat them up so they can chalk up another sale. Suppose that is true. You are at the store for a reason. Wouldn’t you be better off utilizing the free resources at your disposal?

My experience is that people who work at shoe stores are often ill-treated so I figure that they deserve kindness since they’re on their feet working an unenviable job for not as much money as they’d like to be earning.  Irrational empathy may not be your style, however consider that shoe stores are expected to be the miracle workers who can heal foot problems experts haven’t been able to correct. They should also be able produce the perfect pair of correctly priced shoes that can be worn to a business conference, the golf course, and out to the theater while their owner travels.

Typically shoppers walk into shoe stores with little understanding of what they need. They lack the education and skill set required to make informed footwear decisions so they get swept up in the price or brand name game. Shoe store employees are generally not allowed to think for themselves so customer and clerk are adversaries in a primitive relationship. Sales associates are so used to shopper abuse that a genuine greeting will confuse them. Try smiling before you explain that you aren’t planning on purchasing anything, you’re gathering information to determine which shoes will work best for you.

Dress shoes are wardrobe builders. A great pair of dress shoes that fits well can take you through the airport, and attend a business luncheon. The same shoes can speak at a board meeting and kiss a lover later. They can be worn with dressier trousers or a nice pair of jeans. Your partner, parents, or significant other won’t argue about your choice since this one pair of shoes is insanely comfortable, and seems to go with practically everything apart from your tuxedo and your bathing suit.

Fit is the most important aspect of any shoe. Shoe store employees may not always know what fits, but they will know what doesn’t if they’ve had the proper training. Understanding what shape your foot is, and how a shoe is supposed to fit is crucial to a good shopping experience. This is where product knowledge becomes important because the features of a shoe are useless to you unless the shoe fits the way that the manufacturer intended it to fit.

Black is the obvious choice for dress shoes, however much can be said for branching out into other colors once you’ve resolved fit. What you wear makes an immediate statement about you. It shouldn’t be that way, but since people are going to judge you based on your appearance it makes sense to present the best of you to everyone since you never know who you might meet where.  A confident well shod person who minds their own business is going to attract a lot of attention regardless of where they go.

Overall, people who shop for fit will be more satisfied than people who head into a shoe store searching for any other specific. Try asking for comfort when you walk into a store. How does anyone else know what you will find comfortable? What if the shoes an employee can wear for hours are too supportive for your low arch? Many people who work in shoes get paid on commission. Stores want to be profitable, and they want to sell a lot of shoes. Discriminating stores will understand how to differentiate between people who are there to shop and people who are there to buy.

A manager I once worked for used to say that a trained monkey could sell shoes if they worked at a shoe store. When I sold shoes, I didn’t want people walking out the door with just anything because if what you sold comes back as a return, the commission that you thought you earned will be reversed when the next payroll cycle runs. There should be two types of experts at shoe stores; well-trained footwear experts, and individual experts. You should be an expert on what feels good to you, and the footwear expert should be able to guide you through the sales cycle in a manner that makes you feel as if your time and money were invested rather than just spent.

You should walk out of a shoe store confident that your decision making skills were honed and respected. Selling shoes is not a glamorous or particularly profitable line of work. It’s a lot of up and down, it’s people who walk in without a clue about their feet, and as you go up in the footwear world, the types of people you see don’t really change. I should have walked out after a new manager who had never sold shoes before threatened to slap me. We were standing in back when she told me that I was insubordinate and she wanted to slap the smile right off of my face, but I didn’t believe in myself back then so I let her talk to me that way.

As a fitter, as a customer, you have the right to treat yourself with respect and dignity. The easiest way to earn respect is to give it to every jackass, fool, moron, and inconsiderate bitch that you meet because that’s the only way you’re going to find out what they do with your respect. Once you discover that they don’t respect you, you can still respect their right to shop at a store that you work at, however you can flip on the disconnect switch so you stop taking their behavior personally. A lot of people have been burned at shoe stores. Your job as a fitter is to understand that people are defensive, and sometimes they’re really intimidated by someone seeing their feet as there is a perception that feet are ugly.

Feet aren’t ugly, people are ugly. Behavior makes people attractive. Lack of common sense and courtesy robs people who may have the bone structure that society at large calls beautiful. Learn to look beyond that, and once you start reclassifying and defining people, you will find that the world is full of people like the veteran who took his prosthetic leg off and told me that it was our country that he served after I thanked him for protecting my country. As a fitter, it should be an honor and your pleasure to work with the people who are responsible for your paycheck. Love what you do, and the love will come back to you in the most unexpected and thrilling ways.

Everyone who works at a shoe store knows something that you don’t. It may have nothing to do with shoes, but as a fitter, I’m listening for the hungry learners. Those people who don’t care if I’ve worked there for a day, or made a career out of kneeling down in front of others with the goal of a good fit in mind. Jerks are out there, but so are kinder hearts. You can learn from these people, or you can allow their narrow mindedness to warp and distort you. It’s a choice, and it’s up to you to be silky smooth right until someone runs into the steel hard core of character that defines you.

To close, there’s someone I’d like you to meet. We’ll call him Joe. It was almost closing time when Joe came in with his girlfriend. Never assume that half of a couple is there to buy. That’s prejudice, and more than any other intangible prejudice has the power to affect your ability to reach others. Joe was there to get information so that’s what he got that evening. After trying on what he said were the ugliest pair of shoes that he had ever seen, he said that he would consider going to a podiatrist to address his pedorthic issues.

That was Wednesday evening. People come and go so I forgot about Joe’s promise to return for a while. Saturday I was in back when a fellow employee told me that someone was there to see me. Thinking it was my family, I grabbed the four pairs of shoes I needed for the customer I was assisting, and went out to see Joe standing next to a group of people. The family that was waiting for me was on the left side of the store while Joe and his family were on the right. When I had a moment Joe introduced me to his parents, his sister, his girlfriend, and his grandmother.

A comfortable pair of dress shoes that fits well is attainable, desirable, and affordable. They can be yours when you have the ability to communicate your needs and desires to someone who works at a shoe store. Think of yourself as a goodwill ambassador whose sole mission here on this earth is to recognize that everyone wants to do their best, and you don’t know what their best is unless you have the patience, integrity, and commitment to bring it out in embittered employees. Being your best can lead you into uncharted territory. You’re not good when you can sell more shoes than anyone else, anyone who works in a shoe store will sell shoes. You are great when people you’ve told uncomfortable truths to seek you out after they’ve left your presence.

If you work in sales and your customers are not selling for you, then I question whether you’ve chosen the right vocation. Selling to one person at a time is inefficient. Sell to the family, the friends, the neighbors, the homeless, the security guards that are on their feet all day. Befriend and champion the unkind because a lot of times, these people are acting the way that they are because they expect to get ripped off at a shoe store. Market and sell yourself as a brand, and you may get the calls that people want to open their own shoe stores, however it’s the hushed conversation where a woman who complained about a pair of shoes tells you about having to run in them after her son pulled a gun on her and her husband that will forever change how you view a career in footwear.

Saberfeet: How much life is in your shoes?


Batter Box Fitting

Batter Box Fitting as a footwear innovation stems from the idea that cleated hitters are not going to be crossing a sales floor the majority of the time, and those surroundings do not mimic the environment or conditions that players will encounter during a game.

The time to measure feet is right after they’ve been used in the way that the shoes they’re trying on are going to be worn. Your goal as a hitter should be to get as close to the surface that you’re going to playing on as possible, so I’m proposing that people try cleats at the cage or diamond before they buy them to see how they’re going to work in real life.

When I fit people, I explain that each of us has a job. My job is fit, and their job is feel. When we agree that a pair of shoes fits, and feels good, our respective jobs are done. Fitting can be fun for both parties, it can also be frustrating for people who are being fitted as many think too hard when it comes to shoes.

As an athlete, you can listen to your own body better than anyone else can. Trust that skill, and take advantage of the information that is out there. Beware of meaningless marketing terms, and tantalizing custom color schemes. Are the cleats that Andrew McCutcheon wears really going to make you a better hitter if you have a Juan Uribe shaped foot?

Have you ever been so excited about a product that you wanted to pick up your phone and tell the world about it? That impulse should be driving your footwear quest. Every pair of shoes you own should feel that good beneath your feet. They should simultaneously energize and relax you.

If that sounds like a paradox consider that shoes either fit or they don’t, and footwear that doesn’t fit will be causing you to store tension. After that tension is released, your body will start to relax, and the energy that was previously bound can now be utilized to help you accomplish the tasks that are leading you towards eventual goal achievement.

To return to Batter Box Fitting, this is the only way to fit hitters for cleats in my opinion. I can hear objections about shoe companies not wanting to take back cleats that someone has worn, the reality is that this happens every day, and it only serves to emphasize how important a good fitter is because your fitter will save you time and money by recognizing which cleats are likely to fit straight out of the box.

Fitting individuals in a store isolates them from the rest of the team. Ideal cleat fitting is a team ritual because teammates will be able to see changes that a hitter may not be able to, and people who have a stake in how you perform are going to be invested in another player, and see them as contingent on future success rather than a short term shoe sale.

Team strength hinges on the performance of the weakest player. Sooner or later that person is going to be in a clutch situation, and the team as a whole needs that player to perform when it’s required. The more information players have about how cleats should fit, the sharper their mental game will be because the ability to analyze footwear is batting power that never slumps.

This increase works for them on two levels. First it improves their team, however they aren’t going to forget how to read cleats in a game situation. Baseball is a mental game, and the ability to read an opponent’s footwear is a critically under rated skill as everything a player does is contingent on the foundation that rests beneath them.

Shoes are static and reactive. Feet and players are dynamic, and proactive. What kind of a mentally strong team would you have if every member knew that they were wearing cleats that fit, and they could immediately analyze an opposing pitcher’s cleats and footwork?

As a parent, I use smile power to let my children know that I’ve noticed their undesirable behavior, but I’m waiting to bring them to battle on my terms. Isn’t that analogous to what a batter needs to do when they step into that magical box? Don’t they need to be so calm, relaxed, and deceptively sleepy that pitchers are fooled into thinking that they’re an easy out?

You can’t manufacture a genuine smile. It must come from deep within you, well up, and radiate out. A smile tells people that they can do whatever they want, but your inner peace is untouchable. Let that concept guide you through the shoe fitting process as well. When you can stand in a pair of cleats, look around, and smile, those are the cleats for you.

Baseball is a game. Games should be fun. People play to win, and winning is fun. Relaxed people are fun to be around. Hitting coaches talk about tension in a player’s grip when the bat is in their hands. Cleats that fit relax a hitter’s feet. Your body will automatically tense up if it senses that you are unbalanced.

There are players who are so mentally strong that they override the signals of discomfort that their body is sending them. I can write this with a smile on my face because I know that I’ve got this. A genuine smile is evidence of relaxed confidence, that’s what you need from a fitter, someone who will work with you until they’re confident that you are.

I shouldn’t tell you this, but I actually know very little about hitting a baseball. So why should you listen to me? Intelligent people realize that there are millions of footwear choices out there, and few experts who are willing to take the time to guide them through the Nike, Under Armour, Adidas jungle.

If you can’t look at a player and make an educated guess about whether their footwear fits or not, hone your observation skills because the greatest pitcher is only as good as the foundation their feet are resting upon, and that will give you a competitive advantage before you ever step into the batter’s box.

Batter Box Fitting; because hitters aren’t striking out on the sales floor, and no one hits the game winning walk-off there either.

I figured it out

Sandal time

Every year my oldest daughter picks out the same pair of tangerine sandals. This is a shot I took with my iPhone when we were down in Florida. I remember tweeting it, and I was gratified when @Keen retweeted a shot that showcased their brand. We came home not long after this picture was taken, and my daughter spent five days at Children’s Hospital of Milwaukee over the Fourth of July during 2012 after lab work that was done on Tuesday, July 3rd came back abnormal.

My daughter hadn’t been feeling well on Monday. She had been limping and listless since we had gotten back from vacation. I’m a chronic worrier, but after two weeks of her not being herself I decided to take her in to see her pediatrician. He said that he was going to order labs just to rule out any type of infection, and I remember her bewilderment when we explained that she couldn’t have anything to eat or drink in case she had to have emergency surgery.

I never expected an osteomyletitis diagnosis when I took her in, I knew something was wrong, intuition told me that, but I didn’t know what it was. As a mom with a footwear background I had examined her foot carefully. We couldn’t find anything wrong with it until her pediatrician had her turn over, and I saw the swelling behind her heel. Jill came home with a PICC line in her arm, and for the next month her meds went through there.

Osteomyletitis used to be an untreatable condition. People lost limbs and extremities until science discovered that antibiotics could be used to attack the infection. Although they did a needle biopsy, the culture was inconclusive so we still don’t know how she picked up the bug, or which microbe was residing in two of her bones. Today she’s a petite twelve and a half year old with two feet that work, but had I ignored her foot when others told me that it was growing pains, we might have had a different story.

Which leads me to what I’m doing here. I’ve written about the tremendous outpouring of support I received from the Twitter community when I tweeted that Jill was going to Children’s Hospital. My account wasn’t new, but I wasn’t the most active or impressive tweeter back then. I knew a few baseball fans, and that was pretty much it. They were encouraging, they were there for us, and when your child is critically ill, your priorities change dramatically. You don’t care about paying bills or showering; you want food, sleep, and peace of mind that the medical experts aren’t giving you.

Saberfeet started when my passion for health, safety, baseball, and feet collided. I’d love to say that I have the answers, but the truth is, I have more questions than I do information for people who are coming to me for advice. Saberfeet is a company that asks tough questions because life isn’t easy, and I’m not going to pretend like it is. The good news is that we don’t have to face situations alone, and what you’re seeing right now is the culmination of thousands of hours of frustration, a couple people who believe in me and what I’m doing, and someone who signed me up for this account.

No one taught me how to shop for shoes when I was in school. When I started selling shoes, no one told me that I had the power to ruin feet. The very people I trusted sold me shoes that were more than two sizes too large for my two differently sized feet. I wore them until I developed severe swelling because they were the experts, and I didn’t question my discomfort. That was my experience, but fortunately, it doesn’t have to be yours.

What can you expect from Saberfeet?

1. You have the right to be treated with dignity.

2. You have the right to comfort, and only you can decide what feels good to you.

3. Saberfeet wants your shoes to fit. That’s why we measure, but since shoe fitting is art kissing science, there is a time and a place to abandon conventional wisdom. We’ll discuss that with you if you happen to be someone who needs that type of a consultation.

4. Saberfeet may not be right for you, and that’s okay. Our primary goal is education. We’d like to think that we have something for everyone, even if it’s a smile because we believe that genuine smiles are far too rare.

5. Saberfeet can work with any budget, but you have to be willing to share your budget with us. No one should be denied resources or education simply because their footwear budget is zero. We don’t have any money either, but we don’t worry about that since money is just a tool, and we have plenty of other tools to work with in our box.

Saberfeet isn’t here to make money. That might not be the smartest business plan ever, but Saberfeet is a crusade. We’re on a quest to see if we can learn whether Tommy John is a preventable surgery, and as we go, we’ll be collecting information from the feet and people that we’re working with. Saberfeet has a theory that a certain percentage of injuries occur because people are wearing shoes that fail to meet their individual support needs, and since people haven’t been taught how to select footwear, or purchase it as a system, they need the type of education that Saberfeet provides.

So now you know more about me, and why I decided to found this company. My hope is that everyone will share what we’re doing so that baseball as a sport is a safer option for everyone, from the ground, straight up to the mound. Thanks for stopping by, please visit again because just like baseball games don’t end when the shot clock stops, Saberfeet won’t stop working until we’re satisfied that your shoes fit, and you’re ecstatic with the way that they feel.

Until next time,

Jessica Jensen

Saberfeet founder, mother, and full time baseball lover

P.S. The title of this post is a lie. I didn’t really figure anything out. I just took an idea and ran with it. People told me that I needed corporate shoe sponsorship, a medical degree, scientific proof that measuring feet reduces injuries, and an employee at a large footwear company told me that I was living in a dream world when I told him that I thought athletes should be measured and fitted for standard issue cleats, however he also agreed that it was the right thing to be doing.

I took the title of this post from Tommy John’s Twitter feed, and hopefully he’ll understand why I did that.

Saberfeet: Will we ever stop asking why?