This week I was ordering new tennis shoes online for my husband and I thought, “This is something that’s got to be unique to us, and maybe a couple other cheap farmers.” It’s called cheap shoe rotation. I’ve heard of runners switching out shoes from running to everyday shoes, but I wonder if other people living on a farm do what we do. It’s based on the idea that you must keep something until it has 100% given up on you, so for a shoe, it must fall off your feet AND can’t be put back together with duct tape or a glue gun (sometimes staples if you're desperate and have had a tetanus shot recently).
The first thing you might ask is why we don’t wear boots. We both have boots, but unless it’s absolutely necessary, we avoid them. They are too expensive to replace over and over, they cause sweaty, stinky feet, they are hard to get off and on, and when you don’t know what you’ll be getting into (water, mud, poop, etc.), it saves a lot of time when you have multiple pairs of tennis shoes that you can slip off quickly, hose down, and put on the next pair. That’s what my husband does, minus hosing them down. He just lets them dry with cow poop or not and wears them later. I take it as a sign that I’ve dealt with enough and stay inside to wash my shoes.
Joking aside, there really is a very specific rotation to tennis shoes on a farm if you are going to go that route instead of wearing something heavy duty. Tennis shoes can be categorized into three types: new tennis shoes, stained tennis shoes, and falling apart tennis shoes. I will now explain in great detail what you can do with your tennis shoes during their lifespan in each of these categories in case you feel like saving every pair of tennis shoes you’ve ever bought.
Ahhhh, the smell of new tennis shoes. You better enjoy that smell because it doesn’t last long around here. It’s replaced by poop fairly quickly. These are not work shoes. They are reserved for going out in public or if someone is coming over and you want them to think that you aren’t on the verge of destitution. These shoes must be put on in the car because there are too many obstacles from the front door to the nearest vehicle. It’s not uncommon that we have to dodge a cow patty from the “lawnmowers,” a mudslide from the last rainfall, or a toddler trying to see how far he can pee (he really is a heathen). These are all reasons my new tennis shoes get ruined, but also from being dragged into helping my husband without preparing, and they quickly get moved down to the slightly stained category if I can’t Oxi Clean them fast enough. My husband’s brand new tennis shoes get ruined because he puts them on for any job when I’ve forgotten to hide them after going out or he wears them to the sale barn. In my opinion, the sale barn is not technically “going out” because it’s just going from one stinky, dirty place to another, but he wears them anyway and they always come back to be downgraded to the slightly stained category.
The slightly stained category is where most of my shoes stay. I don’t wear them down as fast as my husband. His shoes stay in this category for a very short time. These shoes are for wearing out and about if it’s clear that you are working. When I get into an exercise kick, these are the shoes I’ll wear, but that’s not often. I always buy my husband gray shoes, but in this category they are usually brown because this is his everyday work category shoe. Mud and cow poop do most of the damage once he’s slipped past me in new shoes. Unlike me, he never tries to wash them. He just leaves them out in the rain to get the chunks off or lets them dry and beats them together to get a wearable pair. They are cheap shoes, so they are going to fall apart quickly, but he doesn’t do a whole lot to prevent them from falling apart.
I wear my falling apart shoes for mowing, weedeating, or severe muddy conditions. My husband wears them all the time, for anything unless he judges that it’s too embarrassing, which isn’t often enough. A time or two his shoes have been moved down to the falling apart stage because he’s left them outside and one of our dogs chewed them up and carried them away to be found at a later date. I always buy him the same style shoe, so if one is missing, it could be saved for later to match another loner shoe. Sometimes animals may step on them and cause a rip. Most of the time it’s the welder’s fault, so says my husband. As he is welding, he’ll look down and find sparks burning through the mesh material on top of his shoes, and occasionally, all the way through his socks. Folks, this is obviously a busy man if he doesn’t even notice the smell of burning fabric. Of course, he notices burning flesh. Let’s just hope that he never spills gas on his shoes, then decides to weld.
As of now, the number of pairs of shoes I buy each year is still cheaper than any alternative. When he breaks a foot from not having his steel-toed boots on may change that, but if it’s just a broken toe there’s no need to bother a doctor. If you do see my husband out on the farm, or working on anything dirty off the farm, or even at the sale barn, you have authorization to confiscate any tennies that look too new for him. He definitely did not have permission to wear them. If he complains that he is now shoeless, give him some duct tape and tell him to go to town because that’s all his worst shoes are anyway.