"Sole Searching"

10/23/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When it comes to shopping, men usually get off on the wrong foot. So I recently took my wife, Sue, with me when I went shopping for sneakers.

As soon as I stepped into the store, I found myself in a dilemma, which would be a good name for a sneaker brand.

"What do you want to do in your sneakers?" asked Joe Karl, manager of the Athlete's Foot at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove, N.Y.

"Walk," I replied. "Or stroll. Maybe, if I'm feeling frisky, I'll amble. But I don't want to run. I can't run. If I did, I'd drop dead and then my wife would have to pray for the repose of my soles."

Karl explained that there are, indeed, walking shoes, as well as running shoes, not to mention basketball shoes, tennis shoes and cross-trainers, but that if I got running shoes, I wouldn't necessarily have to run in them. "You can walk in running shoes," he said. "You also can run in walking shoes, but you don't have to."

It had been several years since I last bought a pair of sneakers, and I had mercifully forgotten about the complexity of such a purchase, so this put my mind, or what little was left of it, at ease.

I felt even better when Karl turned me over to Charles Seales, a bright, young sales associate who took one look at my grungy old leather sneakers, which really ought to be burned except that the fumes would only add to global warming, and suggested a different kind that would help my feet breathe.

"When I take these things off, you might not be able to breathe," I warned Seales.

But first, I had to choose among innumerable brands, including Jordan Retros, the most expensive shoes in the store. "How much do they cost?" I asked.

"Three hundred dollars," Seales said.

I had the same reaction I expected Seales to have when I removed my sneakers: I nearly fainted. "My entire wardrobe isn't worth that much," I said.

Sue, who buys me all my clothes and was acting as my shopping consultant, agreed. "He really does need help," she told Seales. "That's why he brought me along."

When I saw that Seales was wearing a pair of clean, white sneakers that were stylish but not too flashy, I asked, "What kind do you have on?"

"New Balance," he replied.

"I'm unbalanced," I said to Seales, who didn't look surprised. "Maybe I should try on a pair."

After asking my size, he brought out two pairs of New Balance 621s, which he said are walking shoes. I prayed that the 621 didn't stand for the price.

One pair was size 11 regular, the other was size 11 wide.

"Try a wide one on your right foot and a regular one on your left," Seales suggested.

As I put them on, I mused about my own brand of sneaker. "How about Air Zezima?" I asked Sue.

"How about Air Head?" she responded.

Anyway, the wide sneaker was too wide, but the regular one was just right. I put on both regulars, which were white and navy blue, and looked at my big feet in the mirror.

"Those sneakers are nice," my shopping consultant said. "I think you should get them."

At $59.99, they were a bargain. And because Sue bought them for me as a birthday present, I got the best deal possible.

"Have fun walking," the manager said as we were leaving.

"Thanks," I replied. "Now, when people tell me to take a hike, I can do it in style."

Stamford Advocate columnist Jerry Zezima can be reached at His blog is