Beginning round 1985 until my 2012 departure from SI I would travel once or twice a year to my home state of Minnesota to teach for and with my brother from another mother, MitchK at the Dakota County Technical College Woodfinishing Program.  As much as I loved the events of the week and fellowship with Mitch and his students, I dreaded the reality that Mitch’s classroom and shop floors were concrete, and he was highly resistant to addressing the excruciating discomfort caused by my standing on concrete all day.  I was wrestling with the ongoing affliction of bone spurs, which made every step feel like there was an ice pick being jammed into my heels.  I guess Mitch’s years as jumping out of airplanes with full combat gear eventually numbed his feet and legs and he was unaffected by the concrete floor.

Eventually I demanded some padded mats to stand on, and that did help.


Some years later a coworker of my wife steered me to MBT shoes, which was instrumental in relieving the discomfort, and in fact probably allowed the bone spurs to disappear of their own accord.  The rounded sole and heel-less configuration for MBT’s — and very high arch support — was great for walking and generally standing (the only problem was when you had to stand still with your feet at shoulder width while not holding on to anything, which would often result in losing balance when first getting used o the shoes) but they were simply not a high enough quality construction to use as work boots/shoes in the shop.  They were definitely not appropriate for working the side of a rocky mountain.  I’ve pretty much given up on MBT’s as a work shoe for the reason that their sole was not “grabby” enough for what I need, plus they wore out so fast.   I found myself getting increasingly exasperated by a shoe that wears out in less than a year.

One option that has served me well in the shop has been Dansko’s walking oxfords, and while exceedingly well-made and very sturdy (my current pair is more than a decade old) the soles get pretty slick.  Moving up and down an uneven hillside is not an option, but they are fine for the shop.


Another option that worked for me, particularly when working in the woods,  was my beloved pair of Carolina lumberjack boots I bought about 12 years ago and still find them to be the most comfortable, robust boots I have ever worn.  For much of the intervening period they were my “go to” boots, especially when I was traipsing up and down the mountain as their deep, knobby soles grabbed the ground and imparted great sure-footing, although they were equally comfortable in the shop.  Unfortunately, they are so heavy it is like wearing a pair of cement boots.  In the aftermath of getting into the ambulance for the trip to the hospital three months ago, my boots were left behind on the side of the driveway.  My brother wound up bringing them into the house, and later remarked that they were the heaviest boots he had ever lifted.  I do not know why they are so heavy, but they are.


After resuming my regimen of outside activities in the past few weeks,  I naturally returned to wearing my old boots.  I really needed the support and sure-footedness they provided, especially as my confidence on uneven ground was not what I was used to.  Even so, their weight was so extreme that I could not wear them for long as my leg was still not up to full strength.

So, I needed another option.


After a ot of research I settled on a pair of knobby-soled waterproof hiking boots manufactured by Red Wing Shoes under the branding Vasque.  The Red Wing brand is solid gold in the workwear world, but I wanted lightweight, hence the hiking boots.  I bought a pair of Vasque boots this week and am wearing them from now on whenever I need to move around outside, and hope they work out well.  So far so good, but is has only been four days thus far.  Even so it has been part of the equation that has made possible a full day of hard work in the woods.

With that resolved I was motivated to finally address another issue of footing, this time in the studio.  Unlike Mitch’s torture chamber my shop has wood flooring, new southern yellow pine I laid about five years ago.  Much to my surprise the raw wood has become quite slick in the areas where I do most of my work.  In a lot of places this is not a problem, but such was not the case in front of the planing beam.  Between the slick soles of the MBT’s and the Dankso’s and the slick wood floor I could barely get anything done at the beam.


Today I solved that probel with the purchase of a large “horse mat” from the co-op.  I sawed it in half lengthwise, laid it in the floor, and Presto!  The problem was gone for only $30 and ten minutes.