The First Imperfection is the Hardest

I’m always a sucker for the pretty sneakers. My latest set? A pastel pink pair with white soles.

At first, I selected walking routes based on the weather report. Really. For months I tiptoed around puddles and groaned when I saw some new hazard come my way.

But their demise was inevitable; I’d known this the moment I checked out at the sporting goods store. Sure enough, eventually, I came across unavoidable mud and went running on a trail that turned my soles gray.

And then, magically, it was okay. I didn’t have to tiptoe around perfection anymore because it was gone. From that moment on, walks got easier. There was an unmistakable sense of liberation…because surviving that first imperfection was the hardest.

There is also a demerit hidden in here because the “new” pair I reference in this post is actually a year old and needs to be replaced. I’ve been wearing my orthotics (gold star!) and have it on my radar to replace them soon. But then I’ll want to keep those sneakers in pristine shape and the cycle will repeat itself…


PPS. Let’s Talk About Perfection

Header photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

22 thoughts on “The First Imperfection is the Hardest”

  1. Well, my first inclination would be to have 1 pair of (preferably darker/ hardier/ not easily dirtied) sneakers that you just wear out on muddy walks!! And then save the pastel/ white (or other nice ones) for going out and about, running errands, etc…. It would give me anxiety to wear pastel shoes out in the mud. haha. I like to have at least one nice looking/favorite pair to wear with cute leggings to the gym, or to my kids’ sporting events, etc. that are not muddy or beat up. 🙂

    1. A great point, Kae. I actually have a pair of white sneakers I wear with dressy clothes (the “casual chic” white sneakers that are in these days…or at least I hope they’re still in).
      In terms of having two pairs of shoes to exercise in…I’m so much of a minimalist, I rather hate the idea of having extra footwear to accommodate this issue. For the MOST part I’m able to avoid the mud (or, if we’re going on a hike I do have a pair of boots I would be more likely to wear). And I’ve just never been a fan of black sneakers…although they would be easier in some ways. I just love the aesthetic of light sneakers…they’re just a nuisance ot keep clean. I will say – my pink pair still looks very presentable, they’re just never going to be “pristine.”

      1. Do you ever cut the grass at your house?? We all have “grass cutting” shoes that we keep in the garage, even the kids. Maybe you could have a pair you keep out in the garage, for yard work AND muddy walks…then it’s not a wasted second pair. 😉 Might help you justify it at least? I also don’t care for black tennis shoes. I have some grey Nikes, though, and a navy pair with white accents (Adidas) that don’t show much dirt. Plus of course my grass cutting shoes! (Which are old Brooks running shoes I used to wear to work at the hospital (think – YUCKY), so I kept those in the garage, anyway. Always took them off when I got home, before entering the house, because lord knows what I stepped in at work that day. lol!! But now that I don’t do patient care anymore, they’ve become my grass cutting shoes. 🙂

        1. I only cut the grass a handful of times each year (this is usually John or outsourced; we have a tough yard to mow right now until we tackle some major landscaping); if I do general yard work I tend to be in my Blundstones or rubber boots (which are not comfortable for long walks and, obviously, no good for running)!
          I like the idea of storing my older sneakers outside in our shed, though. That way it doesn’t feel like an extra thing to keep in the house but I have them for days when I know it will be hard to keep my sneakers clean. Great idea and feel a bit ridiculous for not thinking of that already?!
          I love navy! And purple. I should look for those colours when I go to find sneakers. I have very large feet and somehow I always feel extra self-conscious in dark sneakers? Not sure why? Maybe because my feet are already so big the lighter colour makes it feel more feminine. I realize that may sound ridiculous, but I don’t know why I always seem to want to avoid the dark aesthetic.
          You’ve made me think long and hard about what colour I pick AND about how I can store extra “muddy” sneakers without feeling like they get in the way inside our entryway. Thanks, Kae <3

  2. I am with Grateful Kae that I have a pair of shoes for walks when it may be muddier. Although the other day I wore my “nicer” walking shoes and had to traverse some wet/muddy spots (and I tiptoed around/through!). I also really feel this more with a new vehicle. Several years ago we bought a new van and that first scrape was a tough one. Same for our wood floors we had installed a couple of years ago. The first ding “hurt” more than the several that have naturally occurred since then. I prefer to call it the lived in look. Maybe imperfections mean a life being lived!

    1. Yes about a vehicle and also with things in a home. We have a hallway that we haven’t painted since moving in and it is COVERED in dings. The kids play in this space all the time (mini-sticks, hallway soccer). Part of me doesn’t want to paint it (though it desperately needs it), because I know that once it has a clean slate, I’m going to hate to see it slowly revert back towards its former state.

      Kae’s idea is great: I tend to try to keep my footwear to a minimum, so I have a pair of white sneakers I wear for non-exercise outings (with a dress, nice capris) + a pair of Blundstones that are dressy enough to wear out but can also double as hiking boots for muddy walks. I’m debating about keeping these pastel shoes when I get a new pair of sneakers (which I need to do); while it would be nice to have an extra set, I just…hate having too many choices. We’ll see!?

  3. I hear ‘ya. I dislike that first smudge on new sneakers. It’s like the first ding in your new car. Inevitable, but the emotional pain gets me.

    1. Inevitable, but it still hurts, doesn’t it. There is a visceral reaction, in a way. I wrote a few weeks ago about some master woodworkers who were known to introduce a flaw into their handcrafted wares to distinguish their work from anything “perfect” and mass-produced. But the allure of keeping something pristine is real!

  4. The first thing I though of when I saw the title of this post is my daughter’s report card. She’s finishing her second year of middle school, and for the first year and 3/4 she had straight A’s- her report card looked like a work of art, with straight A’s and a perfect attendance record (how did that even happen, during Covid???) Anyway, a couple weeks ago she realized she was going to get a B in algebra for fourth quarter. She was initially upset, but I was- strangely- relieved. Perfection just isn’t sustainable, so it’s good to get that first B and take the pressure off.
    I can totally picture you with your nice new shoes- I’m hoping when you get the new ones you’ll mar them earlier on so you can actually enjoy your walks and runs more!

    1. I completely relate to the example you mention, Jenny. At the moment of “imperfection”, it always feels horrible, but upon some reflection it can also bring a major sense of relief.
      I know, I know! I need to get those new sneakers. Maybe I should look for a clearance model with an built-in imperfection and just skip any drama before I even get them home.

  5. I made the mistake of getting white running shoes last summer. What was I thinking? They got pretty beat up pretty quickly but once they were dusty/beat up, I stopped caring. But the process of getting them looking like that was a bit painful. I kept this in mind when shopping for my next pair of running shoes!

    But like Jenny said above, that’s the feeling I get when breaking a streak. And that’s why I don’t seek out streaking in general because I will beat myself up horribly if I miss a day. I’m reading Count of Monte Cristo through a daily reading ap and I didn’t finish the section one day and was worried it would show up in the ap that I missed a day but luckily it didn’t!

    1. Streaks are tough. I’m still doing my daily walk outside, but it feels easier than many other “streaks” I’ve attempted in the past. My problem is getting that break in the streak (even for just one day) and then abandoning the whole event. Which shows I care more about the streak than about the positive effect of whatever action I’m taking. My personality type makes me prone to this issue, and I’ve largely been avoiding too many streaks lately…but they do put out a bit of a siren song to me, I’ll admit.

  6. I vividly remember parking our first brand new car in a parking garage and coming out to a door ding and feeling like it was absolutely my fault. Now that car has more than 250,000 miles on it and more scratches and dings than you can count and I look back on that moment early on and laugh at myself. If only I knew what was coming.

    I hope you treat yourself to some new shoes! Foot care is so important as to how the rest of the body feels and you need to make sure you’re taking care of your body from the ground up.

    1. Ugh. Just reading the first line of your comment made me feel a drop in the pit of my stomach. I’ve had a similar happen to vehicles multiple times and it’s an awful feeling…and then it gets easier!
      Our car was rear-ended this winter and the only plus side – the bumper had to get redone, which meant all the dings and bangs ended up getting fixed because of the larger issue.
      I know – I NEED to get new sneakers. It is on my radar, I just hate the process so much (it’s not that bad, I suppose, but last year it took forever and I’m dreading that process again).

  7. I always wear black/dark sneakers when I know I’ll run in muddy place. it’s just gross to have mud on lighter color shoes. fortunately I have 4 pairs of sneakers in rotation, depending where I run, the length, and whether I walk.
    maybe getting a special pair for those routes?

    1. Mostly I can wear my Blundstone boots for any walks where the weather isn’t ideal for sneakers, but I may keep my current pair as a back-up for bad weather days?! I try to keep my footwear to a minimum, so keeping extra sets is a nuisance, though Kae’s idea of storing them in our outside shed is a great idea.

  8. My outdoor exercise sneakers are TRASHED and also really need to be replaced. I also dread the process. I become obsessed with finding the best and cutest ones and its just so boring. So I wear the trashed ones way too long.

    1. I agree – it does feel boring (and, to me, overwhelming). So I find it easier to just keep wearing what I have – unfortunately, I almost always wear them for longer than I should!

  9. Haha I literally go through this cycle EVERY SINGLE TIME I get new shoes… even when I know that the broken-in shoes will look even better (looking at my Docs! They need to look “used”, but I am still scared to break them in LOL).
    My latest pair of running shoes is also in pastel colors. They’re so pretty and I was worried to get them dirty, but I mean that’s the point of sneakers, isn’t it?
    I think the cycle is normal and meant to be!

    1. This comment is actually very reassuring! I do love to pick “pretty/cute” sneakers. They genuinely make me happy and, perhaps in a way, more enthusiastic about exercise.
      But you’re right that this is all part of a normal cycle. Spoiler alert: I bought new sneakers yesterday. I should take a picture of my pastel pink pair because, in reality, they actually still look pretty darn good. The mesh fabric on them seems to self-clean (not sure how else to describe it, but the dirt seems to sit on the surface and rub off as I go about my day/exercise)…while they certainly don’t look pristine, they’re definitely still presentable after a year of steady use.

  10. Ha! I buy dark shoes on purpose, but my issue is that I don’t want to wear favorite things too much because I’m afraid when they wear out… I won’t be able to replace them. Current case in point – a favorite fuzzy fleece that is easily 12 years old. Do they make it anymore? Can I find a similar one? (ANNE – It’s a FLEECE. :>)
    So I kind of get to the same place but… for a different reason? If that makes sense?
    (I also 13th, or whatever the plea to get new shoes for your poor feet. And yes, make sure they are pretty! It’s summer – less mud!)

    1. I do the same thing (trying to keep “favourites” so they don’t wear out), but less and less the older I get. I’ve learned saving something can mean I miss out on a positive experience in the present and, too often, by waiting I end up not fitting into it or the saved food goes rancid or the fancy candle loses its scent.

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