An Issue of Heels


By Felicia Rose

The issue now is heels. Not high heels. Not fancy Mahnolo Blahnik heels, but simply heels. Strong solid ones to replace the worn rubber on the bottom of my shoes. The question, a practical one, is where in the Valley to get them.

I’m from New York, a place of pavement pounders, where heel replacement is a common affair. Shoe repair shops abound, in some neighborhoods making their presence every three or four blocks. The procedure is simple: one ducks into a tiny storefront redolent of shoe shine and sole cement and sweat and describes one’s request to the man (it’s almost always a man) behind the counter who may or may not understand your words, but in any case replies, “Tacones?” or the equivalent in Cantonese or Urdu or Russian. You nod, and the man, regardless of provenance, awaits the object of his labor with outstretched tar-black hands. If the shoes you have given him are not the ones which just came off your feet, and if the shop is busy or the job is big, you cede your shoes and return the next day. Otherwise, you sit on a dusty vinyl shoeshine chair or stand on a square foot of cardboard in your stocking feet, and wait. On a recent visit to New York, which of course included a visit to a shoe repair shop, I stood on the tar-tinged cardboard for a good twenty minutes and contemplated the assortment of unclaimed shoes for sale – a pair of men’s orthopedics, size fourteen EEE, a pair of women’s sandals with laces long enough to reach the upper thigh, a single leather work-boot reduced to half price.

In the end, the man with the tar-black hands proudly displayed his craft. I added a tip to his meager fee, and left the shop with what felt like a new pair of shoes.

About six months after moving to Cache Valley, I was driving through a canyon, the sole of my right foot chafing the pedal, when a sign for a shoemaker came into view. A few feet from the hand-painted sign stood a lone wooden house surrounded by pasture and mountains. I practically leaped from my seat in excitement. Moments later I settled back in; the place did indeed deal in shoes, but only for horses.

Some weeks later I was walking through town – yes, reader, I do walk, which is the reason I need to replace my heels – when I came across a store that sold shoes. “Do you happen to know of a shoe repair shop?” I asked the clerk.

“Not a shop,” he said. “But I do know of someone who works from home.” He jotted a number on a torn piece of paper, folded it in eighths, and tucked it in my hand. I had the impression of being involved in an undercover activity, a drug deal perhaps. I tossed the paper in the trash.

I suppose I could take my shoes to a place in Salt Lake. On a constitutional there, I saw one that caters to the State Capitol crowd and, presumably, its budget. But if I’m headed that way anyway, I’d might as well hop on a plane and take them instead to New York.