While living in China, I occasionally did some reporting for Time magazine’s then-Beijing bureau chief, Sandra Burton. Sandra had a number of cardinal rules about dressing for work as a creative professional.
When working on a dangerous story involving combat or civil unrest, she always wore non-military looking clothing and often a dress, so that if she encountered a soldier, police or other anyone else who was armed, they would see that she was a harmless noncombatant who was not a threat.
In such circumstances and whenever boarding a plane or train, she wore shoes in which she could run or walk quickly. Sandra had covered the Philippines during the fall of Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos. She was on a plane flying into Manila with Filipino opposition leader Benigno Aquino in 1983 when he disembarked ahead of her and was shot and killed. Since I happened to be working with Sandra during a period of political unrest in China, I took her advice to heart and thereafter always wore shoes that I could run in when working on a story that could have dangerous implications.
Sandra’s sound fashion advice made eminent sense to me as a creative professional and I thereafter launched an on-going search for shoes that were comfortable enough to run or hike in if I had to, attractive, would not be destroyed in wet weather, and would last through the vicissitudes of covering accidents, political events and enduring, often on my feet, through 13-14 hour workdays.
Finding such shoes was difficult until about 15 years ago in a Santa Cruz, California, shoe store, I discovered my first pair of Keen’s shoes. I now own eight pairs of Keen’s and probably have owned a total of 12-15 pairs. I wear them almost exclusively. If I could fit them into my budget, I would buy many more. Why? Because they are the ideal shoes for my work as a creative professional.
Keen’s shoes are beautifully crafted and come in a variety of styles and colors, as well as being as comfortable as tennis shoes. I’ve hiked into remote areas in them; worn them to church, meetings with clients and professional events; stood through long hours of photo shoots and worn Keen’s boots in snowstorms. I’ve gotten them wet, muddy and spilled food on them, only to have them clean up beautifully.
At between $85 and $110+ per pair, Keen’s shoes aren’t cheap. However, I’m still wearing my first pair of Keen’s shoes, which look fine and are still comfortable. I find that in my size, 61/2, Keen’s shoes are also often on sale. My favorite pair cost only $27.
Another perk is that Keen’s sizing seems to be consistent, so I usually can just order them from Zappos or Amazon without worrying about trying them on first.
The only Keen’s I have had that haven’t lasted through the 15 years have been several pairs of Keen’s hiking and running shoes, which I used heavily for several years. I found that while I like Keen’s hiking and running boots, I prefer Nikes for pure daily exercise as the soles lasted longer. However, Keen’s exercise shoes are exquisitely made and comfortable.
One of my favorite parts of buying Keen’s shoes are the hours of shoe shopping that I have saved since I found them.