- - Thursday, August 31, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Summer’s nearly over, the first hurricane of the season has arrived with catastrophic force, and men will have to put away their white slacks and black-and-white spectators when they take them off Monday night. So it’s time to think about shoes.

But the fuss and fulmination over First Lady Melania Trump’s footwear, the four-inch stilettos that have had the press in such a sweat, is altogether different. “Melania Trump is the kind of woman who travels to a flood-ravaged state in a pair of black snakeskin stilettos,” The Washington Post observes, all but out of breath, and offers a fashion tip. “Heels this high are not practical.” Vogue magazine, always ready to speak for the common people, asks sternly: “What kind of message does a fly-in visit from a First Lady in sky-high stilettos send to those suffering the enormous hardship, the devastation of this natural disaster?”

But the real shoe story of this dying summer is how shoes worn by midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis contributed to the injuries that, in the words of the Annapolis Capital Gazette, put a damper on an otherwise successful Navy football season.

The injuries included “an inordinate number of lower body issues” following the American Athletic Conference championship game and foot or knee injuries from a losing game to Temple. Players broke bones in their feet and knees. When the injuries began to mount, the search began in earnest for the cause.

“We weren’t the same team at the end of the season,” says Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo. “We have to do whatever we can to make sure that doesn’t happen again. You go back and look at the accumulation of injuries and ask why that happened.”

There are always several explanations for injuries, but the investigation led the coaches to playing surfaces and footwear. Footwear naturally led first to the metal cleats on the players’ shoes. “Navy’s equipment staff discovered that players must be measured multiple times during the course of a year,” the newspaper reported, “because the foot is ever-changing. They learned to conduct measurements in bare feet instead of socks so they could see every bone and contour of the foot. They learned that linemen should not be wearing the same type of cleats as wide receivers or slotbacks.” And it turns out that most of the players were not wearing cleats with the correct width.

But the nugget of news that caught the attention of shoe fashionistas everywhere is the fact that while proper cleats are important, cleats alone do not explain foot and ankle injuries because Navy’s players, after all, wear another uniform, like that of the other midshipmen. Academy-issued dress shoes, like the high heels women have been squeezing into for centuries, are tight, binding and sometimes pointed. The middies bear their manly footwear with honor; America, like England, expects that every man will do his duty. First ladies, too.

We can expect the Navy to recover, and the first lady as well. She traded her heels for sneakers once she left Air Force One for the rain-soaked streets of Houston, and the nit-pickers of the fashion press should find other nits to pick. A lady’s shoes are certainly important. Many of Imelda Marcos’ feminine critics, unforgiving of her other sins, nevertheless gave her a pass for accumulating 3,000 (or was it 30,000?) pairs of shoes. “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world,” Marilyn Monroe famously observed, and who could doubt Marilyn? Forget the prince, and keep the shoes.

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