Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Winter Boots

Back in London, I never even thought about winter boots. My conventional office-style shoes were quite adequate in almost every circumstance, with the occasional winter day of snow and ice being a mild inconvenience for their smooth soles.

Coming to Warsaw, most of the pavements were cleared and I could still manage, although I did gravitate to slightly more robust shoes with grip soles. However, I did have an early warning in a winter after-conference walk in Arłamów - a hotel/conference/skiing/holiday centre, famous for Lech Wałęsa's stay in communist times - nice prison. I didn't mind walking through the snow in my shoes - although some way up my shin, the snow didn't collapse across my feet much, so I didn't get particularly wet. However, the idea of getting some boots for the winter became implanted.

It came to a head when I was living in Kielce in a continuous 5 month snow and ice winter. I needed boots that could deal with this. Back in Warsaw for a weekend, I found just what I needed. A decent pair of solid boots for about 60zl. They were completely synthetic, so no worries about leather suffering from water and salt damage. I was warned about synthetic shoes not allowing my feet to breathe, but at a time when I was more wondering at what time my fingers fall off from frostbite after they'd lost all feeling, the idea of sweaty feet seemed quite attractive. Since they were cheap, they wouldn't last, I accepted, but just a couple of years would be value for money.

Last spring, some six years later, they started to let water in - I was also regularly using them throughout the rest of the year for walking in wet weather and digging the garden. They had been great, but I had to get another pair. In the interim, a pair of Wellington boots from Real (40zl, I think) did through the year and into the snow. I was looking for a pair of boots, but they all seemed expensive and/or not what I wanted for dirty, wet rough use - why the suede effect all the time? One day going into one (of three) of the shoe shops at Tesco in Pruszków - just by the checkouts, I found pretty much what I wanted.

The old boots are in the middle. The black ones on the left are the replacements. Also completely synthetic, they have velcro tightening bands, which are something I would not normally have taken, but, given experience with untying laces with cold fingers, I thought they would be ideal for easy removal ... and so they proved to be. They also have a furry type interior, which I hoped would be better than wearing two pairs of socks in the old boots. Although it hasn't generally felt as cold as last year yet, this does seem to work. Indeed, when I want to go outside quickly in the morning, I can just swiftly put my bare feet in and in a few seconds get outside, which I couldn't do with the lace ups. Price just 89zl - twenty pounds, UK or so.

Just beside them in the shop, was a pair of brown boots. These are less bulky looking than the black ones, with zips rather than velcro, and I thought they would be better going out if I wanted to look a bit more respectable. After some hesitation at buying two pairs, there they are on the right of the picture. 89 zl again.

The brand is K&M, distributed by Panda, Olszytn. K&M derives from the names of the company owners: Przemysław Kaczyński and Izabela Markiewicz. )The Kaczyńskies get everywhere.) I haven't found a website for them - two non-existent websites in one post. I don't know where the boots are made, but the boxes have the dates of production on them - July and August 2010, which makes me suspect they may be local ie from Poland.

Of course, cheap boots can't be expected to last very long ...

I want to wax lyrical about the marvellous Polish shoes shops that pile the boxes on the floor, so that you can see if they have your size, try them on and choose between various possibilities in one tenth of the time it takes messing around, waiting for and then being served from the storeroom by a shop assistant. However, this is enough for now.

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