Flip to the Flop

Free your feet, free your mind.  

“Do not judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Unless they wear ski boots. Do not, under any circumstances, walk a mile in ski boots.” —Mahatma Gandhi (paraphrasing) 

Ahhhhh, spring. A time of great change, and great possibility; new life and fresh opportunity. It’s a time of warmth, and sun, and margaritas on the patio. And feet, of course. Gross, sweaty, horrifying feet.

Like pale, shriveled pupae emerging from crusty polypro cocoons, skiers’ feet unfold into the bright afternoons of spring and expand like warming dough. Wrinkled, grublike toes uncurl and relax. Toenails—those unblackened by toe-bang—harden like dragonfly wings in the unsodden atmosphere. White and pink and moist and wrinkled, smelling of things better left unsaid, with the texture of raw halibut—skiers’ feet are reborn each spring on that day of all days: the First Day of Flip-flops. Let me hear an Amen, brothers and sisters! The great flip-flop-foot-tide of 2019 is upon us. And thank God.

Oboz Footwear

For even the most passionate skier, ski boots are merely a necessary evil. They’re awesome for making our lower legs into semi-bionic, ski-driving foot-levers, but it’s simply impossible for our soft, flexible, circulation-loving appendages to survive a long winter of cramped imprisonment without consequence. “I love my ski boots so much I wish I could wear them all summer long,” said no one, ever. As someone who spends 80-100 days a year in ski boots, I mostly make whimpering, beaten-dog noises to describe the relationship I have with my boots, even after considerable shell “punching,” (a term that I feel depicts this relationship perfectly), custom molded liners, and computer-modeled footbeds. All said and done, it’s like sprucing up a prison cell with drapes and a cozy afghan.

Ski boots are made of rigid plastic, which has few qualities in common with human anatomy. Perhaps the only similarity worth noting is that it, like us, gets brittle and breaks down rapidly with age. Flip-flops, on the other hand, are made mostly of air. It’s really the absence of shoe that makes a flip-flop so wondrous. It’s barely footwear at all—more like convenient foamy refuse that somehow got snagged between our toes.

And so, on that first glorious, sunny, 45-degree day (a temperature at which flip-flops are completely inappropriate in any other part of the world), we unbuckle our ski boots and release our disgusting foot-creatures into the world. Our toes curl naturally around the delicate straps of our flip-flops, clinging like baby chimpanzees to a high branch—if baby chimpanzees looked like phlegmy, albino Golems. But damn, does it feel good.

And that’s the whole point: Enjoy the way spring makes us feel. It’s a singular kind of happiness, and it happens only once a year. Enjoy the warmth, and the sun, and the fresh air sliding against bare skin—we’ve earned it. Especially our feet.