Thursday, September 1, 2011

POSTAL SHOES, POSTAL SHOES, AND MORE POSTAL SHOES


We understand… you have to wear them every day! Perhaps the item that we hear the most complaints about is the postal approved shoes. The complaints are usually about the high prices and limited styling. I will try to explain and make a few suggestions about how to make your shoes last longer.

Postal approved shoes must be USA made. I believe that this rule dates to the ‘50’s or ‘60’s. Back then foreign-made mass-produced shoes were of poor quality and the USPS didn’t want their employees wearing bad shoes, probably for safety reasons. Today, shoe manufacturers use the same dies, molds, materials, and machinery whether producing in the US or offshore, so there is often little quality difference. Over 96% of the shoes sold in the US these days are from offshore, so those few remaining companies manufacturing footwear in the US are fighting an uphill battle.Postal shoes also must be 100% leather (besides the sole) which adds to the cost. The USPS uniform people “took a look” a couple of years ago and were open to allowing some synthetics, like Cordura or Denier nylon, in the postal shoes. These are materials found in other “work” shoes and are lighter and more breathable than leather, along with being less expensive than leather. They also present the opportunity for more updated styling. Use of fabric besides leather was finally rejected as the USPS wanted the shoes to remain having a more formal style that all leather look now gives them.

Here are some tips on how to make your shoes last longer:

1. Waxes and oils will help keep your shoes protected from the elements, such as snow, water, and ice. Salt is particularly bad for shoe leather, so those walking in salted ice or snow need extra protection. Most shoe and boot oils will help keep your leather moist and crack resistant, but with waxes, you might have to condition your shoes first. The oils can also help waterproof some of the leathers. I personally like mink oil for my leather boots. Some creams will help moisturize your leather, while most polishes will only cover any imperfections or scratches and will make your shoes look nicer but without any real protection except on the surface.

2. If you have two pairs, rotate your shoes. After a hard day your shoes also need a rest (and a chance to dry out from both exterior moisture and from sweat). Make sure that your shoes are open and well ventilated when resting, and don’t use any heat sources to dry them. Heat can crack and dry out the leather.

3. Don’t let a new pair sit in your closet for years. This will result in the sole crumbling to pieces. I don’t know the exact reason why, but I think a component in the sole also dries up if not “activated” (used). We often see shoes being returned to us years later that look new but have a sole that disintegrated.

4. Your shoes may sometimes become uncomfortable due to wearing out the insole while the rest of the shoe still has some play left in them. Now you can purchase replacement insoles on your USPS uniform allowance for many of the different brands offered.

Below are some of the current players in the postal shoe market, and where they make their shoes.

Thorogood shoes: Our personal favorites. These shoes are made by Weinbrenner of Merrill, Wisconsin. I believe they are the only union made postal shoes, with employees represented by local UFCW chapters. One of these days I will visit their plant in Wisconsin, but rest assured it will be in the summer!

New Balance: They have five factories in Maine and Massachusetts, and besides their postal shoes they also make 25% of their other shoes sold in America right here in the good ole USA.

Converse: Made in Puerto Rico.

Timberland: Made in Puerto Rico.

Rocky: Made in Puerto Rico.

Rockport: Made in Puerto Rico.

Perhaps you have noticed on the side of your postal approved shoes a little black tag with the letters sr/usa in green. All postal approved shoes have this label sewn on, indicating that the shoes meet the strict “slip resistant/usa made” requirements. Don’t let anyone sell you a pair as postal approved if it doesn’t have that tag on it as you may not be able to claim workman’s comp if you are hurt while working. The USPS will on occasion allow an employee to get an exception to purchasing and wearing a postal approved shoe (I would suppose for mainly medical issues). The protocol for exceptions can be found in section 939.12 of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (http://www.usps.com/cpim/ftp/manuals/elm/elmc9.pdf).

Try on your shoes when you first buy them. Do so on a soft carpet indoors. The postal uniform companies don’t like taking back new shoes that look worn in any way, including wrinkling of the leather. But make sure that they are comfortable as postal shoes are way to expensive to have to throw away without getting much wear out to them. Luckily, there are a few styles that offer an unconditional thirty day guarantee so you don’t have to suffer postal shoe buyers remorse!

To view all of the approved postal uniform items, please visit our website at www.postaluniformdiscounters.com. Here at Postal Uniform Discounters we sell all of the approved USPS uniform items, including the brand name shoes listed above, at very reasonable pricing with great service.

Michele Ward
The Uniform Girl

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