When you go into a car dealership, you look for the one you like, test drive it, put your money down and off you go.
Now I am sure no one would actually do this (please don't...) but let's say that you drive that shiny new car off the lot and drive it for years, but don't put any time or effort at all into regular maintenance. No oil changes, no checking the brakes, no rotating the tires, and no changing any filters for as long as you own it. You don't even wash the car or clean it out during that time frame. At the same time, you drive that car harder and more often than any other car you've ever owned, racking up a record number of miles in a short period of time.
I can guarantee with certainty that if you were to do that, you would run into some serious problems before too long. Brake problems, engine problems, worn tires, and scratched paint at the very minimum. In some cases, driving a car that hard would mean it's needing major repairs or it may even have failed completely under those circumstances.
Taking it back to the dealer will not help you much, even with the best warranty in the world. Warranties on cars are only in force if you maintain and take care of your vehicle. If you don't do your part, then they don't guarantee anything.
Your shoes (and also your clothing in general) should be built to last and be comfortable for the long term. However, if you don't do your part to maintain them, then it's usually not the shoes' fault if they fail. You have to do regular maintenance on your shoes in order to make them last as long as possible. Regular polishing, replacing laces, replacing insoles, rotation, and a few other things extend the life of your footwear substantially. Here is a list of things that you should use as a guide to taking care of your shoes:
- Regular polishing - Polish your shoes with a real wax polish at a minimum of every two weeks. Shine sponges are ok for daily maintenance, but don't offer the nourishment or rejuvenation of the leather like a wax polish does. Shoe polish isn't just for looks, but for making sure the leather doesn't dry out, fade and crack prematurely. If you're not polishing your shoes at least every two weeks (every week is even better), then you're not "changing your oil".
- Daily rotation - Take two or three pair of shoes and never wear the same pair two days in a row. There isn't a call in the church that doesn't ask for a minimum of 2 pair of shoes and many ask for 3 or 4 plus some ask for a waterproof boot! There's a reason for that. One pair of shoes will generally not last through the 2 years of heavy wear they will encounter out in the field. Think about your church shoes you've been wearing for 2 or 3 years: they look OK but are kinda beat by now, but they lasted longer than a mission right? Not necessarily. A pair of shoes you wear once a week for around 4 hours, equates to about 208 hours of wear a year. A pair of shoes you wear for your mission will be worn daily, all day long (except for when you're asleep of course). That equates to an average of 3744 hours of wear a year. That's 18 times more wear than a standard pair of church shoes. You may want to re-think taking your old church shoes, and instead getting 2 or 3 brand new ones built for the task.
- Changing laces and insoles - Take 3 extra pair of laces for each shoe, and one set of extra insoles for each as well. Your shoe laces will break. Your insoles will deteriorate over time, due to environmental conditions and also due to the fact that you're crushing them under your feet about a hundred thousand times each day with all the walking you will do. Plan for this. This is not a defect any more than needing to replace the brakes or tires on a car makes it defective, it's maintenance and it's normal. Don't wait for your laces to break to replace them, replace them about every 6 months, then they never have the chance to snap right when you're tying them while trying to get to an appointment. Insoles will bring new life to a worn shoe and your feet will be healthier and more comfortable if you replace them at the year mark.
Bottom line is that you need to take care of your shoes (as well as all of your clothing, but we'll cover that in another entry later) in order to make them last and for your feet to be healthy. Don't skimp on shoes, get good ones that fit well in both length and width. Be professionally measured and get the right shoe for your foot and you'll be much happier over the long term.
A final note: There is no shoe on the market that will look brand new 2 years, 6 months, or even 3 months after it is first worn. Your shoes will be scuffed, scraped, wear unevenly, turn up at the ends, and may possibly even pop a stitch or two. This means you're working hard and getting good use out of them. Congratulations on being a hard working missionary. As long as they are wearable, they are still good shoes. Make the most out of them and when you get home, the barely-there sole will be a testament to your hard work.