I broke my shoe-horn. This is actually the second one I've broken. The other one was the same as this one and it broke in pretty much the same way. Of course when a shoe-horn breaks it's because you're trying to jam your foot into a shoe and there's a lot of weight on it, and you're holding it, and suddenly you're holding half a horn that's really just a plastic shard cutting your hand, and you're putting lots of weight on THAT. Not a good way to start the day.
I went to the mall to see what I could find in terms of a replacement. I visited a shoe store, the first one that I found when I entered the mall, and asked if they sold shoe horns. The clerk replied that they do not sell shoe horns, but they do give away freebies. He handed me one from a bucket full of shoe-horns. I thanked him and left. The shoe-horn he gave me was not as rugged as I had in mind, so I went from shoe store to shoe store, looking for the right horn. The story was the same everywhere: they didn't sell shoe horns, but they did give them away. A couple stores didn't have shoe horns at all, and one sales clerk didn't even know what a shoe horn was. Kids these days! I was tempted to tell her it was brass instrument, vaguely like a trumpet, only shoe-shaped.
In the end, I came away with these free shoe horns:
There were a couple duplicates, from Aldo and Spring, but as you can see the horns are of three basic types. The most popular type is the one I'll call "Long and Smooth", the second most popular "Short and Flimsy" and the third type, represented by a single horn from Capezio, "Square and Thick".
The Long and Smooth Horns
These horns, which came from Aldo, Stoneridge, Sterling Shoes, and Town Shoes, are a basic all-purpose shoe-horn All horns represented here have a hole in the end, ostensibly for hanging the horn up when you're not using it. For the Long and Smooth horns this hole is quite large, and is situated where the thumb and fingers usually hold the horn as you're putting the shoe on. This weakens the top of the shoe-horn a bit and when I used this horn I could feel the plastic bend somewhat. However the horn has an overall pleasant shape and works well. The plastic itself is a little flexible, so it should bend before it breaks, but overall it does not feel strong enough for my needs.
The Short Flimsy Horns
I received three of these horns, two from Spring and one from Feet-first. These horns are quite short, so they could maybe fit into a purse if a woman needed to bring a horn with her. No man can use this horn, however, because they are absolutely incapable of withstanding any weight at all. When using this horn the horn nearly bent in half as I tried to slip my foot into my shoe. Only a small person whose shoes can already slip on and off could use this horn.
The Square, Thick Horn
This horn is the same shape as my original shoe horn. This horn came from Capezio shoes; it is a practical size and decent thickness. However the hole at the top is prone to breaking (both my original Browns Shoes horns broke here first). This horn differs slightly from the Browns Shoes horn because the plastic is somewhat softer and more flexible. I suspect this horn would be less likely to crack but it still isn't strong enough for my needs.
The Metal Horn
In the end I bought a $5 metal shoe-horn from Moneysworth and Best. This horn is bigger than all the plastic horns and is clearly a professional, enterprise-class shoehorn. This horn is quite heavy and in no way could fit into a purse or briefcase. The hanging-hole is only large enough to admit the head of a nail, such as you'd use in a workshop on which you'd hang your tools. When using this horn there is no bending at all, just pure shoe-stretching, foot-sliding comfort. This horn was infinitely more expensive than the freebies but is worth every penny.
After trying the various horns I have to say that, aside from the metal horn, the Long and Smooth horn wins for aesthetics, the Square and Thick horn wins for durability, and the Short and Flimsy horn fails to be of any use but wins in the compactness department. I recommend that anyone in need of a decent shoe-horn try getting freebies first, but be prepared to spend the real money when the freebies inevitably disappoint.