By Kelley Granger
For the second time, we’ve taken to the streets and trails to test out some of the best travel footwear out there. Why, you ask? Well, good shoes can be the most important thing you pack – often the enjoyment of your entire trip will be riding on their soles, and you may be down for the count if you’re suffering blisters, rubs, backaches, and other consequences of an improper fit or poor quality shoe. Remember to break in your shoes before you depart and to properly size yourself for each different brand – even top notch shoes will be uncomfortable without accurate sizing or if used under extreme conditions. Without further ado, here are our recommendations from an eclectic variety of shoes that were tested.
Terra Plana’s Yukam
Terra Plana: Yukam
Who wouldn’t be psyched about a brand that uses recycled parts to form fashionable footwear or is socially conscious, helping support AIDS affected orphans in Africa? Add a genuine concern for comfort and foot health to the list, and you’ll have Terra Plana. Check out the new line using Vivo Barefoot Technology (and pardon our pun), but we think it’s a step above the rest. Available in a range of styles, the Vivo sole is super thin (just 3 mm, yet is puncture resistant). Though this may sound counterintuitive when talking about comfort, wearing these shoes allows your foot muscles to perform in their natural range of motion, which is so often hindered by modern footwear. Since you’ll be mimicking going barefoot, these shoes will help realign your natural posture and stimulate nerve endings in your body – which according to Terra Plana, enhances your sensory perception. Who wouldn’t want an extra sensory boost while traveling? Try Yukam, a canvas slip on that has an antibacterial, removable insole and is quick drying. Terra Plana recommends allowing a break-in period to give your feet time to adjust to the “barefoot” state. You’ll notice right away how much more you’ll feel through the sole…very cool indeed.
Check out the Yukam and other styles at http://www.terraplana.com.
Privo’s Acacia shoe in Smokey Brown Nubuck
Privo by Clarks: Acacia
One word – Soleassage.This is the name the Privo people came up with to call their shoe’s insole, which features soft bumps that give a massage-like effect on the foot. All Privo shoes come with this insert, but the Acacia style is a good bet if you’re looking for something that’s attractive while staying snug and comfy on the foot. An adorable slip-on with an adjustable strap, these shoes stay secure and cushion each step. The sole has got major tread, making these great for on and off road gallivanting. Though these shoes are comfy in every other way, they may cause some rubbing on the back of the ankle during the first few wears. Be sure to give yourself a good break in period though, or pack some blister blocking shoe tape (Dr. Scholl’s For Her Rub Relief Strips are a preventative godsend when on the road).
Find Acacia and more styles online at privo.zappos.com.
Patagonia’s Gilia in Low Tide
Patagonia is known for their rugged, sporty outdoor gear, so it may come as a bit of a surprise that the company has a product like Gilia, a chic slip-on ballet shoe that’s as comfortable as it is cute. Made with pigskin leather and some recycled materials, this shoe is super soft and comfortable to walk in. The rubber sole is durable and provides great traction, making this a versatile shoe that looks dressy enough to pair with more formal clothes but can also hang on city street and some off-road treks. The shoe comes in four colors, from black and khaki to a light blue (Low Tide) and coral (Poppy Fields).
Gilia and others are available for purchase at http://www.patagonia.com.
Chung Shi’s Holiday Balance Step
Chung Shi: Holiday Balance Step
If Mercedes-Benz designed acupuncture needles, it would be the same crossbreed of ancient Asian wisdom and modern German engineering that results in Chung Shi shoes. Concerned about keeping up your exercise while away? Take these shoes for a hike and amp up the intensity level of your outing. Designed with a roll bar and an angled sole that encourages a rocking motion, you’ll stimulate and strengthen muscles in your feet, legs, back, abs and bootie that may not have been worked for a while. The shoes are also intended to absorb shock and relieve pressure on the spinal column, among a host of other benefits from higher calorie consumption (i.e. working off that authentic tiramisu or numerous Belgian drafts you had to indulge in) to activating reflexology zones on the feet. While we didn’t notice our kidney or bladder meridians being stimulated, we did feel quite a good burn in some long forgotten leg muscles. Plus, the rolling action from the sole is quite fun. The only potential downside – the shoes are a bit heavy and take up a bit of packing space.
Chung Shi shoes are available at http://www.footsolutions.com, a retailer that’s devoted to bringing “better health through your feet” and offers a range of other innovative footwear options online.