As a follow up to my last article on my picks for travel shoes, I thought it might be interesting to see how past shoe picks have performed and what has informed my current choices. After many years of being on my feet all day tour guiding and many, many pairs of travel shoes, my closet is about to explode with dead shoes. I need to part with some of them, some have already made their way to that shoe rack in the sky. This is sort of a shoe hall of fame, past loves gone awry but still fondly recalled. I’d be careful, you’re about to see some shoes so stinky and dead that you can smell them through the Internet.
Here I give you, case by case, a few pairs of travel shoes that have traveled the world and pounded the pavement with me, and their cause of death.
Case: Clarks Cloudsteppers
Cause of Death: Sweat
I just bought these in February. They seemed to be the perfect pair of shoes. They are super light and decent looking. They were comfortable while walking over ruins and long distances. They even packed flat. But after wearing them a number of days in rain and also without socks, they developed a stink and made my feet unbearably sweaty. My fault. Should have worn socks but I thought they looked silly that way. However, I suspect that the fabric they are made out of is not breathable since I don’t typically have sweaty or stinky feet. I’ll keep them in rotation at home, but only after a thorough sanitization. If you always wear socks, these would be great shoes.
Cause of Death: Black pair soaked in beer and other fluids at Oktoberfest in Munich-never recovered, beige pair ripped on nail in Turkish sidewalk.
I really loved these shoes, a serious bargain at less than $20. They were so comfy and cute, with padded soles that you rarely see in a ballerina flat. Even my Italian friends commented on how attractive they were. I also liked them because they could pack flat or be rolled into a ball and stuffed into my bag. I’ll see if I can find them again, but considering the price, one cannot expect a long life from them.
Cause of Death: Borrowed by 11 year-old son
These were my first pair of ultralight running shoes. They had such an excellent arch, it added a little bounce to my step while running and walking. Great shoes for cobblestone streets and long days on my feet. Only problem was that they were a wee bit tight at the toe and that sent them to the back of the closet. Then my son found them, decided he liked them and it was all over.
Case: Dansko Lolita Sandals
Cause of Death: Loved to death, strappy sandals de-strapified
I used to swear by Dansko sandals and, in fact, most of my tour guide colleagues are still big fans. I wore these until they literally fell off my feet. I even had a cobbler repair them twice because I adored them and they stopped making this design. Sadly, I don’t buy Dansko anymore. They’ve changed their sizing making their shoes smaller, now it’s impossible to fit a size 12 foot. This model has been resurrected recently, and would be a great pick for problem feet if you don’t mind the weight.
Cause of Death: Drowned in a downpour
Tom’s shoes are so nice and light, comfy too. As I mentioned before, I’m not into socks, and they seem to deal well with unclothed feet. These dark gray wool shoes are lined with a fluffy shearling-like layer and are super cozy in cool weather. I wore these constantly, with just about everything. Only problem is that these shoes are not the sturdiest. I got caught in a downpour while out Christmas shopping last year, trudging up rivers in downtown Seattle and when I got to the car, the shoes were dead. The insoles were mush and splitting apart. They went in the garbage, may they rest in pieces.
Cause of Death: Stretched out due to swollen feet
This was my greatest shoe tragedy. A few years back, I arrived in Italy at the end of April to find that the weather was much hotter than I had expected. I, for whatever reason, had not brought any sandals. In a panic and dying of heat, I went into a shoe store in Venice and bought these shoes. They are orthopedic and vaguely attractive, I wasn’t going to argue with finding a pair in my size in Italy which is really tough. I paid a king’s ransom (Italians would say that I paid the Ire of God) but I had no choice. The summer wore on and got much hotter and my feet turned into balloons. These shoes valiantly saw my feet through all of it, but when I got home to chilly Seattle they simply fell off my feet. All of the sweating and swelling had stretched them out beyond usefulness. I kept them around for a while, hoping I could figure out a purpose for them, but eventually gave them away to someone with chunkier feet.
Cause of Death: Vanity
Light trail running shoes seem like the perfect solution for travel. Comfortable enough for long days on your feet, rugged enough for hiking, not too heavy. It’s true, these shoes were very useful, great for book research when I tend to walk 15 miles per day. But I couldn’t deal with how manly and clunky they are. They made me look like I’d just walked out of a campground. Some people dig that look, and that’s cool, but it didn’t work for me. I wanted so much to like these that I tried two different models two years in a row. But….no.
Case: Teva Leather Sandals
Cause of Death: Stench
I don’t get what it is about Tevas and stinky feet. In general, they seem like a great, versatile pick for travel. You can wear them in all terrains, even in water. Some even wear them with socks and evening wear (Noooooooo!). But the great downfall is the way they seem to absorb all of the worst smells your body can produce. I’ve tried everything. Bleach. Baking soda. I’ve washed them in the washing machine with vinegar and hot water. It’s no use. I do keep them around and use them only for camping because they are still, more than 10 years later, totally workable, sturdy and comfortable.
That’s all of my sad tales from the shoe morgue. Got a dead shoe story to share? Fondly recall a pair that has gone to the shoe rack in the sky (or Goodwill)? Share your story below….if you dare. 🙂