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OluKai ‘Ohana Sandals

OluKai 'Ohana SandalsCall ‘em thongs, flip-flops, sandals or slippers, but these familiar open-toed shoes are worn by nearly every traveler on the plane, at the hotel, on hiking trails, to the beach, and more. Put some color pop in your flip-flop with the OluKai ‘Ohana sandal.

The vegan-friendly footwear uses high-quality synthetic materials and no animal products. The anatomical compression-molded EVA midsole has a soft footbed that’s far more comfortable than most of the flips I’ve worn over the years. The outsole is made of non-marking rubber, so if you drag your feet, you won’t leave black marks all over the floor.

The toe post, or that thing that sits between your big toe and the next one, is made of soft nylon. Even if you’re a newbie to this kind of shoe, you won’t get blisters. The upper is made of water-resistant synthetic nubuck leather and has a quick-drying jersey knit lining. New for this spring are the bright colors reminiscent of Hawaiian shave ice.

I wore these on a recent trip to Maui and Molokai: in the sand, in the hotel, on the plane, in the rain, and on the rock wall of an ancient fishing pond. The razor-sized edges kept me from slipping in the wet conditions, and I even saw a couple of hotel gift shops with the same shoes for sale.

Proceeds from the sales of this sandal help support OluKai’s ‘Ohana Giveback Program, which supports the efforts of those who continue to give back to preserve local cultures and traditions. Not a bad reason to buy a slipper, right?

The OluKai ‘Ohana Sandal lists for $65 on the OluKai website. You can also find it online at Amazon, Zappos and Backcountry.

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Keen Marshall Flexible Hiking Shoes

Keen Marshall shoes

If you’re only going to be doing light hiking or walks now and then and want something that’s comfy and flexible right out of the box, Keen’s latest Marshall shoes are a good bet. Just be ready for a trade-off in the cushioning and support.

We’re big fans of Keen shoes here at Practical Travel Gear and between us have tried a lot of different versions over the years. Most have a few characteristics that set them apart: they’re not super-narrow, they have protection for your toes, and they’re built to last.

You get all three of those as expected with these Marshall hiking shoes. They’re also lightweight, so they’re good to travel with, and the mesh allows your feet to breathe well when you’re on the move. I actually took off a pair of leather shoes my feet were sweating in at one point and put these on. When I took off the Keens, my socks were dry.

The Marshalls have a good lacing system to adjust the fit and pull tabs on the back and on the padded tongue. There’s a good tread on the bottom that grips rocks well.

Alas, you’re going to feel every bump and crevice in those rocks because the cushioning on these is quite minimal. The shoes fit like a pair of slippers out of the box, with no breaking in necessary. The downside of that is the flexibility means there’s not a whole lot besides the tread between your feet and the ground. Like barefoot running trail shoes, but looking like something much sturdier from the outside.

Keen Marshall hiking

After wearing these around for a few months, my conclusion is that they’re great for light hikes of a couple hours on flat trails or for navigating cobblestones in the city. I wouldn’t do any serious hiking in them though for long distances with a pack on. They also fit me really well, but I have flat feet. People who need more of an arch support might not be as thrilled with the casual fit as I am.

I do like these shoes a lot and will keep wearing them on trips where the adventures won’t be too challenging. At a list price of $110 though (and $130 for the WP waterproof version), Marshall feels like a shoe that aspires to be a bit more than it really is. Too see all the color choices and check for markdowns, surf a few different options: the Keen website, Amazon, Zappos, or Backcountry. There’s also a women’s version.

See more reviews of Keen Footwear products.

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The Cushe Slipper Shoe, Hoffman Style

Cushe Slipper Hoffman

I’ve long been a fan of Cushe shoes for a lot of reasons: the fit, the brand, the name, the logo, and the cool factor. You can’t really say they’ve “kicked it up a notch” with their Hoffman Hawaii-style collection since they’re so chilled. So maybe we say they’ve “laid it back a notch”?

The Hoffman in the name refers to the iconic Hoffman California Fabrics that have been a part of surf culture since there was such a thing. A little Hawaii, a little Bali, and a little California Tiki, you see these prints showing up in movies and TV shows as far back as you can reach. On a pair of Cushe shoes, they really look like they belong.

I’ve been wearing the Cushe Slipper shoes around for months now when in warm climates and have gotten a few compliments on them from fellow beach bums as I sipped a cocktail. These feel as comfortable as they look when you slip them on and the bit of elastic on each side of the tongue make them easy to get on and off.

This being Practical Travel Gear, I’m pretty psyched about the list price too: $50. These are surfer shoes meant for guys on a real surf dude budget, not Wall Street stockbrokers hitting the waves three days a year. They’re made with reinforced fabric in stress areas to hold up for longer though and have a sole thick enough to last all the walks down a sidewalk from your cheap hotel to the beach bar. Or hey, they’re called “slippers,” so if you want to wear them around your house or the hotel room all day, nothing wrong with that.

Cushe soles

There aren’t a lot of features to pore over with these slipper shoes. They’re canvas on the top, rubber on the bottom, and with microfiber inside. For me the keys are that they’re comfortable against the skin and are super-light to pack easily in my beach vacation suitcase.

This is just one of several styles coming out this year using the Hoffman fabrics. See more for men and women at the Cushe website.

You can pick up the Cushe Slipper with Hoffman prints in several colors from the Cushe site or at these online retailers: Zappos, Planet Shoes, or Moosejaw.

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Wolverine Alto Leather Hiking Shoes

Wolverine Alto Hiking

Two years ago at this time I was hiking around in a pair of Wolverine shoes with the ICS disc in them and I raved that I’d finally found a pair that fit right and performed great. I still use those sometimes, but lately I’ve been hitting the trails with a pair of Alto Leather Trail Shoes on my feet. Different materials on top, but same great outcome.

Wolverine is known for making rugged, dependable boots that won’t let you down. In many cases their work boots are on the kind of people who had better not let you down: the guys who do tough jobs in tough places. This same ethic applies to their hiking footwear, which may be light but never lightweight.

These Alto hiking shoes are made from quality leather, but not just solid pieces that will stretch over time. There are thicker reinforced sections crossing down from the laces for extra stability. Each layer provides support and protection, from the padded tongue to the Ortholite footbed to the tough rubber sole with good tread and a toe guard. There’s a waterproof membrane to keep your feet dry if needed.

Wolverine Alto hiking shoes

The secret ingredient that sets Wolverine apart is the ICS disc under the insole that you can take out and adjust. If you have flat feet like me, you set it one way. If you have high arches and tend to wear down the outside heel of your shoes, another setting. Two more are extra stiff and extra soft. You can pull the disc out and switch it if trail conditions change.

There are lots of little features I like, such as tough nylon loops the good laces go through, a padded cuff around the ankle, and a loop on the back for pulling them on. The soft leather broke in fast, but there’s nothing wimpy feeling about these, either in the support or the structure.  Being all leather, they’re not as super-light as pure synthetic ones, but they’re certainly not going to drag you down on a long trek. I’ve been hiking around the mountains of central Mexico in these and have been quite happy with how they performed on giant boulders I had to hike down and how they didn’t feel too heavy on my feet.

You’re limited to brown or black on the colors, but kudos to the company for making a wide option. Buy the Alto Leather Trail Shoes direct from Wolverine for $139 or shop online at Amazon. This is a new spring release, so you should start seeing them in stores soon too as everyone moves out the old seasonal inventory.

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Oboz Bridger Hiking Boot

You know that stereotype about women owning too many pairs of shoes? Guilty as charged, though with an unexpected plot twist: instead of sling backs and peep-toed heels, I own hiking boots. A lot of hiking boots. My closet is wall-to-wall waterproof uppers and arch support.

Oboz BridgerFinding the right pair of hiking boots is as personal as finding the right overnight pack or pair of skis: there’s no right answer, just the right boot for your foot, your terrain, and your excursions. I realize not everyone can own a hiking boot for every occasion (that honor is reserved for obsessive types like me), so if you’re looking for a solid all-purpose boot, the Oboz Bridger fits the bill. The boot comes in both men’s and women’s versions, and is categorized as one of Oboz’ classic hikers. Fun fact: the Montana-based Oboz company gets its name from the term meaning ‘outside Bozeman’.

The Bridger is constructed of a full leather upper with a pliable collar. Out of the box, the all-leather boot looks like it will be stiff or bulky, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. When worn, the Bridger is soft and flexible, if not the most lightweight. You get a sticky rubber sole with an outsole with nylon shank for stability, side lugs, and excellent arch support in the insole. (I do like a high arch, so this was a plus for me.) The boot is waterproof but still breathable: it uses ‘Bdry’ technology that ensures the membrane blocks water on the outside while releasing sweat from the inside.

My first hikes wearing the Bridger were on wet trails spotted with ice and slush, and I experienced no leaking whatsoever. I didn’t need the customary band-aids I bring along for breaking in boots, and I experienced good traction on the slick trail and in mud. As this review goes live, my Bridgers are with me on a late winter trip to Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia national parks, where so far, they’ve performed well in wet snow an dried out reasonably well by fireside overnight.

The Bridger comes in walnut and Rio red for women, retailing for $160 on Oboz, and in Sudan or black for men for the same price. They can also be found on Amazon, Planet Shoes, or REI.

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