Be light of foot
By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Paula Rath
It's a scene being re-enacted throughout the Islands as folks prepare for their summer vacations. The suitcase is packed with all the important stuff: iPod, sunscreen, hat that packs flat, swimsuit, sarong, summer novel, two pairs of pants, one skirt and four tops, all in a neutral, mix-and-match color scheme.
Then the dilemma: What shoes to pack? OK, you gotta have a pair of athletic shoes to walk off dessert; cute but comfy walking shoes for shopping and sightseeing; a pair of pumps for the theater or lunch with the relatives; slippers for the beach or pool; sandals for casual days; a little glam for evenings on the town. Suddenly, there are six pairs of shoes to pack, and no room left in the suitcase.
Travel shoes are one of life's challenges, especially for women. Today, however, things are far better than they were 10 years ago. Some comfort shoes are cuter these days, while some cute shoes are now more comfortable. Fashion-forward shoe companies such as Cole Haan, Puma and Taryn Rose have learned that women want to travel in comfort, while comfort shoe companies such as Birkenstock, Arche, Mephisto, Merrells and Dansko are upping the fashion quotient.
High-tech materials, as well as rubber and cork soles and significant arch supports, offer the comfort and support of foot-friendly shoes in some fun and flirty styles. The Cole Haan G-Series, which uses Nike technology to cushion the heels, is a perfect example of style and function. So is Taryn Rose, designed by an orthopedic surgeon (a woman, of course).
We asked women who travel a great deal, as well as a foot doctor and shoe retailers, what they recommend for travel shoes. Their answers reflect their priorities. One traveler owns up to favoring style over comfort. Another needs easy-on, easy-off accessibility. Each has found a brand and outlet to meet her needs.
IF THE SHOE FITS
Dr. Nancy Pace of Kahala travels the world doing humanitarian work. Although she no longer maintains a practice as a physician, she takes her expertise to needy populations in Third World nations. We caught up with her as she unpacked from a trip to Thailand and Cambodia.
Pace has packing down to a science. She takes one carry-on bag wherever she goes, regardless of how long she will be traveling. Given the choice between an extra pair of shoes and medicines for her patients, she'll choose the meds every time. That means she must narrow down her shoe choices to two or three pairs.
"I never, never, never wear tennis shoes in any foreign country. It immediately identifies you as an American, and I don't want to be identified as an American to terrorists," Pace said.
Style also is important to Pace, and she doesn't like to lose her flair when traveling. She always opts for black shoes, and looks for the cutest possible shoes that also are comfortable. She searches in every city she visits. Her favorite shoe store is The Clog Shop in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Once she discovers a great travel shoe, Pace looks for it online if it isn't available in Honolulu. Her favorite online sources are www .footsource.com and www.wolky .com.
Pace loves Stuart Weitzman shoes because they are a perfect fit for her foot. She often takes a pair of 1-inch pumps ("It's a square heel, not a spiky one," she explained) to wear for everything but long walks. For those, she prefers a Wolky shoe in a style called Velocity. "It has a cork sole, so there's lots of cushioning." She also likes a Cole Haan G-Series pump, and clogs by Romika.
Sandi Stoner of Kula, Maui, also travels to Southeast Asia frequently. She spends many of her days touring pagodas and visiting people's homes, and she is constantly taking off her footwear — so her travel-shoe philosophy differs from Pace's. She favors slippers.
"I always take a pair of rubber slippers with me, as well as strong sporty slippers like Merrells for day," Stoner said. "At night, I love to have a pair of metallic slippers." When trekking, however, she must have athletic shoes, regardless of how much room they take up in her suitcase.
Freelance food writer Joan Namkoong, who lives in Waimea on the Big Island, takes foodie trips to exotic locales such as Japan and India. She often walks several miles a day, and comfortable shoes are a must. Her favorite travel shoes are made by Arcopedico of Portugal, from Uyeda Shoe Store at King Street and University Avenue.
Namkoong always travels with a pair of athletic shoes for major walks or treks, as well as little black ballet flats for evening. If she's going to New York or San Francisco, a cute shoe with a little heel is added to her suitcase.
Judy Pancipanci of Wahiawa travels constantly for her job as a buyer for Marukai, visiting Japan, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Chicago several times a year. She has to bring back samples, and her suitcase (a 26-inch carry-on) has precious little room for shoes, so she always limits herself to two pairs of the most comfortable shoes she can find. One pair is always the athletic variety with rubber soles. Her second pair is a closed-toe slingback in basic black that she can slip on and wear out to meetings or dinner in the evenings. Bally and Bruno Magli are the designers she has found work best for her feet.
In contrast, radio DJ Hudson Hott of Makakilo said she doesn't care about comfort; she'd rather go for glam.
"When I travel, I wear dressy shoes — (shoes) that are so dressy I usually can't wear them here," Hott said.
She often packs six pairs of shoes for a four-day weekend. "One bag is dedicated to shoes and bags. I can never have enough," she said. "I take as many as I need to look hot and happening."
Hott travels about once a month, usually to Las Vegas or Los Angeles to see shows and rock concerts. On the plane she wears slippers — not "rubbah slippahs," but high-end Taryn Rose slippers with a lot of support and cushioning. Since they come in metallic snakeskin, they fulfill the cute quotient.
To a recent Bon Jovi concert, Hott wore Beverly Feldman heels with lots of bling.
A VARIETY OF MAKERS
A tour of The Walking Company at Ala Moana Center offers a glimpse of what's out there for travelers. Among its best-sellers are Pikolinos in a simple loafer style in many colors ($129). Merrells come in many styles and offer air cushioning in the soles ($65).
Mephistos in the style called Helen are seen on the feet of many Honolulu artists, and they travel well because they mold to the foot and distribute weight properly to help prevent lower-back pain ($125).
Those '70s Earth Shoes are back, and they now come in a cute Mary Jane style ($100). Be sure to break in Earth Shoes if you haven't worn them before. They change weight distribution and posture. They take some getting used to.
Clarks, the new shoe store on the third level of Ala Moana Center, carries sandals, slippers, pumps and pull-ons in an array of colors and styles, all under $100 and most around $60. They are flexible and have rubber soles.
While The Sandal Tree is best known for its fashion-forward shoes and handbags, it also has incorporated many lines of comfort shoes. Owner Paula Sussex also owned Paradise Walking Company in Ward Warehouse, and when she closed that store, she added some of its lines to The Sandal Tree stores.
Sandal Tree buyer Rachel Barnett reports that Taryn Rose shoes are popular with many Island women who have to look professional and polished when traveling. Other best-selling travel shoes come from French shoe manufacturers Arche and Meph-isto. Tsonga of South Africa and American manufacturer Sofft keep prices for their popular comfort shoes under $100.
ASK THE DOCTOR
We asked podiatrist Robert Lareaux of Kailua how to tell when a travel shoe fits well enough to walk in all day. He recommends, as many foot experts do, trying shoes on at the end of the day. Feet can get one-half to one size bigger during the course of a day.
A properly fitted shoe will allow one thumb's width between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. "You should be able to pinch the material on top of the shoe behind the toes," Lareaux said. "It shouldn't be so taut that you can't pinch it, or it's too tight."
The three things to look for in a travel shoe, Lareaux said, are shock absorption, stability and motion control. "If you don't have a history of foot problems, look just for shock absorption."
If you do have a history of problems, Lareaux said, an arch support can really help when you plan to walk a great deal. He recommends Dynastep supports by Dr. Scholl's (around $20). "Put them in your shoes, and it immediately upgrades the shoes. When traveling, you can take one pair of arch supports and move them around in any pair of shoes," he advised. "Just look for shoes with removable foot beds."
Lareaux, also qualified as a pedorthist, or shoe-fitter, has a shoe shop attached to his clinic. Specializing in diabetic, orthopedic comfort shoes, he calls it DOC's Shoes. He carries a line called Finns which have removable foot beds so he can tailor the shoes to his patients.
"Covering the foot on all six sides will clearly control and support more than a sandal," Lareaux said, but many Island folks refuse to wear anything but sandals. For them, he recommends finding the best support possible from manufacturers such as Mephisto, Birkenstock, Dansko, Naot and Finns, which he carries in his store.
Travel shoes require more time and thought than any other item in a suitcase. They are by no means a last-minute impulse purchase. With so many options in the marketplace, it's just a matter of time and trying again and again to find that perfect pair to fit your foot — and your suitcase.
Reach Paula Rath at email@example.com.