Gadling Gear Review: Birks? Really? Yes

A long stint in central Europe (and residency in the crunchier regions of the Pacific Northwest) means that I don’t look twice at someone in big wooly socks and a pair of battered “Birks.” But I do not suggest them as a travel shoe; it’s a bit too much like recommending a pair of bedroom slippers. (Sorry, Birkenstock.)

There’s a spinoff line from the old standard – Birki’s – that have some broader utility and some cute new colors and styles. Setting aside any conversation about fashion for a minute (sorry again, Birkenstock), they’re really comfortable. They’re great for driving, for slapping down to the pool deck, for padding through the hotel lobby to get coffee, for that lunch stop at the roadside diner – they’re just easy for knocking around in. They’re shoes that feel like you’re on vacation – seriously.I got my last pair of Birks ten, maybe 15 years ago. They last a very long time. They’re now available in purple suede and fuchsia and lime green and a bunch of fun colors; they’re not just your natural leather anymore. There’s a new sport line (I checked out the Salina) – they’ve got a spongier foot bed and the uppers are water resistant. They’re pitched as a “recovery shoe” so if you’re off to do something sporty, it’s nice to leave a pair in the car for after your day on the trail.

But the style I’m totally digging is the Skipper, a slip on that’s got some lazy style. They’re great for airports and planes, easy to get in and out of, and comfortable for wearing for long hours. They’re made from a tough canvas and have a bit of a rough finish. They look and feel like your favorite old beat-up pair of shoes almost right away.

Traditional Birks set you back some bank; this line runs just a little more affordable. They list the Skipper for about $120.00 and the Salina for about $80.00. They make a great pair of comfortable knock about shoes that will serve you as well at the airport bar as on your walk to the swim-up bar and are a good addition to your travel wardrobe. I was surprised; I didn’t think they’d make the cut for more than taking out the garbage, but they’re great and I’m wearing mine for my next road trip.

Great Shoes for Hot Weather Destinations

There is no getting that pair of socks clean from the red dust, they are dyed a tie-dyed rust color from the dry campground. My feet needed a good soaking, too — a walk on the beach in the surf took care of that. Sure, my feet were filthy, almost to an embarrassing degree. But they were happy, not too hot, free from blisters and fatigue. I attribute this to picking the right shoes for that camping and hiking trip.

Keen McKenzie Water Shoes

I spent two weeks wearing these shoes almost every day. I wore them for long walks, trail hikes, schlepping around the city, stomping about in gravelly, dusty, washouts and on grainy flat plateaus where the sun baked the top of my ears. I kind of fell in love with them on about day three of my camping and hiking and road tripping adventure. After all, these shoes treated me right.

Keen’s McKenzie’s are really comfortable, it was no trouble to walk in them all day long. They’re closed (but well ventilated) so I wasn’t constantly knocking tiny stones out from where they’d wedged in under my arches. (The shoe is essentially your standard Keen sandal with the open bits enclosed in a mesh upper.) They’ve got a collapsible heel cup, meaning you can wear the shoe as a slide without damaging it, perfect for legging it to the campground loo in the middle of the night or navigating the TSA. They’ve got a solid hiker sole, so they’re grippy on trails. My feet were supported, not too hot, dry, and totally content in these shoes. Cost? 90 USD, your choice of three earthy color combinations.

The only issue — which wasn’t really a problem because I was in desert like climates — was that they took longer to dry than I’d like. I’d have regretted putting my feet into cold, clammy shoes on chilly mornings. But no worries, I’d also packed a pair of sport sandals.Ecco Coba Performance Sandals

I’m not crazy about the look of performance sandals, the designs tend towards a bit too orthopedic for my tastes. But I tried on a pair of Ecco’s WAVE footbed sandals at the Outdoor Retailer show and was pleased and surprised by how comfortable they are — and I ended up packing a pair for my recent adventure.

Ecco’s Coba sandals
feel like real shoes. Normally, I wear Chaco sandals, the model that’s not much more than a sturdy sole strapped to your foot with webbing. Ecco’s shoes gave me a lot more support. The foot bed has a waffle-y surface to it that aids in keeping your feet cool and it’s got a nice feel too it, a soft suede type finish. All three straps are adjustable and it’s easy to get them to fit just right — or to tweak them a little, if, like me, you find there’s a spot that needs a little breaking in. The sturdy soles were great for long walks or short trail hikes. And they’re light — I clipped them on the outside of my bag when I wasn’t wearing them and the weight they added was negligible. Cost? 130 USD. A bit steep; you might want to explore your options if you’re price sensitive. Two colors, white or “moon rock” — a natural light brown.

I caved and on the trip home, I wore my Ecco Coba sandals with socks. They were so easy to get in and out of in the airport and on the plane that I went for the full on dorky socks and sandals look. Hey, I was surrounded by strangers. I’ll pack these sandals again for camping and outdoor trips, but heads up — they are not a water shoe, you really want something else if you’re planning on getting your shod feet wet. That’s why you I also packed…

Cheap Flip Flops

You need them for campground showers (and, honestly, some hotel showers), beach walks, leaving propped outside the tent, wearing with a summer dress when you can’t bear the idea of shoes any more, and those long, long stints in the car or bus. You can always find space for them in your bag, and after you’ve had a good walk in the ocean for disinfectant purposes, you can pass them on to some fellow traveler whose had a blowout. There are few items I’d categorize as disposable travel gear, flip flops (zoris, thongs, whatever you like to call them) are one. Get a pair. Spend as much as you like, from 5 USD to, well, you want to spend 70 USD on flip flops, you go right ahead.

Video: Catching a moving train in Burma

A Reddit user submitted this video of people catching a moving train in Yangon, Burma. Note that the train doesn’t actually *stop* in the station. The first woman gets an assist from a train employee as well as a man on the ground, who then has to run down the platform – in flipflops, no less – and catch the train with several bags to carry before it leaves the station. The video uploader explains that the train was running two hours late and had no time to stop, and the man had seven bags to get onto the train in less than a minute.

Imagine Amtrak (or even your local commuter train) adopting this new policy for late trains. Think you are intrepid enough to jump on a moving train with luggage?

Best shoes for summer travel

Traveling in the warmer months of the year can present unique apparel challenges. When preparing for a trip to the lower latitudes or destinations where water will be a major factor, certain considerations should be made. One important decision is the choice of footwear. There are few shoes that can do it all, but some can accommodate a variety of warm-weather activities.

The beach trip – One of the most common summer trips is that relaxing stay at the beach. Even if the plan is to lounge the day away reading the latest Grisham novel, there will always be walking involved. The shoe choice needs to fit comfortably and be able to get you to and from your seaside accommodations. The shoe also needs to be well suited to handle sand and water, and sometimes both simultaneously.

Chaco has created an ideal beach shoe with the Hipthong Pro. Available in men’s and women’s models, this fashionable sandal has no rear strap for easy removal when you’re ready to kick your feet up in that beach chair. The unique strap system holds the shoe on the foot well, despite the lack of rear support. The footbed also has an arch which is lacking in many low-end water shoes.
Price – $85 at ChacoUSA.comThe business/pleasure trip – It can be difficult to find time for ourselves with the hectic schedules we adhere to these days. Many spend much of their travel time while on the clock. Occasionally though, the opportunity presents itself to escape from the meeting room and get out and explore or relax.

When mixing a business trip with a little R & R, consider a versatile shoe that won’t be too casual for work yet will still get you where you want to go comfortably. For the men traveling on business, the Merrell Neptune not only looks fabulous under a pair of khakis, but the Ortholite footbed cradles the foot for support and will be ready to hit the streets later. Businesswomen will appreciate the Merrell Brio. This flat is anything but flat inside as it also includes an Ortholite footbed. The deceptively supportive soles will keep feet comfortable in the office and at the museum later.
Brio Price – $80 at
Neptune Price – $100 at

The walking trip – Theme parks, music festivals, and urban explorations come to mind when we think of the walking trip. An eight hour stint wandering cobbled streets, eating funnel cakes, jumping on and off trams, and sweating your way through lines is no time to wear uncomfortable shoes. Keeping your feet cool and dry will at least make the day less grueling, and there won’t be the need for a foot soak when you collapse in the room later.

The Saucony ProGrid Ride 3 has a long name but is long on features as well. The performance interior lining wicks (pulls away) sweat from the foot. Both the men’s and women’s versions have midsoles that absorb impact. They are designed to be neutral trainers, so they can accommodate a wide variety of foot types.
ProGrid Ride 3 – $95 at

The active trip – Some of us, myself included, love to explore our natural world during the summer. Hiking, biking, paddling, and climbing our way through national parks and wilderness areas can be a great way to detach from the bustle of city life and get some exercise at the same time. When embarking on a trip packed with this much activity though, the right shoe is key.

The Keen Newport is a classic example of a shoe that can function in the toughest situations and also wears well for casual daily activities. The Newport is a sandal-style shoe with a Vibram sole for gripping slippery terrain and a tough toe bumper to keep your piggies safe.
Price – $95 at

The flying trip – If we want to get far away, and get there quickly, we will most likely be flying the friendly skies. Since you will need to easily slip your shoes on and off in security, as well as have enough support to walk those long terminals, these trips may require a little more planning. The Crocs Melbourne and Melbourne Shecon not only have the slip-on factor covered, but also make for great walking shoe with their ergonomic squishy soles.
Melbourne Price – $55 at
Shecon Price – $45 at

Summer is the high-season for travel, and there are few items we pack in our suitcase more important than our shoes. Choosing the right footwear for a summer trip could mean the difference between blisters and bliss.

Travel footwear review: Terrasoles Logans

From the moment I donned the Terrasoles Logans, I knew they were designed for comfort. They slipped on easily and felt, quite simply, cozy. When I stepped out of my apartment, I delighted in thinking I was wearing slippers, despite visible evidence to the contrary.

The design straddles outdoor and office – you can get away with either. With a pair of cargo shorts or the khaki uniform of a cubicle dweller, the Terrasoles Logans won’t look out of place. Yet, the flexibility of style does not compare to the comfort these shoes provide. Among the softest and lightest shoes I’ve slipped on my feet (aside from flip-flops or running shoes), they were an absolute joy to wear.

The Logans basically wrap right around your feet, snugly supporting your dogs while you put them through their proverbial (and literal) paces. The softness is what struck me, even more than with the Tukermans, but for this reason, I do have some concerns about their endurance. I’ve pushed the Logans a bit, and they have held up well. For normal use, they’ll probably have a fairly long life, but consistent urban use will be tough on these shoes. I’ve already noticed some rapid wear on the outer soles.

For streets, sand and trails, the Terrasoles Logans are a good choice – a pair of shoes you can wear anyplace. I’ve been happy every time I’ve put them on.