Gadling Gear Review: Luna Sandals Mono And Venado

Over the past couple of years there has been a movement in the outdoor community towards lightweight, minimalist footwear. Much of the movement stems from the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, which kicked off the barefoot running craze and created a whole new section in the shoe department of your favorite sporting goods store. The minimalist approach has had a dramatic impact not only on running shoes, but also hiking boots and travel footwear as well.

Now, Luna Sandals is bringing those same minimalist sensibilities to their impressive line of sandals that are designed to be versatile, comfortable and fun to wear. They have developed several pairs of lightweight shoes that are perfect for both the outdoor enthusiast and active traveler alike. Here are two of those products that will likely prove of interest to readers of Gadling.

Mono Sandal ($75)
Luna’s Mono sandal is its Swiss Army Knife of minimalist footwear. Designed for a wide assortment of activities, this shoe features a light, yet durable, Vibram sole that cradles and protects the foot from a wide variety of obstacles. It provides surprisingly good traction on a variety of surfaces, which makes it a great choice for the trail, beach, pavement or just kicking around the house. The pliable leather footbed does a nice job of molding itself to the unique contours of your foot, which improves the fit and comfort over time. That means, the more you wear them, the more you’re apt to love them.The Mono sandal also features Luna’s All Terrain Strapping (ATS) laces, which make them a breeze to pull off and on. The soft, nylon ATS system secures the shoes to your feet and keeps them in place no matter where you go. The laces are easy to adjust and lock snugly into place, without chafing or irritating your feet as well. That translates into being able to wear these sandals longer and in a variety of conditions, without having to deal with discomfort.

I have to admit, that I was a bit hesitant about trying these sandals when I first saw them. The minimalist approach to running shoes didn’t connect with me personally and I was afraid that these sandals would provide a similar result. But the Mono was the shoe that changed my mind. I am amazed at just how lightweight they are, while still being able to provide a high level of comfort. I haven’t always been a fan of flip-flops in the past either, but Luna’s ATS laces made these feel more like a regular shoe.

Frequent travelers will love these sandals, and not just because they take up almost no room in your pack and tip the scales at a mere 9.2 ounces for a pair. They make a great second pair of shoes for those who like to travel ultralight and can be worn in a variety of situations ranging from the backwoods to your favorite local hangout. Backpackers will find that they make an excellent camp shoe, while those heading to a beach destination will appreciate how well they function around sand and water. They are easy to keep clean, durable enough to shrug off most wear and tear and they actually look good too. In short, they’re just about everything you could want in a travel shoe wrapped up in a minimalist package.

Venado Sandal ($65)
If the Mono sandal didn’t quite seem minimalist enough for you, Luna offers the Venado for those who want an even lighter shoe. These sandals still feature a comfortable and durable Vibram sole, but it is a thinner and less substantial than the one found on the Mono. The result is a pair of shoes that weighs even less (7.8 ounces) while still providing plenty of comfort and protection for your feet.

While the Mono is the rugged, go anywhere, do anything sandal in the Luna line-up, the Venado is a bit more refined in its approach. Designed for use on pavement or for very light-trail duty, this shoe provides the same level of comfort and durability that is found in Luna’s other footwear, albeit in an even more streamlined package.

Using the same ATS lacing system found across the Luna line-up, the Venado clings to the foot, even in wet conditions. That makes them great for wearing around the pool, short walks on the beach or trail, or while casually strolling around town. While the Mono’s are built for scrambling over rocks and hiking longer distances, these shoes are for those who don’t venture too far off the beaten path, but still want an incredibly light sandal that provides versatility when they need it.

As someone who is very active, and enjoys hiking, trail running and backpacking, I’m a bit partial towards the Mono sandals. They are the perfect size and weight for the activities I enjoy and are a great addition to my bag when I hit the road. But for those who don’t need the extra thick sole found on that shoe, the Venado is a lighter, more affordable option that is sure to serve you well both at home and while traveling.

[Photos by Luna Sandals]

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.

Gadling Gear Review: Keen Emerald City Sandals For Summer

I like my sport sandals a lot. I’ve tried a few different brands – Chaco, Keen, Ahnu – and truthfully, they’re all great for what they do. I’ve yet to develop a brand preference. But when you pair them with something dressier for those beach side cocktail hours, they still look like sport sandals.

Keen makes a whole line of sport sandals. I’m a fan of their footwear; it’s comfortable and sturdy. But they’ve got a new line that’s cuter and dresses up nicely, plus, they are comfortable enough for long walks. The Emerald City Ankle Wrap Sandal packs away nicely too, taking up less space in your bag than a pair of flip-flops.

I struggled with getting the straps wrapped correctly at first; if you go this route you’ll probably need to find the way that feels best for you. On my first wearing, I wasn’t sure at all that they would be comfortable. I knocked around the house in them for an afternoon before I was convinced. But after just a few hours and a few times fussing with the straps, I got them just right and hey, cute new sandals for traveling! Here’s to that.

The sandals are leather with a padded foot bed. You’re not going to want to go beach combing in them, as they’re not designed for water, but they’re perfect for those city picnics, museum dates and dressing up to go for umbrella drinks after your day at the beach. I’ve walked around my fine city in them and they lost that stiff new leather feeling almost immediately. The other Keen shoes I have are built to last – I’d expect nothing less from these sandals.

Shoes are, for me, the hardest part of the packing equation. I’m not a slave to fashion, but I like good shoes, and I see the value in the right shoes for the job. Lately, I try to limit myself to two pairs, but I want to take them all. I’m probably going to toss the Emerald City sandals in my bag for all my summer trips. They’re cute, lightweight and comfortable – all good qualities in a summer travel sandal.

Get them from Keen for $85.

Gadling Gear Review: Keen Turia Sandals

Shoe manufacturer Keen is well known for making comfortable and sturdy footwear for travelers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Their catalog includes shoes for hiking, trail running and even cycling, all of which manage to remain both durable and stylish at the same time. Perhaps their most iconic offering is their line of sandals which continues to evolve and improve while retaining the core elements that have made them a favorite with many for years. This legacy continues with the new Turia Sandals which are a great travel shoe for warm weather destinations.

Lightweight and breathable, the Turia Sandal provides plenty of coverage for the foot while remaining comfortably cool even in the warmest of environments. A synthetic mesh wraps the top of the foot while a closed-toe design proves to be both protective and pragmatic for travelers visiting demanding locations. The shoes use a zip lacing system that holds them snugly in place for hours on end and an aggressive sole manages to provide solid traction on a variety of surfaces including those that are both slick and wet.

Sporting anti-bacterial fabrics, Keen has designed these sandals to be worn for days while still resisting odors, fungi and and stains. On top of that, they’re easy to keep clean and quick to dry, which is greatly appreciated on short summer escapes and extended journeys alike.

All of these features make the Turia an excellent choice for travelers who are looking for a versatile and comfortable shoe to take with them nearly anywhere. Their compact and flexible design make them easy to pack and their stylish good looks keep them appropriate for light hiking, visits to the beach or just kicking around town. In fact, that versatility is perhaps my favorite feature of these sandals, which were one of just two pairs of shoes that I took with me on a recent visit to the country of Jordan, where they proved to be equally adept at both trekking in the desert and visiting the beaches of the Red Sea.

As with all sandals, the open design of the shoe does allow for dirt, sand and small rocks to collect inside at times. This issue is further exacerbated by the closed toe on the Turia, which can prevent that debris from escaping, causing irritation on the foot and toes. While this is more of an issue with these type of shoes in general, and not a design flaw of the Turia itself, I did feel it was worth noting. While wearing these shoes, there were times when I needed to stop on the trail, pull them off and empty out the offending materials before continuing.

Available in four different colors, the Keen Turia is an excellent choice for travelers looking for a lightweight and versatile shoe to take with them on their next adventure. They are comfortable, durable and packable, which makes them a great option for just about any escape and with a price tag of $100 they remain affordable as well.

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.