A new video by Japanese filmmaker Takayuki Akachi shows people taking steps all around the world. Sounds simplistic, because it is, but the video shows a beautiful slice-of-life from around the globe. His concept is described as “collecting the steps from all over the world and playing a music with the steps.” The artist specializes in a “lone backpacker” style of filming that allows him to travel without a film crew. This isn’t his first round-the-world video effort: last year he made the stop-motion Traveling Denim, documenting a pair of jeans over two years and 50 countries. Check out all of his videos on Vimeo.
Anyone who has ever spent a day walking around Rome, Tokyo, Paris or any other cobblestone and concrete jungle knows that comfortable shoes are essential. But sometimes your favorite shoes aren’t always the best for your feet. Or, they’ve worn a tad thin and no longer provide the comfort that you need for a long day of sightseeing, shopping and meandering on foot. That’s why insoles and footbeds can be vital pieces of gear that keep you going even after a full day on your feet. We recently tested the SOLE Softec Response Footbeds to see if they can keep our tootsies happy while pushing pavement in New York City.I chose to test the SOLE footbeds in my Converse Jack Purcell sneakers for two reasons. Firstly, they are my favorite pair of shoes and I wear them daily. Secondly, they provide little support on their own and have recently resulted in a tremendous amount of back pain. I was hoping that the SOLE footbeds could salvage my favorite pair of shoes and make them comfortably usable. If they could that that, then they’d be worth the $44.95 price tag.
The SOLE Softec Response Footbeds come in a variety of sizes and then must be cut to fit your shoes. I removed the insole from my shoes and placed them on top of the SOLE footbeds. Using the insoles as guides, I used a regular pair of scissors to cut the SOLE footbeds to fit inside of my shoes. SOLE’s instructions are careful to warn users not to cut the footbeds too small. If you leave a large gap between the footbed and the edge of the shoe, you will be uncomfortable.
In order to mold the SOLE Softec Response Footbeds, you must heat them in your oven. Thankfully, they only require a rather mild 200-degree environment, so you won’t be handling any scolding materials. The pads must be placed on a baking sheet. If you’re a clean freak, I suppose you’ll want to wrap the sheet in foil first. As you can see from the photo to the right, I let any germs and bacteria bake off in my oven.
Rather than having to guess when your footbeds are ready to be molded, they come equipped with a color-changing thermometer (see photo below). When the circle on the sticker turns black, your footbeds are ready to be
served molded. The footbeds reached the appropriate temperature in under ten minutes. They were warm but not too hot to handle when I removed them from the oven and easily slid into my sneakers. I put on the shoes and then stood upright, heals back, feet shoulder-width apart for the recommended two minutes to allow the footbeds to mold to my feet.
After that, the footbeds were ready to roll. Or step. I spent the last ten days traversing New York City in my sneakers with the SOLE Softec Response Footbeds and have experienced a noticeable difference in the comfort of my shoes. My back pain has subsided, my feet feel less sore after hours of walking and the sneakers themselves seem more durable overall.
That comfort could also be attributed to the relative thinness of the footbeds, Unlike other insole products, the SOLE Softec Response Footbeds are relatively slim. This allows you to use them without making your shoes suddenly feel tight and ill-fitting.
The footbeds are partially made out of recycled materials while seemingly making no sacrifices in dependability and comfort.
Let’s get to down to the basics:
- Easy to cut to a customized size
- Heating and molding takes under 15 minutes total
- Thin footbeds maintain proper fit in shoe
- Comfortable and durable
- Cutting footbeds leaves room to make an expensive mistake
The SOLE Softec Response Footbeds do everything that the company promises. While the price seems high, the footbeds are said to last for roughly a year. If you extend the life of a pair of shoes for another twelve months, $45 may be much cheaper than buying a new pair of shoes. SOLE also offers a “Truth in Comfort Guarantee.” If you are unsatisfied with your SOLE product at any time, you can contact the company to arrange for a refund or exchange.
I recommend the SOLE Softec Response Footbeds if you are looking to enhance the comfort of your shoes and do a large amount of walking. If my disappearing back pain is any indication, these footbeds fulfill their promise. They are available for purchase directly from the SOLE website.
Before every trip I tell myself that in between sightseeing, wine tasting, and multi-course gastronomic feasts, I’m going to get in some physical activity. Then I start packing my carry-on and, when things get tight, the workout clothes and running shoes are the first things to get cut.
Despite my good intentions, I’d rather pack an extra pair of heels or save room for some souvenirs than squeeze my bulky running shoes into my bag. And I’m sure I’m not alone. To make it easier on people like me, Fairmont’s “Fairmont Fit” program provides guests with a gently used pair of running shoes in their size to use for the duration of their stay.
Guests must be members of the Fairmont President’s Club loyalty program and pay $10 per stay for the Fairmont Fit program. The shoes need to be requested in advance; they are cleaned after every use and replaced each season. In addition to use of the use of the shoes (available at 56 Fairmont hotels), guests can also use Adidas workout shirts and shorts or capris, yoga mat and stretch band, and an MP3 player loaded with 1,000 songs.
Who am I kidding? I’m not going to go for a run even if the hotel does lend me some kicks. But for the more dedicated, it’s a great way to pack light and still be able to maintain your workout routine on a trip.
Ultralight packing is the constant quest for perfection. Each item put away in the bag must be outrageously useful, versatile, small, and light. That rules out almost everything.
And for a while, the ultimate shoes escaped me. Sandals are light and small, but not versatile. I couldn’t run or hike with them.
I had some gore tex trail running shoes that I liked, but they weren’t light and small. They were fairly versatile, but were a disaster at the beach.
For a long time I carried two pairs of shoes. One in the backpack and one on my feet. Not perfect, but not bad.
Then I stumbled across the perfect pair of shoes by accident. My travel mate bought a pair during a brief stopover in LA.
Vibram Five Fingers.They looked ridiculous at first glance, like a combination of a glove and a ballet slipper. I had read about them online, specifically that a small subculture of runners absolutely loved them because they were like running barefoot and promoted proper running form.
But I wasn’t convinced. They seemed so minimal that they must fall short in some area or another.
As our trip took us through Southeast Asia and my friend’s Five Fingers began stealing the spotlight from his other shoes, I started regretting that I hadn’t bought a pair.
I searched across several countries trying in vain to find a pair of these shoes. They were sold out or unavailable everywhere. All of a sudden a cult following had developed and they were in short supply.
Finally I contacted Vibram to see if I could get a pair to review. They agreed under the condition I didn’t run with the bulls wearing the shoes. Fair enough.
Now I’m a full on convert. I still have my sandals (for now…), but the Gore Tex trail shoes are gone.
To put it simply, wearing Five Fingers feels like cheating. You feel like you’re walking around barefoot, but with armor. It’s weird.
The experience of walking with the five fingers is incredible. The shoes are so light that you don’t notice they’re there. You can feel the texture of the ground below you. Walking on grass is fun.
Running in the Five Fingers does take a bit of time to get used to, as Vibram will tell you, but once you get used to it it’s actually a lot better for your body than normal running shoes. For more information on that, look up the “POSE” method of running.
They’re not waterproof, but they dry quickly enough that you don’t mind getting them wet.
They’re not formal shoes by any stretch of the imagination, but I wore mine with a Tuxedo on the Queen Mary 2. The shoes are so interesting looking that they curiously asked about them rather than giving me flak for not having proper footwear.
The one thing they’re not good for, apparently, is running with the bulls. My friend got pulled out of the street because the police wouldn’t believe that they’re actually running shoes. For everything else, they’re fantastic.
The shoes come in a few different styles which you can see at Vibram’s Site. My friend swears by the Classics, and I love the KSOs that Vibram sent me because sand and gravel don’t get into them.
It’s tough to get a pair of them right now, but your best bet is probably a local high end running store or outdoor gear store. Most online stores are backed up by weeks or months.
Sometimes an invention meant for one audience has a wider appeal. There’s a shoe designed for people with Type 2 diabetes and circulation problems that might be just the thing for travelers with a lot of walking on their itinerary.
The Asics Gel-Cardio Walking Shoes (retail about $110 per pair) were designed to cut down on friction and to reduce bacteria. The result is a decrease in blisters, abrasions and infections.
The instep is wider and the toe has more room which gives your feet more breathing room. They come in white and black, and from what I can tell, look like a normal athletic shoe.