May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside's Annual Travel Guide, 1999/2000
Footloose and blister-free

There I was, packing for a trip to British Columbia that I knew would entail some floatplane flying, and hence, weight- and bulk-fussy pilots. I had restricted myself to one small wheel-on bag, which already required my full body weight to compress to zipperable girth. Where on earth to stuff my boots?

The answer, of course: on my feet. Most travels don't require beefy backpacking clompers. A well-chosen pair of shoes can serve a spectrum of vagabond demands, from museum trolling to stream hopping, without wrinkling any maître d' noses during a dine-out splurge. The choices here are listed in order of perceived supportiveness, from light duty to boot rival. All come in both men's and women's sizes unless otherwise noted.


The Cross Up sandal from Teva ($80) is no rough-trail hiker, but its EVA footbed, sculpted to suit the contours of the foot, provides excellent all-day support for around town, beach, or river, and the waterproof leather won't get soggy. I think of Salomon's Pisco ($85) as my Maui shoe: It's cool and a cool-looking blue and the low cut looks great with baggy jams, yet its sticky-rubber outsole is tough enough for a Haleakala hike or a lava scramble to La Perouse. The Nike Air Escape ($65) is predictably nimble but roomier inside and much more supportive than a running shoe.

Its upper is a waterproof split-grain leather, trimmed with splashes of color to look vaguely like dressy bowling shoes. L.L. Bean's Gore-Tex Country Walkers ($89) are the dressiest of the bunch and the least suited to rough trails; the lightly lugged sole is too thin and flexible to protect against sharp rocks. On the other hand, they're roomy, soft, waterproof (natch), and out-of-the-box dreamy comfortable—great for urban adventuring. Merrell's Mayan (women's version is the Cozumel; both $110) is similarly smart-looking and roomy but boasts serious sole construction: a Vibram outsole, fiberglass shank, and lots of EVA cushioning. This shoe defines the category: dressy, rugged, a pleasure to walk or linger in.


The North Face's Triple Divide Mid ($100) has a bootlike look and firm support from a polyurethane midsole, but it's actually one of the more athletic-feeling shoes here, due in part to a narrow, semicurved last that might be confining to some. It's a great choice for boulder-hopping up a stream bed; should you slip into the drink, the waterproof leather upper retains its good looks. Timberland's Rail Pass ($90) blends some of that nimbleness with more volume, EVA cushioning, and a partial fiberglass shank for underfoot protection. Women: If boots seem never to fit, try the Montrail Sandia Peak (women's only; $115). Montrail always gets it right when it comes to fit, and a rugged sole combined with the medium-high cut of the water-resistant leather upper will support a hike to the eponymous summit near Albuquerque and look snazzy later when strolling the Plaza in Santa Fe. Don't be fooled by the dressy chukka styling of Rockport's Umbwe Trail ($200). The slick leather upper is waterproof, has a membrane lining, and is built on a serious platform: Vibram outsole, steel shank, and dense EVAmidsole. No dressy airs for Five Ten's 4x4 (men's only; $98): It's a serious outdoor shoe with mesh in the upper for breathability, lots of tootsie room inside, and a thick, sticky-rubber outsole underneath. —Robert Earle Howells

For a Directory of Manufacturers, please see page 123.

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