Walking Washington DC: Part III The Shoes

Just three weeks ago I was traipsing all over Washington, DC, breaking my own walking records. In all that time, over all those many miles, I got nary a blister and neither my feet nor my back complained. Over this last week, though, while merely chopping vegetables for dinner, an ache took over the joints of my feet and crept up into my back. By the time the recipe was simmering on the stove, I needed to sit down!

If you look closely, you can see the top straps of my Naot Kayla shoes, which I wore to walk the Red Carpet at the Library of Congress.

How is it possible that one week I can tromp around a big city like a 20-year-old in sneakers, and just a few days later I’m like an 80-year-old grandma hunched over the kitchen stove? I can’t help but wonder if the difference had anything to do with the kind of shoes I wore.

In the kitchen, I had on loafers–shoes that are cute and easy to get on and off, but which have little in the way of support. Alternatively, I didn’t go anywhere in DC without wearing a pair of Naot sandals, shoes I know to be lightweight and supportive for any test I put them through, even during a hot, sticky Mid-Atlantic summer. I don’t think this is just a coincidence and I’m pretty sure Steve Lax, President of Yaleet, Inc., the U.S. distributor of Naot Footwear, would agree with me.

He sat down with me for a phone interview recently and I asked him right away why Naot shoes are so consistently comfortable. His reply was simply: “It’s the cork and latex insole which creates your own orthotic from the heat and pressure of your foot.”

Naots, he said, start out comfortable and get more comfortable over time. Whether I’m trekking miles over historical brick sidewalks in DC, or hovering over a stovetop in Michigan, my feet and back stay pain free.

I’m not the only traveler who has been lured by Naot’s lightweight and comfortable selections. In 2001, Daisann McLane, then known as “The Frugal Traveler” for the New York Times, deemed Naot sandals her go-to summer travel shoes:

“Over time I’ve managed to find a few styles and brands that rate an A for both fashion and comfort. One is a slip-on sandal made by the Israeli manufacturer Naot, with a comfy black elastic-band upper and a leather insole that molds to the shape of your foot.”

She bought two pairs–one to wear right then and one to wear when the other one wore out, in case the style was discontinued. I also have two pair of Naot shoes–the Kayla style, which I deemed the perfect summer travel shoe in a previous article, and a new pair, the Esteems, which I wear for fancier occasions.

Naot Kaylas — the perfect summer travel shoe.

Back in the late eighties, when Naot started developing their shoe line, the only comfort shoes out there were made in Europe. Those shoes had a break-in period and the soles only lasted a couple of months. Plus, there was basically only one style–wide and clunky.

In Israel, where Naot shoes are made, people wear sandals 12 months of the year. A shoe that had to be broken in and whose sole lasted only two months wasn’t practical. So, the developers got to work and designed a shoe that was comfortable from the very beginning–that’s where the cork and latex insole comes in. They also used a supportive, long-lasting polyurethane bottom sole, as well as soft European leathers which prevent blisters. Naot shoes started out comfortable and got even more comfortable as a person wore it, plus it had a sole that could last. “It’s like the difference between the Model T engine and the jet engine,” said Mr. Lax.

As for clunky, Naot worked to resolve that too. “People don’t want to wear clunky shoes,” he said, so their in-house designers design shoes for comfort and style. Now, he said, “Naot has a shoe for every kind of foot.”

Even the heels are built to overcome the issues of comfort and clunkiness. “Our heels and wedges are angled to be a zero heel. No pressure is placed on the back.” No wonder I could walk a mile and a half to dinner and back in DC wearing my Naot Esteem shoes without feeling like I was walking in a heel.

Naot Esteem in Platinum Leather.

These same in-house designers set the standard for removable, insertable orthotics. “Thirty percent of national labs are using our insole,” he said. What that means is, if you use an insertable orthotic, there’s a good chance it was designed by Naot’s designers.

Over the years, new styles have been added to Naot’s lineup of sandals, shoes, and boots, but they all must meet the standards set by the organization, standards that are shaped with a vision toward making the world a little better everyday. “It’s not all about money,” said Mr. Lax. “We are a very socially active company. We donate Naot shoes to shelters all over the country.” In fact, just the week before I spoke to him, he said they gave away 200 pairs of shoes at a shelter in New York City, and they have similar events on a regular basis in shelters nationwide.

So, now I know. When I’m traveling the globe, wearing my Naot shoes, my feet are held in consistent comfort and support because of a dedication to quality that runs deep within the company. It’s that attention to quality that not only makes my feet happy, but now it makes my heart beat a little happier, knowing I’m supporting a company that supports the community at large in such big ways.

Thank you, Mr. Lax, for your time and your company’s generosity.

Seven tips for taking care of traveling feet

Feet need love too. (Photo by JG.Hampton.)

Whether you’re leaving footprints in the sands of the Sahara, meandering through the market in Florence, or navigating the broken sidewalks of your own neighborhood, feet take a beating, especially in summer. Last week’s article provided tips on finding the perfect summer travel shoes and, although choosing the right shoe can help keep your feet energized and blister-free, we all need to take some time to thank our feet for their hard work with a routine of regular maintenance.

For this, I turned to the expertise of a hand and foot care specialist, Ms. Patsy Mulvihill of Patsy James Exclusive Nail Spa in Bellevue, Washington. With her bright blue eyes, her ready smile, and those hard-to-miss golden curls, she may look like she’s only 25, but Ms. Mulvihill has been taking care of the hands and feet of celebrities, dignitaries, and VIPs for the last 19 years.

Before starting her own exclusive nail spa, she was Head Trainer and Department Manager at Gene Juarez, a popular salon and day spa in the Seattle area. She also spent many years building up retail shops for butter LONDON before being endorsed by them as the flagship service provider for their famous butter LONDON Waterless Manicure and Pedicure. Knowing all this, and having experienced her renown TLC first-hand, I knew she would be the perfect person to give me advice on how to take care of hard-working, traveling feet.

1. Moisturize

Ms. Mulvihill says moisturizing is the key to keeping your feet healthy. “After a nice shower, dry your feet thoroughly. Don’t forget in-between your toes! Afterwards, massage on some yummy foot cream.”

She recommends the FC5 Cooling foot creme from Arbonne, which, as an Arbonne consultant, she carries in her spa. She says it is important to moisturize your feet everyday, especially at night, so the moisturizer has a chance to do its magic under the cover of cozy cotton socks. This also keeps it from rubbing off in your shoes before it has a chance to work.

Arbonne FC5 Cooling Foot Cream

2. Exfoliate

Every other day, or as skin gets dry and flaky, it’s a good idea to exfoliate your feet as well. You can do this after your shower, once the skin on your feet has had a chance to soften up. “My favorite tool that I have used since beauty school is called the Swedish Clover™ Fot Fil.” Use it to work away the flaky skin and hardened callouses, but not so much that your skin becomes raw and overworked. Between exfoliation and moisturizing, your feet will be ready for action whenever you are.

Swedish Clover™ Fot Fil. (Photo from Spilo.com.)

3. Get those toenails in shape

Skin isn’t the only concern when it comes to foot care. Toenails need to be kept trim and shaped so they don’t cut into your socks or dig into the skin around your toes when you walk. For this, Ms. Mulvihill recommends Mehaz Professional Slant Toenail Clipper. “It has a slanted edge so it makes it very easy to get under the nail without cutting the skin. It also makes life much easier when cutting thicker nails.”

Mehaz Professional Slant Toenail Clipper (Photo from Amazon.com.)

Washable files, such as the 100/180 grit Purifiles Disinfectable Files, work well to shape and shorten the nails, she says. For a healthy looking shine, without any nail polish, reach for her favorite nail buffer, the D-File™.

Purifiles Disinfectable Files. (Photo from Spilo.com.)
D-Files™ Buffer. (Photo from Spilo.com.)

4. Don’t forget the cuticles!

Cuticles are a vital part of healthy nails and feet, too. They protect the nails from dirt and bacteria, which can lead to infection. Keeping them healthy is just as vital as anything else you do to take care of your feet. To do this, gently push them back with wood manicure sticks and then trim off the dead skin with Ms. Mulvihill’s favorite cuticle tool, the stainless steel Tweezerman V-Cuticle Nipper. Don’t tug or pull at cuticles when they loosen up and pull away from your skin. This can damage the cuticle matrix and allow dirt and bacteria underneath the nail. Just trim the unsightly and agitating dead skin with the cuticle nipper.

Tweezerman V-Cuticle Nippers (Photo from Amazon.com.)

5. Spice up your routine with a seasonal treat

If you really want to knock your socks off (pun intended), Ms. Mulvihill recommends using any of the body sugar scrubs, shower gels, and massage oils or body lotions from the Skin Organics brand to create a multi-sensory, at-home pedicure. At her nail spa, she is currently offering an anti-aging pedicure using the Cherry Marzipan line. Skin Organics is the perfect brand with which to do this because of the different variety they offer. Each season brings a new idea to keep things interesting and fresh. In the fall, she does a Spicy Pumpkin pedicure and, in the winter, she indulges her clients with the Chocolat line.

Chocolate Sugar Scrub. (Photo from Skin Organics.)

She also speaks highly of Arbonne products as well. “I will be adding the Arbonne SeaSource Detox Spa line for my pedicure services very soon.”

Arbonne SeaSource Detox set. (Photo from Arbonne.com.)

6. Splash on some color

Now that your feet are feeling soft and fresh, your toenails may be hankering for a little splash of color. While Ms. Mulvihill has seen a lot of people opting for natural fingernails these days (“Falsies are out”, she says), color is still very much in for both fingernails and toenails. According to our expert, you can’t go wrong with the many colors butter LONDON offers. Always start with a clear base coat, then do a couple of rounds using your chosen color, and finish with a top coat.

butter LONDON Girls Night Out Gift Set. (Photo from butterLONDON.com.)

For those who like a little color on their nails but hate the upkeep and drying time, Ms. Mulvihill suggests a “power nail polish” using Creative Nail Design’s Shellac™. “It looks like regular nail polish but what is so amazing about it is that, when your service is over, your nails are completely dry and they will last without chipping for ten days to three weeks!” She says her customers love it because they can immediately put on their closed toe shoes without worrying about smudges. She does recommend letting a professional do it, though, and warns that Shellac is a product name, not a service itself. “I see a lot of other nail salons that advertise that they do Shellac but, in fact, they are using a knock off brand.”

7. Leave it to the professionals

Of course, the best way to give your feet a real treat is to take them in for regular professional pedicures. Ms. Mulvihill suggests doing this every four weeks. “It is very relaxing, keeps the callouses at bay, is great for your circulation, and it keeps your nails healthy and nice looking.”

If you’re in the Seattle area, the only professional hands for your feet are, of course, those of Ms. Mulvihill herself. At the Patsy James Exclusive Nail Spa, pedicure services start at $40 with either a butter LONDON Signature Pedicure or a mini-pedicure. The Classic Pedicure is $65 and includes “a warm foot bath, skin exfoliation, nail shaping, cuticle care, mini reflexology massage, callous care, and lacquer application”. And, for an even greater indulgence, enjoy the Spa Pedicure, which is $75 and includes everything from the Classic Pedicure with the addition of a warm paraffin treatment.

Ms. Mulvihill provides peace of mind and one-of-a-kind, luxurious service when it comes to taking care of weary traveling toes and feet. Even though she has worked with a lot of celebrity and VIP clients, you don’t have to be Angelina Jolie to be treated like her. Ms. Mulvihill is a master at making every client feel like a VIP. To book an appointment, it is advised to do so as far in advance as possible. You can view all of her services and even book them online at her website.

Whether you keep your routine simple at home, or leave it in the hands of professionals, keeping your feet happy and healthy is an important step for any road warrior.

In search of the perfect traveling shoes

The summer is approaching and, for me, that means an extended period of travel to different places with different climates. In all the places, Hubby and I will walk at least 5 miles a day. Sometimes we walk to dinner and back. Sometimes we walk to the theater. Other times, we’re just strolling through town, window shopping or cafe hopping. No matter what we’re up to, I have to have comfortable shoes that can see me through all those miles and different situations.

It’s easier in winter to find comfy shoes that look grand in a variety of situations. These boots from Aquatalia by Marvin K saw me through the hills of San Francisco, a downpour in Toronto, dinner and Shakespeare in Stratford, Ontario, and countless other places where I had to walk outside for miles in occasional inclement weather.

Knee-high flat boots from Aquatalia by Marvin K are comfy and weather-proof. They also fit will in a variety of situations.

When attire isn’t as much of a concern, or casual wear is the norm, the Nikes below are my go-tos. They’ve seen me through some of those same San Francisco hills, an architectural tour in Palm Springs, a Segway tour in La Jolla and another one in St. Paul, Minnesota. I wore them to dinners at local jive joints with black pants and a top with a jacket for a sporty urban look that was incredibly comfortable. (I actually got compliments from that outfit!)

Nike Air Pegasus sneakers. I think the black color and shine of the fabric help them fit into a few other situations where white sneakers would stick out. Still, I only wear them for casual dinners and events.

With just two pairs of shoes needed for pretty much any situation, it was easy to pack and fairly light to carry. The boots come off quickly for airport security and go back on just as quickly. The sneakers were actually slightly more trouble since they have laces, but they were lighter and easier to pack in an overnight bag.

So, now we approach the summer and, as I pour through my closet, I feel woefully unprepared for the summer’s upcoming trips and events. The Nikes can probably transition to summer in the same capacity as before. And I have one pair of sandals that are the most comfortable I have ever owned:

Sandals by Naot. They seem to fit into several different situations and I have walked more than five miles in them in one day without blisters or pain.

These are great for probably 70% of the things I do in a given day and, unlike the Nikes, they look good with long skirts. Still, my problem with relying solely on sandals is that, they’re not as comfortable during those summer rain bursts. And, when I walk long distances through dusty or gravelly areas, I always end up having to stop in order to free the little pebbles that try to hitch a ride under my heel.

Shoes such as those I seek do exist. Last summer, I wore these shoes through visits to St. Paul, Minnesota, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Mackinaw Island, not to mention return visits to Phoenix and its hot, hot summer:

Suede penny loafers with Nike Air technology by Cole Haan. They looked great with jeans, capris, and certain skirts.

They were far more comfortable than I would have imagined them to be at first. They’re built to look like loafers but they bond to the foot more like flats, thanks to the moldable suede. The difference, though, is that with loafers, the leather is usually stiff and, in flats, the support is usually minimal. Walking miles in either kind of shoe often ends up in blisters and/or incredibly sore feet. These, however, rocked like Elvis’s shoes of the same variety (blue suede), fitting into a variety of situations and going with a lot of different outfits. But, as you can see, they have seen better days, and I’m afraid their support is starting to break down after so much wear.

This brings me to the contenders of new shoes that can be supportive, sporty, dressy, and closed-toed to fit a variety of summertime situations. At 41 years old, my trotting around all day in high heels are over. Still, I can’t help but salivate over these (and I may get them later for those times when I’m going out but not walking far):

Not exactly sporty or closed-toed, but...drool. Karma heel by Aquatalia by Marvin K.

As of yet, I have not found the one that fits all of my requirements. The shoes I have tried either rubbed horrible blisters, made my feet sweat, or they were just downright uncomfortable.

These Merrells had promise, but when I wore them to walk a mile to coffee and back, they drew blood from the blisters they rubbed! Ouch!
These adorable little shoes from Privo by Clark's are spunky, sporty, and incredibly comfy, but they make my feet sweat. Ewew!
I tried these as a dressier shoe that could fit into dress-up/dress-down situations. I thought since they are by Cole Haan with Nike Air Technology that they might actually work. And they are fairly comfortable. The problem is that they pinch my toes and do not provide the stability I need when walking along uneven sidewalks.

The comfort lines out there, like Ecco, Mephisto, and Clark’s make fine shoes, but a lot of them are either too wide for my dainty feet or they look like a shoe my grandmother would wear. (In fact, I bought my grandmother some Ecco’s for Christmas because she loved them so much.) These lines have started putting out some really great looking shoes lately and I have bought pairs in hopes of finding the one. But, alas, I am still looking for that summer staple.

So now, ladies and gentlemen, I put the question to you: Have you found stylish, comfortable, lightweight, summer shoes that are urban casual AND closed-toed?

If you have great traveling shoes you would like to share, drop me a note! Phoenix, as well as many other parts of the world, it seems, are starting Spring/Summer early. That has me antsy to find what I need to get on the road with style and comfort.