Recess is Back! Who wants to play?

Recess is Back and KEEN challenges you to get out and play for at least 10 minutes on September 14th. Take a photo of your playtime, upload it to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag of #TAKE10, and you could win a pair of KEEN shoes!

A new winner will be announced every hour on that day from midnight to midnight on September 14th!

How will you get your recess on? Inspire others with your ideas in the comment section below for a chance to be featured in JP+C’s Top Ten Ways to Recess, to be published on this blog September 13th!

5 tips for finding the perfect summer travel shoes

Several weeks ago, I began a search for the perfect summer travel shoes. Good travelers know that shoes take up way too much packing space, so it was important in my endeavors to search for that one pair that could do it all, without leaving bleeding blisters to contend with. One challenge for the summer, however, is finding sturdy, comfortable shoes that are fashionable, can be worn without socks, and can transition from a walking tour to a sit-down dinner.

Many suggestions were made, lots of shoes were tried, and now I have the results of my often painstaking, blister-inducing research. Below are five tips for finding the perfect summer travel shoes with my final recommendation for the one.

1. Look for suede or soft leather uppers

Suede and soft leather mold to the foot rather than rub against it. Patent leather, hard leather, and stiffer, coarser fabrics located anywhere near the heels or ankles may start off feeling comfortable, but when heat, perspiration, and miles combine, blisters are sure to follow.

As an example, I wore the Merrells pictured below for a two-mile walk for coffee. At first they seemed fairly comfortable, but by the end of the first mile, I had blisters on the backs of both heels and the undersides of my ankles. The fabric on these shoes is very coarse. The stiffness and height of the ankle collar and heel support dug into my skin. By the time I finished the second mile, my feet were bleeding. I have not worn them since.

Merrell’s Mimosa Emme Mary Jane are cute, but they rubbed some of the worst blisters I’ve received all summer.

2. Avoid slingbacks and thin straps on sandals

Slingbacks and thin straps not only cause blisters, they can dig into toes and heels, leaving the skin with terrible gashes. Ouch!

I love these heels from Aquatalia, but I can’t wear them very far before the cut-outs start to dig in. The shoes themselves are comfortable, but the longer I walk in them, the more my skin rubs against the cut-outs in the leather. Within a half-mile walk to the theater, I had blisters the shape of some of the cut-outs in these cute shoes–but trust me when I tell you, my foot was far from cute when it was all over!

I love these shoes, but the cut-outs in the leather, which make them so unique, dig into toes and cause painful blisters.

3. Make sure the shoe is flexible

The stiffer the shoe, the more likely you are to develop blisters and callouses at the points where the shoe should naturally bend (near the joints of the toes and ball of the foot). If you cannot bend the toe toward the center of the shoe without a lot of effort, that shoe is stiff and inflexible. Put it down and walk away.

One example of this was a pair of TSUBO brand shoes I tried. The support and cushioning inside the shoe were good, but it was incredibly stiff and unbending. As I foolishly walked two miles to dinner in them, the plasticky top of the toe box creased over my big toe and created a nasty blister. Sadly, they were also stiff around the ankles and heels, so I got blisters there too.

I liked the sportiness of these TSUBO’s and envisioned wearing them all over town. Sadly, they are quite stiff in the toebox and rubbed blisters onto the tops of my toes, as well as on my heels and ankles.

4. Give your toes some wiggle room — but not too much!

Toes shouldn’t squeeze together into the shoe, nor should the shoe be so large that it dangles off your foot when you walk. A tight toe box can rub your toes and cause blisters and callouses, if not also other aches and pains, whereas a floppy, wobbly shoe (such as a flip flop or a shoe that is too large) is not stable enough for two-mile walks over uneven terrain. Make sure the shoe fits secure, but not tight. Don’t wear flip flops or other shoes that you have to hold on to with your toes.

Although the leather is super soft on the 1-inch pumps by Cole Haan shown below, they are just narrow enough to pinch my toes and cause discomfort over the course of an afternoon. If your foot is particularly narrow about the toes, this style of shoe might be just the thing for you this summer. My toes, on the other hand, had to cram themselves into a tight space. Although the leather has some stretch and give, I still ended up with a blister on my smallest toes because it was too tight.

Cute 1-inch sandals from Cole Haan pinch the toes.

The ECCO sandals below are some of my favorite shoes for wearing when I know I’m not going to be going very far–less than a mile. Beyond that, though, they require too much effort to keep them on. My toes start to ache and the strap that goes in between my toes starts to rub.

For flip flops, these are very comfortable and fairly stylish. Unfortunately, they aren’t secure on my foot such that, when I walk long distances, I have to hold them on with my toes.

5. Look for rubber soles with texture for traction

Textured rubber soles grab the earth and keep you steady, unlike smooth, inflexible wood or some other hard materials out there. Rubber soles are also the best for cushioning the hard earth beneath your hard-working feet.

The Ecco Yucatan sandals are the near-perfect specimen for summer travel shoes. If they weren’t so sporty I could wear them inside restaurants and other fancy establishments. Still, they come so close to perfect that I chose them as a summary example, before revealing to you my final choice for THE summer travel shoe.

First, notice that they are made of soft leather and fabric uppers. Their straps are thick and padded–no blisters. They are also adjustable at the heel, the top of the foot, and the toe areas, so I can tighten or loosen them depending on what my foot needs. The soles are made of lightweight rubber and the bottoms are textured so I never worry about losing my footing, whether I’m walking down a broken sidewalk to the Farmers Market or along a gravelly trail in the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. The only thing keeping them from being perfect summer travel shoes is that I wouldn’t wear them with a dress or skirt to a sit-down restaurant in downtown Toronto, St. Paul, or Austin.

Ecco’s Yucatan Sandal.

My top pick for the perfect summer travel shoes

It is without further ado that I introduce you to the most versatile summer travel shoe I could find: the Naot Kayla sandal. It’s not the most gorgeous shoe I’ve ever owned, but it is the one I pack when I am packing the lightest. They rank up there as the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn.

The leather straps are soft enough and thick enough that they do not dig into my skin. There is an adjustable strap that goes over the top of my foot, so I can secure it tighter or loosen it up. The leather gives way to my feet and hugs them gently. I have walked miles in these shoes and never gotten a blister. The footbed is made of cork, latex, and suede, so it molds to my foot, providing personalized support. The soles are textured EVA, so they are shock-absorbing, as well as stabilizing.

My feet have also never felt fatigued or achy after wearing these shoes. My biggest complaint about them is a complaint I make about any sandal: they are masters at collecting rocks when I walk over gravelly pathways. Still, they can truly go the distance when walking all day. Their style is as flexible as their soles. I can go anywhere in them and experience pretty much any activity under the summer sun. And that is what sets them apart: the Naot Kaylas are a pair of shoes I can wear in a variety of situations.

The Naot Kayla comes in a variety of colors. The ankle strap is adjustable, the footbed molds to my foot, and the sole is a textured EVA that allows for flexibility while providing stability.

Now it’s your turn

Have you found a perfect pair of summer shoes that can walk the miles and see you through lots of situations? Post the information here and help us compile a better list for travelers around the world.

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.

Go Red! for Women hosts a red-hot night of cocktails and shoe fashion in Tempe

The Halle Heart Children’s Museum in Tempe, Arizona was a sea of red dresses and sparkly shoes last Wednesday night as a group of ladies (and a few gentlemen, not in red dresses and sparkly shoes) came together for a cocktail party fundraiser for the Go Red! for Women program affiliated with the American Heart Association.

Margo, Carol, and I at the American Heart Association Red Dress Cocktail Event.

We all knew going there that heart disease is a serious issue. Who doesn’t know someone who has either had a heart attack or stroke? We also knew that the American Heart Association takes on the hard work of educating the public about heart disease and helps to fund research into the causes of heart-related diseases. In fact, as my friends and I were on our way to the event by way of pre-event manicures, a woman who looked to be in her 60s noticed our red dresses and told us her life had been saved by the American Heart Association, thanks to a surgery she received when she was a child. She thanked us for participating in the ongoing work of the organization and gave me goosebumps in the process of telling her story.

Maria Benson and the Go Red! Ambassadors somehow managed to balance those serious truths with some light-hearted fun. We were surrounded by the colorful and informative Halle Heart Children’s Museum, where we could push buttons to light up the giant heart at the center of the museum, or listen to how the brain is impacted by the health of the heart. We could even compare the sizes of hearts in other mammals, such as dogs, cats, and elephants! The museum itself is already a colorful, vibrant setting in which to have a party, but Maria and her team turned the Children’s Museum into a rocking fashion show and cocktail party that got the Go Red! message across with great fun and lots of laughs.

Those who went were treated to a fabulous spread of food and wine sponsored by Whole Foods, Urban Tea Loft, Citizen Public House, and Paletas Betty. Several tables were lined with valuable treasures, such as home decorating baskets, gift certificates, theater tickets, and spa baubles, all of which were raffled at the end of the evening to great success. Between the raffle and the donations, they raised almost $4000. E&J’s Designer Shoe Outlet in Scottsdale sponsored a fabulous fashion show, complete with shoes from the Spring lines of Coach, Cole Haan, and Anne Klein, and we each got a coupon for even larger discounts from the shoe outlet.

Margo won two raffles!

No one went home empty-handed, even those of us who didn’t win in the raffle. We each got a goodie bag filled with coupons and travel packs, but my favorite take-home treasure was my very own Go Red! for Women lapel pin. Now I feel official.

My very own Go Red! for Women lapel pin! I love it!

The fundraiser brought in a good amount of cash for the American Heart Association, but perhaps more importantly, it made countless supporters in the process. I know I, for one, will be back next year, sporting my red dress and red dress lapel pin. Congratulations to Maria and the ladies on the Go Red! Ambassadors team for a successful event!