Thinking about Hiking and Walking Shoes

I used to laugh at the Carrie Bradshaws and the Imelda Marcuses of the world. I had never really been that into shoes. I had a few pair–one or two for dress up, one or two for day to day, and a pair of tennis shoes (aka sneaker, athletic shoes, kicks.)

So when I realized that all I ever think about any more is shoes, I had to do a double take.

Who had I become?

Actually, I don’t really think about shoes. I think about my feet. If my feet aren’t happy, I’m miserable. My feet make me money. When I can’t walk, I’m not making money.

An Historical Progression of Shoes

In my career as an urban hiker and walking traveler, I’ve given a lot of thought to my feet. And thus, my shoes. As my mileage has increased, my shoes have changed. I have gotten serious about my shoes.

First I started with a pair of Jeep J-41s. I had gone to my local Off Broadway shoes and picked them up for about $35. They were cute, looked okay with shorts or pants, and passed the test for comfort. I wore them all around Israel, where we walked 5-6 miles a day, 1/2 miles at a time, and were on the bus the rest of the time.

Then, the Treadmill Shoes

When I got back from Israel, I wasn’t quite the walker I am today. Treadmills still hollered out for me, and my outside walking wasn’t much. So I got myself a pair of Altras off of Amazon. I promise you that if I’d seen these in person, I wouldn’t have purchased them because I think they’re ugly. But they are comfortable. They’ve got a concave soul, so you rock forward when walking in them.

They were cuter on Amazon.

But they are comfortable, and when on a treadmill, they do a good job. But for outdoor walking, no thanks.

Outdoors I Went With New Shoes

I soon found myself wanting to be outdoors more. Why not, Colorado is certainly the outdoor state. So I dropped in at REI, where they sold me a pair of Merrell Capras. They tried to get me to buy a membership, and at the time, I said no. I’d never be back in REI again, so why spend the $20 on a membership?

I liked the Capras so much, I blogged about them. They lasted one winter.

A Workhorse of a Shoe for All Outdoor Walking

By this point, I had transitioned from a 3-4 days/week walker to every day. And outside. I needed something a bit sturdier, and so I went back to REI. I think I tried on every pair in the store. Three hours of shoe shopping. I purchased my first pair of Keen Targhees. Six months later, my second and an REI membership. Another six months later, my third.

I bragged about the Targhees and recommended them to everyone.

I think half of Denver’s walking population now owns a pair of Targhees.

Targhee also comes in a sandal. Kinda. Keen makes an ugly, brown Arroyo sandal (please, more colors!) that has some good arch support (that sadly, REI doesn’t carry in my local store.) I wore those all over Europe with my kid, covering 6-8 miles a day. I ended up throwing them out in the Dublin airport security on my way home because I had worn them out. And they stunk. Here’s my good-bye picture.

Like a skunk.

I need another pair.

Feet Change and So Do Shoes

But something happened with my last Targhees. I don’t know if my foot has changed or the fact that I’m doing about 6 miles, on average, a day, but the Targhees don’t work for me anymore. So I called Keen and discussed my shoes. I even talked to the local sales rep, who gave me a pair of Uneeks (which are fun for around town and short jaunts.)

Keen listened.

And listened some more.

They suggested I try the Oakridge. Sadly, my local REI doesn’t carry them (I’ll work on that! They have them for men, though.) I ordered directly from Keen. And like the Altras above, I had to avert my eyes from their ugliness when I put them on.


Yet, if you’ve ever tried Keens on, you know that they generally always feel like magic. The test would be after a 5-mile walk. And then a 6. And then an 8. After 8 (or when the terrain is rocky or rooted) I throw on my 8-year old Salomon boots. (which I have since updated to a new pair of Salomons that I like even more!

summerofwalking eatwalklearn

Thus, to answer the question, “What’s on my feet?” Keen Oakridges, usually. And my whole body is happy.

See you on the trail!


PS What are you wearing? Why?