birkenstock sandalsWalking, block after block, mile after mile, is a signature of travel. I have always enjoyed walking, exploring parts of a city that might not otherwise be seen. My walking was always in heels. Day after day living in Florence, in Venice, visiting cities like New York or Philadelphia. But then there was some weight gain. Some decreased physical activity. And all of a sudden my feet were not the same anymore. Shoes started to bother me. My feet started to swell. My feet were no longer just get up and go kind of feet.

walkig in veniceAfter almost two weeks of walking and more walking through Italy, in what I consider to be sensible shoes and sandals, my feet took me hostage and threatened to ruin the rest of my trip in Venice by making it painful to walk, or even to stand in any of the shoes that I had previously thought were comfortable. A bit of heel hurt as did a flat shoe…the only thing that was not painful were my running shoes.

Except that I was raised to not tour the city in sneakers, so I knew I was in trouble when I went island hopping with my mom and daughter, in bright pink running shoes. The fact that I was sitting at a decadent lunch at the Locanda Cipriani in Torcello, in a linen dress and sneakers was more than I could bear.

So that evening, returning to the island of Venice, I needed to find a suitable alternative. Something that could be comfortable and support my feet. Something sensible. Something that would not make me cringe.

My first thought was ballet like flats with just enough heel that they were not too flat. But when I described my dilemma to the shoe salesman in a small neighborhood store, he said he only had one pair that would work. He pointed to some between the toe style Birkenstock sandals. All of the years that I had sworn I would never own a pair of Birkenstock sandals flashed through my head, because well, if I am being honest, I did not see myself in such a “crunchy” shoe. But here I was, getting older, with foot pain that was not going away, and I could not keep walking and touring without a better alternative.


The truth is that I had noticed many Italian (and more importantly to my fashion ego, Venetian) women walking the city streets in these sandals. So I knew that their audience had widened and were no longer the shoes worn by college aged tourists backpacking through Italy. But knowing and doing are two different things. Could I really change my shoes style so radically?

I made my purchase and actually wore my black patent Birkenstock sandals out of the store, like a child who cannot contain their excitement over a new pair of shoes. My feet were happy, my fashion sense was appeased, and off I walked…into the sunset and for many more days to come through Venice.

Now that I am home? My new sandals followed me to Philadelphia. And will undoubtedly be in the “to be packed” pile for any and all future trips that involve walking in sandal permitting climates.

What about you? What are your go to shoes for walking during travel?

A presto…

Italian by birth, Elena tells the story of living-doing-and growing as a Cancer survivor, freelance writer, teacher, runner & triathlete from her perch in the DC suburbs at Ciao Mom.