Summer Shoe Checklist: The 5 Must-Have Pairs
July 15, 2015
The start of summer can so often be marked by that first day your toes see the sunshine after what has felt like an eternity crammed into winter boots. There's something about kicking your shoes off, letting your toes dance through the grass and bask in the warm sunshine that means it's officially summer. Every year there's a fresh crop of new strappy sandals, playful flats and summer sneakers to pick from, but really, there are only five basic styles that will get you through the season with happy feet. Just add pedicure.
If you grew up in America, these sandals were synonymous with childhood summers. Well, all those parents were onto something. Lightweight, durable and, as the name implies, waterproof, these are some of the best all-purpose summer shoes out there. In the U.S., you can find them at places like Zappos and My Saltwater Sandals (where I always ordered from), but they have also launched a European Saltwater site for those of us across the pond - hooray! Here in Berlin, you can pick them up at Victoria Met Albert. Wherever you get them, trust me, you won't be sorry! Tip: Order your regular shoe size, not your sandal size.
I realize some people still have not gotten on the Birkenstock train, and that's fine. I understand 'ugly-pretty' can be a tough sell. But these babies have been around for decades and they're not going anywhere, so why not take advantage of their popularity? The comfort factor, coupled with the Made in Germany factor (read: affordable here), means I have five pairs already - a couple Gizeh and a few Arizona - including this summery bronze pair as my most recent addition to the Birks club in my closet. Birks can be found everywhere in Germany, from fashion-forward shops like & Other Stories to online mega retailers like Zalando to our own little Birkenstock shop here in Mitte - but my secret? Online at Natürlich are some of the best prices I've seen here. The stock moves quickly each season, so buy early. As for those in the U.S., I guess you're stuck with paying over $100-200 a pair *gulp* at places like J.Crew... until you visit Germany!
There is much debate about Birkentstock sizing. The official website say to order your regular size to make sure your feet have plenty of room to wiggle in the formed bottoms, but I end up literally falling out of my regular size so have go one down. Some pairs require more breaking in and rub more than others at the heel or toes because of this, but I'd rather be secure in my shoes than tripping any more than I regularly do.
Whether your stance on the most casual of summer footwear is suitable for everyday wear or more relegated to the beach/pool (I fall staunchly in the latter category), no summer shoe wardrobe is complete without a pair or three. For the last several years, my favorite has been the cheap Old Navy version, perfect to stock up on have around for summer house shoes, trips to the pool or that blissful beach vacation. I've even enlisted my next US houseguest to bring me a few pairs! While I almost always size down in flip-flops, I've found these run more true-to-size.
Summer means more to do outside, more traipsing around and if you're lucky, some lovely sunny holidays with lots of traipsing around somewhere by the sea. With all this walking, I find nothing works better than a solid wedge for support in a shoe that looks a bit elevated from a rubber flip-flop. It's something nice to wear to museums or to dinner without looking like the tourist that you are. I have a couple pairs from Clarks and they are some of the best sandals I own. Once you sift through the matronly styles, there are some definite winners. I've got the pair above currently on order from a flash sale site and I am anxiously awaiting its arrival... The U.S. has an even bigger range of Clarks and its sub-brands (artisan, unstructured, indigo, etc.), but I've found nothing beats the regular UK Clarks. Unfortunately, they do run a bit small compared to standard US and EU sizing.
5. Slip-on sneakers
Sometimes you need more of a shoe, even in the summertime. Something you can kick off while you're arms are full of picnic supplies and won't leave pebbles between your toes after trekking to a lake. While classic Vans have made a big comeback in recent years, I've been a fan of the lower-profile, super-affordable ones from H&M recently. If I get caught in a summer rainstorm (pretty common here), I don't feel too bad about getting them covered in muck. Another bonus? They run big so I can actually find a size that fits (still rallying for the size 42: H&M, COS, & Other Stories, are you listening?!). Pick up a few when they go on sale and you've got it made.
Here's to summer!