These sandals made me want to cry from comfort — and saved my vacation

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These absolutely saved my vacation. (Photo: Zappos)

Last summer, I visited a friend in Portland, Oregon, and, as usual, overpacked on clothes and underpacked on shoes. I had enough jackets for a family of five, but for my often-achy feet, only the one pair of shoes that do not inflict agony, Birkenstocks. You see, my feet hurt. Like, all the time. A little arthritis here, a bit of a bone spur there. I’m not complaining. My feet have served me well. But now it’s time for me to serve them— as in, pretty much all my fashion choices begin and end by considering their feelings.

For a bit of strolling around Portland, I was hoping I was all set. Thing is, being enchanted by this new city, I ended up logging some city miles — walking much more than expected. And by Day Two, my feet began to chafe. Settling in at an outdoor café in the Pearl District to rest (and enjoy the greatest fish tacos of my life), I observed the parade of humanity — and shoes — like a comfort-seeking missile. Over and over I caught sight of an unfamiliar but kinda cute athletic sandal, in a color combo I could get onboard with.

Plus, they’re available at both Amazon and Zappos for the same price, though if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can also score free two-day shipping. Not yet a member? No problem. You can sign up for your free 30-day trial here. (And by the way, those without Prime still get free shipping on orders of $25 or more.)

$130 at Amazon

Keen Venice H2

Keen's sandals

The ultimate shoe for adventurers. (Photo: Zappos)

$130 at Amazon

Some back story: I have never owned sports sandals in my life. Up till this point, I had perceived them as kind of a sham — something presented as comfortable that really were just flimsy and unsupportive. These shoes I kept seeing, though, were different. They seemed to cradle the foot, fitting close, like a dance shoe. Every person I saw wearing them took long, easy strides and exhausted contentment.

Intrigued, I stopped one such happy stranger and asked for details. The magic footwear, I learned, was the Keen Venice H2. And lucky for me, its prevalence on the street where I sat (now ordering a third fish taco) was explained by the fact that Keen’s flagship location was just around the corner.

When I met my own pair of Keen Venice H2s, it was love at first step. Even though my feet are wide and otherwise challenged (see above), each detail of this shoe was perfect. The footbed fit precisely, supporting my arch; nothing on top pressed on my achy bone spur; there was enough structure to the sole that my arthritic first metatarsal was protected; and there was a natural forward-rocking motion provided by the toe tip that made walking a joy.

Needless to say, my vacation — and feet — were saved. But more important, my life has been impacted. These shoes have become my go-to’s for walks uphill and to the farmer’s market, for muddy gardening, for hikes in the woods, and for errands. They’re quick-drying so I can tromp through the creek near my house to retrieve my cat, who somehow finds her way to the other side but can’t figure out how to get home. I even wore them on a river-rafting day trip, where they provided enough grip to keep me safe on slippery underwater stones.

The one downside? I want to upgrade to a new color combo, but I can’t justify it. Because even after extensive use and being muddied up and hosed down repeatedly, my super-tough Keen Venice H2s still look as fresh as they did they day I got them.

$130 at Zappos

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.

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