How I ride: Summer footwear

In the fall of 2010, after I enjoyed biking around Chattanooga in sandals, I relaxed my “only bike in closed-toe shoes” policy, and started biking in sandals.  Sturdy sandals with backstraps (my Birks and Tevas), but still, sandals.  It felt great in the summer, and it was convenient.  Sandals looked better with skirts or capri pants, and, if I was headed to a destination where I wanted to wear sandals, I didn’t have to worry about wearing tennis shoes, changing into sandals, and lugging my shoes around.

This practice lasted for about two years, then came to a screeching halt when Matthew had a bike crash (a solo fall, due to a structural failure in his bike) in the fall of 2012.  He was wearing his Teva sandals at the time, and, other than a few scrapes, his sole injury was a sprained big toe.  Sounds like a little thing, but it was a fairly bad sprain, and it turns out it’s rather difficult to walk when one of your toes is out of commission.

Since wearing closed-toe shoes almost certainly would have prevented this injury, I reluctantly reverted back to my former policy.  But I wasn’t satisfied — there had to be some middle ground, something closed-toe (and comfortable) that looked halfway decent with skirts and dresses.  I tried [close-toed] Keen sandals, but I didn’t like the way the foot bed felt with bare feet, and I wasn’t crazy about the appearance.

At the end of last summer, I purchased a pair of Mary Jane-style Crocs.  They were comfy and decently attractive, but after a few rides, I decided they weren’t quite what I was looking for.  They met the letter of my closed-toe policy, but with thin, very flexible soles, they didn’t feel terribly protective.

I wore them a few more times this summer, but the hunt continued.  (The purchase was not a total waste — I like walking in the Crocs.)

After researching and considering, I narrowed my selections to Keen and Chaco Mary Janes.  When I went to order various styles and sizes to try, I saw a third brand, Jambu, that looked interesting.

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REI order

The Jambu’s from REI were cute, and also on sale for half off.

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Alas, the toe box was just a bit narrow (on the big-toe side).  You know, more of a “traditional” shoe shape, and less of a foot shape.

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I put on the Keen Siennas, and they seriously felt like slippers.  I was nearly sold, but I was still awaiting a Zappos order with some other options.

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When this order arrived, I tried on the Jambu shoes, knowing that they were likely already out, due to the toe box fit, and that was indeed the case.  The Keens in my Zappos order were VERY similar to the Siennas, despite being a different model.  Then there were the Chacos.

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The Chacos had the same, immediately comfortable feeling that I’d loved in the Keen Mary Janes and similarly good toe box shape.IMG_5814

From left to right: Keen Sienna, Chaco Petaluma, and my Crocs.  The Chacos seemed wide not just in the toe box (where I wanted the room), but throughout the rest of the shoe (where I didn’t want the room), so the Keen Siennas won.

I wore them on the bike for the first time on Sunday.  The foot bed didn’t feel quite as great once my feet were sweaty, but it wasn’t bad, either.  They have a thick, firm sole, and the extra bit of rubber covering the toe, and the strap keeps them on securely.  Something about them (perhaps the open top?) makes these feel less protective than a tennis shoe, but I’m not sure I’m going to find anything better (that also fits the look I’m going for).

When it comes to bike apparel, I think it’s about finding a happy medium.  Could I be wearing more protective shoes?  Absolutely!  I could, for example, wear nothing but steel-toed boots when I ride my bike.  My feet would be really, really safe, but I would probably be pretty uncomfortable.  I also know plenty of people who enjoy biking in sandals (or dress shoes), but that’s just not me, at least not right now.