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The Only Three Shoes I’ll Ever Need

Ok, so… the van is getting built, our possessions are being decluttered, the wild/world schooling curriculum is being research and planned, and while there are a million more things to think about and figure out, one big one is:

What are we actually bringing with us? We can’t bring much but we have to bring everything we’re going to need in all weather conditions!

Little by little we’ve been figuring this out. This post is about the one thing we have figured out:

Shoes (for Marino and I).

It is the first in a whole series about the “things” that we are going to be bringing with us. Each post will explore yet another “thing” that we’ve figured out that is the most economic in terms of space, durability, high-quality and therefore most sustainable, and always, the most environmentally friendly/zero-waste option we can afford/find.

The theory for this whole series is a little like this: we have to figure out the bare minimum of everything we need to have with us. Whatever room is left over? That goes towards keeping a stock of hopefully 2-weeks’ worth of food, cleaning and bathroom supplies. Whatever other room is left over? Additional comfort items for everyone (books, toys, games, etc.)

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Basic Considerations for Figuring Out our Shoe “Closet”

We know that we will need multi-purpose/functional, high-quality, durable, long-lasting shoes for all four seasons AND that work in the city and in nature.

We also know that we don’t want/need to purchase anything we don’t already have. We also know that we can’t take with us any of our stuff that doesn’t fit that description.

That breaks down into three main tasks:

1) Figuring out what would be the bare minimum that we need,

2) Getting rid of shoes that AREN’T multi-purpose/functional, high-quality, durable, long-lasting for all seasons and conditions


3) Purchasing whatever gaps we have once we’ve culled our wardrobe

Figuring Out Our Needs

  • Temperature and Terrain

Marino and my feet are like heaters – we can’t handle socks and shoes most of the time because our feet just burn up in them. That means that we spend most of our time barefoot or in sandals and we can handle barefoot/sandals until approximately 50°F/10°C. Below 50°F/10°C, we need to cover our feet.

So, for most places, mid-spring to mid-fall, we’re ok with sandals to moderate covering and for mid-fall to mid-spring, we need covered shoes. We also need to take into account rainy weather.

As for the conditions we’ll be wearing our shoes in, we need shoes that will be comfortable for the city and for exploring nature – whether for mountainous hikes, or along river beds, or just playing around the campsite.

  • Compactness

This might be an obvious one but we also need whatever shoes we select to take as little space as possible in the van. This means that the shoe itself must be as compact as is reasonable, as well as we need to have the least # of shoes, too.

Having done our research, we came to the decision that we needed three shoes:

  1. A sandal that could be used in the city and in nature – to go to the beach, explore national parks, and go on moderate hikes in.

  2. A compact, lightweight closed-toe shoe for those times when we wanted to explore in warmer conditions that sandals wouldn’t be conducive to – sand dune exploration, moderate to higher intensity hikes that might involve getting up some boulders and rocks, water sport activities, etc.

  3. A multi-purpose hiking shoe/boot that could work for snow, rain, and generally cold weather. It should work for city walking and being out in nature.

Purging our Shoes

Luckily, Marino and I wear our clothes and shoes to death anyway before buying new things. We haven’t always bought “quality” and we’d never complained about hand-me-downs or gifts AND that also means that our shoe supply isn’t exactly what we might need.

Given that we don’t want to unnecessarily get rid of stuff, we’re going to keep wearing those shoes that make sense to keep until we hit the road (anything worth of donation, we will donate obviously). That still doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any purging we couldn’t already do.

So, the “purge” started with all of our shoes on their last leg (worn soles, holes, etc.), Marino’s work shoes, and all of my high-heels (who knows why I’ve held on to them (albeit only a few), since I haven’t worn heels in years except the occasional fundraiser.

The only ones I really struggled to get rid of were my leather boots I inherited from my mom back in college – I guess I always thought that if I could handle the streets of New York in them, I’d wear them again once in the future. I tried some friends but most everyone I know doesn’t do heels anymore. So, I hope they find a good home.

My college boots - medium brown leather with a thick high heel
I've walked so many miles in these!

We were left with a lot of comfy shoes, some of which I’m really struggling with having to get rid of. Did any of them actually meet our criteria?


If we have room for an extra pair of something will I take one or two along? ABSOLUTELY!!! One favorite I’m really struggling with? A pair of sandals I got from a leather smith in Brasilia, Brasil, who used recycled tire rubber for the soles (currently sitting in my bag of "maybe take" shoes.

You see, Marino and I have always tried to make do with what we have for our camping trips. It was hard to justify spending so much on shoes that we would use five to eight weekends per year. So, we’d make do on the longer hikes with the shoes we had. As for sandals, I started wearing flip-flops in college (I’d wear them through December in New York!) and haven’t stopped since. Same with Marino, when he moved to Southern Cali.

So, besides flip flops (and I have one pair of Birkenstocks that just won't work for hiking), the rest of our shoes are a combo of fantastic shoes from our friend’s brand, Hey Dude. There are two lines that are fantastic – one is a super comfy, super lightweight loafer-type shoe and the other is a breathable, lightweight, water-ok sneaker. They look great and have served us well so far but they don’t provide the best support for hiking and definitely wouldn’t work for rain or snow. So, again, if there’s room for an extra pair, we might each take one along.

Some of my Hey Dude’s I’m considering for my mom because her criteria is a bit different:

She doesn’t need hiking boots ‘cause she’s way past hiking. Exploring nature for her will be short walks along the beach, short walks around and near our site for the night, and for city exploration, she just needs a few pairs of really comfortable, lightweight shoes.

So, with the pair she already has and a couple of mine, she’s taken care of! Now, the loafers will work in the rain for her because she’s not planning on wildschooling the kids all day come rain or shine. She’ll be in the comfort of the heated van or under the canopy outside if it’s warm enough. That’s why she’ll be fine without a pair of dedicated shoes. At least, this is how we’ll start and if we see that she plans to be more active in the snow and rain, we’ll switch out one of those pairs for something more appropriate (this weekend in Idyllwild will be a good test!).

Ultimately, since none of our shoes work, except for the ones I’ll give to my mom, the rest have to go.

So What Shoes Will We Wear?

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  • Sandals

When my last pair of flip-flops were on their last leg, I started researching sandals. I wanted something lightweight, with a good grip, and that had straps but that wasn’t too bulky because my feet get HOT!!!!!

I’d heard of Teva’s for FOREVER but wasn’t too appreciative of the bulky straps and I also had that vision of the sock/Teva combo that just bothered me. Plus, they were always out of my price range anyway, when I started to appreciate their functionality. It was hard for me to spend $70 on a pair of shoes to find out that they didn’t fit well, cause a blister or just bothered me in some other way.

Well, lo’ and behold, I was browsing my local “Buy Nothing” group and a very appealing picture of a thin-strapped sandal appeared. And it just happened to be a pair of Teva's – Verra’s to be exact (they come in a million colors) – that was in my size and brand new! The owner was getting blisters on her pinky and giving them away.

It was perfect! I could try them at no cost and give away in the same “Buy Nothing” group if they didn’t work out. Luckily I got picked, I tried them and I haven’t blistered yet. The soles and thick enough and have great tread. The straps are thin enough that they don’t bother me and let my food breath everywhere. So, that was it for me! Until these die, they’re my forever-sandal and I’ve tested them on long walks and on a couple of trails!

Marino, on the other hand, doesn’t like walking in public places with his feet too exposed. So, he needs a sandal that is sufficiently breathable for how hot his feet get but that also provides sufficient coverage so he doesn’t feel like every piece of dust and trash and dirt can land on his feet.

Given that he’s fallen in love with his Keen’s hiking boot (see below), he’s decided to go full Keen with sandals as well. We didn’t want leather because she wanted something that could really handle sand and salt and water so, he’s looking into one of the Newports (which are PVC-free). It is closed-toe, breathable, can be worn with a sock (which he might want to in the city), has great traction and fits his style. No luck in the “Buy Nothing” group with this, so we’ll be purchasing it!

- Snow/Rain/Cold-Weather Hiking Boots

Did we do our research on these! Online reviews, asking friends (thank you Michael Winslow), tapping into my IG and Facebook community (thank you @beboldlittleones) and the clear winners are Keens!It didn’t matter who I asked, Keens were always suggested

I know they’re a pricey investment AND I’m looking at it like this: if they last me 5 years (and I hope they last longer from what I’ve heard), it’s $26/year and since they’re my only winter shoe, I will be getting so much use out of them!

The style I went with was the Greta Waterproof Hiking Boot. It comes in regular and high. I debated getting the high-boot but knew that would limit my ability to wear it in more moderate temperatures. And, they can handle temperatures as low as . They’re waterproof so we can handle snow and rain. The tread is great for hiking and the all black version that I got should work with any clothes I wear, whether we’re exploring a city or nature.

So far, they've done well as we decided to test them out this past week:

As for Marino, he was hoping for low-cut shoes, which I nixed immediately because I want to make sure he can handle sloshing a bit in the snow and muddy puddles with the kids, too. So, we compromised on a mid-height waterproof hiking boot that can handle low temperatures : The Targhee II.

They've done him quite well, I just wasn't as good as documenting him as he was me :)

  • The Third “Shoe”

Ok, we’ve now gotten most temperatures, seasons and conditions taken care of. The next shoe is an exciting, nerve-wracking experiment of sorts and here’s a video from their site to give you an idea (They're awesome!!!!!):

You see, I love the feel of the ground on my feet. What got me the idea in the first place was the fact that my children don’t wear shoes EVER – I can barely ever get them to wear shoes. All our walks around the neighborhood always require me to breathe through their “barefootedness” and there are times when we just battle about it and I put my foot down about the shoes.

So, I started wondering if I could find them sock/shoes – something that felt like a sock but could protect their feet from the glass and rocks and other unwanted things. Well, Kickstarter must have read my mind because I found Skinners, or rather, Skinners found me after I backed the most incredible backpack in the world (the subject of another post).

The 2.0 version is for adults but, as I researched more, I found that there is a kid’s version. So, we tested it out and it was a success! We ordered a pair for Leila and after a few walks around the neighborhood, she loved them:

Leila smiling and wearing her Skinners in pink with black soles
She couldn't wait to show her dad how standing on wood chips and spiky pine cones didn't hurt

So, we’ve ordered them for the whole family – 1 pair for Dante (because by the time he wears them down, he’ll probably need another size), and 2 pairs each for Marino and I, and Alessandra even ordered a pair for herself. We should be receiving them within the month. If you're interesting in pre-ordering, you can do so here:

This will be our go-to shoe in all things nature-related when sandals just aren’t appropriate and we don’t need shoes to warm our feet. So, they should work through the same periods of time that sandals will work and even overlap a little further into late-fall and early-spring, depending on where we’re at.

That’s It!!!

That is literally it! We might have some sock-slippers for the van for the cold nights but I think of those more as a pair of socks (again, part of another post), rather than shoes. The kids are in a separate post because my working theory with kids’ shoes is a little different and I didn’t go for the highest quality with their shoes. . . To Be Continued!

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