I'm a girl who lives in flip-flops or bare feet. In Southern California it's not a big deal to wear sandals year-round, as it never gets all that cold. Macau was a different story, and I had to adjust to wearing actual shoes and socks. The horror! True story: when I went back to the States briefly for my Uncle's funeral in February, a friend of mine who met me and gave me a ride informed me that I'd changed. Preparing for a compliment along the lines of you've lost weight, I was surprised to hear her say, "Look at your feet... you're not in sandals!"
I knew we were going to be doing crazy things in Thailand like zip-lining and wading in rivers with elephants, so I wanted all of us to have footwear a little more substantial than flip-flops. I also know it's a bad idea to get new shoes right before a trip without wearing them in first, but we were against a wall of time and did it anyway.
I love Merrell brand shoes for my kids. It is the only brand of shoes that they grow out of before they have a chance to destroy them. So we picked up some Merrell water shoes for both Michael and Nathan. Michael isn't much of a sandal person, but Nathan is just like his mama, barefoot or flip-flops only, please! I was surprised Nathan went for full shoes, but I think the idea of wearing them without socks was what made them appealing.
Ben got a pair of sandals that have a neoprene foot covering and heel strap, so he was good to go. For me, I knew I couldn't handle a water shoe. If I'm forced to wear a shoe, it has to be with a sock. And who wants to wear socks if you know you're going to get wet? I was looking for some Teva-type sandals that have a supportive foot bed but plenty of straps to keep them attached to you. I'd seen some in Hong Kong a month ago, and began to kick myself that I didn't pick them up at the time. I found a pair of Merrell brand water sandals that I hated at first glance, but with time and the number of stores to look in running out, I realized I couldn't be too picky. So I tried them on. I was surprised that they were so low to the ground, but was happy with the fact that in walking around the shop, nothing was immediately rubbing me the wrong way. I decided to get them, despite the fact that they looked a lot like the shoes my granny used to wear, with three straps across the foot.
It wasn't until the next morning when we were walking out the door to grab our flight that I pulled off the info tag which said the sandals use "Vibram Technology." I don't know if you've seen anyone wearing those freaky Vibram Five Finger shoes that look like gloves for your feet, but they make you feel like you are barefoot, which is supposed to give you all sorts of benefits. I have no desire to get a pair of the five finger shoes (even just those socks with toes freak me out), but I was happy to walk in them and realize the sandals were incredibly comfortable. The info tag also mentioned that it may take a week for you to get used them, since your body (evidently) uses different muscles to walk barefoot than it does to walk in more supportive shoes.
I have to say that all my time barefoot has paid off, because the sandals were perfect straight out of the box. I wore them all week, nearly nonstop. They were perfect for walking long distances, hiking through trails, riding elephants, wading through a river, zip-lining through the jungle, and wearing on the plane, which usually makes my feet swell up a bit. After our crazy adventurous week, every muscle and joint in my body hurt except for my feet. They sure aren't the best looking sandal around, but I'm a devoted convert to Vibram Technology. But don't expect to ever see me in those five finger shoes. They're just not for me! Merrell + Vibram = Happy "Barefoot" Girl!