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Maybe it’s because I’m a Los Angeleno, but I deliberately avoid closed-toed footwear whenever possible. And when it comes to sandals, I always prefer a practical slide. Why should I have to bend down to buckle my shoe, when the better alternative would be… well, not doing that?
This is especially true when I travel. I like to be able to conveniently slide my shoes off as soon as I buckle into my seat on the plane, and then need to be able to slip them back on easily for trips to the loo and upon landing (when my bags and my kids keep my hands plenty full). So, I was incredibly thrilled when I found a pair that’s equally ideal for days in transit as it is for nearly every purpose at a warm-weather destination.
The Naot Santa Barbara sandal is my travel must-have, since it’s stylish, comfortable, and versatile. This shoe truly does it all — it works for city sightseeing, hitting the beach or pool, and can even easily transition to nighttime. If I’m really dressing up, I’ll toss an espadrille wedge heel into my luggage too — but my Santa Barbaras alone do the trick in most warm-weather scenarios (especially the kind where even the fine dining is set on the sand).
I got my first pair in white about a year ago and wore them everywhere. Months later, I added the rose gold to my personal inventory. Both are neutral hues that go with just about everything in my luggage for a warm-weather vacation; the rose gold adds some dressiness to zhush things up. I can wear them for hours upon hours on my feet and never feel fatigued.
From a foot health perspective, an ideal summer sandal is one with a contoured footbed in which the heel sits well on the sole of the shoe and the shoe offers arch support, Elizabeth Daughtry, DPM, a board-certified podiatrist in North Carolina, tells Travel + Leisure. Not only should support and cushioning be considered, but footbeds with microfiber lining can also “assist with wicking away sweat,” she adds. Sandals made with plastic or synthetic materials, such as hard canvas or synthetic leather, can cause feet to sweat excessively, making this type of shoe a no-no for summer foot health.
In terms of fit, “The sandal should fit your feet well and have a wide enough toe bed that the toes do not get cramped or hang off the edge of the sandal sole,” points out Dr. Daughtry. What’s more, adjustable straps and buckles offer stability and motion control of the foot,” she notes. Further — no surprise here — flip-flop or thong sandals are plainly “not the best choice,” she says, “due to the increased chance of sliding while walking and formation of blisters.”
The Naot Santa Barbara is an ideal pick for all these reasons, Dr. Daughtry says. It has two buckle closures for maximum adjustability, plus “the suede footbed is cushioned yet supportive and will allow for excessive sweat to be wicked away from the skin to prevent friction and sliding,” and the EVA sole is supportive with an anatomic cork and latex footbed that “allows for arch support and molding to the individual’s foot structure.”
If you’re thinking that these sandals share a resemblance to an Internet-famous pair, you should know that these are not just knock-off Birkenstocks. Rather, Naot is a well-differentiated brand and has a long-established history of its own. It goes back to 1942, when members of a small collective farming community in Israel started making shoes in a one-room workshop on a kibbutz.
Now 80 years later, Kibbutz Naot Mordechai still produces the widely distributed Israeli product, hand-made by diverse craftspeople and ethically produced using sustainable methods. (If your total awareness of kibbutz life up to this point came from WeWork’s barefoot ego-maniac Adam Neumann as portrayed in WeCrashed, allow these wear-everywhere shoes to expand your horizons.)
Beyond all the podiatrist-approved qualities, the Naot Santa Barbara sandals are just all-around practical, lightweight, and totally packable — flat with flexible tops that can compress in a suitcase without messing with their shape. For all these reasons, they’re my go-to’s when I travel — and should rightly become yours, too.