I Walked 100,000+ Steps In These Sustainable Sandals & Didn't Get One Blister
The perfect vacation shoe is a bit of a unicorn: It needs to be comfortable enough for long days of exploring, compact enough to easily fit in a suitcase, and versatile enough to complete any number of looks.
Well, having just returned from a very active trip to northern Italy, my feet and I are confident we've found just the pair: the Pons Avarcas. I was gifted these shoes back in 2018, and I've been wearing and loving them ever since (as a sustainability editor, I try to get as much out of my wardrobe as humanly possible). They've accompanied me on many around-town errands, and now that I've seen how they hold up on the road, let's just say I'm never packing an overnight bag without them.
Why they are the perfect vacation shoe.
As someone who tries to travel light, packing footwear is always a challenge for me. Chunky heels may complete a nighttime look, but they're way too bulky to be carry-on-friendly. Slim sandals may have the smallest footprint, but they often lack the support needed for sightseeing (unless they're walking sandals). So for this latest trip, I opted for my Pons Avarcas, which seemed like the ultimate solution to my footwear struggle, as they were compact and comfortable.
I was pleased to find the shoes took up minimal space. The malleable leather tops folded into the soles of the shoes, so they easily squeezed in between my clothes. When I arrived at my destination and took the sandals out of my suitcase, the uppers bounced back to perfect form and were ready to go with pretty much every outfit I'd brought with me.
The classic, unfussy look of the lightweight leather shoes (I have them in light brown) paired nicely with sundresses, jeans, and shorts. I also traveled to a few different climates and found that they fit in as well on the beach as they did in a mountain town.
And boy, did they hold up well in each place I wore them. Between the 25,000 steps navigating the crowded streets of Milan on a stifling hot day, the 17,000 steps ambling to dinner in Lake Como, and the 14,000 steps weaving through the side streets of Cinque Terre, these babies stayed supremely comfortable. When some of my travel companions bemoaned foot pain, I was ready to keep going. All in all, I logged around 116,000 steps in these sandals over the course of two weeks and did not get even the faintest hint of a blister.
Bonus: They're sustainable.
They may help you cover a lot of ground, but these sandals leave behind a light footprint. Avarcas are the traditional shoe of Menorca, Spain, and Pons are handmade by local artisans on the Mediterranean island. The company is run by a family that hails from the region and wanted to bring the functional leather design—originally created as a shoe that farmers could wear on their fields and around town—to the masses.
The leather is sourced from ethically raised livestock and treated without the use of dangerous chemicals, in accordance with EU REACH standards. The company also offers a vegan leather shoe for those looking to avoid animal byproducts.
The fact that I got so much use out of these sandals after owning them for nearly four years is a testament to just how durable they are. I haven't been diligent about conditioning the leather tops, but they still look nearly new, and the rubber soles (a portion of which are made from recycled materials) have maintained their shape beautifully after all these years.
Between their compact design, durable and supportive build, and sustainable sourcing, the Pons Avarcas are my go-to sandals for summer travels near and far.
They're available in 40-plus different colorways, so if my brown pair does eventually let up, I have my eye on the mustard shade or royal blue color next. At less than $100 per pair, I know that they'll more than pay for themselves over all those miles comfortably logged.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.