The Florida Keys can be an unforgiving place for our phalanges and friends. Between the heat, pea rock, hot sand, and gravel – comfort is primal, and fashion is futile (if you’re not a local). Here’s how to survive the summer months while maintaining your stride:

Have proper hiking/ walking/ runner shoes

This one seems like a no-brainer, but if you are in town and plan on taking advantage of the beautiful bird sanctuaries and nature walks, please be prepared. The terrain is very uneven and without proper shoes you could be putting yourself at serious risk (let alone what could find you in the process!).

I wear women’s “Nike Free” sneakers. They offer a flex groove that gives it a very light-weight “barefoot” feel (which as someone who enjoys being barefoot, this is a plus). If you’re a runner, Nike also offers the Nike Plus Running app, which calculates your average pace, distance, and even has social sharing options to encourage bragging rights among friends.

—   Jen Friel

Keysy go-to sandals

Look at a local woman’s feet on a weekend and she’s likely sporting a pair of Sanuk, Keen, Tiva or Reef sandals on her feet. These are the shoes that take them from the grocery store to the beach to a casual afternoon barbecue. My paddleboarding friends swear by the Keen watershoes; they offer semi-closed toe protection and decent support on the unforgiving decks. Personally, I like a basic pair of Tevas. They’re simple, stay on my feet, offer decent support and last more than one season (which in the Keys translates to a year or more of constant wear).

— Sara Matthis

Espadrilles. Espadrilles. Espadrilles.

If you know one word in French here in The Keys, please let it be this: “Espadrilles.”

Espadrilles are casual, flat shoes, with canvas or cotton upper fabric and a very flexible sole made of rope or rubber (made to look like rope). The “jute” (long, soft, shiny vegetable fiber spun into coarse, strong threads) rope sole is the identifying quality of the espadrilles and offer a flexible enough give to survive almost any surface. Whether you are on the deck, dock, patio, or piano (no judging), this sole is a lifesaver. I recently started wearing a pair and discovered that due to their flat nature they don’t offer enough support to go a whole day (your feet will seriously hurt the next day), however they do offer a sufficient plenty for a late afternoon into a late evening fiesta.

— J.F.

Converse Chuck Taylors

This one might seem a little less “keys-ey” but after being down here for a year I can say definitively that they have been the greatest door opener people wise. The second I get complimented on my Chucks I immediately think, “We could be friends!” Island life can be very lonely, but Chuck Taylors resonate in a visceral manner with people. I’ve had the same pair for five or more years, and I wear them with pride all while they are riddled with holes from adventures spoken (and unspoken). They have survived many boat rides, even swims (accidental and otherwise). Chuck Taylors are a part of you, and thus, are applicable during summer or any time of the year. You can purchase a pair of unisex Converse over at Footlocker on Roosevelt Blvd inside the Overseas Market in Key West.

—   J.F.


We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Birkenstocks, a plenty popular shoe in the islands. They’re sandals, sure, but they offer the fantastic support for which the brand is known. Many longtime locals find themselves suffering from fallen arches after so many years in flimsy flip flops, and this is the solution. Also, today’s Birkenstocks come in many styles flattering to a woman’s foot including thongs.

— S.M.

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