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November 17, 2010

Introducing El Naturalista: Fashion-Forward Travel Shoes

From low-top day hikers to multi-day high-ankle snow stompers, we seldom tire of uber-technical footwear. But sometimes the secret to successful travel gear lies in the right mixture of comfort, fashion, and function, rather than just the latest and greatest in laminates, fabric, and treatments. 

One of our favorites in this vein remains the Spanish footwear-maker El Naturalista, who seem to love travel almost as much as they like creating funky shoes. The company’s designers derive much of the inspiration for their footwear from their own travels and global experiences.  Take the men’s Iroko sneaker ($200). Its aesthetic origins tie back to Cuba, where the shoe designer’s father once lived. The website relates the father's tradition of visiting the Ceiba del Templete tree in Old Havana, which has been tied to rituals in the city since 1519. Ceiba, he goes on to explain, is the Cuban word for iroko, a hardwood much like teak, originating from tropical Africa.

But don’t expect the shoe to be a heavy, clunky experience.  They're made of pull grain leather that has been treated with river stones to naturally temper the hide for a soft-to-the-touch feel that's both flexible for long-haul stomping and highly weather-resistant. Breathable, removable insoles keep your feet swaddled in comfort, and rubber outsoles offer both bounce and grip.  The arboreal influence is evidenced on the shoe’s bottom soles, which replicates the appearance and texture of the iroko bark.

The Ikoro comes in a variety of colors and styles, from modest low-cut sneakers to high tops. El Naturalista also makes a wide line of women's and men's footwear, along with a limited-run selection of bags, wallets, and scarves.

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