Mistral Sailing Shoes by Slam

Italian-made sailing shoes keep feet cool, comfortable, and planted firmly on even the slickest of decks. "Gear Up" from our January 30, 2007, /SW eNewsletter/.

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As I slung my legs over the rail during the first day of 2007 Acura Key West Race Week, I knew one thing: I did not look cool. The reason for this was hanging over the side, a combination of dark grey shorts, silvery shoes, black socks, and legs as white as snow. All that was missing was the official Geeks to Go pocket protector. For a moment, I was wishing the temperature would drop 20 degrees so I'd have an excuse to hide this ensemble under my foul-weather pants.Despite the fashion disaster that was taking place on the lower half of my body, my feet did feel cool. Not cool as in back-of-the-school-bus cool, but cool as in comfortable. Filippo Bovio, the U.S. importer of Slam sailing apparel, had given me a pair of the company's Mistral shoes to test during the regatta and the first thing I noticed was the airflow through the shoes. As we trudged upwind in 10 to 12 knots, I could feel the wind washing over my feet.Slam is a new brand to the U.S., having arrived from Italy less than a year ago. But they've been making up for lost time. In Key West, Bovino set up a huge retail store in the tent, hawking technical and shore-side apparel. On the water, Michael Brennan's crew on Sjambok sported Slam gear and a huge Slam logo on the sail. Company posterboy Russell Coutts was also in attendance on the Swan 601 Artemis.This aggressive marketing campaign has given the company an impressive level of stateside name recognition. However, name recognition doesn't keep you from slipping around the cockpit during a wavy run. A sunscreen malfunction had everyone on my boat sliding on Day 1 of the regatta, but after we solved that problem I quickly came to appreciate the Slam shoes. The Mistrals aren't long on bells and whistles; in fact, they look quite basic, albeit with a subtle Italian flair. But the performance is what one would expect of a high-end sailing shoe. The shoes stick to the deck, they don't get waterlogged or clammy, and they are very comfortable. At the end of racing each day, I rinsed them quickly under the hose, stuffed some newspaper inside and dropped them inside the boat with the dehumidifier. By morning they were dry.Toward the end of the week, I even found myself getting used to the silver color, though I think it lost a little of its sheen. Switching to white socks helped as well. If I had my choice, however, I think I might've gone with either the blue or the red.For more on the Slam shoes, www.slam.com, or check out your local or online sailing apparel store. The Mistrals retail for just over $100.