Surrounded by the snow-capped Dolomites of northern Italy, Pakems founder Julie Adams pulled off her ski boots and kicked up her feet to enjoy an après ski brew. But, what she needed—just as much as a tasty ale in hand—was a packable shoe.
“My ski boots hurt so bad before the trip. I could have rented [boots], but I lugged those dang things clear to Europe,” laughed Julie, reflecting on her two-week ski trip to Cortina d’Ampezzo in March 2011.
Ultimately, it was Julie’s discomfort that sparked her idea for Pakems
(This photo shows the exact moment when Julie first thought of Pakems. She's the one in the hat with her feet propped up on her ski boots.)
Julie wanted to create a lightweight, water-resistant, packable shoe—a winter sandal. And she wanted something that would work for her 6-year-old son, Bodie, too.
“So many times he said, ‘Mommy, my feet hurt, I can’t walk,’ and I was carrying all of our stuff, and I said, ‘I can’t carry you, you’ll have to walk,’” Julie said.
There was no better time than the present to dive into her invention. Julie had just left an 18-year-long position as a corporate attorney so that she could venture down a different career path that allowed Bodie and her more time together.
Inspired and driven, Julie flew to Portland in September 2011 to meet up with previous Nike footwear designers who helped her put the idea to paper.
Then, she prepped for her big debut at Outdoor Retailer. But Pakems didn’t snag too much attention.
“My booth was a camping scene and I had four Kelsyus camping chairs, and everyone kept asking about how they could order the cool chairs,” Julie said. “But at least it got folks to stop, so then I would get to show them my idea of a packable shoe.”
Not one to get too discouraged, Julie kept after it and Pakems has steadily gained traction.
Pakems’ low- and high-tops boast a grippy rubber outsole, EVA midsole, durable rip-stop fabric, and a matching bag with straps for easy ferry.
Now, Julie hears feedback that folks use the packable shoe for more than she’d anticipated. The compressible pair is great for hanging out at the campsite, hiking to-and-from a climbing wall, and replacing cleats and skates after sports’ games. Backpackers have found Pakems easy to tow and helpful for unexpected river crossings. The rubber outsole provides traction on slippery rocks and the boots’ karabiner loop lets them hang outside the pack to dry. It’s also an awesome commuter shoe for ladies.
For Fall 2014, Pakems designs are expanding with camouflage patterns, waterproof versions, a stylish higher-length for ladies, and the inaugural kids’ line.
“The kids’ line will be great for snowy days when you send your kids to school,” Julie said. “Kids’ boots are so big and bulky, but now they can wear [Pakems] all day long or even put them in a backpack.”
Across the kid’s, men’s, and women’s lines there will also be the “Paint Your Own Pakems,” a new black-and-white marble pattern that comes with fabric pens, which was inspired by Bodie’s joy for coloring his shoes. And, in sight for Summer 2015, Pakems is launching the Sol Light, with a soft, breathable-mesh upper for warm weather wear.
“I don’t have a job anymore—I get to wake up and work on my passion,” Julie said.
What do you dream of creating in life?