One traveler can be very different from the other. Someone who visits new places to try out restaurants and see plays and takes taxis from destination to destination will definitely not need the same shoes as someone who visits national parks and goes hiking. At the same time, we have to remember that a lot of people lie somewhere in between or do both!
Before you start looking at travel shoes take a second to really figure out how much walking you will be doing, and over what kinds of surfaces, and let that inform the shoe choices you make. The more walking or hiking you’ll be doing, the more important it will be that you value function over form.
Make sure to check the weather for the dates when you’re traveling. Just by putting into Google “what is the weather like in (city) during (month)” you will get a weather estimate, even if you’re planning a trip that is many months away. This will allow you to figure out whether you should bring quick-drying, breathable shoes or travel sandals, or whether you should opt for a pair of waterproof boots.
If you are traveling to a place where the weather changes drastically from day to day then I recommend choosing two pairs of travel shoes – one pair that is a touch heavier and more appropriate for colder weather, and one pair that is very light and easy to pack.
You will also want to take your personal style into account! The comfortable shoes you bring with you on your adventures should look good with every single one of the outfits you pack. This means that those gorgeous hot pink shoes you love so much that only look good with that black dress should probably stay at home.
If the styles you’re packing lean a little bit towards more preppy then loafers or clean, low-top sneakers will be easier to match to your wardrobe. You can easily match strappy sandals or flats to a more feminine wardrobe, and they also tend to work well with flowy, more bohemian outfits. If you’re packing a lot of athletic gear, then a pair of running shoes will fit right in and will also ensure maximum comfortableness for you!
City Break Shoes
If you’re planning a city break where you will walk around a lot but on paved streets, you have a few directions you can go in. It’s important that the travel shoes you choose are comfortable, which can mean different things for different people.
Some might require good arch support while others might prefer a “naked” shoe that makes them feel as though their feet are bare. Personally, I prefer that my shoes have a bit of a cushioning sole but without being heavy, and that they hold the entirety of my foot without slipping.
You can opt for a pair of low-top sneakers – either slip-ons or with laces – that will be casual, comfortable, and quite versatile. These days sneakers are becoming much more versatile than in the past.
You can also choose a pair of flats or espadrilles that have good hold over the feet. As long as they have a cushy sole, these travel shoes can keep you comfortable as you spend your day exploring. These shoes are a bit dressier than sneakers, so they will also work if you decide to go out to more upscale places in the evening.
I’m of the opinion that someone traveling can make things work with a single pair of comfy and properly soled flats, or alternatively with one pair of sneakers and one pair of either roll-up flats or elegant travel sandals.
City and Nature Shoes
Choosing the best travel shoes gets a little more complicated as you start adding more terrains. As you start exploring in places where roads are unpaved and the terrain is a little harder to navigate, dedicated walking shoes become mandatory.
The issue is that properly comfortable shoes, even for easy hikes, are harder to style for more elegant occasions. It just so happens that, in my opinion, the best vacations feature both!
While some people (especially men) can travel with a single pair of running shoes that they’ll rock just about anywhere, if you’re reading this then the aesthetic matters to you, so of course you’ll want a way around the issue.
In the summer it’s possible to only have a pair of cushioned travel sandals, like the Merrell ones I recommended earlier, but during spring and autumn you will probably have to carry two pairs of shoes with you. I recommend having a pair of well-cushioned sneakers for hiking and city exploration, and a pair of flat or foldable shoes for when you want to look a little more stylish.
Nature Explorer Shoes
If you’re already an avid hiker and nature explorer, you probably already own a pair of magnificent hiking boots. If the entirety of your vacation is going to be spent in nature then you won’t need much else – perhaps a pair of solid hiking boots along with a pair of water shoes or flip-flops in case you’d like to go into the water of a rocky lake or stream.
As much as we love online shopping, it’s important to try on hiking boots in the store before buying them. If you have enough time, you can buy your travel shoes online from a retailer that has a lenient return policy.
There are a few key tips for when you examine your shoes, to ensure they truly support your feet, courtesy of podiatrist Stephanie Raley. Make sure that the soles are thick, and don’t bend at all if you’re going to be doing some very steep or intense hiking, while a bit of bend is okay for easier terrain.
Beachside Vacation Shoes
There are two types of beachside vacations: the ones where you go on excursions and explore whatever tropical locale you’re visiting or the ones where you spend your time relaxing on the beach with a book for company. For the latter, a simple pair of flip-flops should suffice, while the former requires a bit more thought.
Make sure to skip the leather sandals, and opt for a different material. Unless specifically made to be waterproof, leather can expand when wet, which will lead to it cracking.
Instead, choose either quick-drying travel shoes or waterproof travel sandals that are made of rubber or recycled plastic. The more breathable the shoes, the better, and if you are going to do a bit of walking make sure they are adequately cushioned.
Snow Vacation Shoes
While it might seem wild to me that anyone will choose to travel to a cold destination, the fact of the matter is that many people like snow holidays. Snow boots are the obvious choice for a very cold winter vacation!
Look for waterproof shoes with fuzzy inner lining and a thicker sole. These days a lot of boots intended for snow also have the specific temperatures they can withstand specified, which is a nice bonus.