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When you’re headed out of town, one of the more important tasks on your to-do list is packing. Not only do you want to pack smart (as little as you can with only the most versatile of pieces), but you want to make sure you’re bringing the right footwear.
What to consider when packing shoes for travel
Even if you’ve got a strong hold on your itinerary, it’s difficult to know what shoes will serve you best. The fewer shoes you bring the better — just ask travel blogger Jennifer Chan, who’s mastered the art of strategically only packing a carryon.
“Always wear your clunkiest shoes on the plane to save space in the suitcase,” she says. “I generally always wear sneakers in case I need to run to the gate, and never bring more than three pairs of shoes (sneakers, sandals and a dressier style for dinner) for any given trip.”
What to look for in the most comfortable travel shoes for walking
In addition to versatility, it’s equally important to factor in practicality — especially if you’ll be standing all day. Silicon Valley-based podiatrist Dr. Najwa Javed notes that comfortable walking shoes are key. “Travel shoes should be easily removable and soft to allow for swelling during long trips.”
If you’re someone that has common foot conditions like flat feet or a high arch, Dr. Javed encourages you to “always buy a shoe with a stable sole to help support the arch of the foot.” If you’ve got wide feet, opt for shoes that specifically come in a wide size option or ones that “have soft mesh on the upper that will help reduce pinching for wide feet,” she notes. And as for those with plantar fasciitis, a cushioned sole (think a firm, but flexible midsole and padding in the forefoot) will help relieve some stress. You can also add an insole to your shoes for extra support.
The Different Types of Travel Shoes
Think of your travel shoes in three simple categories:
- Sneakers: They can range from tennis shoes to running shoes and dress shoes. All of the above typically include shock-absorbing soles and a molded footbed that hugs your feet for long-distance walking or high impact activity.
- Sandals: These can range from flip-flops to slides. For this more casual pick, the footbed tends to be lightweight and flexible for a barefoot-like experience. Meanwhile, some options offer more arch support.
- Boots: These should be flat or with a block heel, with a cushioned sole and stretchy-soft fabric on the shaft that moves with you as you walk. It’s a bonus if the material is waterproof, so you can wear the pair in all types of climates.
Ahead, Dr. Javed and Chan share their trusted travel picks as well as a few other stylish walking shoes you’re going to want to scoop up.
Avre Women’s Life Life Force Shoes
Chan counts these as her favorite travel sneakers. She even pens a few pairs. “I love them because they’re made of sustainable materials, are insanely comfortable and look great with jeans, leggings, loungewear, shorts, etc.” Fun fact: The brand is AAPI-owned and is always coming out with stylish new collections, like these neutral knit looks that are perfect for fall.
Adidas NMD_R1 Shoes
Sneakers are practical for outdoor excursions and adventures. But practical does not have to mean boring. Enter: these bold Adidas lace-ups. “They can act as a vacation workout shoe, as well as a walking shoe,” suggests Dr. Javed. The textile lining hugs the foot and the padded soles add cushion during high impact activity. For the ladies, the colorful leopard print rimmed sole adds a fashionable pop to your leggings look.
Birkenstock Arizona Sandals
There’s a reason this unisex shoe has been around forever. The iconic Arizona Birkenstock slides are ridiculously comfortable. They may not look the part, but, trust, the sunken footbed molds to any foot. You can get them in a wide or medium fit, so they’re ideal for bigger feet. Wear one of the best Birkenstock sandals all vacation long, like on a yoga retreat or to the pool.
Blondo Women’s Sierra Boots
For an upgrade on the typical walking shoe, try these chic over-the-knee boots. “I wore these boots all over Paris and London during the fall and winter months, and they were perfect in every way,” Chan says. The sturdy block heel is easy to walk on and the stretchy waterproof fabric feels like a second skin. “They hid signs of water damage and snow beautifully, and looked much more expensive than they are.”
FitFlop Women’s Rally Airyknit Sneakers
Breathable fabrics are always a good idea, but especially for warm or muggy climates. These best-selling sneakers from Fitflop and one of the most comfortable sneakers for women fit the bill. “They’re lightweight, breathable and allow for dynamic support,” Dr. Javed notes. The flexible platform sole moves with you and is made with slip-resistant leather pods to keep you safe. The breezy knit comes in six shades, from neutrals to pastel blue and pink.
Shop a similar style for men:
Dr. Scholl’s Women’s Meet Up Wedge Sandals
Swap out your walking sneakers for these trendy platforms that also happen to be orthopedic shoes. They’re extremely wearable thanks to insole technology and anatomical cushioning. They’re lighter than they look and easy to wear all day. Pair the sporty platform with jeans for a day trip or a floral maxi dress for an evening dinner.
Ugg Neumel Boots
Ugg’s chukka boots are so popular, the brand makes them for both men and women. Think of these as a hybrid between a house slipper and a street boot. They’ve got all the makings of your favorite at-home footwear with their relaxed fit and genuine shearling lining. Thanks to the leather outer and treaded sole, you can wear them on the go. They’re the perfect cozy plane shoes.
Oofos Women’s Ooahh Luxe Recovery Sandals
Slides are a popular travel style because they’re easy to wear and don’t take up too much room in your suitcase. “These slip-ons feel like a dream and put every other ‘ugly sandal’ to shame,” Chan explains. It’s safe to say the brand has mastered the trend. “They’re incredible recovery sandals that truly support your every step and ease joint pain, which is a godsend for weary travelers.”
On Cloud Running Shoes
These high-performance sneakers are tailor-made for athletes. “I like them because they’re lightweight, easy to slip on and off and orthotic,” Dr. Javed explains. The knotted elastic laces stay put while the molded heel and Cloudtec sole give you a smooth ride with each stride. Whether you’re going for a jog, playing sports or exploring a new city, these will go the distance.
Cole Haan Women’s 4.ZeroGrand Stitchlite Oxford
Think of this as a dress shoe and a walking shoe all in one. They’re complete with a decorative, classic wingtip oxford pattern. The dual-layered foam cushioning provides enhanced underfoot support. They’re lightweight and feature a molded anatomical footbed that makes it feel as if you’re walking on clouds.
Nike Free Run 5.0 Shoes
These Nike sneakers are so lightweight, they feel almost sock-like, and are one of the best pairs of women’s walking sneakers. The flexible sole and contained design were made to mimic a barefoot feeling, regardless of your activity. They transition nicely between activities, taking you from your morning jog to the airport to catch a flight. Bonus: There are five fun color palettes to choose from.
Tory Burch Women’s Miller Sandals
“I’ve owned my Tory Burch classic patent leather sandals for years, and they’ve never let me down,” Chan says. Their gold hardware, iconic cutout logo and array of color options will add a touch of sophistication to any look. “They pair perfectly with dresses, shorts, swimwear and more, and the quality speaks for itself,” Chan adds. The foam-cushioned footbed is a nice touch, too.
Skechers Go Walk Joy Shoes
When Skechers makes these walking shoes for men and women, you know they’re legit. The Goga Max technology insole is one of the best out there for a plush landing. The lightweight fabric is super breathable and ideal for outdoor activities. The solid weave toe and heel panels help with stability, while the handy pull loop at the heel helps you slide them on in a hurry.
Vionic Men’s Tide Sandals
The beloved Tide sandal has been a brand bestseller for years, and is now available for men. This take is spruced up with leather trim and an updated tread pattern. The soft woven toe post and foam-lined strap are signatures. What’s more, the lightweight and flexible midsole beautifully absorbs shock to reduce stress on your feet.
Sanuk Men’s Vagabond Shoes
These eco-friendly shoes are a big hit with the SoCal surf community. All of the brand’s pairs are made with natural materials, in this case, canvas. The shoe’s relaxed-outdoorsy soles have dual elastic goring for easy on and off and a comfortable sandal bottom with a little extra protection. Dress them down with board shorts or keep your look more polished with a printed button-up and khakis.
Altra Men’s Cayd Shoes
If you’re traveling for business, look for comfortable men’s shoes. These sophisticated sneakers are a good professional option. Aside from the sleek design, the cushy foam sole is ideal for city hoppers. “I like the shoe’s anatomical toe box design, and the fact that they’re easy to walk in for high arches,” Dr. Javed says. They’re made of premium leather with a weather-resistant DWR finish that will last you years.
Taos Women’s Guru Slides
These gorgeous slides are handcrafted with intertwined leather that will give any outfit a touch of personal style. The super-soft microfiber footbed provides arch and metatarsal support, so you can wear them with ease. The .75-inch heel offers just enough lift to elevate your dinner outfit.
Chaco Z/1 Classic Sandals
Whether you’re packing for a camping trip or out for Sunday brunch, try these Chaco sandals on for size. The brand’s signature Z-strap design can keep up with every adventure, athletic or not. Chaco is known for its trademarked luvseat midsole that massages your feet as you walk (at least it feels that way). This style comes in a range of colors, from classic black to cheery orange — none of which you can go wrong with.
Blondo Flora Waterproof Booties
Complete with a waterproof, easy-to-wipe clean upper and grippy rubber outsole, these slip-on booties work best in unexpected weather conditions. Additionally, the elastic shaft gently hugs the ankle, so you feel supported while walking. Available in black suede, these booties will pair nicely with anything in your travel wardrobe.