Ultimate guide to the best shoes for travel
Shoes make the man … and the woman. But what they really make are your travels. Pick the wrong shoe and you will be grumpy the entire time. Pick the best shoes for travel, and you will chalk up mile after mile sightseeing and smiling.
We’ve walking a mile (and a whole lot more) in umpteen brands of shoes so we have a thing or two to say about walking shoes for travel. The assumption is, you will be walking of course. Traveling without walking is like pie without ice cream. Take to your feet to see how people live, and stumble into surprises you would otherwise miss. But that’s another topic, right?
If you’re not a walking type, but are looking to find out how to pick great travel shoes, be forewarned: There will be not a loafer or heel in the bunch. You may find some little flats or flip-flops, but we only recommend them as a breather for your feet, for a short trek to dinner, or around a hotel, not really as an all-day walking shoe.
Variables in picking the best shoes for travel
Your planned activities – Active or leisure? Urban and museums, or long nature walks or hikes? Fancy or casual?
If you plan to stay in urban areas, you will want to consider great travel shoes that are good for walking but also perhaps don’t look like you’re heading up the Matterhorn. This depends on the city, too. Barcelona or Buenos Aires may demand a nicer-looking shoe for travel sightseeing, while an outdoorsy or mountain town like Boulder, Colo., or Chamonix, France, may allow outdoorsy footwear.
The weather forecast – Cold or hot? Rainy or dry? Although waterproof shoes may sound good, if you are heading to a hot or humid climate, you will swelter. And don’t forget something more insulated if the destination is colder.
Best features for the best travel footwear
Forget turning to any one brand since every foot is different. You may love one brand, but it doesn’t work at all for a friend or colleague. Still, there are brands that are often tried-and-true when it comes to comfort and fit for travel shoes. Look for characteristics (fit, comfort, stability, lightweight, versatile) to pick your great travel shoes. And whether you have a business dinner or a sunrise mountaintop breakfast, the same characteristics apply for great travel shoes for men and for women.
Here’s our list of the top features for the best travel shoes for men and women:
Great fit and comfort – Don’t just buy the right color or cute, if you can’t walk or stand in it for a few hours, you’ll hate life. And make TRIPLE sure you have enough wiggle room for your toes, top and front, because air travel and walking will make your feet swell a bit. Go for great fit and great comfort, or don’t pass go.
Support and stability – You think marshmallow cushiony is the way to go? Not really. You want some cushion, yes, but you really want support for your entire foot, especially heel and arch. That may mean you will need an extra footbed with better arch supports and denser foam cushioning.
Lightweight – Who wants 5 pounds of shoes in a suitcase when the goal is traveling light? With today’s technology, light is right – and very possible.
Michael is wearing a pair of his favorite socks from Darn Tough in the photo above. Learn more about the best socks, underwear and bras for travel in this article Best travel underwear – bras, briefs, boxers and socks.
Neutral colors and cross-over style – Black is not always your best choice, but likely steering away from brights or patterns – or a running shoe in fluorescent greens and pinks – will usually serve you better. Neutral means it can go from dawn to dusk and then out again in the evening if needed.
Easy to clean – Some of the best travel footwear has a finish that repels dirt and stains. That’s nice, of course, but some materials will do you better. A fancy gloss shoe or even perhaps a suede may end up looking more beat up than a brushed leather or mesh. White or pale neutrals are not likely a great choice.
The best travel shoe brands — we’ve worn and recommend
If you have not worn any of these footwear brands, you should expect to go to a local store – or several – and try on some pairs. Doing a little shopping online first can help you pair down some choices and get an idea of styles. Depending on foot shape, travel preferences and style choices, what shoe brand or brands work for one traveler may not be so ideal for another.
Arcopedico – More stylish shoes that are extremely lightweight with many styles suitable for that “foot breather” and short jaunts to dinner. Great knit and stretch uppers for good fit.
Asolo – An Italian brand with a heritage in mountaineering. A lot of great travel, light hikers and lifestyle shoes today while maintaining a European style with outdoor comfort.
Bogs – This U.S. company has its core in waterproof, insulating boots and booties for work and garden. In recent years, it has moved that technology into super travel and lifestyle footwear for men and women that still performs and is lightweight.
Ecco – One of several comfort footwear brands that will be a little more conservative but will serve some tastes for comfortable and neutral travel shoes. From Denmark.
Keen – A trendier brand that nonetheless moves between hiking to sandals with comfortable aplomb.
LOWA – Another brand with an outdoor heritage that has come to be synonymous with supreme comfort and walkability. From Germany with footwear made in Europe, the brand also puts a high emphasis on a women’s fit.
Mephisto – Another comfort footwear brand originally out of France with styles that run from casual to formal with an emphasis on comfort and support.
Merrell – From casual to hiking to running, the U.S. brand has you covered with an emphasis in its lifestyle footwear on comfort and support. Often a more active and athletic-looking style.
Spenco – Starting out as a footbed company, the brand decided if it could do comfort inside the shoe, it could do comfort and support in shoes themselves. Lots of slide and slip-on type products for the “foot breather” footwear for travel.
Teva – This brand’s roots are in water sandals but it has moved into great-looking, comfortable, packable, hike-able footwear of all kinds, including vegan.
Vasque – Another brand with a strong outdoor and backpacking background that has managed to parlay that fit and support into lightweight hikers that do great double-duty for travel.