One of my biggest conundrums when thinking about packing a travel wardrobe has always centered around shoes. What shoes to wear, and what to pack? I’ve made quite a few mistakes over the years – been stuck with only closed toed shoes in the stifling humidity and heat of summertime Asia, worn both heels and thin soles in excruciating discomfort over the cobblestones of Europe, and more. Over time I’ve drilled down to a few basic pairs which I always bring when traveling for pleasure and know I’ll be walking around a bit, exploring the sights.
I have never been the type of person who can walk around for hours in even 3 + inch heels. On a trip, I’ll usually have at least one or two pairs of comfortable shoes packed away, and also a pair of heels tucked in for evening/formal dress events. Here are some of my favorite traveling shoes, and some suggestions for qualities to look for when shopping for similar ones.
Low wedge sandals. The espadrilles below were the most comfortable pair of shoes that I brought with me on my trip to Tokyo, and I walked miles in them. The slight wedge actually made them even a little more comfortable than completely flat shoes, and the fact that they were open toed were great, since Tokyo can be quite hot in May and my feet expanded a bit in the heat.
I’d suggest looking for a low wedge (below 2 inches) in espadrilles or cork material to keep sandals lightweight. I would also look for sturdy straps in either leather or suede, to keep your foot in. My suggestion: this pair of low sandals, available in black and tan, under $90 here.
Ballet flats. After a bit of a breaking in period, my Chanel flats are now some of the most comfortable I own. They are completely molded to my feet and I love that they have a sturdy construction. I’m all for soft floppy ballet flats that you can keep in your bag, but these often don’t provide support for long walks – especially in places like Europe where there are often deep cobblestone streets. These flats have also been reinforced with Vibram soles on the bottom which give them an extra layer when walking bumpy streets.
My advice: look for sturdily made ballet flats in high quality leather or suede, with either thick rubber soles or leather soles that can be reinforced by the cobbler. AGL still makes some of the most comfortable flats out there in my experience, and this nude pair will go with everything and lengthen legs (something I’m always keen to do when wearing very flat shoes).
Low heeled pumps. Like I mentioned above with my espadrilles – I’ve found that the most comfortable shoes for sightseeing often have just a wee bit of a heel on them, rather than being completely flat. These Ferragamo Vara pumps have long been my go to shoes for work when I just don’t feel like wearing “big heels”. They are incredibly comfortable and often a pick for myself on the weekends as well.
My recommendation: I would recommend these pumps to almost everybody and they come in a great variety of colors and widths. They’re a little pricey but worth the investment and you can take them back to get them fixed up by a cobbler (my black pair is there now getting a refresh).
When buying low heeled pumps, I’d suggest looking for all leather or suede materials (shoe and sole), and a thicker, sturdy heel like the Varas. A smaller kitten heel may be a little more feminine, but they can be exponentially more difficult to walk in during a long day of walking around. My coworker walks to work in these Tory Burch pumps, which look quite similar to the Vara.
Low heeled ballet pumps and sandals are usually all the walking shoes I bring if traveling during the fall/spring/summer seasons. However, quite a bit of my travel usually takes place in colder climates, and for those occasions I always pack….
Flat boots. Preferably sturdily made, good quality and warm, with comfortable soles. These are my favorite pair of traveling boots, from Jimmy Choo. I bought them direct from the flagship when I was living in London and they are the perfect pair to wear in cold weather, in snow and rain. The thick rubber soles are perfect for walking around and have plenty of give, making them super comfortable.
These boots were quite expensive, but I wore them multiple times a week in the fall/winters in Boston, and they are as cozy as Uggs. When I’m on holiday, the last thing I want to worry about are my feet getting frozen or wet in chilly weather, and these boots have never let me down.
My advice: I would stick with leather boots versus suede, since you want your shoes to be able to stand a light snowfall or surprise rainstorm. For me personally I prefer boots with rubber/lug soles when traveling, versus leather. I just find rubber soles much more durable and appropriate for rain/slush. You can find the short version of my Jimmy Choos here, and here is a $200 option with great reviews, here that I just ordered to try out!
All right! This list has pretty much captured my essential traveling shoes – from Europe to Asia, summer or winter. The only thing missing are some heels for going out (I usually just bring one pair), and flip flops if I’m going to the beach.
What are some of your favorite shoes to pack along with traveling?