Style Travel

Packing Shoes for Travel

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.

Shoes

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). 

Flats

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.

Vara2

I like them so much, I have two pairs! Black with silver hardware, and a nude almond with gold.

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.

Vara1

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.

Boots

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?

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  • Belen
    April 15, 2013 at 8:22 am

    I just came back from vacation and packed SO MANY shoes I didn’t even touch. It was ahuge waste of space.
    I would love to see other posts like this but for work travel!

  • Tabitha
    April 15, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Oh it’s always a major holiday headache, a low cork wedge is great because of the height and weightlessness of the shoe, I also like fabric flats that don’t chafe and if all else fails I’m in flip flops.

  • Adele
    April 15, 2013 at 9:32 am

    I firstly decide on my daytime & evening outfits then add shoes & sandals accordingly. My Valentino Rockstud flip flops are a must for round the pool/beach!
    Have a wonderful week Hun xoxo
    http://www.intotheblonde.com/

  • Prêt-à-Porter P
    April 15, 2013 at 9:37 am

    I always take black driving shoes, simple and easy.

  • Elle
    April 15, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Great suggestions – I might have to pick up those low wedge sandals for an upcoming trip to Croatia! I have a maximum of 3 pairs of shoes rule when traveling, and in terms of walking flats, Lanvin are always what works best for me. I appreciate the newer seasons having more of an internal wedge so they’re not completely flat. Though I hope to own a pair of Chanel flats one day!

  • Anna
    April 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    I like to bring a pair of simple lowtop Converse. They look cool and easy to walk in all day long. Granted they are very casual shouldn’t be worn to certain places, like fancy restaurants or business meetings.

  • AnneD
    April 15, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks for these tips! I have one pair of AGL in black and at your suggestion, just ordered the nude pair. Chanel and Lanvin are a little out of my reach, but the AGL flats are wonderful for a day of walking.

    • Katherine
      April 15, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      I love my AGL flats and need to get a 2nd pair as well. They are my MOST comfortable flats and so easy to wear all day!

  • Brownie
    April 15, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    I usually have a pair of sandals, flats, heels and sneakers – they take up such a lot of space. I know I probably sound old but a pair of Ecco sneakers worked perfectly for all the walking in Europe – saved my feet as I would not have survived in flats.

  • Sybil
    April 15, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    I actually brought and broke in a pair of La Canadienne boots last September on a trip to London. It was the most comfortable shoes I wore on that trip and I got them for a great price on Amazon!! I have 2 pairs of AGL’s but I’ve heard so much about Chanel ballet flats and Ferragamos. I might have to check them out, but I already know they are out of my price range for shoes. Thanks for the tips!

    • Katherine
      April 16, 2013 at 7:32 am

      You know AGLs are actually just as comfy as Chanel/Ferragamo if not more in my opinion….thanks for sharing your review on the La Canadienne boots!

  • Elna
    April 15, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Yey! Finally…thanks Katherine.

  • Cam
    April 15, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Love this post, my personal favorites are cute flats! Check out these photos (http://on.fb.me/ZwtgBN) for similar styles!

  • Michelle
    April 16, 2013 at 12:20 am

    What great advice! Im with you on the wedges instead of heels, much more comfortable to walk in on uneven roads or on cruise ships when the ground is a little adrift and not always solid!

  • Marlene @ chocolatecookiesandcandies
    April 16, 2013 at 4:42 am

    Hey Katherine, I’ve been thinking about Ferragamos for a while so your review just convinced me I really do need a pair. I’ve found out that I’m in agony in completely flat shoes so a bit of heels really help.

  • Naaj Rona
    April 16, 2013 at 7:37 am

    I carry flats and heels. Flats for shopping and sightseeing and heels for formal occasions

  • Jennipher
    April 16, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Great tips! I love your travel-related posts so much – thank you!
    Several years ago I read that when you are packing for a trip, start with the shoes you want to bring, then pack outfits/accessories that coordinate with those. This advice has really helped me be more strategic about what shoes I bring. I usually wear flats on the plane (Tory Revas are my go-to, though I really want to try the AGLs), then pack a pair of running shoes and lowish heels. Depending on the location and trip length, I also like to have flip-flops, even if I’m not going to a resort/beach location, I always hate the rubber spa shoes they give you and like to have my own. It helps that flip flops take up no space at all. If it’s a long trip, or one where I’m primarily relaxing as opposed to doing lots of site seeing, I also love to bring along my cozy Ugg slippers. I’d never wear them outside the hotel, but they have been a life-saver on certain trips!

    • Katherine
      April 16, 2013 at 11:25 am

      Thanks Jennipher for such a thoughtful comment! I love that advice to start with the shoes you want to bring – I may steal that one for myself 🙂

  • Chic 'n Cheap Living
    April 16, 2013 at 8:23 am

    Great list Katherine! I completely agree with your list – comfortable flats and low wedges are a must! I want to suggest Fit Flops as well. They aren’t that attractive, though they are a bit better these days. More importantly, they are the only flats that I (and a few others) can wear for hours and hours without any strain or pain. They also provide good traction and can be worn in somewhat wet weather when other shoes may not be appropriate.

    xoxo,
    Chic ‘n Cheap Living

    • Katherine
      April 16, 2013 at 10:39 am

      Fit Flops have long tempted me – maybe now I’ll have to give them a shot!

  • Glenda
    April 16, 2013 at 8:28 am

    I adore Ferragamo, and I have an identical beige pair to yours–you’re right, they are feminine yet sturdy, & good “walkers”. My second favorite Ferragamo pair is red patent Vara flats. I love everything Ferragamo does in Vara and Varina.

    Besides my Ferragamos, my go-to ballet flats for the past several years has been French Sole New York (FS/NY). They have some thin-soled flats that are really only suitable for lounging or quick errand-running, but they also have sturdy rubber soled ballets that wear like iron and are so comfortable that at the end of the day I feel like I’ve simply worn bedroom slippers all day.

    I usually buy several colors in styles I really like & wear a lot, & I do that quickly–lesson learned a few years ago when I bought a black FS/NY pair, then several months later went back to buy navy & red and the style was discontinued…I’m still sad about that as that shoe is one of my favorites in my closet.

    Thanks for this Great post! I enjoy your blog immensely!

    • Katherine
      April 16, 2013 at 10:34 am

      I love French Sole! They had a fabulous leopard print pair a while back that I’m kicking myself for passing up. Thanks for the kind comments about my blog 🙂

  • TC
    April 16, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    I follow a similar formula when traveling: I usually bring Hermes Carina (black patent) or Lanvin (color) flats, Chanel wedges, and in the winter, my Rossi boots.

    I have walked miles in the Hermes and Lanvin flats. The Chanel wedges are a little more dressy but still very comfy. The Rossi boots which are completely waterproof and comfortable enough that you can literally hike in them.

    Every shoe I travel with has to be comfortable for long periods or they get abandoned – I have left a few pairs behind; none because of lack of comfort: a pair of flats that got hopelessly dirty in Indonesia, old sneakers in Jordan once I knew I was done with trekking, and Blundstone boots in its last legs in London.

    • Katherine
      April 17, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      Hi TC! I remember your comments about the Carina and I am looking forward to trying them. Which Chanel wedges do you have? They sound like a great option. I’d never heard of Rossi before – they look great! I hope I can find them in a store sometime to try on.

  • junebeen
    April 16, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Must try Camper shoes. They have a wedge, Mary Jane style that is the most comfortable shoe ever.

    • Katherine
      April 17, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      I’ve heard great things about Camper!

  • Rubiiee
    April 17, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I’ve often dreamed about what shoes I should take or what I would want to have when I finally get the chance to go travel Europe. These always included a nice pair of heels, of course I can barely where heels now, so no idea why I would dream that I can wear them!! Thanks for making me realize the importance of having comfortable shoes when traveling. HAHA!

    <3 Carolyn

    • Katherine
      April 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      I hope you get to go to Europe soon, and when you do – please pack comfy shoes 🙂

  • Anonymous
    April 18, 2013 at 4:52 am

    No interview for today?:((

  • Nutty
    April 18, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    I used to have a great pair of flat rubber soles long boots that were fabulous for walking about in London. Unfortunatedly, brought it to Spain and the rubber sole got caught in the cobbled stones and when I pulled my feet out of the stones, the rubber soles just tore into half! You could literally see my socks!!!

    I favour Columbia boots – you can walk 12 hours a day for 2 weeks and your feet wont feel tired at all!!

    Enjoy your posts!

  • sesy hasan
    April 21, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Kat,
    Iam glad you posted this. I had always fell on feminine small heels yet I mostly used low sturdy ones. I found them in a cheap local store, but now you gave me a high end version which iam planning to buy. You helped me save time in finding the perfect heels. Thanks.

    • Katherine
      April 21, 2013 at 9:40 pm

      No problem and I’m so glad I could help with another option for you!

  • White Crochet » Feather Factor
    April 22, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    […] Sale PSA: Saks’ Friends and Family sale has started for a quite generous 25% discount (it’s been 20% the last few years), with code FRNFAM2. The list of exclusions is LONG, but there are a few “classics” that are still eligible. I’d use the discount on a classic Burberry trench (love the horn buttons) and these classic ballet pumps which I just recommended in this post.  […]

  • Diva In Me
    April 26, 2013 at 1:39 am

    I’ve heard a lot about Ferragamo’s pumps. I’ll think about investing in one =) I’ve seen good reviews on Tod’s shoes too. Now, I’m undecided.

    Does this post mean you’re travelling soon? I’ve always love your travel pictures =)

  • Sonita Lontoh
    June 4, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Kat,

    Try Tieks (www.tieks.com). I love them for everyday and for traveling, very stylish and comfy (and no, I’m not affiliated with them, just a fan).

    Best,
    Sonita

  • Sonita Lontoh
    June 4, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Oops, here is the clickable link to Tieks: http://tieks.com/