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We all seek the holy grail of travel: Shoes that can do double duty. We want comfortable walking shoes for cobblestone streets during the day that are chic enough for swanky restaurants and dance floors at night.
Well, good luck with that.
While we suggest a few shoe choices on this list that come close to that holy grail, the reality is that versatile walking shoes that can get you through a day of sightseeing without sore feet or souvenir blisters rarely translate well into eveningwear. Nor do they work for hikes, trips to the beach or winter snow adventures.
So many shoes. So little space in a carry-on.
For your next trip, consider one or more pairs of shoes from our list.
Pro Tip: You might be tempted to ‘save’ a new pair of shoes to wear on your trip. Never do this! Remember what happened to Cheryl Strayed in Wild and make sure your shoes are comfortable and broken in before you hit the road.
The Best Travel Shoes for Sightseeing
There’s a reason we list AllBirds first. We LOVE this shoe brand for both men and women.
SheBuysTravel Founder Kim Orlando is an evangelist for AllBirds. “My Tree Toppers go wherever I go. Ultralight, comfy, washable AND cute. A hundred bucks well spent.” Every member of her family has at least one pair.
I agree. My AllBirds wool runners slip on – and off – easily. AllBirds are also the best walking shoes for touring around New York City, where I live. They don’t have good arch support, but I’ve always been blister-free after a day of sightseeing. And they are certainly more comfortable travel shoes than a pair of booties.
Check here to see the latest styles and deals.
More than just flip-flops, FitFlops come in a variety of styles from comfortable sandals & flats to dressy boots.
Frequent traveler Deb Steenhagen says hers are very comfortable. “I like that they look like lace-up shoes while being slip-ons, so they are very easy to get on and off.” The rubber sole and flexible cushioning make them ideal for a day of walking.
3. New Balance
FuelCore NERGIZE – The New Balance FuelCore NERGIZE, sold on Zappos, is also a sneaker disguised as a comfortable walking shoe. The memory foam insole and foam midsole make my feet sigh with delight. And with the thick rubber outsole, you barely feel the cobblestones in a historic district.
We shop for our New Balances on REI, our favorite place to shop for outdoor gear and sportswear.
SheBuysTravel Editor-in-Chief Cindy Richards swears by her Atoms. She took them out of the box and wore them all day without pain, without blisters and without tired feet. (She says it’s OK if you plan to buy new shoes to wear for your travels, so long as you buy these comfortable sneakers.)
The shoes feature a breathable mesh upper, a sole made of rubber and foam, and, Cindy’s favorite, elastic laces. She tied them once and slips them on and off. According to the website, the insole is lined with copper yarn that “actively kills bacteria, prevents odor and feels soft against your feet.”
Even better, the shoes come in quarter sizes. If your feet (like more than half the world’s feet) are two different sizes, you can order an 8 and half for your left foot and an 8 and three-quarters for your right and keep both feet happy all day long.
Best Travel Shoes for Exercise
Running shoes offer plenty of arch support and cushioning for a long day of walking from attraction to attraction. Plus, they tend to have the best arch support — a critically important feature for those of us who have high arches or have ever had to deal with the intense heel pain of plantar fasciitis. You definitely never, ever want to deal with that on a vacation!
I actually ALWAYS have my running shoes with me, but I don’t want to ruin them by walking. I have my running shoes with me for, well, running.
5. On Cloud
On Cloud running shoes are lightweight, so they pack well. And they come with slip-on speed laces. The rubber soles of my On Clouds have carried me through marathons and on moderate hikes. One caveat: the sole can embed stones and sticks, which means they don’t work well for hikes.
They come in a variety of colors. Check them out here.
6. Nike Flex
If you are not a runner, you still might want a pair of sneakers so you can use the hotel gym. Sneakers may not put you on the best-dressed list, but they can be the best walking shoes. Nike Flex is an inexpensive athletic shoe that is both a comfy shoe for walking and decent for wearing at a gym.
7. New Balance
Westin Hotels let you leave your exercise shoes at home (and your workout gear, too!). You can borrow a pair of New Balance athletic shoe, along with shorts, a shirt and socks. This costs $5 and you get to keep the socks.
I did that once and was so impressed with the New Balance shoes I tried that I bought a pair of 480v6 sneakers.
Best Travel Shoes for Adventures
For hiking shoes, Merrell makes some great boots. I prefer a low hiking shoe because I find a heavier hiking boot makes me more tired. Bonus: it weighs less in your suitcase.
The downside of low hiking shoes: less ankle support. If you have weak ankles, you might have to suck it up and wear your heavy, high-ankle hiking boots on the plane.
Whichever Merrell shoes you choose, chances are they will have a removable contoured footbed. That is great if you’re hoping to swap out inserts at a later time.
Make sure whatever shoe you choose is waterproof. When we hiked in Patagonia, I wore the Merrell Siren Edge Q2. This is a comfortable shoe for all-day hiking. And it has great traction.
Shop all Merrell shoes here.
If space in your carry-on is really an issue, and you need hiking boots AND running shoes (remember, I can’t travel without running shoes), consider a trail running shoe.
This is a hybrid of a running shoe and a hiking boot. It has traction for uneven terrain but is light enough for running. It wouldn’t be appropriate for climbing the Swiss Alps, but for a beginning hiker, it works well.
When you are going hiking in warmer climates, you will want to take the minimalist approach, but still need a very supportive sandal. Experienced hiker Jennifer S. Mitchell says her feet “get hot and blister easily in warmer temperatures. Flip flops don’t cut it for long days or uneven terrain.”
She swears by Teva sandals. They have a neoprene underlayer that helps eliminate strap friction, she says. The sandals also have great arch support. Check out this bright colorful pair that we’re excited about!
Tevas also work well for water adventures — good soles blunt the impact of a rocky river bottom while the straps hold the sandals in place and dry quickly.
For a happy medium between a high- and low-ankle hiking boot, choose the waterproof Vionic Nolan Boot. Cindy Richards swears by Vionics — she has several pairs, from tennis shoes to boots to summer sandals.
All styles of these shoes, developed by a podiatrist, come with a cushioned but supportive contoured footbed.
Best Beach Shoes
12. Olukai Sandals
Beach lover Keri Bartok Baugh recommends Olukai sandals, which she says “are stylish and last!” The compression-molded EVA midsole lets you take long walks on the beach with no foot pain and no cutting your feet on sharp seashells.
This comes close to holy grail status: The water-resistant Ohana Sandal looks nice enough to go from the beach to dinner. Just brush off the sand first.
All my daughters own Birkenstock Arizona sandals. Birkenstocks conform to your feet so they grow more comfortable as you wear them.
Although I usually like leather uppers, the synthetic leather uppers on these are super comfortable – and vegan, so they get extra points for sustainability. They are not the most stylish shoes, but they may be the comfiest shoes.
Best Travel Shoes for Winter
Texas native Breeze Leonard doesn’t have a big need for winter shoes where she lives, but her family loves to vacation in the snow. The start of her winter trips: Sorels.
“One pair lasts forever and they keep my feet warm!” Plus they are named Joan of Arctic – can’t beat that!
SheBuysTravel Tip: Be sure to pair these boots with good wool socks.
My waterproof UGG Adirondack ankle boots got me through many northeastern winters and at least one polar vortex, but they bit the dust this year. Still, 15 or so years is a good run–that’s durability at its finest.
If you’re looking for a shoe worth the investment, UGGs high-quality options never disappoint.
Best Driving Shoes – From Car to Dinner
Driving shoes like Tod’s, with a pebbled sole, are not only good for a road trip. They look great with skinny jeans, leggings or capris. I bought Tod’s suede Italian loafers in Italy that always travel with me, except when I’m in rainy locations like Seattle or England.
Perhaps I need another trip to Italy to get these loafers in smooth leather. Or I might just head to Nordstrom’s and pick up a pair.
Toms are also comfy for a long day of driving. And they can sub in for a beach shoe if you don’t have room for both.
Toms are inexpensive enough that you won’t feel bad ruining them in water. The canvas uppers do dry quickly. We love this pair!
Another possible holy grail choice, Tieks are stylish ballet flats that frequent traveler Nasreen Stump loves. She says she packed “multiple colors for cruises that took me from excursions in shorts to dresses at dinner.”
Not only do they look great, but they pack small. A great solution for casualwear that can pass as dress up shoes with lots of color options. Tieks master versatility and comfort!
Best Walking Shoes for Kids
We couldn’t leave out the kids! A kid with blisters on their little feet can almost ruin a vacation. Here are our tried-and-they-work kid shoes for all types of travel.
19. Sorel boots
Breeze Leonard and her daughters don’t need winter boots at home in Texas, but she bought them each a pair of these Sorel boots for winter travel. “They are durable and I never have to hear the kids complain that their feet are cold.”
Chaco makes great rubber-soled sandals that my kids lived in, perfect for everything from a water park to hiking in the Andes. The antimicrobial treatment really helped when they went to camp and their shoes were damp for eight weeks.
Plus, I love the adjustable straps, which give you a little more time with the shoes when their feet are still growing.
Adidas makes a water shoe for children that looks like a sneaker, with a rubber outsole, but is both waterproof and quick drying. The Adidas Terrex Voyager A RDY CF Water Shoes have easy hook and loop laces so kids can get their shoes on and off quickly.
SheBuysTravel Pro Tip: Always, always, always, have kids try on shoes before a trip, particularly if they are out=of-season shoes (winter boots if you live in Florida; sandals when you are heading south from cold weather). Kids grow out of shoes quickly and you don’t want to bring shoes (or clothes!) that no longer fit.
A few other honorable mentions are Clarks, Keen, ECCO, Skechers and Cole Haan.