21 of our favorite travel shoes | CNN Underscored
There’s nothing that will stop you in your tracks — literally — as fast as an uncomfortable shoe. When traveling, be it in the mountains, the beach, villages, cities or mega metropolises, our feet are the things that keep us moving. It makes a lot of sense to find the shoe that not only fits, but feels good, looks good, ages good and — if we can help it — does good.
But where to start? Dr. Christina Rowe-Bauer, a podiatrist at Penn State Health, says that fit and comfort should be top priorities. In practice, this means buying your new shoes well in advance of any planned trips.
“Don’t just go away and start wearing your new shoes because they might irritate your feet,” says Rowe-Bauer. “Buy them early and break them in.” Even if they’re the most comfortable sneakers ever, they still can take some getting used to.
But fit and comfort are fairly general terms and can easily differ from person to person. “Everybody and every body is different,” says Rowe-Bauer, “so it’s helpful to start your search with things you know about yourself — like if you have high arches or flat feet, Google those terms along with whatever else you’re looking for.”
Rowe-Bauer says that you generally only need three pairs of shoes for most trips: a beach or warm weather shoe (she always packs her Birkenstocks and has heard good things about Oofos sandals), a sneaker (she loves her Hokas and Brooks) and a dress shoe (she’s partial to J. Crew because the store’s women’s sizes run up to 12). And while she does understand that style is important, especially while traveling, arch support is probably the most important aspect of a good walking shoe.
“A shoe that is sturdy and not too flexible that has good arch support that’s long enough and wide enough for the foot is going to be the [best choice],” she says.
Our favorite travel walking shoes include a variety of features perfect for most getaways, with aspects like comfortable insoles; durable — and sometimes sustainable — materials; foot-, heel- and ankle-support technology; and styles for different occasions, climates and activities.
Clarks footwear has almost 200 years of shoemaking under its belt, so when it comes to travel shoes, the company has any number of styles that can work, depending on the trip. But Clarks’ Pure Belle Flat is the perfect every-shoe. Wear them to a business dinner or a party, to a museum or a family get-together. Their sleek style and classic smoking-slipper shape are perfect for it all.
Allbirds’ Women’s Wool Runners are the kind of shoe that gets more comfortable with every single wear. And that’s impressive because they’re incredibly comfortable walking shoes from the very first try-on. Made from sustainable and ethical ZQ Merino wool, the Wool Runners are super soft, moisture-wicking and naturally odor-stabilizing. (Go ahead, wear them sockless!) Allbirds are machine-washable and extremely durable, known to last for years on end.
Superga’s Cotu Classic Sneaker is a classic in every sense. For decades now, basic white cotton sneakers for women have been a go-to for trips near and far. They go with almost every outfit, and are low-profile and lightweight enough to complement most travel shoe needs. The insole is cushioned, and the sneakers are made out of rubber with a crepe-textured outsole to give a bit of traction and durability. They can be cleaned in a washing machine and air-dried in about a day.
When you want to have style and walk around all day without blisters or sore feet, Dr. Scholl’s Insane Loafers are the way to go. And because Dr. Scholl’s supports sustainable manufacturing and production, you can feel good for multiple reasons when wearing these travel shoes; they feature a micro-suede upper with 80% of the lining made from recycled bottles. The loafers’ “be free energy technology” insole has three distinct zones designed to create one of the most comfortable slip-ons ever: extra support under the toe box, high-recovery foam at the ball and dense foam around the heel. And the flexible sole gives your feet room to breathe while still offering a sturdy footbed.
Finding a thong flip-flop that you can wear for hours on end is quite difficult. But with companies like FitFlop finally realizing an untapped market, you’ve got lots to choose from. The FitFlop Iqushion is an ergonomic thong sandal with amazing arch support and a cushioned shock absorption system thanks to the micro-bubble foam footbed. The thicker bottom also gives more heel support. Trust us, you won’t be able to buy just one color.
Teva has so many different styles beyond its iconic Velcro sandals, and the Anaya Bootie is a great option for stomping through cities. The booties can be dressed up or down depending on the situation. TevaRapid seam-sealed construction keeps your toes dry in moderate rain, and even though these are booties, the heel is only 1.5 inches high, and they offer great arch support with a polyurethane footbed cushioning. One Amazon reviewer said: “The first day I wore them I walked around a city for hours and they were so comfortable.”
Planning on spending your day traversing a new city? These sneakers from footwear pros Merrell will keep you comfortable during all of your sightseeing stops. The FloatPro midsole offers ample cushion for your feet, and they’re designed to withstand any kind of terrain you’ll experience, from cobblestones to puddles, dirt and beyond. Plus, we love that this sneaker features a toggle lace closure to easily slip them on and off — perfect for airport security.
Keen Elle Backstrap Sandals are lightweight and stretchy, providing optimal comfort for summertime toes that are exposed to the elements most of the day. Great for beach or boating, meals or outings, the elastic straps are made from recycled plastic bottles, and ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) footbeds offer great arch support and midsole cushioning — a rarity for sandals. Plus, the shoes are treated with an antimicrobial solution that helps with odor-causing bacteria on footwear. The rubber outsoles make these great for traction and they won’t leave scuff marks on boats either.
The Tieks classic ballet flat is a sleek and stylish piece of footwear with a clever split-sole design that allows them to fold up compact enough to fit into a small purse. The heel support is above average for a flat, thanks to the non-skid rubber outsole patches, but they leave a little to be desired when it comes to arch support. Don’t be fooled by their delicate demeanor, as Tieks are known for being comfortable all day and night. One reviewer said: “My […] Tieks have seen me around the world, through grocery trips, even through rain showers without so much as a single blister.”
The Hylo Light are pretty much perfect for any occasion. And as a travel walking shoe, they should be packed on every trip you go on, because they can double for your workout/running shoe as well as a sightseeing/general shoe. Wear them with a dress or your sports gear — they look great either way. And they feel great, too. They’re super lightweight, breathable, machine-washable and made from all renewable or recyclable materials, including corn!
Like all Allbirds footwear, the Men’s Piper Mids are carbon neutral and made with ZQ Merino wool — that great moisture-wicking softness that Allbirds has been made famous for. And while just about any of the Allbirds styles work for travel walking shoes, these throwback mid-level high-tops really stand out for style while also offering a bit of ankle support. Though Allbirds shoes don’t come with arch support built-in, they’re made to conform to your foot, so over time, they’ll provide some decent support. Reviewers love how lightweight they are, too.
Skechers Moreno Canvas Oxford Shoes are great travel footwear for just about any climate. They’re lightweight and stylish, with a two-toned upper and leather-lined outsoles. Many customers buy second pairs in a different color. But their crowning achievement is the memory foam soles, which offer cloud-like cushion while still providing support, especially in the arch.
You can’t go wrong with a classic New Balance. The 515 V3 sneaker offers a long-lasting durable rubber outsole and EVA foam cushioning in the midsole and heel. The suede and mesh upper give it a stylish spin even though it’s a sneaker.
Finding sturdy and comfortable flip-flops is not an easy task. The Vionic Unisex Wave Sandals are designed by podiatrists and come with an American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) Seal of Acceptance, so you know your feet are going to thank you when you slip these sandals on. The biomechanically designed footbed provides ample support throughout, and the durable rubber outsole makes it robust without looking too bulky.
With Blundstone’s men’s section, there are dozens of great styles to choose from for travel walking shoes, but the Original Low-Cut is a great go-to. Built with amazing shock absorption, removable footbeds and water-resistant premium leather, these shoes can take you up a hill or into a museum. The Blundstone durability legacy makes them a long-lasting choice for all your travel needs.
This shoe can take you from the boardroom to the base of mountains with its distinct duo-capability design and function. Made out of leather and Gore-Tex for ventilation and water resistance, it’s a workwear-inspired shoe that champions versatility and comfort. One reviewer said: “I’ve been wearing low-cut ECCO hiking shoes for everyday wear for thirty years, and I’d never wear another shoe brand.”
With Merrell’s Embark Mid Shield Sneaker, you can go for a hike and then get some tapas in the city without changing out of these versatile sneakers. Plus, they’re water-repellent, so even if it rains on your hike, your feet won’t be soaked at mealtime. They offer a lot of stability with their FloatPro foam midsoles, plus they’re really hip while still being understated. If you pack these for your trip, you’d only need one other pair of shoes to complement dozens of looks.
The Sanuk Hi Bro Lite Hemp shoe is stylish without being garish. They work for the beach or the bar and are super lightweight, with an IMEVA sole that cushions and protects your feet all day. A reviewer who has two pairs said: “This shoe is so comfortable, I wear them every day.”
One of the newer athletic brands, Hoka One One (pronounced “oh-nay”) has really made a name for itself and received the APMA Seal of Acceptance. This everyday sneaker’s meticulous design features more cushion than traditional running shoes, along with a wider sole and lightweight materials with a rocker in the midsole. There are also loads of fun colors to choose from.
Hylo’s corn runners are extremely versatile, so going from the gym to the museum and then to dinner is possible without giving your footwear a second thought. The proprietary Corn Spring technology in the midsole aids in pushing forward momentum and maximum energy return for your feet.
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