DISCLAIMER: The following list focuses exclusively on women’s shoes. However, many of these brands, with the exception of Anne Klein and Grasshoppers, also carry men’s shoes, which I imagine are of equally high quality. If you have your own favorites for travel, especially if you can recommend any men’s shoes, please share in the comments below!
When packing for a trip of any kind, the shoes you decide to bring could potentially make or break your good time. If your feet are completely comfortable, you will most likely not even think about your feet or your shoes. You’ll be able to focus on doing all the things you want to do. If, on the other hand, your feet are in agony at the end of the day, or sooner, it could curtail your activities dramatically. Shoes take up a lot of room in a backpack or small suitcase so each pair should be able to function with most or all of your clothing and serve multiple functions if possible. When packing, I follow a few rules for shoes. First, they have to be comfortable and PREFERABLY stylish. Note, I said comfort first, then style. No matter how cute they are, you will end up hating them if they make your feet hurt. Second, I try to keep the total number of pairs to 2, or 3 if there is a special activity planned for which I will need a specific type of shoe, such as running or hiking. Third, they should all be in a neutral color, such as nude, tan, or black, that will go with every article of clothing I plan to bring. I have chosen not to feature running shoes here as that is such a personal choice, with each runner having very individual needs in a running shoe. I will say that I ONLY bring running shoes if I plan to do actual running. The following shoes will cover most non-athletic activities such as travelling, water activities, taking walking tours, or hiking.
I know some of you are looking at the picture and thinking, oh no, strappy sandals and high heels. Somehow the straps on these sandals did not cut into my feet at all; I guess they’re just wide enough while still somehow being sexy enough. These are my first platform heels and the platform, while only being about 1” high, makes the 3 1/2 inch heels feel almost like flats! I am not a person who typically wears higher than a 3 inch heel, usually much less, and will always take comfort over style, especially when travelling. I wore these shoes from one end of the Miami airport to the other, then all around South Beach and on another day walking up and down Calle Ocho in Little Havana several times. They even fit my crooked (previously broken) right pinkie toe just right so that I felt nothing (no pain, no pinch, no rub) when wearing these shoes, which I always say is THE sign that you are wearing the right shoes. These can be purchased from Naturalizer.com but I actually ordered them from DSW.com because they will ship to the store. There you can try them on, and if you don’t like them, you don’t have to buy them, no questions asked.
I purchased these for business travel. The black patent leather never has to be shined and always looks dressy. The “Sport” moniker is very appropriate as I feel like I could run a 5K in these. I wear them on long 8-10 hour days on my feet, including delivering 2 hour briefings often on an elevated stage where my shoes are at eye level for the audience. I will definitely buy more of these, perhaps in an earth tone if I can find it, to go with my brown palette clothes.
My Merrells are among my oldest travel shoes, at around 10 years old. I have worn them with casual shorts outfits as well as with skirts and dresses appropriate for touring even the most conservative religious sites in Europe. They have been completely comfortable on their own, easy to quickly slip on and off, and even at home are my go to shoes for running errands or just driving to the office. The insole is rather flat and at the time of purchase that was fine for me. I have recently experienced plantar fasciitis flare-ups, so I slipped some PF inserts into these shoes and have kept right on wearing them in comfort. Because my Merrells are 10 years old, the exact style is no longer available. I have found what I believe is a close match in the Sojourn Mesh pictured.
These are my shoes for anything that may involve water. I have worn them kayaking, and in showers of questionable cleanliness. They are also perfectly comfortable in dry situations. In fact, when I struggled through months of what felt like an arch injury but what I later found out was plantar fasciitis, I wore these shoes (without the need for inserts!) around the house from the moment I stepped out of bed in the morning until I got back into bed at night. Wearing my Tevas was the only thing that completely stopped the pain in my arch!
I recently learned that Teva has merged with Ahnu, creating Ahnu by Teva. I tried on Ahnus in the store and found them to be very comfortable. When I recently admired some comfortable-looking AND cute shoes of my cousin’s, she told me they were Ahnus! I have not actually travelled with Ahnus yet, but I anticipate trying them very soon as my 10 year old Merrells, see #3 above, will soon need to be replaced.
One of my newest pairs, these Grasshoppers Wyndham Boat Shoes were purchased for my trip to Norway earlier this year. I chose the navy and white with a tan embellishment because I thought the nautical look would be fun for walking around the ancient port city of Bergen. The insole is Ortholite, a memory foam-like material, with some light arch support. They went with most of my clothes, were stylish, and I never had a bit of arch pain while covering about 7 miles a day walking around in them.
7. Zamberlan Hiking Boots
I have saved the best, and most expensive, for last. My Zamberlans are the oldest shoes on this list, and have held up amazingly well. I initially invested in them around 2002 for hiking in Alaska. The trails there are fairly consistently muddy and cold so I needed warmth and waterproofing, as well as ankle support and stability, since I have an unreliable knee and an ankle that rolls out unexpectedly. These boots checked the boxes for all of those features and most recently joined me for a trip to Norway, where conditions are very similar to those in Alaska. As the heaviest and bulkiest footwear that I brought along, I opted to wear these while travelling to my destination rather than try to fit them into my backpack. At 16 years old, these boots didn’t let me down, keeping my feet warm and dry even in the wettest and coldest conditions. The treads are beginning to wear down finally, and I am facing having to replace them within the next year. I recently priced them online, and they have gone up in price, but I am seriously considering buying this brand again. If they are in your budget, I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Once you’ve found your perfect travel shoes, you may want to consider the following to get the most out of your investment:
SofSole Water Proofer:
Before I wear any new shoes, particularly suede or cloth shoes, I spray them with this. It keeps stains from soaking into the shoes, and keeps water out. If you throw your shoes into the washer, as I have done with my Merrells many times, be sure to retreat the shoes after they are completely dry.
Since my Plantar Fasciitis diagnosis, I have tried a few different inserts and all of the following seem to work equally well. I know from personal experience that the 3rd option stands up to running, and doesn’t rub at all, since it covers the entire length of the shoe. If you have a pair of shoes you love but either the arch support has worn out or you need more support than you used to I recommend you try inserts. It’s a small investment that can keep you from having to throw out your old shoes before their time.