Picking a Good Shoe for Travel

Styling Tips

Give your feet the five-star treatment with the right travel shoes — no matter where you’re headed.

Last updated: January 25, 2022
5 min read
How to Pick Good Shoes for Travel

You've got a lot to think about when prepping for travel. For starters, you need to plan your wardrobe, remember all your toiletries and bring all those necessary phone and electronics chargers. Another key item to not forget — your shoes!

In fact, data suggests that Americans take about 17 vacation days per year, while in European Union countries, that number is at least 20 days per year and even higher in places such as France, where it's 30 days or more. Add weekend travel and work business trips to this number, and there are a lot of opportunities to pack your bags with your most comfortable shoes and go.

Deciding which shoes to bring isn't easy — after all, shoes take up a lot of room in a suitcase. Do you need sneakers or walking shoes? Sandals or hiking shoes? Slip-ons or lace-ups? To make sure you’ve got the right travel shoes in your luggage (and on your feet), ask yourself these simple questions as you decide what to bring on your trip.

Are You Flying or Driving?

You'll have to wear one pair of travel shoes as you head out on your trip. To decide which ones can get you comfortably from point A to point B, you'll want to think about how you’re getting to your final destination. You want your feet to be comfortable and happy while you’re traveling, whether that's sitting on a plane or driving in a car. To ensure comfort, look for a sneaker or shoe with the right amount of cushioning and breathability.

If you’re flying, you may want to avoid travel shoes with open toes. Yes, flip flops and travel sandals are easy to take off at that security checkpoint, but they also leave your toes exposed to the whims of airplane temperatures. Simply put, your feet can get cold. Many travelers find that sneakers and comfortable walking shoes provide the right amount of comfort and make it easier to make those long walks through an airport. Sneakers and walking shoes also provide extra cushioning and support should your feet swell in transit.

If you're in a car and not the driver, you may want slip-on shoes that are easy to take off. You can give your feet a nice stretch between stops on the drive. There’s no reason you can’t go barefoot inside the car, after all. You might choose flip flops or sandals for this reason. However, if you’re wearing shoes to save space in your luggage, you may want to put on bulkier shoes to save room in your backpack, luggage or carry-on bag

Where Are You Headed?

Another factor you can use in selecting travel shoes is where you're going. Are you headed to the mountains? If so, you’ll need the right footwear for those long day hikes. Will it be raining on that hike? Make sure you've got waterproof sneakers or hiking boots with a water-repellant or water-resistant finish. Stopping at an urban oasis? Stylish walking shoes or athletic shoes are a great option. Going to the beach? Flip flops and water shoes it is.

You'll also want to check the weather report for your destination. If you’ve got warm temperatures during the day, but cooler ones at night, you might need to vary your shoe selection by the hour on the clock as well. If a lot of rain moves into the forecast, you may need an extra pair of shoes to accommodate those puddles. And you may need to find space for winter boots (paired with merino wool socks) if you'll be trudging through snow and ice.

Where you’re going definitely impacts the number of shoes you bring and what type. It’s important to match what goes on your feet with your travel destination. With the wrong shoes, you might suddenly find it hard to get around. If you’ve brought sandals on a trip that clearly needed sneakers, you could end the day with aching feet. The same is true if you’ve brought walking shoes when hiking boots would serve you better. Planning ahead is always a good thing for your feet.

How Much Walking Will You Do When You Get There?

The last point to consider, when choosing travel shoes, is mileage. How much walking will you do on your trip? This is the time when you may need to sacrifice form over function. If you’re headed out on a trip full of walking tours, don’t bring dress shoes but do bring comfortable, cute walking shoes.

It’s also important to look at what type of walking you’ll do. Take into account the terrain you’ll encounter, and even the weather. Is it a good idea to bring waterproof shoes? What about ones with a rubber sole for extra traction? If you'll be stuck in an office all day, travel flats or ballet flats may be just fine.

Factoring these things into your shoe selection also means thinking about what’s most comfortable on your feet for the amount of walking you’ll do. Will lightweight shoes make your feet feel better at the end of the day? How about which ones give you the most support?

Cranking up the mileage counter when you travel most likely means you’ll want to pack a solid pair of walking shoes. These can be almost any type of sneaker, but they should have the right amount of cushioning and support for those parts of the feet that tend to wear out faster than others. This could mean your arch, insole, heel and even your toes.

And the Right Travel Shoe is…

The right travel shoe is dependent on your trip, and it will be different every time you head somewhere new. However, picking the right shoes is the same as picking the proper clothes to bring. You pack your bags for what you're doing and where you’re going. You wouldn’t bring casual shorts on a business trip, and you’d leave that sundress at home for your vacation in the woods. Thinking through where you’re headed means grabbing the right variety of travel shoes to keep your feet happy no matter where you are.

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