Spring Travel Shoes Update

When planning a travel wardrobe, start with the shoes. These are my 5 favorite styles of travel shoes. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Start With The Shoes

Above: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

If you have travel planned this spring or early summer, you may already be thinking about your packing list. (I know I am! 😉 ) One of the lessons I learned early on when we began traveling was that footwear can make or break a trip. So now when I begin planning my travel wardrobe, I always start with the shoes!

Over the years, I’ve come to rely on a few styles that work best for the kind of travel we do. But before I go through those, here are some general guidelines for choosing travel shoes.*

Travel Footwear Guidelines

  • Comfort, comfort, comfort. Our trips usually include a lot of sightseeing on foot. You’ll want to be sure that the footwear you’re planning to bring has been “road tested” and doesn’t rub, pinch, dig or otherwise bother your feet. If you have to make a choice between a more stylish, less comfortable pair of shoes and a pair that’s more comfortable but less fashionable, choose the latter. If your feet hurt, you won’t enjoy yourself, regardless of how cute your shoes are.
  • Fit and stability. Your shoes should fit snugly, but not constrict or cause discomfort. If your shoes are too loose, you’ll have less stability on uneven surfaces, and you’ll work harder and your legs will tire more quickly. I find that some arch support and a low heel is most comfortable, but your feet may be different. If you require orthotics, be sure that your shoes will accommodate them. If your feet tend to swell up over the day, shoes with laces or adjustable straps may be your best option.
  • Cushioning and traction. Especially as we age, our feet have less padding on the soles, so I now stick to shoes or sandals with a nicely padded insole. A thicker sole helps too. Chances are you’ll encounter some surfaces that are slick or uneven, and it’s important that your soles have some “grip.” If your chosen shoes have leather outer soles, I highly recommend having a cobbler add a rubber half sole (and heel tips). This will not only provide better traction, but will keep your feet drier and extend the life of your shoes.
  • Versatility. I try to stick with shoes that will go from daytime to evening activities. That’s easier these days, as I’ve found that “smart casual” is usually as dressed up as we need to be. Unless you have a truly formal engagement on your itinerary (a wedding, a state dinner), leave the high heels at home. Seriously. I find darker neutrals often the most versatile and practical choice, though in warmer weather I’m partial to a metallic sandal or loafer/slip-on.

My 5 Favorite Travel Shoe Styles

I usually bring no more than 3 pairs of shoes on any given trip. The selections will depend on location, weather conditions, and activities planned. Over the years, I’ve found these 5 styles of shoes have the best combination of comfort, style and versatility for travel.

Ankle Boots.

Even for warm weather travel, I’ll usually include a pair of ankle boots, especially for transit days. I find them a versatile choice that work with pants or skirts. If there’s any chance of rain, I’d suggest a water-resistant pair (or treat a favorite pair with waterproofing spray). I’ve had very good luck with Aquatalia, but here are a few more choices:

Naot | Blondo | Munro | Aquatalia | Vionic | Paul Green |
Italeau | Cole Haan | Eileen Fisher | ECCO

Loafers or Oxfords

More refined than a sneaker, but with less coverage than a boot, these are a good pick for all but the most extreme conditions. If you don’t want to wear a full sock, try my favorite shoe liners (not visible underneath most loafers or oxfords).

Paul Green | Vaneli | Munro | Earthies | Geox | Josef Seibel |
Aquatalia | Paul Green  | Cole Haan | L’Amour des Pieds

Sneakers

For so many years, we were warned off wearing sneakers for travel, for fear of “looking like a tourist.” Worry no more if this is your preferred choice of footwear; sneakers are ubiquitous! I’m not a Sneaker Gal myself, except for the slip-on styles. While the multi-colored, chunky “trainers” were popular a few years ago, on our last Paris trip I noticed that more classic, sleeker styles were once again the preferred choice. I don’t think you can go wrong with a classic sneaker, or a slip-on style.

Cole Haan | Superga | Adidas | Paul Green | Sofft | Vince | Taos | Vionic

Mary Janes

If you tend to wear more skirts and dresses than pants, or just prefer a more feminine looking shoe, a Mary Jane style will often have more support and stability than a ballet flat or pump.

Naot | Taos | Earthies | Bernie Mev | Dansko | L’Amour des Pieds | Aetrex | Pikolinos

Sandals

While some people balk at traveling with sandals, I can’t imagine not having them when the weather turns warm. Look for a pair that will adjust to fit your feet snugly, has good cushioning and support, and a thicker sole with good traction.

Mephisto | Eileen Fisher | Gentle Souls | ECCO | Birkenstock | L’Amour des Pieds | Sofft

With all of the suggestions above, I tried to balance style, comfort and practicality.

What styles of shoes do you most often travel with?

*If your travels involve outdoor activities such as hiking, mountaineering, camping, biking, horseback riding, etc., you may need specialized footwear to accommodate.

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26 Comments

  1. February 13, 2018 / 5:59 am

    I am seeing lots of women wearing oxfords and creepers (thick-soled oxfords or loafers), especially with skirts. Also updated bowling shoes. Plus the usual variations (often metallic or sequined) of athleisure shoes. Heels are very rare, even for locals who aren’t sightseeing all day on foot. Europe tends to have rainy springtimes, so before mid-May it’s rare to get a chance to wear sandals. That said, a friend yesterday said he swims in the Mediterranean year-round, so “too cold” is relative.

  2. Nancy Friedman
    February 13, 2018 / 6:49 am

    I’d like to plug Fly London, which makes great-looking, super-comfortable shoes and boots that consistently appear on “best for travel” lists. For the best selection, check out Amazon’s UK site; even with shipping costs, prices are often lower than on U.S. sites. My personal favorites: Yala ankle-strap wedge pump and Yama ankle boot.

    • Susan B
      February 13, 2018 / 6:51 am

      Thanks, Nancy! I always forget to mention them because they run too narrow for me. But they sure are cute!

    • vtaloni
      February 13, 2018 / 2:45 pm

      I second Fly London, though the only style I can wear (because of my AA foot), is the wedge that ties. I’ve worn them walking all over NYC for 4 days straight.

  3. Elizabeth
    February 13, 2018 / 6:57 am

    Today’s post is timely, as I indeed have begun thinking about what to pack for a trip to Sicily in May, and actually have been eying 2 of the styles you show (the Paul Green loafer & the Ecco sandal)! I love Ecco shoes for travel (have 4 pair of the Bluma toggle in various metallics) and also Taos sandals. I often toss in a pair of black Toms to double as slippers, & a pair of black ballet flats. And your advice is spot on: no more than 3 pair tops, the lighter the better!
    Anyone have suggestions for appropriate wear for Sicily in May? Sundresses or ankle length pants? (I don’t do shorts). Advice appreciated!

  4. Ainsivalavie
    February 13, 2018 / 7:00 am

    Great list! At first I wondered why you left high leather boots off the list but of course it makes sense they can be limiting and heavy to lug around. Although the Aquatalia’s are crazy expensive I just bought a pair of their Blondo doppelgänger’s $106.00CDN. 100% waterproof, suede with a padded footbed. Caution they do fit small so size up a half size.
    Glad you included Dansko the shoe maker that has been every chef’s/hospital worker’s secret for years. No longer just the ubiquitous clogs they now make everything from cute ballet flats to awesome ankle strap shoes ( wide strap that does up with Velcro!) They too run $$ but last forever. I buy mine off Amazon because….Prime;)

  5. Jane Kimball
    February 13, 2018 / 7:10 am

    For those of us with “problem” feet, I highly recommend Munro and Vionic shoes. Stonefly is also excellent, but only available in Italy!

    • February 13, 2018 / 8:39 am

      Yes. My Munro booties are the best ever. They even make them so you can comfortably put in your orthotics.. Highly recommend.

  6. February 13, 2018 / 7:16 am

    I went to Paris last spring, and spent lots of time thinking about and testing shoes. I made some great choices (Ecco, Arche). By the end of the third day, knowing I’d be facing Versailles, I RAN to the closest Monoprix and picked up some trendy, comfortable trainers. European and whimsically chic, they were a life saver.
    This spring, I’m eagle eyeing my shoe collection. Alegria boots and sandals are my go to-good quality, comfortable and reasonably priced.

  7. February 13, 2018 / 7:41 am

    I love Ziera shoes for my problem feet, particularly for travel. Ecco sneakers and sandals have also been life-savers.

  8. Elizabeth M
    February 13, 2018 / 7:44 am

    I’ve started taking a gold pair of Tieks for evening when traveling. They are comfortable and don’t take up much suitcase room. I’m glad to see you referencing Ecco as I’ve always felt they were excellent travel shoes. Susan, do you think I need booties for late August in Paris and Normandy?

    • Lisa
      February 13, 2018 / 5:52 pm

      Do you find that the ticks work for a day of sightseeing? They’re great for Home and work, but I wonder about travel.

      • Elizabeth M
        February 15, 2018 / 4:22 am

        Honestly, I haven’t tried the Tieks for a day of travel, just for evening. I do find them to be quite comfortable anytime I wear them.

  9. Lyn
    February 13, 2018 / 8:35 am

    Another vote for Eccos. I’m glad to see another poster say the black oxfords were trendy since those are my travel shoes. As comfortable as sneakers, lightweight, waterproof (so far, at least), although they have never made me feel stylish. With smartwool socks, my feet are happy all day long. I’m on my second pair. After 10 years of faithful service, the rubber soles on my first pair literally fell apart in a little village with no shoe stores. Luckily I had packed a pair of sandals that were good enough to get me through the rest of the trip. Packing for “just in case” is usually a bad idea for packing light, but a backup pair of comfortable shoes is an exception. As Susan says, it’s all about your feet.

  10. Lynne
    February 13, 2018 / 9:27 am

    Totally agree with your shoe choices . I travel a great deal and especially to warm climates, so good walking sandals are a must for me. Last year I tried Aveo and was very happy walking all around hot and steamy Cambodia and India.

  11. Angela
    February 13, 2018 / 11:36 am

    For our forthcoming trip of the upper South Island of New Zealand, I have chosen to take Skechers slip on in black with white soles. Reason being, with unpredictable weather looming (cyclone in the South Pacific) I wanted something that would dry quickly after a drenching. Have also got Hush Puppies (body shoe range) sandals as you describe which hopefully cross the stylish and comfortable divide.

    • February 13, 2018 / 4:28 pm

      I love that Skechers shoe style, too — the black uppers with white bottoms. You’re headed to a great part of the world — beautiful wines and beautiful Kiwis. Enjoy!

      • Angela
        February 14, 2018 / 12:04 pm

        Thank you, I’m lucky enough to live here. It’s paradise.

  12. Ellen
    February 14, 2018 / 5:11 am

    Last fall we took traveled to the Lake Como region of Italy and to Provence. It was a small group trip focused on touring gardens and estates, and since these are all nestled in the foothills of the alps it was fairly vigorous hiking, much of it straight up and down steep slopes (the gardens of Provence are not the neat and tidy sorts that the wealthy Italians prefer)., but we also visited the small cities and small town markets as well. We stayed in Arle. I wore nothing but my Teva sandals in the daytime; while I had a backup pair of thick soled Taos sneakers, they were not sturdy enough to walk on rough pebbled walkways for very long. Among the women in the group, Tevas were the strong first choice; Keens were a close second. All of the men were wearing hiking shoes. I would have worn any of the pictured shoes in the evening, but none would have suited for daytime. The shoes I wore would have never put me on the best dressed list, but they were definitely the most appropriate.

  13. Denise
    February 14, 2018 / 12:31 pm

    In recent travels to Europe urban tours (3 trips), I’ve worn Mephisto suede wedge with pants, Mephisto thick soled suede and patent leather sneaker for winter tour, and very warm. Mephisto warm gold city sneaker for spring trip. I also like AGL and wear ballet flats with skirts and dresses. When I couldn’t find a new shoe to my liking, I took the AGL’s to she repair for new rubber heels and general spiffing up. Perfect for walking around Paris. Heading to Paris and Switzerland this spring and need to decide what will work this year. I highly recommend Mephisto for comfort and style.

  14. Janet
    February 14, 2018 / 5:00 pm

    I can’t wait to check out your suggestions! I have such a hard time finding comfortable shoes that fit with my poor bunions. Thanks all!

  15. February 15, 2018 / 3:18 pm

    Great timing. I just fractured my foot while falling off my clogs. I’m called the Glamorous Clutz. So it’s time to grow up and wear proper shoes. But I sill want style. So I looked at your list and thought. That’s it. Lots of style and comfort! I will certainly come back to this once I can put my foot in a shoe. 6-8 weeks to go. Thanks for your always stylish recommendations. If it isn’t travel it’s medical. Who knew?

    • Susan B
      February 15, 2018 / 3:29 pm

      Sandra, you need to quit breaking bones long enough for us to meet up for lunch! 😉 Seriously, though, I hope you heal quickly and are back on your feet soon.

  16. Helene GUILHOT
    February 17, 2018 / 12:41 pm

    Thank you very much, Susan, for this post, so clever, rare, and useful.
    You describe perfectly the problem of :
    – walking a long time
    – with the maximum of comfort
    – and the wish to be a minimum smart and young
    I never read anything so useful.
    I also congratulate you very much for the shoes proposals, all with so much quality.
    Y would only add one thing : a pair of very light slippers, to be relaxed at the hotel, or in a rental.
    Like these ones :

    https://www.isotoner.fr/femme/chaussons/chaussons-ballerines-femme-211.html

  17. Alanna Sydes
    February 18, 2018 / 12:30 pm

    Sandra, you may find you have trouble wearing your current shoes after coming out of plaster. I broke my foot and after wearing a moonboot for 8 weeks, found that none of my closed in shoes fitted that foot. I need to go up at least half a size in length and also go for a wider fitting. The foot would swell after any amount of walking and it was probably twelve months before it settled.

    With a month long trip ahead of us, I bought a pair of Ecco sandals ( the trek type that I would not normally wear) that had a firm sole. I also bought a gorgeous pair of walkers with black patent leather from a German brand called Waldlaufer. Again, these had thick soles. Thankfully both of these shoes worked and I was able to enjoy the trip four months after the broken foot.

    Susan, I already have the Ecco sandals pictured. They are so comfortable and the colour is lovely. I’m now eyeing off the Josef Seibel sneakers, although I’m not sure if I can get them in Australia.

  18. February 19, 2018 / 12:54 pm

    I love the Ecco Soft sneaker. I wore them in London in November, and we walked at least 7 miles each day. Super comfortable insole!

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