The best sneakers 👟 for travel 🧳

Susan Blakey in front of Coliseum in Rome, 2017

I have travel on the brain these days. ✈️ We’ve been planning a bit of travel this year (two shorter road trips this summer, and a longer trip to Italy/France/UK in the fall) and at this point are cautiously optimistic that we’ll actually be able to go. And of course, I’ve already begun thinking about what I’ll pack.

(Above, in Rome in 2017. Those were Paul Green slip-on sneakers with sequins. I eventually wore them to shreds and if they were to re-introduce that style, I’d buy again in a heartbeat.)

The best women’s sneakers for travel

As always, I’ll start with the shoes, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll be including at least one pair of sneakers. They’re comfortable, supportive and often lightweight. Over the past few years, sneakers have become ubiquitous, even in the most stylish cities. Well-chosen sneakers can go from day to evening as part of a “smart casual” outfit.

But the one drawback to sneakers is that they can be a pain when going through security checkpoints. Even with TSA pre-check, we’ve sometimes been asked to remove our shoes, so I always try to wear easy on-off styles on travel days. In the past, I’ve avoided lace-up styles for that reason.

Under the heading of “build a better mousetrap,” many brands have begun designing lace-up sneakers with a separate size-zip fastening. IMO it’s the best of both worlds: the adjustability of laces, but the ease of being able to fasten and unfasten without having to wrestle with re-tying.

Here are two pairs currently in my wardrobe (and on frequent rotation). Both gifted.

Paul Green | Sole Bliss*

*Use code FEMME15 for 15% off. All Sole Bliss styles are specifically designed to be comfortable for wide feet and bunions.

I have a couple of more budget-friendly styles on order to test out and check sizing, will report back.

More zip sneaker styles

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  1. Help! I have a very narrow foot – slim width – and have the worst time finding great shoes for travel. Any ideas, especially for sneakers, or any attractive yet comfortable shoe?

      1. Check out Ecco sneakers. They actually fit my skinny feet even though they are not sized as narrows.

        1. I second Ecco. My narrow feet like my Chase Tie 2 (mostly discontinued, but some out there to be found) so much I bought a second pair to make sure I’d have them when the first wore out.

        2. My Ecco’s are the zip style pictured above. I did find that they were a bit sloppy loose, so added a thin insole. I bought a size 6, my usual size. Probably could have used a 5-5.5.

    1. I have very THIN, B-width feet (with an A-width heel) and am a devotee of Ecco leather sneakers. I can only wear lace-up styles, because I have to be able to tighten them, but they come in so many colors and styles. I bought my first pair at The Walking Company after being properly fitted, and once I knew my size, was able to price hunt and order online. Nordstrom and many other retailers carry them as well. Give ’em a try!

  2. Cute choices. I need arch support. Do these have good support? I walked all over Paris in a pair of Propet Travel lights in 2019.

    1. Hi Susan, of the sneakers I have, Paul Greens have the best arch support. The Sole Bliss sneakers do as well. I’ll be trying a few more styles soon and will report back.

  3. I hope we all get to travel soon. I’ve been living in a pair of navy Paul Green sneakers with a side zipper. I love being able to easily slip them off using the zipper but I need to untie them to get them back on. It doesn’t take away from how much I love this sneaker!

  4. I have some Paul Green booties that I love so maybe I will try those even though they seem so expensive for sneakers. On the other hand, I have tried on and rejected so many other pairs of sneakers that are just not comfortable enough on slightly problematic feet. I probably do need expensive ones! I have not tried Sole Bliss before. I see that they accommodate bunions and wider feet. Do they seem wide in the heel as well? I’d love the width in the forefoot but not in the heel.

    1. Hi Laura, the Sole Bliss do have plenty of room in the toe box, but I don’t find the sneakers particularly wide in the heel.

  5. Sole Bliss is finally a shoe that is wide enough for me so thank you for the recommendation! I have two pairs now, Black Star and White Star.

  6. I swear by ECCO sneakers in metallic- have five six pair in different colors and always looking for more! Super comfortable for my feet and in metallic are a bit more dressy than run of the mill white or black. A good price point IMO (just can’t spend $300 on sneakers). A good pair of these, a pair of lightweight ballet flats and a sandal if it’s summer, and I’m set to travel. Can’t wait to have the world open up again to us!

    1. I’m with you on the ECCO metallic sneakers – I also have several pairs and am also looking for more. For me, they offer good arch support and are all-day comfortable. Ballet flats are also on my travel list.

  7. I can’t bear to think of travel. I don’t have anything close to the vaccination certificate some countries require (just a photocopied piece of paper; my spouse got no record at all), and we don’t have a second vaccination, either. We also live in the highest infection zone in your country or ours. Sadly, all bets are off. We’re stuck here for the duration.

  8. I am searching for sneakers without laces, slip-ons as you call them, with a bit of a platform sole and preferably in silver or so.
    Won’t be that hard to find, will it?

  9. I’m starved for travel. We are off to Mt. Rushmore and that part of South Dakota and a bit of Wyoming. Flying finally! Our trip to Romania and Hungary (private guide in Transylvania and a Black Sea to Budapest Danube cruise) seems to be a “go” for August. We are going to the Florida Keys in November and the Carribean. If France and Italy open up we’ll go. We have been fully vaccinated since early February and have the CDC card issued by the doctor. That is all they give.

    I normally take my running/walking New Balance…not all that chic but great for various activities and I take a pair of “wear all day” cute sneakers. While I do not normally spend a lot of money on sneaker, I did buy a pair of Gucci sneakers with the bees on them and I am blown away at how incredibly comfortable they are…they mold to your foot as most good Italian made shoes do. It turns out it was a great return on investment item! They will be in my bag.

  10. I have a pair of J-Slides that are comfortable but I would suggest avoiding any sneaker with a platform. I have caught my toe many times and have come close to tripping as sneaker styles have rubbery soles that ‘stick’. I spent my working life on my feet and anything with a platform was just dangerous. I think a platform would be as dangerous on a cobbled street as a pair of heels…they certainly weren’t great on a smooth and flat terrazzo floor!They also look so..orthopaedic! !I have many pairs of Reiker shoes..I think they had the side zipper entry long before anyone. Their sister company Remonte makes funkier styles but still classic ( also with zips) the shoes accommodate different insoles and many are rounded at the toe. They also make several ‘high top’ styles which I prefer. They transition better in cooler weather with ankle length pants and look cool with tights and a skirt. If you have bunions width is important but avoiding a pointed or narrow toe even more so.
    . Most people I know are booking Spring/Summer of 2022 for European travel. By then the IRL efficacy of the vaccines should be well documented as well as their response to the variants which is the wild card in all of this. Obviously, no harm in planning!

    1. One small detail I find helps prevent tripping on rubber soles is if there’s a slight turn-up at the toe, rather than being completely flat. That seems to make a big difference for me regardless of the thickness of the sole.

  11. Bring on the sneakers! I’ve worn house shoes so much that all my regular leather shoes feel hard and uncomfortable. You foot needs a chance to adapt to going out shoes again,

  12. I agree that ECCO are the best (yes I have narrow feet) and I love the colours they create year after year. I am not a fan of zippers on my shoes….just one thing that can easily break when I am a long way from home and no way to fix or replace the shoes.
    For Airport Security I just re-tie my laces so they are secure enough to walk the few feet through security but loose enough that I can slip in and out of the shoe with ease. Once through Security I just tie them the way they feel right for walking. And wear socks of some kind so my feet do not need to be directly on the floor since I do not need to get Athletes Foot from the dude ahead of me in line…..socks can easily be washed for the flight home or for sightseeing.

    1. It’s a matter of preference, of course, but I did just want to add that I’ve never had a zipper break on any pair of shoes. 😉

  13. On the back of so many positive reviews for Ecco sneakers I bought some, but after several attempts I’m resigned to giving them away. They just leave my feet feeling really tired and aching. So I’ll most definitely stick with my beloved Rollie ‘Derby’ of which I now have 7 pairs in glorious colours and patterns.

  14. With hard to fit feet I panicked when planning my shoes for vacation. Good news! Super feet inserts (green version) plus black Munro Gabbie took me all over Europe. I also bought the shiny silver ones when I returned home. ( see Susan’s photos above) ) I have Ww feet and ordered a full size larger to accommodate the inserts and because they run small anyway.

  15. I’ll vouch for Vionic. At the beginning of the pandemic I bought the high-top version (“Shawna”) of the “Abigail” you show here, and it’s been terrific. The shoes run a little wide and have removable insoles with excellent support, especially if you prefer a firm rather than squishy sensation underfoot. I’m tempted to get the low-top style next. Another tip: If you wear a sample size as I do, you can find great deals on Mephisto shoes, including zippered sneakers, at ShoesNW dot com. All of the styles are one-offs; you won’t find them in stores. Only three sizes are available: 37, 37.5, and 38.

  16. I have become rather obsessed with sneakers and am delighted to see so many styles now available. It is such a relief to be able to wear them practically anywhere (well anywhere that i go!) and look completely on trend. I live in inner city Melbourne so walk or take the tram almost everywhere so comfort is a priority.

  17. I recently purchased a pair of Vionic Simasa sneakers, and I love them. They are a supple white leather with a snakeskin trim at the heel and the sole is very cushiony. I think they will be marvelous for travel.

    Slip-on platform loafers from Clarks or Naturalizer are also great for travel. They feel like sneakers, but go from daytime sightseeing to dinner easily. I have multiple pairs for travel. I also wear them everyday with jeans and casual wear.

    I also highly recommend Sheec sock liners. They have several styles that are no-show for all types of shoes from ballet flats to loafers and sneakers. They do not slide down into your shoe.

  18. Hello and thanks for all the fashion inspiration!
    May I recommend the “Global Entry” program?
    You’ll never need to remove your shoes or take your electronics out of your carry-on again. The security line is so much easier.
    The domestic travel version of the program is called “Trusted Traveler,” or “TSA Pre-check.
    My spouse and I renewed ours a few months ago at our local Staples store, of all places.
    Happy travels.

    1. Yes, we love Global Entry, but still have been asked to remove our shoes at some airports.

  19. thinking about a trip and memories of trips is one of my ways of dealing with what we have all experienced going on a trip in the all most post Covid era may not be the same and any of us who rush to travel need to be highly attuned to changes Covid has caused and roll with it…for instance shortages and lack of staff, the idea that local residents may not welcome tourists as they once did even with their money is something to consider…Covid denial is a real thing however, to engage in it is not in anyone’s best interest

    1. Yes, we are keeping Covid very much in mind as we plan. We expect that we may need to mask in some areas, etc. We’ve also booked everything to be refundable, in case we need to reschedule.

  20. We just did a cross-country road trip from Baltimore to Sedona (four days in the car each way – really should’ve allotted five) and I brought two pair of shoes with me, my Vans and a pair of athletic shoes. I wore the athletic shoes ONCE and lived in the Vans. SO comfortable. I’m interested in the side zip shoes. I have a couple of pair of booties like that, and they’re a godsend.

    Honestly NOT planning to do any plane travel for awhile. At least not domestically. Too many stories of bad behavior on planes right now.

    I remember when flying was a big deal.

  21. Got my white Hero sneakers today and they go back tomorrow. Too tight on my little toe, and they really need to be fantastic at this price. Disappointed and hope the Vionic ones fit better. Arch support seemed okay in the short time I wore them, but not as supportive as I’d like. Nice idea, wish it had been the fit I need. On the plus side, shipping was super fast.