The most popular shoe style in Paris (and it’s not a ballet flat…)

Paris is a city made for walking. I’ve easily been logging 6-8 miles on foot daily since arriving on Wednesday (according to my Apple Watch). Parisians have taken to sneakers (called “baskets” here) in a BIG way, especially in the last decade. And they’ve become the dominant style of footwear here, at least as far as I’ve observed. Today I’m sharing some of the best sneakers to wear in Paris. (Both for style and practicality…)

Spotted in Paris: the most popular sneaker styles. The best sneakers to wear in Paris.

The importance of footwear for travel

On our first trip to Paris in 2007, we were advised NOT to wear sneakers, especially white sneakers, as they’d flag us as tourists. So I packed my cute ballet flats and a pair of heels (for going out in the evenings). At the last minute, I threw in a pair of chunky walking loafers.

The minute we arrived, I threw on my “chic” ballet flats, and out exploring we went. Oy! My feet were in agony after the first hour or so, and I spent the entire day hobbling. Those ballet flats remained in my suitcase for the rest of the trip. (And let’s not even discuss the heels…a BIG packing mistake I’ve never made since…) I wore those fugly loafers for the entire remainder of the trip, and was glad to have them.

Now, I wouldn’t consider traveling without a comfortable (and stylish) pair of sneakers. Here are a few things to look for:

  • Support. Some of us need more than others, but very few of us will find a completely flat sole/insole comfortable all day. Many styles of sneakers will have arch support, and a little bit of a raised heel, which is often more comfortable (especially for those with plantar fasciitis).
  • Cushioning. We tend to lose padding on the bottom of our feet as we age, and a bit of cushioning in the sole will help prevent aching feet.
  • Fit. Shoes should fit snugly. Too loose, and your feet and legs will have to work harder to maintain stability, and you’ll tire more quickly. Too tight and you may experience swelling and foot pain. (The great thing about a laced shoe like a sneaker is that they can be adjusted throughout the day.)
  • Style. Many sneakers can work with a Smart Casual outfit. Your personal style will determine what that means for you. In general, unless you are very fashion-forward, I’d advise against packing a very chunky or trendy style.

The best sneakers to wear in Paris

As you can see from the street snaps above (all taken over the last couple of days), just about anything goes when it comes to sneakers here in Paris. Mostly, I’ve been seeing classic white sneakers, retro-style sneakers, and color-block styles.

Classic white

PAUL Green Hadley slip-on sneakers white
Though they look flat, these actually have arch support and a nicely padded insole.

Retro style sneakers

Adidas Superstar striped sneaker
(Black and white is popular, but you’ll also see lots of colorful variations.)
rag & bone Retro Court Sneaker, black
Lots of color combos available, per reviews they run a little small.
Veja v-90 retro sneaker
& gets rave reviews for comfort

Color-block sneakers

ara Nevada 3 wedge sneaker with size zip
(for easy on/off)
On Cloud 5 sneakers, pink
I’ve seen quite a few On sneakers in Paris. I have a pair of these and they’re like walking on clouds!

No matter your preferred sneaker style, you’ll probably see it here in Paris. The most important thing for travel shoes is comfort. Choose well and your feet will be happy all day!

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  1. I’m currently in Italy, staying in a small town near the Mediterranean. Ditto everything you said about sneakers!

  2. Susan! I just returned from Paris and couldn’t agree more re: sneakers. I brought On sneakers (in tonal lilac— including the soles) and wore them everywhere! I also went for navy per your recommendations. 🙂 This was the first trip during which I wore every item I packed multiple times!

  3. This is great news! I also grew up in the era of “don’t wear white sneakers to Europe!” and I’ve defaulted to black shoes – ankle boots or even comfortable walking shoes – to blend in while traveling for years. Now that my feet need more cushioning, I’ll be happy to switch to a more obvious sneaker (still might not be able to do all white though!)

    1. Love it! The crew socks with writing on them also caught my eye in your photos. Any idea of brand/where to look? Thank you.

  4. Thanks for the shoe tips! I have bunions and osteoarthritis so need a wide, round toe and cushioning. The ON shoes run narrow, especially in the toe box, so I can’t wear those. Foot md/surgeon/specialist recommended HOKA neutral shoe with a arch support (OTC, but he fit me and it is a different level and size than I would have chosen had I just ordered from the company or Amazon). I got HOKA Bondi 8 and the manager of the Fit2Run store where I tried them on said they are the most cushioned shoe they sell. Cushioned, but not wobbly. In fact, the sold extends around the foot and makes them very stable. Heavenly. I sized up 1/2 a size to fit the very thin, comfortable, footscientific arch support. I also love that the upper and laces are stretchy, so even though I got the Wide width to make the toes happy, the rest of my average width foot and narrow heel are held nicely.

  5. I always enjoy your posts & especially love any about shoes & about Paris! My family is headed to Belgium & England in early summer & I’m already thinking about what sneakers to bring. So glad that they are considered “appropriate” travel attire these days.

  6. Love this new “fashion shoe”. I splurged on Paul Green, per your recommendation, and love them. I also bought a pair of On sneakers. They are stylish and feel like slippers. On a recent trip to Japan, I packed two pair of sneakers and black ballet flats. I’m going to Paris in early June and will pack my two new pair of sneakers. I’m not sure what the third pair of shoes will be — sandals or ballet flats?

  7. Sneakers were always difficult for me because I have very high insteps and arches and need at least a 1.5″ heel (and inserts don’t do it). A few years ago I discovered that a few styles of Mephisto sneakers — the “Trudie” in particular, which has that useful side zipper — met my requirements. Yes, they’re expensive, but 100% worth it. Tips: If you’re not already in Europe like Susan, order directly from European stores (e.g., Chaplin shoes in Amsterdam, Chaussures Mephisto in Bordeaux). Even with shipping costs you’ll save ~50%. And delivery is by air freight, so it’s speedy. If your feet are in the wide side, look for the Mephisto “Mobils” sub-brand, which is built on a wider last.

  8. I feel lucky to be living when comfortable shoes like sneakers are fine to wear almost everywhere. And so many options to choose from. Thanks for presenting a great variety of styles, comfort features and prices, and thanks to the commenters for adding suggestions.

  9. Hi Susan! I’m so grateful that sneakers are popular in Europe–especially in Paris! My old feet need sneakers these days! Sadly a lot of the popular styles/color are sold out most places I look. Thanks for your research! Have a wonderful time!

  10. New Balance also has a wide variety of sneakers and walking shoes. Some of the styles can even be custom color designed on their website and aren’t that much more expensive. It has been a few years since I last ordered a custom color pair of 993″s so I don’t know if they still offer that service.
    I have also found that for me, finding the right insole is critical to foot comfort. They allow you to add extra support and cushioning above and beyond what the shoe’s original insoles may have provided.

  11. Hi Susan
    I’m currently in Spain since March… until end of May. spent 16 days in London up front. Its the same in both…sneakers and ankle boots.
    I’m surprised you did not mention Adidas Samba. I’ve seen them all over. And I own black and white but I’ve been wearing my trusty Supergas mostly. I never, ever thought I’d wear sneakers traveling. But for comfort. they are a must with walking several miles a day.
    thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Hi Judi, having tried that style myself, I find it less cushioned and comfortable than the Gazelles, which I’ve shown and that have a similar look. But for those interested, you can find the Sambas here:

      1. The Puma Palermo & Club 5V5 (essentially the same sneakers) are a much more comfortable version of the Addias Sambas.

  12. I love that comfy shoes are in style! It seemed the same in NYC when I was there last year. Thank you to all who mentioned wider width shoes. I am one of the “lucky” ones with wide feet. And I see all the cute sneakers , but have to try mens or the brands that sell wides.

  13. It’s interesting that the pictures from Paris are showing mostly skinny and slim fit jeans. I would have expected to see more wide leg jeans. Are they not popular in France?

    1. It’s mostly coincidence, based on the clear snaps I was able to get of the shoes. (Parisians walk fast, too!) You’ll see a pretty even mix between slim leg, straight leg, and wide leg pants. It’s just that the wide leg styles are often worn full-length so they obscure the shoes. In the shop windows for spring, almost all pants shown are relaxed and wide leg styles (look for an update in a couple of days).

  14. I wouldn’t know what to do without my sneakers. Although my flat black ankle boots do a great job too.

  15. A post about shoes is always a hit! I am excited to see this, although just yesterday I went shopping at our local “comfort shoe” store after going to an event at the art museum. I was ogling one lady’s very nice slip on leather sneakers, but could not find something similar enough that I liked. I was trying to read the brand on the back of her heel (with not great eyesight). Were they Naot? I will probably never know.

    Anyway, I walked out of there with a pair of Dansko flats (Larisa in taupe, boring but practical) that fit perfectly, huzzah, and the fit was so good there was no way those shoes were getting left behind. They will be practical workhorses, the kind of shoe that I like to buy. Last fall I bought Dansko ankle boots that I’ve worn all fall/winter, I have probably over-used them this year.

    I also bought a pair of Vionic loafers, Uptown, in a beige suede. They are a little too big. They may have to go back.

    Originally I was thinking tan leather lace up sneakers. Have tried a copule but not sure. Shoes are picky. It is good that you provide a lot of options for consideration because fit and style are important. They have to look presentable and they have to feel good. A good shoe is always worth the money.

    I particularly like how the Adidas look in your photographs. Not sure if it’s going to be too young for me. Harumph. I usually don’t feel cute or elevated in sneakers, but they are so practical and if comfy, nice on the feet. I was just saying maybe sneakers aren’t for me, but maybe I will look again. 🙂

  16. I had a terrible bout with plantar fasciitis a few years ago. I will never not take the comfort and support of my feet into consideration again!
    I recommend shopping in person rather than online for shoes that you use for exercise and for extended time walking.
    I spent quite a bit of time in a local running store. I tried on many pairs of shoes, and had my gait scrutinized by the very professional staff. I must have walked a mile on their treadmill!
    For my serious gym workouts, I now wear the perfect for my feet Saucony’s.
    We also have a great comfort shoe store close by. They carry over 60 brands of shoes for all activities. Again, the staff is very well trained.

  17. Thank you, Susan, for the latest news. I also grew up in the “don’t wear white sneakers to Europe” phase. After seven years away from France, I was curious to check out the prevailing summer footwear when I was in Provence last August. To my surprise, it was–Birkenstocks! All through Provence down to Marseille, the strong trends were floaty floral dresses (both long and short) and Birkenstock sandals of all colors.

  18. I love your style and always look forward to your blogs! If you ever want a travel companion to Paris….I’m in !!

    So…for sneakers, I’m 62 and developed plantar fasciitis in my right foot. Ouch. I just bought some Michael Kors platform (I think it’s almost 3″!!) and I may be crazy but I love the style. I notice that none of your sneaker options are really platform. Is that not in style?