packing for Paris: shoes

Paris packing. travel capsule wardrobe Paris

A couple of commenters mentioned last week that they’re preparing to visit Paris in October, and asked about travel wardrobes and packing. I’m going to repost a couple of earlier posts on this topic and update with some current options/suggestions. Both times we visited Paris in October, the weather was warm and pleasant for most of our trip (low-to-mid-70’s F) and then turned cool and wet the last couple of days. So you’ll want to be prepared for a range of conditions. Today we begin, as you should when planning a travel wardrobe, with shoes. 

Originally posted March 29, 2012:

The topic of footwear in last week’s posts about packing for Paris, here and here, generated a lot of great discussion and suggestions. I’ll say again that shoes are the most important part of a travel wardrobe to get right, and sometimes the most difficult.

Before I wade further into this topic, allow me to stipulate to the following: whether at home or traveling, health always comes first. If you have foot or structural/medical conditions that require specific types of shoes or orthotics, follow your doctor’s/therapist’s orders and style be damned. Next across the finish line is comfort. No one looks chic if they’re hobbling or if their face is contorted in pain from blisters or aching feet. That doesn’t mean that one has to abandon all hope of style (ye who enter here), but in my own view, there’s a sliding scale with absolute comfort at one end, and OMG CUTE! at the other, and each of us has to find out own balance point along that continuum. Perhaps this is easier if your style aesthetic skews less in the direction of Choo’s with 5″ heels, but I do think one can find shoes that are both very comfortable and reasonably stylish. I’ll admit that my own taste in footwear can lean toward what I call “EuroFunky” which does make the “comfortable” part of the equation a bit more accessible. And when I say “comfortable,” that means walking-or-standing-for-several-hours-a-day comfort, not walking-three-blocks-to-the-bus-stop comfort.

I’ve found the best shoes or sandals for travel generally have these attributes:

  • fit snugly, not too loose or tight. Too loose and your feet slide around inside the shoe; not only is this more unstable on uneven surfaces, but your feet and legs have to work harder and will tire more quickly. Too tight, and you risk hot spots and blisters. If your feet swell during the day, straps, laces, buckles that allow easy adjustments are optimum.
  • a reasonably thick and cushioned sole with good traction, again for coping with a variety of surfaces
  • some arch support.
  • simple enough in style to dress up or down, and wear with most (if not all) ensembles you’ll be packing.
Because I’m a committed Carry-On Only traveler (which le monsieur considers a sure sign that I should BE committed), I limit myself to two or three pairs of shoes, one of which is worn on the plane. On our upcoming trip to Paris and Provence which spans most of the second half of April, I’m anticipating that the weather could be quite changeable and so am planning on three pairs. Right now it’s looking like…
Naot “Modesto”

1. Short Boots. I’ve been wearing these Naot’s (above) regularly for the last few weeks, and have given them the “all day on my feet” road test which they passed with flying colors. They look great with skirts and tights, over leggings and slim pants, and fit nicely under my bootcut jeans. These would be my “on the plane” shoes. (If weather forecasts as we get close to departure look more solidly warm and sunny, I’ll consider leaving these at home.)

2. My now-older-than-dirt ECCO Mary Janes. This is an old picture too, and they’ve actually been refurbished with new soles and a good conditioning and polish, so look better than the picture would indicate. I’ve worn these all over Paris on prior trips, so this choice was a no brainer. Plus, they work well with skirts and dresses, more so than loafers which would have been my other option.

A note on socks/hosiery: some people are perfectly comfortable slipping their bare feet into closed-toe shoes and running around all day. Une femme is not one of those people. Thus, if the weather turns too warm for tights or socks, I will be glad to have….

Dansko “Sandi”

3. Sandals. Dansko’s tend to divide the masses, but I’m in the “Love ‘Em” camp. These are wear-all-day supportive and comfortable, and work with both skirts and pants. (They look better on than in the picture too.)

You may have noticed that all of these have a slight heel. I find a 1-2″ heel actually more comfortable and supportive than flats, possibly because of my high arch.

2013 Addendum: for October, I wouldn’t bother with sandals. Here are some choices currently available that combine comfort and style for a Paris vacation. Most of these will go from day to evening.


Brands Aerosoles, Arche, Beautifeel, Clarks, ECCO, Gentle Souls, Mephisto, Naot, Think! all offer shoes that combine style and comfort; it’s just a matter of finding what works for you.

And under the heading of Great Minds Think Alike, Duchesse offers up some unique and stylish suggestions!

What are your favorite shoes for travel? Do you tend to stick to a single color, or mix it up a bit?

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  1. Very timely post for me! We leave for London on Monday. I’ve been watching the weather and think it may not quite be cool enough for my La Canadienne boots which are suede (the jury is still out on that). These boots are the most comfortable footwear I’ve ever worn. I do plan to take my Naot Mary Janes (with adjustable strap) and a very comfortable pair of Clark flats. We are going to a dressy reception at a historic home, so I am also considering taking a pair of (low) heels.

    1. Yes, it’s cold enough in the UK for boots – people are just starting to wear them now, although I’m staying out of them ’till it gets a bit colder so I’m not completely sick of them after six months of wear ’till late spring.

  2. I’ve worn plain black Merrell clogs for walking all over London, Paris, Bruges…all of which involved air/train travel. For the most part they have been fine, but I think they have changed manufacturers and/or the materials used because I have not found the recently purchased items to be as good as ones from a few years ago. Looking for a new go-to-shoe, so your listing is timely.

    1. I walked all over France and Italy in Merrells but I agree with Mary, the quality has gone down. I traveled this summer and decided to update my Merrells and ended up returning the new versions and made do with my old ones. I’m not sure what I’ll do when these fall apart. For winter traveling I have Born boot that are heavenly!

  3. Great suggestions. I have all the same issues when doing art shows. I find Naots the most comfortable and some are really quite stylish. I have the same Dansko sandals in snake skin for daily wear and love them. For a fancier comfort shoe I a love Earthies. High arch and many cool design. Heels look great, but only for short amounts of time. Nothing is worth injuring your feet.

    blue hue wonderland

  4. Thank you so much for the wonderful suggestions. I am exploring many of these to see which is the one for me. I like to walk 5-8 miles a day and I will have plenty of time to break in a pair before I leave for Paris by taking them on one of my walks. Apparently, we have a great Jazz club in our hotel, so I will bring a pair of pointy toe pumps for attending a session or two there. I just need to go down the elevator in them.

    The capsule wardrobe links you provided are a great tool for me to help me refine my choices. I do have several E.F. pieces that will travel well. I love the Helmut Lang asymmetrical top in white, but have just ordered my Euros and may need to see what other “expenses” come up before I leave before investing in that piece ( hair, nails, make-up…and the walking shoes)

    Thanks for the great advice.

  5. Just cross-posted on Duchesse’s blog, but I highly recommend Wolky’s Passion model. Has a ballet slipper feel, tons of support, many colors, small heel, and little straps to hold your feet in for walking.

  6. As I am on the hunt for a new pair of walking boots so this post couldn’t have come at a better time! I’m also a committed “carry on” only traveler which means a max of two pairs of shoes in the winter. It’s strange but for winter trips, I definitely stay to one color of shoe – black. For summer, I find I mix it up more. I couldn’t agree with you more on the issue of shoes – comfort always comes first for me.

  7. I liked this post the first time ’round and it’s even better with the update! But you do stir my constantly simmering desire to get to Paris in the fall. Our trips are always in the late spring to accommodate my academic schedule but once retired, I’m determined to see Jardin du Luxembourg in all its fall colours.

  8. Is anyone else having trouble seeing the shoe selections at the bottom of the post? I wasn’t able to see the set in the last post either. Does Une Femme perhaps feel conflicted about commissions? 🙂 or am I the only one having this problem.

    1. Carol, do you have any kind of ad blocker settings active in your browser? I’ve also found that sometimes the images don’t load quickly or at all if the Internet connection is slow. If anyone else is having this issue, please do let me know. I’ll see what I can find out.

  9. When I was in Paris 2 months ago, I brought 3 pairs shoes. One of them is Arch sandals. Yeah, it’s a good pair of walking shoes … only good 3 hours for me. The 3/8 inch food bed and 1 inch heel just did not provide enough cushion for me. The second pair is Cole Haan oxford with nike air cushion foot bed, comfortable but too warm for July. Averagely I was on my feet more than 7 hours per day for 2 weeks ! It took me more than a month to recover my aching feet ! I purchased and wore Fitflop Arena sandals the rest of the summer and regret that I did not buy and wear it to Paris. Now I only look for shoes that are at least with 1 inch thick foot bed such as platform oxford or sneakers.

    1. I’ve actually found that Arche flats aren’t that comfortable or supportive for me, but some swear by them. OTOH, I purchased a pair of Arche knee boots with a low heel in Paris in 2009, which I then wore almost non-stop for the rest of that trip, including full days on my feet and was delighted with how comfortable they were.

      1. Agree. To me Arche feel like.. instant bunions. Never mind the lack of arch support. But it’s all a very individual thing, and if you have bunions already they may be divine.

  10. I have a pair of Arche flats and I am a little disappointed in them. Perhaps it is an issue relevant only to me. I have to wear heavy duty compression stockings all the time because of a lymph issue. The Arche flats are very unstable when I am wearing the stockings–meaning that my feet slid around in an uncomfortable way. I didn’t realize this until it was too late. I can still wear them out to dinner or some such event. I just can’t count on them for travel shoes or a lot of walking. My Naot flats (mary janes with an adjustable strap) are workhorses. I would wear them for 8 hours plus of walking. I also have a pair of Mephisto fisherman sandals (the kind Duchesse discussed on her blog) that are FABULOUS travel shoes. I could walk forever in them–but they are not autumn shoes for Europe.

  11. Try Geox ballerinas (many styles/colors available) and loafers. Very lightweight, rubber soles, waterproof and pretty. Just back from 2 quick days in Paris where I walked everywhere for many hours, and more than a week in Cambridge and London, UK for business. Receptions, dinners, meetings, sightseeing–my vote is Geox. Everyone I see over “a certain age” wears flats or low heeled boots. When will I learn to not take that one pair of heels? Didn’t wear them–again.

    1. I second the vote for Geox. I love them — just bought my third pair. I wore their ballerina flats all through Lisbon, where we spent 10 days last year. Lisbon is full of hills, has many cobbled streets, and all of the sidewalks are made from small squares of marble (true). So, having comfortable shoes is essential and the Geox’s were terrific. We are headed to France next year and I will bring the ballet flats, plus my Aerosole sandals with a wedge and my flat Geox sandals. And maybe buy a great pair of French heels? Any brands to recommend?

      1. Love Roger Vivier heels–but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Usual suspects, if you can wear them and want to have forever heels, Charles Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik. Enjoy planning your Paris trip!

  12. Love your blog! I’m surprised that you didn’t recommend these Eileen Fisher boots. I purchased mine at Nordstrom and have been loving them every day since. I don’t usually pay this much for a pair of boots or shoes, but these were worth it.

    1. Privo by Clarks comes to mind, and I’ve had some workhorse Naturalizers- though I’d also say, if you find a pair you can walk in for a full day and still feel great they are worth any coin of the realm!

  13. I just got back from 2 weeks in Europe and I wore my Fly London Yala walking shoes everyday … So stylish and comfortable.

  14. All good advice… I’d only add a couple observations. One more suggestion is Crocs. The flats look totally fine to a European eye, which only recognizes the ugly clogs, especially of course in black :-). And they’re great for that between-season weather, as they dry fast and don’t slip. I’d seriously doubt the wisdom of boots in anything but the deepest of winter, as they’re likely to be only a heavy liability for most of the trip. Better bring some wool socks to supplement good regular shoes :-).

    My only other advice is that no matter how comfy the shoe you bring, if you haven’t broken it in it’ll be torture. You’re going to be walking for 8-12 hours in these, have you actually tried that at home before doing it over there? If not, better get busy training.. I’m French, and I do train before going over, as if it was a marathon, otherwise it’s miserable.

    1. Thanks for the link (wondered why I got comments on such an old post!) I’ve been in Paris in Oct. many times. Even though some days in first half of month can be warm enough for sandals, it is as if they blow a whistle and every Parisienne goes into boots or at least closed shoes. I wear a lot of Arche, but choose the higher-vamped or tie-on shoe styles or boots.

  15. There’s almost no topic I enjoy more than what shoes to wear while traveling! We’ve gone to Paris in October two years in a row and both times I brought a pair of Clarks boots — not ankle boots, but riding boots, in black — that I could wear with skirts/dresses and tights. Perfect. And I brought Danskos (maryjane clogs) that I could wear with socks and jeans/pants. This has worked perfectly for me. I can walk miles and miles and still look put together enough to go out to dinner. If I weren’t a carry-on only person myself, I’d have brought a comfy pair of heels. But I was fine without them.

    A belted trench is the other essential. And scarves!

    1. I’m with you on the trench and scarves (and also a windproof umbrella!). We were in Paris for a few hours last weekend (on the way home from Reims) and it was cold, rainy and windy. Brrr…

  16. Toni,

    There are many brands/price ranges for les escarpins (heels). It’s my understanding that Galeries Lafayette shoe department carries close to 200 brands, so that might be a place to look if you’re short on time.

    My personal French faves to look at: Jonak Paris, Eden, Bloch, Repetto, JB Martin (court shoes), Mellow Yellow.

    Hope others have feedback, too. I’m reluctant to buy anything that isn’t immediately comfy–not one to want to “break it in.” Let me know what you think.

    1. Beryl,

      Thanks for the recommendations. And I love the fact that heels are called escarpins in French — it sounds like escarpments, like edges. And certainly, it sometimes feels as if you are walking on the edge when you walk in heels. We will be in Paris for two weeks in June 2014, so I will have ample time to try on shoes at Galeries Lafayette. What fun!

      1. Oo la la! I love that you are looking forward to your Paris trip, Toni and Trina. What could be better? Enjoy your planning time, and I’ll look forward to hearing about your experiences, interactions–and treasures.

  17. My favourite shoes are by Thierry Rabotin and I buy them at a store on Rue St. Jacques near Port Royal. They are expensive but I can wear them all day. I have a pair of flats, a pair of oxfords and a pair of Mary Janes with a slight wedge.

  18. Hello–I’ve been following your blog for awhile. Love it! I want share my favorite comfort brand of shoe: Wolky. I have and love the Wolky Jewel. It’s beautiful on the foot. EXTREMELY comfortable!

  19. Even though you are a young woman of 56—I am a young woman of 67, and my motto when asked how are you, “FABULOUS OR ELSE!” I love your blog—really love it. Darlin—you have the right idea, and I enjoy coming to visit you on the net. It is too bad you don’t sew garment like a lot of my friends, but you provide a great balanced, and tasteful approach to garment. BTW, even though I am of that age, I too have two special needs kids still at home. We have adopted six, and these are the last two. Thanks again—and wish we lived closer! LA has the best garment district ever! SMOOCH!