Start With The Shoes
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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.