At the risk of repeating myself 😉 , footwear is THE most important part of a travel wardrobe. Your shoes can make or break a vacation (or a business trip, but for the sake of this post we’re focusing on leisure travel). When planning a travel wardrobe, work from the feet up and if you have to choose between your most stylish or your most comfortable and supportive shoes, go for the latter every time. The good news is that many shoe companies have caught on that comfort footwear doesn’t have to be ugly. Many European brands especially seem to offer a happy medium between style and comfort, and even among stylish Parisiennes you’ll spot plenty of “sensible” shoes.
Even if you’re not relying on public transportation, activities like sightseeing, museum hopping and shopping while on vacation often involve more time on our feet we are accustomed to in daily life. You really want shoes with “walk all day” comfort…and that means being able to put them on and forget about them. Take any shoes you’re planning to travel with out for a few straight hours of shopping, walking and standing before you go. What may be comfortable for a walk to the bus or running lunchtime errands may turn our to be problematic (rubbing, hot spots, slippage) over a longer period of time. Sometimes an orthotic, arch support, padded insole or heel pad will solve a problem, but you want it solved before you start packing.
Unless you are planning activities like backpacking, snowshoeing or skiing that will require special equipment, 2-3 pairs of shoes (including the one worn on the plane) will be plenty. I try to alternate my shoes day-to-day so they have a chance to dry out and breathe. Even if we have a dressy evening or two planned, I no longer bring high heels or any shoes that I can’t walk in for at least 30 minutes.
It’s important that your shoes are supportive and stable on your feet, and this includes sandals. If your feet slide around in your shoes, your legs and feet will tire more quickly. I find that a higher vamp or a mary-jane strap adds to stability. I also find a low heel more comfortable than a flat; your mileage may vary. Be sure that the soles/insoles have adequate cushioning and padding, especially if you will be walking on a variety of surfaces. There’s nothing like feeling every bit of gravel on the soles of your feet to make you regret those adorable ballet flats.
I’d also caution against shoes that are too tight. Yes, leather will stretch, but your feet may also swell during the day. Shoes or sandals with laces or adjustable straps can help with this. Be sure your shoes are comfortable with the hosiery you’re planning to bring, and when it comes to hosiery, you want it snug on your foot with no bunching. Rather than cotton socks, I prefer athletic socks with moisture wicking not only for comfort but also because they can be hand washed and dried overnight.
My own packing light strategy is to select shoes that can go from day to evening (casual to “smart casual” venues), so I haven’t included trainers/sneakers in my selections, but they may be a good choice for you depending on your activities. Although multi-colored athletic shoes may be a hot trend right now, a sleeker more monochromatic style may provide more styling options. If your travels will be during seasons where rain or snow is likely, be sure that you have at least one waterproof/weatherproof pair.
Do you have any tips for choosing shoes for travel?