shoe for the road

travel shoes for Paris

sneakers | sandals | loafers | boots | boots (weatherproof) | slip-on | wedges

 

Footwear is probably the most important component of any travel wardrobe, and it’s where I always begin when deciding what to pack. There are three “S’s” I’ve learned to look for in travel shoes: Support, Stability and Style. If you can hit this trifecta, both you and your feet should be happy.

Support: I find that I need both some arch support and a bit of cushioning in the sole. While soles should be flexible, there needs to be some thickness so you don’t feel every cobblestone or bit of gravel. A low heel works better for me than a flat, but everyone’s feet are different, so be sure to incorporate what you find most comfortable.

Stability: if your shoes are too loose and your feet slide around, your muscles will have to work harder and your feet and legs will tire more quickly. You want shoes that are snug, but not too tight. If your feet tend to swell over the course of the day, straps or laces that allow for adjustment over toes, instep and ankle may be best for you. And a personal anecdote: when we were in Italy a few years ago I kept tripping on rough surfaces and actually fell a couple of times. I realized after a few days that the mostly non-adjustable sandals I’d brought and had been wearing were too loose on my feet. Once I purchased a pair that fit snugly, I stopped stumbling.

Style: If your goal is to pack as lightly as possible, shoes that cover a range of conditions and venues are optimal to help reduce the number of pairs needed. Over the last few years of traveling, I’ve found that certain footwear styles tend to work best from both comfort and multi-function perspectives. In general, dark shoes will “dress up” more easily than light shoes, and may be the more versatile option.

  • Ankle boots. In all but the warmest weather, these are comfortable and appropriate. I like ankle boots for travel days, as they slip on and off easily (helpful when navigating airport security), and provide some foot protection in crowds. Currently Chelsea boots are on trend (even with skirts) and can be an excellent choice. Lower than an ankle boot, some styles of “shooties” are also a good option.
  • Loafers or slip-ons. I have found that shoes with either a higher vamp or a strap over the instep/ankle are more stable than low vamp shoes like pumps or ballerinas (YMMV). Many styles of loafers incorporate a higher vamp, and are “smart casual” enough to go from day to dinner. Though “drivers” (with rubber nubs on sole and back of heel) are a popular loafer style, I find them less comfortable and supportive than a low-heeled or walking loafer. Slip-on sneakers (“skaters”) are popular now, and available in a wide variety of styles and prices. They often have a very cushioned sole, though may have less arch support. In a simple design in a dark color, they can also hit that “smart casual” target. You’ll want to be sure there’s no slippage in the heel, or again your feet and legs will tire more quickly.
  • Mary Janes. Hear me out. 🙂 These not only have an (often) adjustable instep or ankle strap, but will work with both pants and skirts/dresses. They allow more ventilation than a fully closed shoe, which is helpful in warmer weather. Look for a toe that’s more almond-shaped than rounded if you’re wary of a “little girl” look. I’ve included several styles below in a variety of shapes.
  • Sandals. If sandals are within your comfort zone, there are many workable options. Again, look for a snug fit, adjustability, a solid footbed and whatever support works best for you.
  • Lace-ups/Sneakers. I’m not a big wearer of lace up shoes or sneakers at home, though for many people this is the most comfortable shoe style and if that’s the case for you, go with it. Brogues can be very “tomboy chic.” I did take this pair of Taos sneakers to France last spring and was very happy with them (cute and excellent arch support). They’re on my short list for this year’s trip.

One big trend this season that may be a good travel shoe for warmer weather are shoes with perforations or cutouts. Especially in a softer leather or a nubuck, they can be an excellent sandal alternative, providing some ventilation while keeping the foot mostly covered. These from Arche are lovely (and washable!) and Munro also has an option (available in multiple widths including Wide). I’ve included more perforated styles below.

And, per Tish Jett of A Femme d’un Certain Age, “sparkly” shoes are a hot trend in Paris. 🙂 So don’t be afraid to pack a pair with a metallic finish, if they’re among your most comfortable. I’m still reviewing my options; trying to keep it to 3 pairs, but that Bordeaux leg of our trip (where it may be quite warm in early June) has me thinking I’ll need to include a pair of sandals.

Be Prepared: You’ll want to road test any potential travel shoe candidates for spots that rub or any other points of discomfort (ideally a few consecutive hours walking around, on a variety of surfaces if possible). If your shoes have leather soles, before you travel I’d urge you to get them to a cobbler and have rubber half-soles added. These will not only give you better traction on slick surfaces, but will extend the life of your shoes. While you’re at it, have any plastic heels/tips replaced with rubber ones. Suede (no longer relegated only to autumn and winter) can be given an extra water/stain repelling treatment.

I’m anticipating some questions about socks and hosiery, and will cover those in a separate post. I’ve been test driving a few new (to me) options.

Below are more suggestions for travel shoes (click on image for link to product), and for other travel wardrobe basics please have a look at my SHOP page. What kinds and styles of shoes do you prefer for travel?

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22 Comments

  1. Veronique
    May 4, 2015 / 5:38 am

    Très bonnes idées pour le voyage notamment les Mary Janes! En France une bonne marque qui a fait de gros progrès an niveau esthétique:Méphisto! Une idée pour le choix des chaussettes?

    • Liz in Paris
      May 4, 2015 / 2:33 pm

      Tout à fait d’accord avec vous concernant Méphisto! Gabor are also excellent. There’s a joint Méphisto-Gabor store on the Avenue de l’Opéra in Paris – my go-to store for comfortable yet stylish shoes.

  2. Marguerite
    May 4, 2015 / 6:44 am

    I just got home after 11days in multiple towns and cities in Germany. I had packed three pairs of shoes I figured would cover my needs, including business functions. Taupe loafers, bronze/gray booties and beige/silver low profile sneaker meant to be my main walking shoe. Ended up buying a pair of Rieker slip on athletic shoes as the cobblestone streets were hurting my feet. I’m not a novice at packing for Europe, so I was a little annoyed with myself about this. Thankfully, the Riekers were wonderful and I think I only payed 49 euros.

  3. May 4, 2015 / 7:03 am

    Merci for this timely post. J’adore les loafers by ECCO. I will be sharing it this morning with the French Girl in Seattle Facebook community 😉 — Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  4. mindy
    May 4, 2015 / 8:34 am

    now that you’ve had your Eileen fisher Sport sandals for a while, I’m wondering if you would mind sharing whether the fit has changed…I purchased the black and the camel (!), but haven’t worn them yet. they’re so comfortable, but I’m concerned that the buttery-soft straps will stretch out too much. any thoughts? thank you.

  5. Valentine
    May 4, 2015 / 8:42 am

    Lena by Thierry Rabotin in black Napa.

  6. Joanne
    May 4, 2015 / 8:51 am

    Such practical advice. Comfort and stability is of the utmost importance. A fall can ruin your trip and sore feet will take some of the pleasure out of touring. I’m travelling in August and will try the three pair of footwear approach.

  7. Susan
    May 4, 2015 / 9:06 am

    I have a pair of Arche perforated flats and like them. BUT, they are not good walking shoes as they don’t have enough stability or support. Recently, I bought a similar pair of shoes that are Gabor. They are MUCH better for walking as they are more stable and have better support. Gabor shoes are available at Nordstrom.

  8. Pam
    May 4, 2015 / 9:49 am

    For my long and narrow feet, I usually go with Munro shoes – the Traveler, a cushiony loafer style that has a slightly raised heel and sleek look, very comfortable also; the Lacy sandal, flexible, versatile, comfortable flat with elasticized cross straps, takes up minimal space in luggage; and the Abby (looks like the Arche shoe) which is also extremely comfortable and versatile. In cold weather I usually take the Taylor bootie – also versatile and comfortable.

  9. Mary
    May 4, 2015 / 10:01 am

    Last year for a week in Cuba (lots of cobblestones) I wore Birkenstock Gizehs everyday and they were perfect. In Europe I’ve had great luck with all different styles of Eccos.

  10. Andrea
    May 4, 2015 / 12:09 pm

    Wonderful and timely. We’re heading to Italy in June. I just ordered the Gentle Souls Noa, and will take my “go to” summer travel sandals, Kayla by Naot. The strap is adjustable, they’re feather light and have good arch support. The cork shoe bed is perfect for hot weather because your feet don’t slip and slide. I even wore this shoe when we trudged up to the Acropolis in Athens.

  11. May 4, 2015 / 1:17 pm

    This of course is the great evergreen of travel queries. Go to any such blogs, and there are endless threads about “stylish but comfortable shoes” or at least “shoes that won’t make me look like and Ugly (insert nationality). The Thorn Tree, Slowtravel and all the rest.

    Thanks for the shoes. Mary Janes are my most comfy shoes overall, but there is no way I’d go anywhere warm or hot without a pair of supportive sandals. In my case they wouldn’t be Birkies, and not just for aesthetic reasons. I don’t find them comfy. One of those great divides.

  12. LeeAnn Hart
    May 4, 2015 / 1:34 pm

    I’m in Paris right now, and I want to thank you (and Tish) for the confidence I had in packing for this trip. I brought far less clothing than ever before and feel completely assured that what I brought is both sufficient and comfortable. For footwear I brought black Dansko loafers (same style you admired in the grey/black animal print), and Land’s End ballet flats in black and leopard (they take up very little room in the suitcase–a Lipault bag–so I brought both). Tomorrow to the Maroquinerie Saint-Honoré/B. Biberon & Fils for handbag shopping! Merci bien for all your wonderful travel, style and packing advice!

  13. Duchesse
    May 4, 2015 / 2:34 pm

    Open-backed sandals like the Birks, in Paris or other large cities: not really safe if you are in the subway or bus. Much better to have sandals with backs, that you can’t step out of, or that are not pulled off our feet by someone else knocking against your foot. Also, those cities are dirty, and your feet get filthy if walking all day in open toes and backs. In Paris recently I wore brogues and, for evening Thierry Rabotin flats, very light to pack.

  14. Jane2
    May 4, 2015 / 9:26 pm

    My go-to brands are Merrell and Mephisto. I take 3 well-broken in pairs of footwear and Superfeet insoles, one full orthotic and one half orthotic for flats. And I can always find a pair or three to buy!

  15. May 5, 2015 / 6:55 am

    Just discovered your blog with this great article. People are always asking me what shoes they should be wearing when they come here, and well now I can refer them to this post! Look forward to looking back through your archives!

  16. Lisa Monti
    May 5, 2015 / 4:58 pm

    Loved the article and reading the comments. Looked up many of these brands to try. Great blog!

  17. dottoressa
    May 5, 2015 / 9:20 pm

    Love your travel articles,and comments too. I agree with all ladies about Mephisto (now have two pairs of sneakers which are very soft and shoe-like,black and taupe,but have to be careful ,some other models are not comfy), had a very good looking and comfortable gabor boots some years ago,and my friends who travel a lot are very satisfied with Ecco,Rieker and Gaastra,so give a try,when in Paris.I wasn’t on their sites for a long time,!so I’m not familiar with recent styles. Love also Paul Green
    For my last trips to London,Copenhagen and Vienna I wear Tods patent leather Black ankle boots,you wouldn’ t believe how comfortable they are,me neither,they were my choice for evening ,but I end wearing them all around. And Nike sneakers,too,with jeans
    Enjoy your trip!

  18. Lori
    May 7, 2015 / 12:24 am

    I am in Italy right now and can I just say that I’m so glad I bought a pair of New Balance tennis shoes because everyone here is wearing them. I got the navy and tan color but it seems the brighter the colors-the better.

  19. May 8, 2015 / 6:05 pm

    Just bought a pair of Romika Barbara sandals and navy and wore them for the day- so light weight!

  20. May 12, 2015 / 10:34 pm

    *Art shoes make great shoes for traveling because they are cobblestone friendly, hip and won’t sink your budget. I’ve got wide feet and finding shoes that look good and feel good is always a challenge. My favorite pair are the “Amsterdam” slingback clogs in dark brown. They’re much cuter than they sound. I’ve got the “Tate” maryjane pumps in black and the “Oslo” biker boots in brown as well. Gabor is another go-to brand for shoes made for walking. Wolky boots (especially if you wear orthotics) are also good.

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