How To Choose The Right Shoes For Spring and Summer Travel

Best travel shoes for spring and summer. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

We’re heading into Prime Travel Season, and if you have travel planned this Spring or Summer, you may already be thinking about what to pack. My advice: start with the shoes.

Above: Loafers | Oxfords | Flats | Sneakers | Sandals

There’s no other component of a travel wardrobe that has as much power to make or break a trip. If your feet hurt, or your shoes aren’t appropriate for your activities, it will (at best) diminish your experience. At worst, you’ll be miserable. And I speak from experience 😉.

How To Choose Spring And Summer Travel Shoes

So how do you know what to look for in travel shoes? Here are a few of my guidelines:

Comfort, Comfort, Comfort!

If your travel plans include walking tours or other sightseeing, you’ll probably spend more time on your feet each day than you would at home. And you may be walking on a variety of surfaces. (Hello, cobblestones!)

  • Your shoes or sandals should have plenty of support and cushioning in the sole and insole. We tend to lose the natural padding on the bottom of our feet as we age, and may need additional cushioning. If arch support is a requirement for you, be sure there’s enough, or that you can add a custom insert if needed.
  • The shoes should not rub or pinch anywhere. They should be well broken-in, and you should “road test” for several hours on your feet if possible before packing.
  • They should be secure on your feet. If your shoes are too loose, your legs and feet will have to work harder, and you may tire more quickly. If they are too snug, they can be uncomfortable if your feet swell up over the course of a day. (You may find shoes that lace or have adjustable straps are your best option.)
  • Rubber soles will provide better traction and more cushioning than leather or other slicker materials. You can ask your cobbler to add a rubber half sole (and heels) to a favorite pair. This also extends the life of the shoes.
  • I find a low heel/wedge is more comfortable and easier to walk in than a completely flat shoe. But everyone’s feet are different, so go with what works for you.
  • Materials: some people find fabric or canvas shoes more comfortable in warmer weather. (I’m not one of them.) If leather shoes are your preference, look for tumbled or softer leathers, or be sure the shoes have been well broken-in. There are a lot of perforated leather styles offered this season, which allow for more air flow while still providing coverage.

Style

  • Look for versatile styles that can go from day to evening. Loafers, oxfords, classic sneakers and many sandals will be able to make this transition.
  • Dark colored shoes will be less inclined to show dirt, but may look and feel too heavy with a warmer season wardrobe. If you choose lighter colored shoes, you can always treat with a waterproofing spray, which may help them stay cleaner.
  • Neutral colors will be more versatile, but a classic color such as red can add a nice pop.
  • Unless you have a fancy dress event (e.g. a wedding) on your itinerary, leave the heels at home. “Smart casual” is as dressed up as you usually need to be (yes, even for a nice dinner in Rome, a play in London, or the opera in Paris).
  • If you’ll be traveling somewhere that tends to be cooler and wetter, you may want to include at least one pair of water-resistant shoes or even ankle boots.

Here are the styles of shoes I’ve found work best for spring and summer travel.

Sneakers

Frye Ivy lace up sneaker, white. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Up until a few years ago, wearing sneakers, especially white sneakers, in many European cities immediately flagged you as a tourist. But sneakers are ubiquitous now, and if this is your preferred type of walking shoe, no need to leave them at home. Clean, classic sneaker styles in a single color will be the most versatile. (To keep white sneakers looking sharp, use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. For travel, just snip off a small piece and pack with your clothing care items.)

Classic Appeal

adidas | Converse | Frye (shown above) | Vionic | Clarks |
Cole Haan | Ecco | Acne Studios (similar)

Slip-On Styles

Munro | Ecco | Munro | Clarks | Vionic

Loafers And Oxfords

Ara Kayla tassel loafer in brushed gold. Details and more Spring and Summer travel shoes at une femme d'un certain age.

These styles will generally be easiest to dress up or down. Again, look for soft leather, a well-padded insole, arch support, and a secure fit. Styles with thicker platform soles are popular and may provide extra cushioning, but be careful that the platform is stable on irregular surfaces.

Loafers and Flats

Ara (shown above) | L’Amour des Pieds | Clarks | Paul Green |
Josef Siebel | AGL | Blondo | Bernie Mev

Oxfords and Brogues

Ecco | Clarks | L’Amour des Pieds | Clarks | Börn | Cole Haan

Sandals

Mephisto Lissandra wedge sandals in black and lizard. Details and more shoes for Spring and Summer travel at une femme d'un certain age.

Not everyone is comfortable traveling with sandals, but I find them a necessity on warmer days. Though I wouldn’t advise wearing them on flight or travel days…better to have the protection of a closed-toe shoe.

Styles with adjustable straps over the toes as well as around the ankle will provide the most secure fit. Though I often wear backless sandals at home, they’re not the best for travel. I’d also be wary of “strappy” styles with just a few, skinny straps. For travel sandals, sturdy carries the day.

Style and travel blogger Susan B. wears a black cotton top, jeans and wedge sandals in Paris. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I wore the style shown above all over Paris when we visited last summer, and found them extremely comfortable.

More Sandals

Mephisto (shown above) | Eileen Fisher | Ecco | Söfft |
Ecco | Clarks | Mephisto| Dansko

What are your favorite shoes for warm weather travel?

And More Travel Tips!

Stylish Travel Tips from 7 Experienced Bloggers.

I was delighted to be asked to participate in this travel “round table” of experienced travel bloggers! Please check out their posts below…

Stay in touch.

Affiliate links in posts may generate commissions for unefemme.net. See my complete disclosure policy here.

38 Comments

  1. April 18, 2019 / 4:06 am

    This post comes at a good time for me because I’m looking everywhere for some good travel sandals. Must be versatile, must be comfortable, and must still be a bit styish. I the Mephisto ones look great, as do the Eileen Fisher ones. My silver Birkenstocks are ok for some things, but I need something a bit nicer. xx

  2. Laurel
    April 18, 2019 / 5:36 am

    Always on the hunt for comfy sandals and I LOVE the Naots. Thanks for posting them.

  3. Meg
    April 18, 2019 / 5:44 am

    I just got some new travel sandals the other day. My requirements are a modest platform of very resilient bouncy material that has flex but is not floppy. I also wanted leather, not imitation or cloth. They had to have a back strap. I found then at Nordstrom but they are not on the web site yet- Gentle Souls in a pretty metallic silver with a white platform about 1″ tall. They are light weight and leather everywhere my foot touches! They have a sole like “Kiki” but are strappier . I can’t find a photo anywhere.

  4. April 18, 2019 / 6:57 am

    Brilliant post. Just as I am planning a trip to Spain! And never before have I been so excited by comfort shoes. I now know to “start” with the shoes and then do the rest! Thank you, Susan. I would love to see a post of warmer spring destinations.

    • Rondi
      April 18, 2019 / 7:58 am

      I started packing choosing shoes first after I first read this tip on Susan’s blog. I’m not really sure why it works but it does!

  5. April 18, 2019 / 7:37 am

    I was really looking forward to this post. I am planning a short trip and need to add a pair of comfty sandals to my list. I am a big fan of Olukai, but I am anxious to know about the new gentle souls version that Meg is speaking of. Thanks so much for joining us Susan. I so enjoy your blog and all your tips and tricks.

  6. Cher
    April 18, 2019 / 8:02 am

    I have never met a pair of Ecco’s that aren’t comfortable. Over the course of a week recently in Paris, I walked over 30 miles in mostly my newest pair, a dark goldish metallic that I love!
    For water resistant, Aquatalia is the best. I know you love this brand, Susan. At a higher price point, but well worth it.
    And for ballet flats, Arche. Another higher price, but so worth it. For travel, These would be my ,only walking a little way, choice. Not because they aren’t comfortable , but because a ballet flat just can’t provide the support needed for longer hauls like a more substantial shoe.
    These are my choices for travel.

  7. April 18, 2019 / 8:21 am

    Cindy at Rough Luxe suggested Sketchers Go Walks, which I second. Not beautiful, yet they’re somewhere between loafer and sneaker, and extremely comfortable. Also washable.
    Invisible low socks can be the difference between blisters and happy feet, especially with loafers or brogues.

  8. April 18, 2019 / 9:01 am

    SHOES ARE KEY!
    I am a TALL girl so ONLY wear the flat shoes.
    You named some BRANDS here I was not familiar with so thank YOU!
    YOU DO GET AROUND THE WORLD SO WE ARE ALL LISTENING!
    XX

  9. Mary Alice
    April 18, 2019 / 9:03 am

    Dansko ‘Season’ is the single most comfortable sandal I own, and that includes Birkenstocks. They look cute with everything! I have them in 4 colors. They have adjustable straps, a small platform, and a soft insole. I wear them ALL the time.

  10. April 18, 2019 / 9:44 am

    Thank you for this round-up, Susan! I really love my Veja sneakers for walking days – they are wide enough for my wide feet and have a removable insole so I can use my orthotics. I have a gold pair and a black velcro pair. Nordstrom, Madewell, Amour Vert, and Zappos carry them.

  11. Ann in Missouri
    April 18, 2019 / 10:24 am

    Timely post, Susan! Thank you.

    I’m also posting here to ask you / your readers for your advice about hiking sandals. This coming October I’m going to the Alsace region of France on a small (22 person) canal barge trip that will focus on Alsatian wines. We’ll be walking a lot on relatively flat land along canal(s) and in wineries. Therefore, I believe that actual hiking boots would be overkill and have been considering instead some sturdy outdoor sandals. Merrell is the only brand that comes to mind, because I’m incredibly unfamiliar with hiking sandals, assuming that type of shoe exists.

    Any advice out there for me, based on your experience? And thanks in advance to any who have insights to offer.

    Also, I’m really going to try to pack everything for the 3-week trip (including at least a week in Paris) in a carry-on suitcase and a small backpack. And if I succeed inn doing so, it’ll be a first!

    Ann in Missouri

    • April 18, 2019 / 11:27 am

      Ann, I would recommend TEVA sandals – they are the most comfortable hiking-type sandals I own. They do have a certain outdoorsy look that might not appeal to you, but the comfort is worth it. They have different models with different soles – the more expensive ones are worth it, in my opinion. I have flat, wide feet, just for reference, but my sister who has narrow feet and high arches also likes them, too.

    • Susan B
      April 18, 2019 / 11:30 am

      Hi Ann, I’d check out Tevas. I took a pair to Thailand with me a few years ago, as I knew we’d be doing some “off road” hiking. And they’re currently “on trend” with the fashion set, so you’d be able to wear them in the city as well.

    • Carol Montanti
      April 18, 2019 / 12:26 pm

      You may not be wearing sandals at that time of the year in that region. I am in France almost every year and often look at past years’ weather trends to get an idea of what to expect.

    • Ann in Missouri
      April 18, 2019 / 1:07 pm

      Thank you all — Carrie, Susan and Carol. I’ll definitely check out Tevas and dig deeper re past seasons’ October weather in Alsace (which in years past ranged from mid-40s to 60, with little rain, although it occurs to me now that rainy days at 50 degrees Fahrenheit in wet socks might not be ideal).

      What a great resource this site and readers are. 🙂

    • Janet Russell
      April 18, 2019 / 1:37 pm

      Hi Ann,
      I am also a fan of Teva but was unable to find a pair I liked last summer to take on a three month trip to France, Spain and Portugal, so bought a pair from TAOS, which are the comfiest and best looking ‘walking’ sandals I’ve ever owned. They were recommended by another travel blogger. My requirements were for black sandals that I could walk in all day AND look smart casual/dressy, plus lightweight. I bought mine in Australia so they were pricey, but a great investment. Part of my trip last year was a month walking the Camino, and due to blisters from my hiking shoes, I ended up instead wearing my sandals for up to 28km a day and they were fabulous (except for wearing them with hiking socks, which was not a good look lol). I’m still wearing them and they look almost new, having walked over 300km in them now!

  12. Kendall
    April 18, 2019 / 11:44 am

    Thank you for the wonderful post, Susan! I want my husband to be as comfortable as I am. What kind of shoes does your husband wear when you travel? Thanks!

    • Susan B
      April 18, 2019 / 11:59 am

      Hi Kendall, le Monsieur usually brings a pair of sneakers, and one or two pairs of loafers depending on the length of the trip and activities. He’s had a pair of these https://shopstyle.it/l/2g3K for a few years and really loves them. He has a dressier pair that he purchased in Italy, I think but the brand isn’t sold here. He also brings a pair of flip-flops for hanging out and pool use.

      • Rondi
        April 18, 2019 / 2:25 pm

        Another vote for Tevas! They are comfortable, reasonable, and you can walk in them all day. Most styles are adjustable so they accommodate a lot of different widths of feet. They also last a long time.! Easily available on Zappos which has fantastic customer service.

      • Elizabeth T
        April 18, 2019 / 3:48 pm

        Another vote for the Men’s Ecco loafers Susan’s husband owns. My husband has the same style, and they served him well all over Italy in all types of weather and walking conditions.

        • Kendall
          April 19, 2019 / 6:47 pm

          Thanks so much, Susan, Rondi, and Elizabeth!

  13. April 18, 2019 / 12:38 pm

    You always have sage travel/style advice and your point about shoes making or breaking a trip is so spot on, Susan. If I end up with blisters on my feet it’s game over for me. That’s how I ended up in sneakers at that fancy party at Lake Como, but that’s another story. 😉

    Thankfully, sneakers are super popular and well-accepted in Europe now. I’ve seen them EVERYWHERE during recent trips to Italy and France. It just makes so much sense. Softt and Me Too are some of my favorite brands for support, flexibility and cush. I’m saving your list to update my travel shoe selection.
    This has been a fun blog collaboration we you and the group today! Thanks for the tips!
    xx, Heather

  14. April 18, 2019 / 6:21 pm

    You have given me a resource that I sorely needed: Mr. Clean Magic Eraser for sneakers. I’m so grateful, Susan!!! I love all the things you made me think of and I was also reminded of a very lucky break I had on a trip. I bought a pair of shoes maybe the day before the trip, hadn’t worn them around the house at all, put them on for an important event, and….they were fabulous! After the fact, I knew never to try that again. I really like how you spelled out looking for soft leather–so much more comfortable than something stiff. Guess what? I’m going shoe shopping on your blog!!

  15. April 19, 2019 / 8:54 am

    Thanks so much for telling us about the Magic Erase on the white sneakers! Going to do that as soon as I get home. I like the oxfords, too…lightweight for packing. Love the sneakers you show! Thanks for doing this with us. So great to have your perspective!!

    • Susan B
      April 19, 2019 / 2:28 pm

      Thanks, Mary Ann, for including me!

  16. Sue Lewellen
    April 19, 2019 / 12:58 pm

    I love the looks of all the sandals and slip-ons, but my problem is MY FEET! Actually they are my mother’s feet attached to MY legs! They are very narrow and arthritic. Finding attractive, comfortable shoes (especially sandals) is almost impossible. Do any of your readers have this problem? Any solutions?
    Thanks for this forum to make my plea!

    • Susan B
      April 19, 2019 / 2:27 pm

      Hi Sue, Anything that has adjustable straps over the toes may help. Hopefully some of my other readers may be able to offer brand or style suggestions.

  17. April 20, 2019 / 6:49 am

    I highly recommend FitFlops (a brand name not to be confused with flip flops). Designed by British foot doctor with great cushioning and arch support. I have more than a dozen pairs. Available at Nordstrom, Hudson’s Bay Co. in Canada and Dillard’s but best selection is on line at Fitflop.com. They have great sales too. Their Superskate loafer is far more comfortable than similar Vionic style. They fit large so I wear a full size smaller in sandal and half size smaller in full shoe. I gauarantee you’ll love them,

  18. April 20, 2019 / 7:31 pm

    Susan love all your informative stylish and fun posts.
    I am off to NYC in mid May with my adult children….fun….but really worried about type of shoe that is neither too hot or too cold and worried about all the walking..I am 70, 5’5″ and weigh ugh 160. any suggestions on shoes that work in nyc?

    • Susan B
      April 21, 2019 / 6:15 am

      Hi Susan, thank you! I’d suggest starting with a sneaker with a stable and substantial sole. Depending on the forecast and your own preferences, you may want to bring a walking sandal. And depending on your activities, you might add another closed-toe style for going out in the evening. NYC is an eclectic city, and you’ll see a little bit of everything worn there.

      • April 23, 2019 / 10:51 am

        Thank you Susan! I was wanting a sneaker, they seem very on trend right now, but the many articles say NYC is not the place to look too casual or touristy? I found some Dansko that look and feel amazing, and I have some SAS loafers that are quite comfy…..thanks for the info.

    • Susan B
      April 21, 2019 / 7:48 pm

      Thanks, Elaine!

  19. Lee Ann
    April 25, 2019 / 10:12 am

    First time commenting, and I want to say how much I’m enjoying your blog and style ideas. As I enter my late 50s, I’m trying to transition from the tried-and-true preppy look I’ve loved since college to something a little more elegant but still practical and workable. To add to the discussion about great shoes: I’ve recently found Comfortiva shoes, and for me, these are some of the most wearable pretty shoes I’ve tried. Great looks and the (minimal) rubber heel makes for easy walking.

  20. Sarah Jane
    May 1, 2019 / 8:57 am

    Definitely agree with applying a water proof/protective spray prior to your trip. I was a long time cleaning my pink knit, Cole Haan sneakers after being caught out in a summer downpour in central London. Still one of may favourite travel shoes though. Have a black leather pair as well now for when the weather requires something more durable.

  21. Dee Savage
    August 9, 2019 / 7:54 am

    Susan, I love your blog. However, I must be the only person that subscribes to your blog that can’t wear sandals. I need to wear socks (I just turned 70) and have for decades. My feet sweat (tmi) and slip around in sandals if I don’t wear socks. So even peep toe, or backless mules are out for me.
    I must tell you a huge thank you for mentioning linen knit or jersey. I live in them in South Carolina as it is so hot/humid here. I always take them for travel, and even layer them for winter travel. I wear linen (woven) pants that are wide to let air flow in, and don’t mind the wrinkles. I only wear linen now, and always look for the linen knit shirts. Try H&M for very inexpensive linen tees and tanks in basic colors. They are great and last a long time. Who doesn’t want to save money! I also have switched to linen sheets.
    As a retired teacher in SC (among the lowest paid in the nation) I find that a lot of what you recommend is way out of my budget. I’d rather save my money to take more trips than spend hundreds on a shirt or purse. Surely I can’t be the only blog reader that find much of what you recommend way too expensive. It must be nice to not have to be concerned about the cost of clothes. However, I am a “hunter” when it comes to clothes. Example…when I went to Egypt I needed to replace a world– print Tyvek jacket. None found. I was looking in a Goodwill and found one in the men’s section…brand new with tags, in my size for $3.50. I guess my philosophy, ingrained in me by my mother, that anyone can pay full price for something, but it takes a great huntress to find name brand expensive clothes, on a great sale.
    I love your blog. Any readers out there who can advise what to wear in early December for a cruise to Italy/Greece/Turkey? Am concerned about the heat/humidity. Many thanks.

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