How to choose the best travel shoes for Spring & Summer

how to choose the best travel shoes for Spring and Summer.

If you’re getting the itch to travel again, you’re not alone! 😉 It’s one of the things I’ve missed most this past year, and I can hardly wait to pull out my traveling shoes and hit the road again. Even though we may be traveling closer to home for the next few months, I’ll be sure to Start With The Shoes when it’s time to pack! 🧳

There’s no other component of a travel wardrobe that has as much power to make or break a trip as your footwear. 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

Josef Seibel sneaker white

Up until a few years ago, wearing sneakers, especially white sneakers, 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.) Shown above.

I also find metallic sneakers can be quite stylish and versatile.

Susan B. wears Sole Bliss star sneakers in white and gold.

Classic Appeal

Cole Haan | Vionic | Paul Green | ECCO | Taos | Josef Seibel

Slip-On Styles

Geox | ECCO | Blondo | Josef Seibel | Cole Haan

Zip closure

Taos | AGL | Geox | Munro | Sole Bliss*

*Specially designed to comfortably accommodate wide feet and bunions. Use code FEMME15 for 15% off all Sole Bliss styles

Loafers And Oxfords

Sole Bliss tassel loafers, shoes designed for wide feet and bunions.

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.

Above: Sole Bliss loafers, gifted. These are nicely cushioned and have good arch support.

Loafers and Flats

Cole Haan | L’Amour des Pieds | AGL | Pikolinos | ARA | Paul Green |
Born | Vionic | ARA | ECCO | Sole Bliss*

*Specially designed to comfortably accommodate wide feet and bunions. Use code FEMME15 for 15% off all Sole Bliss styles

Oxfords and Brogues

Cole Haan | Blackstone | Pikolinos | Cole Haan | Clarks | Josef Seibel | Kork-Ease

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.

Wearing in Paris: a blue-green linen jacket, botanical print scarf, jeans and wedge sandals. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I’ve wore the style shown above all over Paris on our last two visits, and found them extremely comfortable.

More Sandals

Eileen Fisher | ECCO | Clarks | Vionic | ECCO | Teva | Mephisto |
Naot | Born | Sofft | L’Amour des Pieds

What are your favorite shoes for warm weather travel?

More travel shoes…

Stay in touch.

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

19 Comments

  1. Lee
    April 14, 2021 / 7:00 am

    The loss of ball of foot padding has become a real issue for me. Adding cushioning often makes a shoe too snug. I tend to buy shoes with removable insoles whenever possible and replace them with a Superfeet orthotic. It doesn’t add padding per se but somehow adjusts my arch to take pressure off the forefoot. The berry color has worked for me for years. Susan, could you possibly round up some bags that are really lightweight ie not leather. At 81 the leather bags are so heavy while the nylon tote type bag just looks sloppy. I enjoy your input every day.

    • April 14, 2021 / 7:53 am

      You might like MZ Wallace bags, lightweight but with some structure, minimal leather accents and fun colors. Most of the bags come with a cross-body strap. Available on the MZ Wallace site and Nordstrom has a small selection.

      • Lee
        April 14, 2021 / 10:00 am

        Ladonna, thanks for the recommendation. I’m checking those bags today.

  2. Kami
    April 14, 2021 / 7:17 am

    Susan, your recommendations are always spot on. I purchased the L’Amour de Pieds metallic oxfords you featured a few years ago, and they have become my go to travel shoe. More comfortable than sneakers and dress up
    or down as needed. I have worn them with slacks, jeans and even dresses. I also have the Mephisto sandals, and love them, although they are not quite as stable. As for the reader above, I also have a problem with ball of the foot pain and find that comfort sneakers with a flexible sole do not provide enough padding, especially on cobblestone streets in Europe. I have found that sneakers with a slightly stiffer platform sole provide more padding and also reduce the motion in the forefoot which can aggravate arthritis pain in the foot after a day of walking. Geox platform sneakers are very lightweight and have some fun styles. I also like Vagabond suede sneakers which come in numerous colors. A small suede eraser can clean up any spots if you choose a light color.

  3. Jill Ann
    April 14, 2021 / 7:46 am

    I have several good travel shoes, but have to comment on my Cole Haan Zero Grand oxfords. They are nubuck, lace-ups, with a white (rubber?) sole. They are very comfy, but I’m impressed with how lightweight they are. I always pack them, on travel days, because they add very little weight to the suitcase. And my suitcase is always heavier than I’d like!

  4. Cindylou
    April 14, 2021 / 9:41 am

    Thanks for the roundup, I will check them out. I have issues with my right foot after a traumatic injury. In the winter I wear sneakers and comfy ankle boots from Munro and Naturalizer. In the summer I wear the Ecco Yucatán sandals, I have them in three colors (gray, blue and red) and am looking at a fourth multicolor pair for this summer. They are extremely comfortable and I’ve gotten over the “clunky” look.

  5. Lee Rosenthall
    April 14, 2021 / 12:18 pm

    Great suggestions! As someone who can’t wear a shoe without a buckle or tie, I really like a good fisherman’s sandal. Trotters has a style that works great for those with narrow or unusually thin feet. It’s called the Leatha, and I believe Nordstrom carries it. (You can also order it online from Trotters and get free shipping and returns.) It won’t work for someone who can wear your “average” size shoe, but it’s a been great for me. I have it in three colors. I wish more brands offered fisherman’s sandals. I really don’t care for the look of most Mary Janes, but I love t-straps and fisherman’s sandals. Would love to see some suggestions in those styles if you have any!

  6. Judy B
    April 14, 2021 / 1:32 pm

    I’ve had good results with the ECCO Soft 7 sneakers—I have three pairs (black, silver, and bronze). They’re very comfortable and have enough arch support for me. I particularly like a shoe that feels secure when walking on cobblestones, hopping on and off metros, and just walking long distances. It’s likely that I discovered them in an earlier travel post here. Lots more enticing selections in this post, and hoping for travel opportunities soon. I agree with Lee on the t-straps, and haven’t seen anything in that style recently. Thanks for more good ideas for travel shoes!

  7. Kay
    April 14, 2021 / 5:13 pm

    I have the IWA by Born sandal you show here (though my pair is brown.) They are supportive all around, like a shoe but the peekaboo toe and the openings a midfoot make them as cool to wear as a sandal.

  8. Karen in Cowtown
    April 14, 2021 / 6:37 pm

    I am late to comment, but I have discovered Birkenstock’s Blue Footbed inserts. They can be placed in any enclosed shoe, but they make sneakers so much more comfortable and supportive. If you like Birkenstocks, you will love these. They cost about $60.00. I always pack them on a trip.

  9. Sue H
    April 15, 2021 / 5:28 am

    Thanks for this post, Susan. It caused me to immediately go and buy Mephisto sandals for summer! I’ve never looked at them before and, frankly, they don’t seem that attractive on their own. But seeing you wear them, I could imagine how many outfits I can wear them with. Plus, they look super comfy.

    • Susan Blakey
      Author
      April 15, 2021 / 6:55 am

      Hi Sue, thanks! They are super comfy, and even though they are a bit “clunky” looking, I always get compliments when I wear mine. Hope you love them!

  10. stephanie
    April 15, 2021 / 5:51 am

    Hello there! Can you help please? Im probably overlooking something so my apologies, but is there a link for the sneakers with the zip side and metallic star? Theyre very nice but I cant seem to find the link. Thank you.

  11. Kathleen McDermott
    April 15, 2021 / 2:08 pm

    May I add that I NEVER leave the house without a supply of bandaids. I religiously keep 10 in my wallet. Many’s the time I’ve had friction at the back of the heel or other areas where a certain shoe or sandal rubs. Really saves the day!

  12. chris
    April 15, 2021 / 4:07 pm

    Ecco. Vionic. Birkenstock. Paul Green. If I’m traveling I’m taking one (or more) from these brands and leave all others behind. I have terrible feet (really bad big toe arthritis) and need a high level of support.

  13. Abs
    April 15, 2021 / 5:23 pm

    The sandals with two adjustable straps are perfect for my narrow feet, and for anyone who has ankles and feet that swell in the summer heat. D?So cute, too!

  14. Anne
    April 20, 2021 / 6:59 pm

    When visiting Italy EVERYONE was wearing lace up sneakers. I hardly saw anything else! I wore WW Munro Gabbie (you link them above) with Green Super feet inverts. My feet hurt the first day, but I was ok after that. I thought sneakers were acceptable day and night.

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