If you’re planning travel for this spring or summer, you may already be thinking about what to pack. 🧳 I always suggest you start with the shoes. It’s not too early to start auditioning (and perhaps breaking in) your footwear.
This article was published at an earlier date and has since been updated. I’ve left earlier comments in place.
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.
- 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.
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.
Cole Haan | Vionic | Paul Green | ECCO | Taos | Josef Seibel
Naturalizer | ECCO | Sofft | Jambu | Cole Haan
Ryka | Paul Green | Taos | Jambu | Geox | Munro | Sole Bliss*
*Specially designed to comfortably accommodate wide feet and bunions. Use code SUSAN15 for 15% off all Sole Bliss styles
Loafers And Oxfords
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 |
Ilse Jacobsen | Born | Vionic | ARA | ECCO | Sole Bliss*
*Specially designed to comfortably accommodate wide feet and bunions. Use code SUSAN15 for 15% off all Sole Bliss styles
Oxfords and Brogues
Cole Haan | Clarks | Dr. Martens | Cole Haan | Softwalk | Josef Seibel | Kork-Ease
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.
I’ve wore the style shown above all over Paris during two of our summer visits, and found them extremely comfortable.
Eileen Fisher | ECCO | Clarks | Vionic | ECCO | Teva | Mephisto |
Naot | Born | Sofft | L’Amour des Pieds
What are your favorite shoes for warm weather travel?
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.
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.
Ladonna, thanks for the recommendation. I’m checking those bags today.
Bloomingdale’s also carries the MZ Wallace
I was having the same problem with the ball of my foot. My local shoe store recommended the Birkenstock Blue Footbed which is a rigid arch support. It lifts the arch off of the forefoot, too. I wear them with all my boots and shoes now. The store also recommended the Naot Kirei for when I don’t want to wear a sneaker. Although i don’t particularly like Mary Jane style shoes on me, this one isn’t too little-girl looking. It’s comfortable enough for me (with the Birkenstock insert) to wear for long city walks when I’m traveling. I also find the Naot Kayla to be about the only sandal I can wear for a length of time.
Love the Naot Kaylas. I tried a pair of Taos sandals last summer and was pleasantly surprised. Thanks for the heads up on the Birkenstock orthotics. They’re in my
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Hi stephanie, no worries…here’s a link to the sneakers: https://us.solebliss.com/collections/trainers/products/star-white-gold-leather
Be sure to use code FEMME15 at checkout for 15% off! 😉
Thank you very much for the link and the code!! 🙂
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!
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.
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!
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.
I highly recommend Teva Midform Sandals. I live in NYC and last summer I walked all over NYC in them. They are more comfortable than sneakers, in my opinion. I would live in them if I could. I bought the fawn (beige) color so they were closer to my skin tone and didn’t look so clunky on my foot.
Plus, Teva’s were very in style last summer (2021) here in NYC and probably will be again this summer (2022).
I am combing through these shoes and comments. At present, I am wearing only NewBalance1540v3 with custom orthotics. Excellent supportive shoe. Would like to find something that looks prettier although during a Pandemic, these have been fine. Need a supportive shoe with a wide, high toe box—very difficult to find in any category. Foot issues: Started life with high insteps and high arches; years of toe dancing, then wearing high heel dress shoes to work, plus marathon running; then lots of city walking (Montreal, especially, where I got Finn Comfort shoes for the first time. Now, at d’un certain age (70), due to osteoarthritis, I’ve had partial knee replacements; have a partially torn Posterior tibial tendon in the left foot, which has made that arch fall some; and 6 months ago, had a surgical repair of the anterior tibial tendon (the one on top that lifts your foot to clear the ground) on the right foot, which still has a moderately high arch; and bunions. Sigh. So motion control shoes are a must, even though neither arch is flat, which means shoes that tie and that hold the heel are a must, but those bunions and high insteps need lots of forefoot room. So please keep sharing shoes.
PS Finn Comfort stopped making the closed heel tie front sandal I was able to wear then.
Thank you Susan for this timely post! I am trying to be creative with my closet, and buy less, but am lacking in the shoe department. Bunions, orthotics for flat feet and narrow heels make shoe shopping a chore. I also find that most of my outings these days are combined with walking – just like travelling! – so comfortable shoes are a must. It is reassuring to see that stylish and wearable shoes do exist – thanks for the great recommendations!
I have a question about the Sole Bliss loafers — love the Tamara navy ones on their site. Do you find they run true to size or a bit large or small? Normally I am right in between a 9 and a 9.5 and use my brand experience to decide which one to order. Also, do they run narrow? (I think your feet are narrower than mine given some of your previous picks).
Hi Cinzia, all of the Sole Bliss shoes are made to accommodate wider feet. If I recall correctly, I sized down on these 1/2 size. The team at Sole Bliss is VERY helpful with sizing questions and you can call them directly at 917-475-0027.
Having had plantar fasciitis in first one foot, then the other (!), I only wear very comfortable, supportive shoes. Bu they have to be good looking. I have found, without doubt, that Vionic is the best around. Their sandals, flats, sneakers, even slippers are the best out there. I do have narrow feet. Am generally fine now but do walk a lot as I travel a lot… and these have always been great.
Thank you for this great list for travel shoes, as I have lots of issues with my feet. I love to travel!!
A bit off topic, but what were the Athleta pants you tried not long ago? Were they the Brooklyn ankle pants? I can’t seem to find them mentioned on the blog. I need good pants to travel in that can also be used for casual evenings out in Hawaii. Eileen Fisher is above my price point. Your travel wardrobe ideas are so helpful!
Hi Sarah, yes, they were the Brooklyn pants. Here’s the post where I styled them different ways: Versatile pants to wear at home now and out later…
Thank you Susan – I recently received the Brooklyn pants based on your post as my size and colour finally appeared in Canada. A great addition to wearable shoes for my current fashion goal; comfort AND style.
Thank you, Susan!
This is a great list of shoes! I plan to sit down with it and use it to guide my shoe purchases for a trip that I have scheduled for Holland (maybe!) in a couple months.
I’d like to add one more shoe that I was very pleased with for travel and home. Very lightweight and cool slip-on. OluKai Pehuea https://www.zappos.com/p/olukai-pehuea-pavement-pavement/product/8633511/color/427659?zlfid=191&ref=pd_detail-2-sims_cp I added my own abeo insole – (another good shoe brand)
I love my Vans. I wear them all the time. They’re so comfortable and they look good with just about everything.
Hi Susan, Thank you for your blog, it’s always so good , even if your are opposite me in terms of colour, I’m a sultry winter!
Just wanted to ask if you would expect your discount code for Sole Bliss, SUSAN 15, to work from the UK? I tried to use it to buy some cream boots recently and it came up as not recognised,
Ah, it may not be active on the UK website. Let me check in with them and I’ll get back to you.
Hi Veronica, the code should now be active on the UK website!
just discovered your website. Interesting as a French woman, we do not wear jeans and blazer. This is typically American. We wear mostly dresses.
Found a website for shoes with arch support, thank you.
I wear Thierry Rabotin, which are extremely comfortable, and so lightweight that it is pure delight to walk for hours with them on your feet. Drawback there are expensive, but last years and years.
Keep up your input, much fun.