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Choosing Travel Shoes

By Sara | April 9, 2016

When we began researching what to pack on an extended world trip, one of the biggest questions I had was what type of shoes I should bring. Should I go the “try to fit in” route and pack my flats? What about the comfort of tennis shoes? Is that too touristy? Maybe I’ll need hiking boots. And flip flops. Should I pack my boots too?

These were all questions that went through my head as I searched for a definitive answer to my travel shoes debacle. My hope is that this post will help you decide which shoes are right for your travels and save you some of the hassle we faced. For a full round the world packing list, click here.

Step 1: Determine Your Travel Style

We didn’t have a set list of counties picked out when we planned our world trip, but we had a rough idea of where we wanted to visit. If you’re planning to go everywhere, this step isn’t a huge deciding factor in the shoe department. However, if you’re planning to only go jungle-trekking, camping, surfing, skiing, or chasing summer, this will have a major impact on your decision.

For camping and hiking as the main activities, hiking boots are your best option. For some, tennis shoes might work fine but for true hiking you’ll need something with more ankle support and grip.

For summer chasers, choose a comfortable pair of sandals and/or flats that you can walk in for a long time. Chaco’s are a great option if you plan to be in a lot of hot weather countries. You could stick with just tennis shoes but may get hot and they definitely look touristy with a pair of shorts or a sundress.

If you’re planning to mostly walk around and explore cities, a pair of tennis shoes and a pair of sandals or boots are great as travel shoes as long as they’re comfortable.

Step 2: Put Comfort First

A great way to ruin your trip is by not wearing comfortable shoes. Greg and I walk on average 10 to 15 thousand steps per day, and your feet, knees and back will get sore at times even with the most comfortable shoes. Bring footwear that feels right on your feet and that has good support.

Step 3: Seek Style

It’s hard to find travel shoes that are both stylish and comfortable, so if you can do this, congratulations! If not, you can begin to make your shoe choice based on deciding whether to choose a shoe that matches your clothes or that’s most comfortable to wear.

Step 4: Factor in Space

If you’re packing everything in a carry-on sized backpack like we have, there’s not a ton of room for shoes. However, if you have a bigger bag then there are more options. It all depends on how you travel. A general tip is to plan to always wear your bulkiest shoes when you’re traveling to a new place so that you never have to pack them.

Step 5: Try Shoes On

You’ve got to try the shoes on in order to know if they’ll work for you. Take an afternoon to spend time in a shoe store and walk around in a few different pairs. It’s also worth experimenting with different insoles. There are many different insoles that offer heel cushion, arch support, etc. but you’ll want to test these out in person before buying.

Our Choices

I was able to pack one pair of nice black flats and a pair of cheap flip flops into my backpack, and wear my Nike trainers with heel support insoles on travel days. I started off carrying a pair of boots as well, and realized my mistake before we even left the states. The boots are no longer with us. Most days I wear my Nike’s, and I’ll switch them out for flats when dressing up a bit.

Greg opted not to buy flip flops until he needs them and packs his Nike 5.0 shoes in his bag while wearing a pair of Aldo dress shoes most of the time. This combination has worked great for both of us so far.

There is no one pair of travel shoes that is best because everyone’s feet and travels are different. Taking some time to think about what will be best for you based on your location and travel style will make the choice easier. What shoes do you travel with? Comment your favorites below!