Packing Shoes for Europe: The Reality 14

Buongiorno tutti from beautiful Sicily! I’m sitting in a café in Palermo enjoying a cannolo and wanted to update you on how my shoes for Europe for the fall have worked out so far. Just so you know, I’ll be writing about this beautiful island as well in the coming days, so I hope you’ll follow my adventures. At the moment, it’s about 85 degrees, but by the end of my trip I’ll be in the alps. Packing shoes for the fall is a tricky business with the variety of temperatures and I had to be thoughtful. Here are my choices….

Asics Metrolyte

As I advised in my last packing post, black running shoes are a staple for me. They are reasonably fashionable here, even Italians can be seen in their Armani jeans and dress shirts with black runners. You can also wear slacks with them if you get a simple pair without too many markings on them, they can pass for dress shoes that way.

This pair was the very lightest that I could find. What makes them light is the knitted upper, made with a stretchy synthetic fabric rather than heavy leather. I’m pleased with the look and fit. I like how the fabric is more comfortable than leather, it stretches to the shape of my feet. They are essentially slip-ons, there isn’t really a tongue, it’s all one piece. The laces are there to tighten them on your feet but not to keep them together like in a normal shoe.

The sole is super thin, which I like. I’ve replaced the paper-thin insole with gel insoles like Superfeet (mentioned in a previous post), I like a high arch in my shoe which the insoles provide. There are a few different color ways with this shoe, I seriously considered doing something different and getting a gray pair. I’m really glad I didn’t, though. The black pair really looks nice especially because of the low profile of the sole.

Earth Sandals


This was a tough one. I actually bought two pairs after agonizing over black versus brown. When these babies arrived on my doorstep, I could not have been more thrilled. They were adorable right out of the box and are very supportive. Earth shoes were started with a philosophy of correcting posture through footwear, but they have branched out into a different direction with these more fashionable shoes. The comfort aspect is still there for sure, even if it doesn’t look like it, the soft leather footbed seems to have been constructed to match my foot exactly. The wedge heel gives a bit of height but not too much. They are more practical than anything, with a solid rubber sole to keep me from slipping on ruins. They have solid, wide  straps where they connect to the sole, a concern for me since that connection between strap and sole is where all sandals eventually fail.

One consideration I really suggest you think about is the material of the insole of your sandals. I have dealt with stinky sandals for years now, and I don’t have especially fragrant feet. It’s just after miles and miles of walking in the dirt and heat, even the most scentless amongst us will get funky shoes. As I mentioned, Tevas are death to my feet. After much trial and stinky error, I’ve come to the conclusion that synthetic foot beds in a sandal are a bad idea. A leather footbed almost never stinks. I don’t know why, but it’s true. So make that a criteria in your selection.

I love these sandals. They hit all of my criteria: lightweight, leather insole, good support, solid construction, a bit of heel, rubber soles to keep me from slipping, neutral color, and to risk being thought of as girly, they are darned cute. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

Sketchers Yes Please Ballerina Sneaker

  This was my risk for this trip. I would normally bring ballet flats or my wedge flip-flops here, but both of those have died from exhaustion. On a recent vacation, my mother-in-law and I spotted these at a shoe store and tried them on. We both loved them instantly and bought matching pairs. I’d seen local tour guides in Rome wear Sketchers like these over the summer, but in a style that looked a little like Vans or boat shoes- not styles that really suit me. These have the same construction , ultralight, marshmallow-like sole, but the upper looks like a cute ballerina flat. The upper is constructed of straps of elastic. Seems weird but the stretch is nice for feet that often swell in the Sicilian heat.

The footbed is made of memory foam, which takes a bit of getting used to. It feels like wearing bedroom slippers, not a quality I normally look for in hard-wearing travel shoes. Because they don’t have a hard arch, I thought they would not be supportive. As it turns out, I haven’t even thought about that, they are super comfortable. The sole is rugged rubber foam that looks like a hiking shoe. I put that quality to the test yesterday, hiking all around temple ruins and cobblestones. They performed just like lightweight trail shoes, lots of grip on gravel and loose stones. The best quality of these shoes, however, is the weight. They weight almost nothing. They squish down nicely in my bag and perk back up once I take them out.

But all is not perfect. These can’t really be worn with socks, unless you get those Peds socks. The footbed feels a little sweaty midday, although I haven’t sensed a stink issue yet. The fit is a bit snug, I bought a size down because of the loose way the heel grabs the back of my foot. I also bought a size down because the upper is composed of elastic bands and I assume those will stretch over time. I’ve had some minor rubbing on the back of one heel which is causing a blister. It bothers me less each day, so I think they just need to be broken in more.

The verdict? I like them and am glad I took the chance. They are the most versatile shoes in my bag, they wear and perform like hiking shoes but look like dress shoes, looking equally cute with jeans as a dress. They may become my favorite travel shoe once they are broken in a bit more.

Regrets, or Also Rans

I’m pretty happy with my selection, but I do miss my Teva Mush Wedge Flip Flops. They are the perfect thing for when nothing else feels good. The weather is also quite warm, I’m sensing a beach visit in my near future and these Italian beaches are often rocky and need a beach shoe to swim in.

I do like Tom’s shoes and have seen just about every American wearing them. They are very lightweight and pack well, but I’m not sure I’ll ever bring them again. The soles are not very rubberized and don’t have much grip. I slipped and fell down some stairs in Rome a couple of years ago while wearing them, so I can’t really recommend them.

 What I’m really wanting right now is something totally impractical, my red heels from Sofft. They make me feel sparkly even in stinky travel clothes that are worn and wrinkled. I looked for a long time to find nice, strappy red heels that are comfy, and these really hit the mark. The egg-carton foam footbed makes them extra practical. I almost brought them, but they aren’t great on cobblestones and also I’m trying to be especially good for you, my readers 😉 I don’t see this same model on their website, but they seem to have similar models available.

Overall, I think I’ve done pretty well. My feet aren’t doing bad, considering that I’ve walked more than 10 miles every day. Minor wear and tear and a desperate need for a pedicure, but other than that, my feet feel like my choices on shoes for Europe work.


Sarah Murdoch is a tour guide and guidebook writer for Rick Steves Europe. Her blog, Adventures with Sarah, focuses on packing tips, travel stories and advice for planning the best trip possible.

14 thoughts on “Packing Shoes for Europe: The Reality

  • Suzy Marsden

    Hi Sarah,

    I love your packing articles and videos and layering examples. You’ve convinced me I can pack light. Do you recommend taking sandals for a 2 week trip to London and Paris in April? Just one hotel in each city, with Eurostar in between. Too cold/rainy? Mostly, will be wearing lightweight, leather, black laced-up easy spirit walking shoes that I know are comfortable all day, but not so great looking with skirts/dresses. My suede ballet flats stretched out even with heel pads and won’t stay on anymore. The sketchers look great, but according to reviews also slip off for those of us with small 5.5 narrow feet. Any suggestions for a second shoe to wear with skirts if sandals not practical? Thanks.

    • Post author

      Hi Suzy, I wouldn’t bother with sandals, it will probably be too cold. I’d suggest the ballet flats from Payless, they have elastic all around and don’t fall off. Another choice could be Clarks Cloudsteppers:
      A Mary Jane style would be a good choice for narrow, small feet. Good luck!

      • Suzy Marsden

        Thanks Sarah. I had forgotten reading about the Payless ones on your 10# challenge. It’s in stock locally, so will go try them on. The Clarkes look cute, with more support, but need to find where I can try them on. So busy right now.

  • Susan

    Hi Sarah,
    I took your advice and bought the Earth sandals and the cute Sketchers to wear in France next month. Now that you’ve had them awhile, are you still happy? Any updates on your footwear? Thanks!

    • Post author

      I liked the Earth ones very much. Super comfy. They have been retired because they were stretched out after a year and a half of intense use. I may take them to a cobbler and see if that can be fixed. The Sketchers are still great, if a little smelly. Still comfortable. I heartily recommend both.

  • Marianne Norden

    I will be traveling from Dec 17, 2015 through Jan 5, my adult son and I meeting my daughter who has been studying abroad. I can’t imagine that boots would not be recommended for this time of year. mid calf length is what I’ve bee thinking. We are going to the mountains in the Czech Republic, so it will be cold and maybe snowy. And maybe black tennis shoes?
    And also, what would you recommend for a coat? I’m thinking the down vest, and also a car-coat length warm, lightweight jacket (maybe down?), and longer raincoat?
    I would have to wear the boots onto the plane, for weight. Coat too..

    • Post author

      I am just in the middle of writing about this very thing! There will be a post up shortly. That’s a ton of outerwear you’re suggesting. I have a long down coat with a hood that was perfect in freezing central Turkey last winter. Boots too, absolutely. Tennis shoes and lots of wool socks. Don’t forget gloves, hat and scarf.

  • Wanda

    Those black sketchers are so adorable. They look like they just hug your feet. Nice. Thanks for taking all this time to share. Much appreciated.

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