Every traveler needs a sturdy pair or two of shoes, but not all are blessed with standard size feet. Many people suffer from a variety of foot ailments, and travel can make these worse. Today I am focusing on travel shoes for tough sizes and problematic feet.
In my last post I wrote about the best travel shoes for this year, according to my readers and my exhaustive research. Unfortunately, many of the shoes I selected are shoes I cannot buy for myself. I wear a 12, 12W in some cases, which is a size higher than most manufacturers make. This makes shoe shopping kind of sad for me.
I am a tour guide, though, which means that I am a tough problem solver. I WILL find cute, light, sturdy shoes that are comfy for miles and don’t cost a fortune. It’s been a years-long mission in reality. These days things are much easier than when I was a kid, a 10 was always the largest size in women’s shoes. I was lucky that unisex Converse were so fashionable in my youth.
Brands for Special Sizes and Issues
I know the struggle to find a good shoe from two decades of travel and I know from experience what works. When I am shopping, there are brands that I can write off immediately. Keen, Merrell, Dansko, Teva, Cobb Hill…. the list can go long of brands that don’t carry my size. I know, I know, those of you that love your Keens and Merrells will be upset I’m not including them here, but they are not a go-to for special sizes and problems. I have become a big fan of the reliable brands that always have extended sizes.
Here is a quick rundown of the best manufacturers to look at for specialty sizes:
Munro- Stylish women’s shoes with a professional and comfort focus. size 4 to 14, AAAA to WWW, a stunning range of sizes. Carried by Nordstrom, some styles available on Amazon. Very expensive, but can often be found at a bargain price at Nordstrom Rack. I bought this pair on clearance for $15.
Clarks- A dependable mid-range brand that focuses on comfort. Most styles are attractive- shocking! Shoes tend to last over time. Probably best known for loafer-type walking shoes. When I think of Clarks, I think of the color brown. Women’s sizes 4.5-14.5, N to WW, Men’s sizes 6-17, N to EEEEE
New Balance- Athletic shoes with a wide range of prices and styles. If you’ve got a weird sized foot, they will have your size, especially big and wide feet. Men seem to have the most luck here. Comfortable, but inconsistent quality from style to style, and pretty generic from an aesthetics point of view. Sizes 7 to 20EEEE
Sketchers- While Sketchers boasts a huge number of attractive, lightweight and comfortable shoes for the average foot, the styles narrow drastically for unusual feet. They technically carry women’s shoes up to 13W but very few styles exist over size 11. Men do much better here, with sizes 6-16, medium to extra wide.
Propet- If you have special problems such as bunions, Propet makes shoes that will be kind to your feet. They are reasonably priced, although a little frumpy. Good size range with many special widths. Their travel line is amazingly light. Sizes 5AA-13EE
Earth- A shoe line designed by a Danish yoga teacher, they have a strange footbed with a lowered heel. This is supposed to help you stand in a more natural position with better posture. I find their shoes blend orthopedic elements with cute styling, a tough feat. They have split their line into separate brands, the Kalso Earth shoes are the original negative heel design, the others are a more standard fashion comfort shoe line. Sizes 5-12 N-W
I’ve got some specific suggestions for choices of shoes in awkward sizes, for foot problems and other issues. I’ve tried to keep these as light as possible, following my packing light philosophy, based on the weight of each individual item. I suggest two pairs at minimum for all travel, especially if you have troublesome feet. I have a hard time finding new shoes when I travel, so I usually bring three in case I have a problem with one pair.
These suggestions are based on reader feedback, tour member suggestions, and on my own research and experience. I’ve got troublesome feet and I’m related to people with foot issues like neuropathy. Hopefully my woe will turn into your joy.
Sandal with Biggest Size Range and Fit Options
Propet Bahama Slide, $70, sizes 5-13, N-EE- When searching for a great suggestion, I wanted to find a comfort shoe that anyone could fit. This is the shoe. If you wear a 5 EEE or 13 N, this will work. The size range is impressive. The velcro straps make them fully adjustable at 5 points for a customized fit. They are reasonably attractive and get rave reviews for comfort. I prefer the look of their sister model, the Aurora, but it isn’t offered in the top and bottom of the size range. I’d pick these if your feet tend to swell.
Best Orthopedic Flip-Flop
Orthaheel Vionic Tide Sandal, $65, sizes 5-12- I know what you’re thinking. Orthopedic flip-flop? Isn’t that a paradox like jumbo shrimp or honest politician? And why exactly would one pay almost $70 for flip-flops? I didn’t believe it either. I looked at them in person and read the reviews, and I have to admit, they aren’t bad. These shoes are made for fallen arches and plantar fasciitis, for people with heel trouble or leg pain. They come highly recommended for anyone recovering from foot surgery. Seems too good to be true, but the reports from reviewers and readers say it’s not lie. Black magic, maybe.
Best Lightweight Sandal for Foot Problems or Narrow Feet
Naot Dorith Sandal, $140, sizes 4-11- Another very popular sandal with my tour members, this is a sandal that works well for small or narrow feet, although it stretches and molds to wider feet. The cork footbed has a decent arch. At 6 oz per sandal, you’ll have a hard time finding something with a better balance of comfort, weight and support. All that and they are adorable, looking great with pants, dresses or even shorts.
Women’s Walking Shoes
Best Ultralight Walking Shoe for Tricky Feet
Clarks Sillian Series, $70, sizes 5-12W- This Clarks series, formerly called CloudSteppers, is offered in a huge range of sizes and colors. There about five models, the lightest of which are Sillian Jetay and Sillian Stork. The Stork comes highly recommended from many of my readers, especially for bunions or strangely shaped feet as the fabric can stretch. I own a pair of these and can tell you , they are very comfy and supportive. They pack flat, and at 5 oz per shoe, these are a no-brainer. Only downside is they can be smelly without socks. Although slightly heavier, I’ve got my eyes on the Chell model for off-season travel.
Shoes for Back Problems
Earth Kalso Solar, $145, sizes 5-11- This is the classic Mary Jane shoe from Earth. Designed to mimic walking through the sand, the lowered heel is supposed to improve your posture and keep pressure off of your lower back. I have a pair of these and I find them very comfy. The toe box is wide. The strange shape of the sole rocks while you walk, it’s kind of a pleasant sensation. Some think the style is frumpy but I find them funkadelic.
Most Recommended Travel Shoes in Many Sizes
Sketchers GoWalk Kindle, $60, sizes 5-13W- Of all the shoes I see on tourists, these have become the most common. There is a good reason for that, they are comfy and neutral. Sketchers are seriously popular but lack a wide range of sizes, this being the one model that does have a wider range. If you need a stiff and supportive shoe, this probably isn’t your thing. Everyone else will love them, they feel like walking on marshmallows (and probably equally flammable).
Best Walking Shoe for Seriously Troubled Feet
SAS Freetime Comfort Shoe, $157, sizes 5-12W- SAS is a boutique brand that focuses on comfort for problem feet. They are recommended for diabetics and those with chronic foot conditions. While these would not be at the top of my list style-wise, the people who own them are in love. They can help to alleviate foot pain, especially for long days of standing at a job or in a museum. These should only be purchased in red. You need a pair of red shoes.
Best Comfort Sandal in Many Sizes
Dunham Monterey, $115, up to 18EEEE- Dunham is the upscale label from New Balance. They try to merge the aesthetics of Born or Ecco with the amazing size range of New Balance. These are a nice sandal with an upscale look. I can imagine them on a beach or at the opera with nice slacks and a light sport jacket. They are reviewed to be very durable, which is one of my priorities in choosing men’s shoes. A solid pick for a nice sandal in a weird size.
OluKai Kia’i II, $75, sizes 7-15- Leave it to the Hawaiians to build the best flip-flop. Worn by Hawaiian lifeguards, these are tough and supportive. You may balk at the price, but they are made to get wet, hike over lava, support fallen arches and mold to your feet. They reportedly last for years and years despite abuse. Coming in at 8 oz per shoe, you’ll have a hard time finding a lighter men’s sandal.
Men’s Walking Shoes
Best Shoe for Troubled Feet
Brooks Addiction Walker, $120, sizes 7-15 EEEE- I fell in love with Brooks when I started running. They are a local company here in Seattle and my son had a friend who’s mom worked there. I find their shoes cushy and well designed. This particular shoe is a wonder for a myriad of foot problems. I am buying them for all of the men in my life, particularly for my dad who suffers from neuropathy and diabetes. They are also recommended for overpronation and plantar fasciitis. For a substantial men’s shoe, they are very light at 14 oz.
Best Walking Shoes for Tough Sizes
New Balance MX623, $70, sizes 7-20 EEEE- New Balance is great at making a durable shoe, but they excel at extended sizes. This model has so many sizes and colors available. They are on the low end of the price spectrum and probably won’t last long, but they will do the trick for tough sizes.
Favorite Shoe of Rick Steves
ECCO Shoes Track II Low, $220, size 7-16- Well, they say you get what you pay for. These are a little on the high side, but wow. Waterproof with Goretex. Contoured footbed. Thick and sturdy sole for trails with styling that would work at a fancy restaurant. Extended sizes. Best feature, in my opinion, antibacterial properties that will keep them from stinking. Ecco is famous for making durable and supportive comfort shoes. A tough, practical, smart shoe, just like Rick!
This has been quite a journey! I thank you all for your suggestions. I’ve been developing a spreadsheet for this, please continue to comment and send me your favorites and I’ll get them all posted.