Travel Shoes: Postmortem 12


As a follow up to my last article on my picks for travel shoes, I thought it might be interesting to see how past shoe picks have performed and what has informed my current choices. After many years of being on my feet all day tour guiding and many, many pairs of travel shoes, my closet is about to explode with dead shoes. I need to part with some of them, some have already made their way to that shoe rack in the sky. This is sort of a shoe hall of fame, past loves gone awry but still fondly recalled. I’d be careful, you’re about to see some shoes so stinky and dead that you can smell them through the Internet.

Here I give you, case by case, a few pairs of travel shoes that have traveled the world and pounded the pavement with me, and their cause of death.

Case: Clarks Cloudsteppers 

Cause of Death: Sweat

I just bought these in February. They seemed to be the perfect pair of shoes. They are super light and decent looking. They were comfortable while walking over ruins and long distances. They even packed flat. But after wearing them a number of days in rain and also without socks, they developed a stink and made my feet unbearably sweaty. My fault. Should have worn socks but I thought they looked silly that way. However, I suspect that the fabric they are made out of is not breathable since I don’t typically have sweaty or stinky feet. I’ll keep them in rotation at home, but only after a thorough sanitization. If you always wear socks, these would be great shoes.

Case: Payless Shoes Ballerina Flats

Cause of Death: Black pair soaked in beer and other fluids at Oktoberfest in Munich-never recovered, beige pair ripped on nail in Turkish sidewalk.

I really loved these shoes, a serious bargain at less than $20. They were so comfy and cute, with padded soles that you rarely see in a ballerina flat. Even my Italian friends commented on how attractive they were. I also liked them because they could pack flat or  be rolled into a ball and stuffed into my bag. I’ll see if I can find them again, but considering the price, one cannot expect a long life from them.

Case: Brooks Pureconnect Running Shoes

Cause of Death: Borrowed by 11 year-old son

These were my first pair of ultralight running shoes. They had such an excellent arch, it added a little bounce to my step while running and walking. Great shoes for cobblestone streets and long days on my feet. Only problem was that they were a wee bit tight at the toe and that sent them to the back of the closet. Then my son found them, decided he liked them and it was all over.

Case: Dansko Lolita Sandals

Cause of Death: Loved to death, strappy sandals de-strapified

I used to swear by Dansko sandals and, in fact, most of my tour guide colleagues are still big fans. I wore these until they literally fell off my feet. I even had a cobbler repair them twice because I adored them and they stopped making this design. Sadly, I don’t buy Dansko anymore. They’ve changed their sizing making their shoes smaller, now it’s impossible to fit a size 12 foot. This model has been resurrected recently, and would be a great pick for problem feet if you don’t mind the weight.

Case: Tom’s Shoes Wool Slip-Ons

Cause of Death: Drowned in a downpour

Tom’s shoes are so nice and light, comfy too. As I mentioned before, I’m not into socks, and they seem to deal well with unclothed feet. These dark gray wool shoes are lined with a fluffy shearling-like layer and are super cozy in cool weather. I wore these constantly, with just about everything. Only problem is that these shoes are not the sturdiest. I got caught in a downpour while out Christmas shopping last year, trudging up rivers in downtown Seattle and when I got to the car, the shoes were dead. The insoles were mush and splitting apart. They went in the garbage, may they rest in pieces.

Case: Mephisto Helen Thong Sandals

Cause of Death: Stretched out due to swollen feet

This was my greatest shoe tragedy. A few years back, I arrived in Italy at the end of April to find that the weather was much hotter than I had expected. I, for whatever reason, had not brought any sandals. In a panic and dying of heat, I went into a shoe store in Venice and bought these shoes. They are orthopedic and vaguely attractive, I wasn’t going to argue with finding a pair in my size in Italy which is really tough. I paid a king’s ransom (Italians would say that I paid the Ire of God) but I had no choice. The summer wore on and got much hotter and my feet turned into balloons. These shoes valiantly saw my feet through all of it, but when I got home to chilly Seattle they simply fell off my feet. All of the sweating and swelling had stretched them out beyond usefulness. I kept them around for a while, hoping I could figure out a purpose for them, but eventually gave them away to someone with chunkier feet.


Case: Columbia Trail Running Shoes

Cause of Death: Vanity

Light trail running shoes seem like the perfect solution for travel. Comfortable enough for long days on your feet, rugged enough for hiking, not too heavy. It’s true, these shoes were very useful, great for book research when I tend to walk 15 miles per day. But I couldn’t deal with how manly and clunky they are. They made me look like I’d just walked out of a campground. Some people dig that look, and that’s cool, but it didn’t work for me. I wanted so much to like these that I tried two different models two years in a row. But….no.


Case: Teva Leather Sandals

Cause of Death: Stench

I don’t get what it is about Tevas and stinky feet. In general, they seem like a great, versatile pick for travel. You can wear them in all terrains, even in water. Some even wear them with socks and evening wear (Noooooooo!). But the great downfall is the way they seem to absorb all of the worst smells your body can produce. I’ve tried everything. Bleach. Baking soda. I’ve washed them in the washing machine with vinegar and hot water. It’s no use. I do keep them around and use them only for camping because they are still, more than 10 years later, totally workable, sturdy and comfortable.

That’s all of my sad tales from the shoe morgue. Got a dead shoe story to share? Fondly recall a pair that has gone to the shoe rack in the sky (or Goodwill)? Share your story below….if you dare. 🙂


About sarahinitalia@yahoo.com

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.


12 thoughts on “Travel Shoes: Postmortem

  • Carlin

    I wear Chaco sandals and Sanita clogs (closed heel) while travelling. I also purchase a pair of cheap sneakers on the trip to wear if needed. I find the clogs supportive and comfortable for my feet. I had a few of them resoled. One of the pairs looked too stretched out and beat up. This pair saw many miles in rain and dirt roads; let alone my sweaty bare feet in them.

  • Judy

    Try Columbia’s Trailhawk walking/hiking shoes. Pretty cute and super lightweight. I wore them all over Costa Rica last December for several weeks. They held up well, even after the beating I gave them. And the still look new! Very comfortable, too! I’m always in search for the perfect shoes for comfort and style. The are great for a sporty shoe. Love them!

    Btw, just found your site and have binged reading your posts. I travel for work and fun all over the world. You have some great tips I haven’t tried – yet! Thanks!

  • Ann

    Thanks, this is so helpful and entertaining! There are plenty of blogs out there about what to wear for travel (and I love to read them), but no one else thinks to show what their items look like after a couple of months of hard use! Very smart…

  • KC

    Also tend to accumulate shoes…so hard to get ones that fit, look good, and feel comfortable for my 10 1/2 wide, high instep feet…think Fred Flintstone. When finally I find ones that are comfortable for long hours of walking, I wear them til they are shredded! I so enjoy your blog for valuable info on shoes etc as searching now for some to get me through a month in Europe this Fall. Took several last year to Salvation Army due to too tight on my still growing feet or not comfortable for long hours….good to know about Soles for Souls for future mistakes.

  • Lady Light Travel

    Sadly, many of my shoes have suffered the same fate as yours. I too like to go without socks (sockettes fall off my feet). My Tevas smelled like rotting cottage cheese!
    I found that sprinkling salt on the insides of my shoes takes the stink away. Salt is accessible anywhere, so I can treat my shoes while on travel. Sprinkle generously and let stand overnight.
    Your website is quite enjoyable.

  • Julia Williams s

    Sarah: I love your emails, read every word, and wish I were on one your tours. I travel vicariously with you. Please keep them coming. Julia

  • Chelle

    My Teva leather sandals became unpleasantly fragrant whilst in Italy, leading to the purchase of my first (and not last) pair of Mephisto Helen sandals in Bologna. The Teva’s dwell in the garage, reserved for trips to tidepools. My Mephisto walking shoes (not fashionable but very functional) have gotten lots and lots of city miles in rains, sun and snow, made the trip to the Mephisto spa once for new soles, and await the next adventure.

  • Kathleen

    Please don’t discard your shoes or leave them unused in the closet. There is a charity called Soles for Souls to which you can donate ANY old shoes. They refurbish them and give them to people who have no shoes. You get a tax deduction and they get wonderful shoes. There are a few collection sites around, just google them.

  • Marilyn Glandt

    I have narrow feet and a high arch — so I have to hunt for shoes that fit. So far I have a pair of New Balance hiking shoes which take a lot of room in a suitcase and are a nuisance to remove in airports although I’ve reach the age where that may not be necessary. I have some Earth sandals, even tho wider, offer a different stance with the lowered heel; I can’t find them locally to replace so hope they last for a while longer. I found a pair of Walking Cradles (AAA) a few years ago that are comfy to wear but not great for walking on anything other than sidewalks or museum floors. So we’ll see what I pack for my tours in Scotland. . .

  • P T

    This post was so funny and honest! My shoe morgue is full of shoes that weren’t as comfortable as I thought they would be or aren’t as attractive as I once thought. I keep buying. My favorites for the moment are Vionic sandals and mule type shoes. So comfortable and some styles are really cute. Problems are stinky after awhile and sticky after awhile. I scrub up the insoles (non-removable) with soap and water and they are ready for more miles. They are also quite lightweight.

    Taking two pair along with your Skechers woven elastic flats that you recommended to Europe this week.

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