The Big Travel Shoe Decider: Travel Shoes 2017
The most common question I get from travelers is, what is the best travel shoe? Each year, I sort through all of the different options from sandals to flats to clown shoes. I scour the internet and my local shoe stores, looking like a crazy lady with my scale in hand, to find the best options. In the search for travel shoes 2017, I opened the question up to my Facebook followers for suggestions.From about 250 responses and my own sleuthing, I have compiled a spreadsheet of the 50 best options. Of those options, I have narrowed them further to give you the best choices based on internet reviews, reader feedback and my own judgement. I prefer lightweight shoes that are reasonably attractive and versatile. I've tried to include multiple price points, but let's face it, you get what you pay for. All of these shoes received high marks for comfort.I will follow up this article with a special post, shoe suggestions for hard-to-fit sizes and special foot problems. If you don't see your suggestions here, I may be hanging onto them for the next article. Ready to shop? Andiamo!
For most trips, I suggest women bring a minimum of two pairs of shoes. In warm weather, one pair of walking shoes and one pair of sandals will do. In cold weather I'd suggest one pair of boots and a pair of walking shoes. If you'd like to bring a third pair, consider flip flops for hot weather or ballet flats for trips that are heavy on cities. As always, I'd suggest thinking in terms of weight above all and I've listed the weight of a single shoe for each pick.
Walking Shoes, Athletic and Casual
Based on reader feedback and observation of the tourism industry, my top recommendation this year is for Sketchers. Tour guides spend an awful lot of time on their feet. I'm always observing what shoe the local guides in Italy are wearing as they are usually fashionable and comfy. Most local guides these days are wearing some model of Sketchers with a memory foam sole. The memory foam models are consistently lightweight.Sketchers Empire Rock Around, $60, 6 oz- A basic sneaker with a cushy sole. These are unremarkable shoes but comfortable for long days. If you are a deeply practical person, you know, a person who drives a fuel efficient station wagon like me, this is the shoe for you. These shoes receive high marks for comfort for standard feet, but is typically not supportive enough for feet with issues.Sketchers Bikers Step Up, $60, 7 oz- Another Sketchers shoe, but with a bit more flair. This Mary Jane style flat has a good sole for a variety of terrain and would work as a dressier shoe as well.Naot Maitai, $180, 9oz- A consistent favorite of the women that come on tour with me, I have admired this shoe more times than I can count. These are well reviewed for people with foot problems. A solid Mary Jane style shoe with good construction and a cute little swirl on the top. A good choice if you're an artsy/creative/funky dresser...or would like to be.Teva Arrowood Lux, $120, 10 oz- A great combination shoe. It looks like a nice street shoe/sneaker. Could work on a trail. It could look nice with dressier clothes. Also waterproof! This is the nicest look I have found for a waterproof hiker, I would take it to London, Scotland, Scandinavia or the Swiss Alps. I might even take it to Italy in the winter. You pay for features with weight here, but they are still light compared to other hikers. A solid choice.
I am making a distinction here between casual shoes and flats, only because these are shoes I would consider alternates. They are an ultralight extra pair.Sketchers Cleo Wham, $55, 4 oz- If you really want a special pair of shoes that will wow the trendy Euro crowds, this is it. The sassy black and white design is incredibly cute and would look great with almost anything. Light, thin, very packable and reasonably padded. This is my top pick for ballerinas this year, based more on style than comfort.Ahnu Karma, $95, 6 oz- A cross between a Birkenstock, a Mary Jane, a sandal and a ballet flat. This pair is cute and light as a feather, but also is well constructed. This is one of the few ballet flat shoes that is also made for comfort.DexFlex Ballet Flat, $25, 4 oz- A true ballet flat with elastic around the collar. These are very flexible and feature a cushy foam insole that most ballerina flats don't have. My go-to flat for many years, they weigh so little and pack totally flat. Several colors available.
There are so many options here, it was hard to narrow the field. I really like sandals, and cute sandals are a requirement for me. I wear a size 12, so I've never been able to wear Keens or Merrells. My suggestions here are based on reader feedback and reviews.Naot Kayla, $135, 7oz- Naot shoes are known for comfort and funky style, but are not cheap. This particular model is one of my top picks based on the unusual combination of comfort, weight, consistent high marks and great style. Coming in at a light 7 oz, they have nice thick straps (less likely to break) and an adjustable heel strap. I particularly like the wedge style. I don't need extra height, but let's face it, a little heel makes your legs look good. These could really go with anything. Only drawback is the tread on the sole, which is a bit smooth for my liking.Birkenstock Mayori, $95, 6oz- I haven't owned Birks since I was a kid, when they looked good with bellbottoms and a unicorn t-shirt. However, when I was in Thailand recently I found a knock-off pair at the Bangkok weekend market for $6. They're so comfortable and cute, I realized that Birkenstocks have changed quite a bit over the years and are no longer just for patchouli-scented music festivals. My knock-offs are falling apart, so I'll be buying a real pair of this cute style. They are practical, orthopedic and look great with skirts. Also good to know: fashionable Italian ladies wear them too. If they are good enough for them, they are good enough for me!Keen Rose, $90, 9 oz- A huge number of women wrote to me about these sandals, raving about the comfort and versatility. Keens are tough shoes, with a nice rubber toe kick and good tread for trails. This particular style is vaguely feminine, dressy enough to wear with skirts and comes in a variety of colors. The downside? They tend to make feet look wide and Hobbit-like, and they scream West Coast American. I find Keens a little too clunky, but this is the top pick of my readers with a standard sized foot.Merrell Terran Lattice II, $85, 7 oz- Similar to the Keen Rose, but with an open toe, these are a slightly more elegant take on the hiking sandal. These have a harder sole with good arch support and would be good for trails and beaches. They are a little on the sporty side to be feminine, but the added versatility could be worth it. Keep in mind that Keens, Merrells and Tevas all have a similar footbed and can get stinky over time.
Flip-flops are not necessary for your bag, but they are very helpful if you plan to go to the beach or are staying somewhere that has a shower down the hall. They tend to be so lightweight, I find them to be an ideal 3rd pair in the summertime.Teva Mandalyn Mush Wedges, $25, 4 oz- These strappy flip flops with a wedge heel are decent enough to pass as a real pair of shoes and look cute with anything. I'm on my third pair, they last about 2 years with regular wear, and I still love them for the days when other shoes just don't feel good. A great shoe if your feet swell in hot weather, you can shave an ounce if you prefer the non-wedge version.
If you are heading to a cold climate, a pair of boots will be a good alternate pair. Boots are heavier than normal shoes and are bulky to pack, but I've taken them before and was glad for it. My strategy is to wear them on days when i need to haul my luggage. My picks are the lightest boots I've found. Some people love Cowboy boots. Not my thing, but if it's yours, consider Ariat Boots.Ugg Classic Cuff, $179, 11 oz- Uggs may not be your thing, but they are fantastic for long plane rides and chilly weather. Easy on and easy off, fluffy wool interior, toasty toes. They don't really weigh much and the cuff can be turned down for a different look. Aside from the style issue, these are surprisingly practical.North Face Thermoball Button Up, $100, 10 oz- A basic lightweight winter boot that isn't too bulky. Very lightweight for a boot. They aren't waterproof, but water-resistant. Particularly good for snow.
For men, I suggest two pairs of shoes. For typical travel, I'd say one pair of walking shoes and one pair of athletic shoes. In warmer months, one pair of walking shoes and one pair of sandals.
Walking and Athletic Shoes
Sketchers Flex Advantage 2.0, $60, 9 oz- Extremely lightweight for a men's shoe, these are comfortable and come in a variety of colors. I have noticed that men tend to kill Sketchers pretty quickly, so don't expect to get more than a year out of them, but it will be a comfortable year.OluKai Moloa, $120, 15 oz- I'd never heard of these shoes until a reader suggested them. They are on the heavy side, but get rave reviews for comfort. They are very attractive, and would look great with just about any outfit...maybe not a speedo. At twice the price and weight of the Sketchers, these are an investment but offer great support and craftsmanship. The heel folds down for a slip-on effect- cool!Hoka One One Clifton Running Shoe, $130, 10 oz- If you like to wear a running shoe in your daily life, this is a very well regarded shoe. These would delight anyone who likes a very padded sole and a spring in their step.
Birkenstock Milano, $135, 11 oz- Typical Birkenstocks with a back strap to keep them on the foot and an updated finish. These look good on men, I think, and are super comfortable. They are not great for trails or beaches, but are sturdy for city walking.Keen Uneek, $100, 13 oz- I don't love the look of Keens, they are so clunky. This new style is a bit more elegant but still rugged. This style still works for hiking and beaches, but would look better in cities. Maybe this isn't for everyone, but it gets great reviews.There are more shoes to recommend, these are just my top picks for travel shoes 2017. Stay tuned for tough sizes and my spreadsheet with more than 50 choices.If you haven't yet, comment with your favorite travel shoe!