What do I think about most when packing for a trip? My choice of shoes. And not because I want to wow the locals with my fashionable footwear. When I travel, I know there’s a good chance I’ll be walking quite a bit, and depending on my location, the weather, and my plans for my trip, I want to make sure I pack only one or two pairs of shoes, and both must be as comfortable as possible.
Comfortable footwear brands have been coming out with a wider variety of shoes in recent years, in more styles and colors than ever before. Regardless of the type of traveler you are, your chosen activities for your trip, and your sartorial leanings, you have a broad swath of shoes to choose from, and the following are my recommendations, as a traveler who puts comfort first.
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The trendy traveler who still craves comfort.
I have to admit that it’s difficult for me to fully embrace the vaguely orthopedic look of many “comfort’ shoes, and that’s why Birkenstocks have often been a travel staple for me. From classic Arizonas or trendy Gizehs to the clogs that work in nearly every climate, Birkenstocks have a timeless, minimalist look. Their cork soles are instantly recognizable, and these days they are customizable in a wide range of materials, finishes, and colors. Plus, plantar fasciitis sufferers will find comfort in the deep heel cups and metatarsal cushioning of these classic sandals.
The outdoors enthusiast.
If you’re planning on incorporating a bit of hiking and all-terrain exploration into your travels, you’ll want to pack a shoe that can do it all, since packing space is always limited. Choose a shoe that looks right on city streets, but performs well on rough terrain, and is waterproof enough to keep your socks dry in inclement weather. The Keen Terradora Waterproof Hiking Shoe fits the bill, and comes in a variety of colors, though I always think a neutral color is best for travel, when you’ll need to accommodate a variety of outfits and environments.
Buy at Amazon
The cold weather seeker.
Though many of my friends and family balk at the idea, I love to travel in cooler climates. The December days I spent at the Christmas Markets in Munich were covered in a light snow that perfectly complemented the holiday mood. My visits to my husband’s family in Nova Scotia are often shrouded in a gorgeous and romantic fog. And typical travel shoes just don’t cut it when you’re chasing the northern lights or checking out the shopping district downhill from your ski lodge. ECCO makes excellent shoes built for comfort and durability, and their boots look great and wear well through hours of walking.
The high heel warrior.
OK, I personally can’t walk for more than a few steps in a pair of heels, but I have traveled to multiple cities, countries, and climates with a friend who can’t bear to walk in anything less than three inches. Born shoes are built for maximum comfort, and they make a great wedge heel that’s perfect for summer. The Born Lemhi is summery, can be dressed up or down, and offers a cushioned footbed, soft leather, and grippy soles that make long walks and cobblestone streets bearable.
Buy at Amazon.com
Do you have a closet full of Nikes and an eye out for the latest trends in kicks? Do you think that sneakers pair well with jeans, dresses, and leggings, and you can’t imagine an excursion without them? For travel, snap up a pair of sneakers that offers a bit more comfort. Geox shoes are designed specifically with comfort, arch support, and long wear in mind, and their Jaysen sneaker is cool enough to sport in any city, while still being comfortable enough to wear from dawn until dusk. And as this article concludes, not all sneakers provide the kind of support that prevents tendonitis and other inflammation in the same way Geox Jaysens do.
Buy at shopgeox.com
The die-hard Dansko fanatic.
There’s a reason why so many health care workers, nurses, and restaurant workers swear by Danskos. Their comfort can’t be beat, and is essential for those who need a closed toe and stay on their feet for long periods of time. If you’re attached to your Danskos but would like to shake up your footwear a bit just in time for your next warm weather vacation, give Dansko sandals a try for ultimate comfort, a bit of a lift, and less coverage for walks in sunny climates.
Buy at amazon.com
WBUR Guide Picks
Birkenstocks: Best for travelers who like to stay on trend.
KEEN Terradora: Best for hiking, biking, and outdoor exploration.
ECCO Boots: Best for cold weather travel that necessitates comfortable boots.
Born Lemhi: Best for those who can’t bear to wear flats.
Geox Jaysen: Best for sneakerheads who need some extra comfort.
Dansko Sandals: Best for people who can’t give up their Dansko habit.
Rebecca is an outside contributor providing content for WBUR Guides. Based on her experiences as a professional writer and editor, frequent traveler, and busy mom, her product guides share her unique perspective with her fellow WBUR listeners and readers.
Rebecca holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Barnard College of Columbia University. When she’s not writing, Rebecca enjoys cooking without stopping to measure precisely, swimming a poorly executed freestyle, and spending time with her husband and son near their home in Somerville, MA.