11 Full-time Travelers Share the Shoes That Have Never Let Them Down
Think about how many steps you take during your normal routine: a few to the car, a few to the office, and maybe many more to work in your daily fitness session. But while traveling? The majority of your days are likely spent on foot as you hunt for the best cannoli in town, wind your way through the local nature trails, or sprint to make the last bus back to where you’re staying just outside of the city center.
You’ll need reliable travel shoes to get you through all of that exploring sans aching feet. The trouble in finding the perfect pair, though, is that it’s often an experience of trial and error. Do these give you blisters on the heel? Are these comfortable enough for an all-day walking tour? Is this heel too high? Will this pair make it through an unexpected mid-day rainfall?
Luckily, you don’t have to waste time breaking in potential pairs, since these full-time travelers have busted open their suitcases to reveal the shoes they’ve walked 500 miles in — quite literally. From the casual slip-ons that are great for European country-hopping to the hiking boots that won’t weigh you down, here are the recommended pairs of 11 nomadic experts.
Brooks Pure Flow 7
Packing for a year’s worth of travel is no easy task — trust me, I’ve done it. I left to pursue travel journalism full-time last August, and while there are plenty of items I debated and eventually left behind, there was no question whether or not my Brooks running shoes would make the cut. As someone who overpronates on her left foot and requires a bit of cushion, I discovered Brooks a few years ago, and I’ve never shopped elsewhere since. As I’ve moved to a different city (and often, a new country) every month since last July, these shoes have made it from hiking in the rainforest of Colombia to the top of a mountain in the Czech Republic and even dashing through the airport in Tokyo to catch a flight on time. My feet never feel cramped after spending more than eight hours in them, and they rock each and every terrain — whether it’s a rocky trail run or the cobblestoned streets of eastern Europe.
To buy: zappos.com, $100
Birkenstock Arizona Sandals
Kristen Slizgi, founder of The Luxury Travelist — who has been on the go since 2008 — stresses the importance of versatility. For her, having a pair of kicks that can take her from one end of the globe to another, but ahem, also to cocktails, is essential. These classic Birkenstock sandals have lasted three and a half years and counting. They might not be ideal if you’re, say, trekking the Inca Trail, but for city exploration, they match well with a variety of outfits and can be relied on for consistent comfort once they’re broken in. “I bring them with me on every trip since they go well with basically anything, whether you are wearing some cute skinny jeans and a white cotton T-shirt or dressing up with a casual black mini dress,” she said.
To buy: zappos.com, from $100
Olukai Upena Sandals
Though you might not require a ton of support on an everyday basis, having structured shoes for travel is recommended as your daily step count is likely to double (or triple). For travel blogger Sher Jordan of Sher She Goes, these Olukai sandals fit the bill. “These simple sandals are designed with an anatomical footbed, so they’re comfortable enough to wear for an entire day of sightseeing. I like how they offer structure and support, without a clunky insole, and don't look orthopedic or too backpacker-y,” she said. “Even after a year and a half of wearing them, they still look brand new!”
To buy: zappos.com, $90
Nike Free Sneakers
Your beloved hiking boots are broken-in, durable, and capable of tackling long stretches of trail. The only problem? They’re really heavy. For when you’re only taking a carry-on but plan to do some outdoor adventuring, Emma Pamley-Liddell of Journey of a Nomadic Family suggests this find from Nike as a smart substitute. “They are incredibly comfortable, lightweight, and can be squashed into my bag or worn without embarrassment. My pair is very dusty and quite discolored after we hiked Acatenango volcano in Guatemala, but they have lasted two years and I have no intention of replacing them any time soon,” she said.
To buy: zappos.com, $100
Ahnu Montara Hiking Boot
Though “Wild” made solo hiking a trend, Kristin Addis of Be My Travel Muse considers traveling on foot her preferred method of transportation. And because hiking shoes are a must for her adventures, she chose this sturdy, lightweight, and waterproof pair by Ahnu. “I need a shoe that can help support the extra weight and won’t give me blisters. I’ve walked at least 300 miles in these in Patagonia, Peru, and Alaska. I'll be wearing them in Alaska again for an eight-day backpacking trip in a few weeks,” she said.
To buy: amazon.com, from $70
Toms Women’s Classic Canvas Slip-ons
Sure, some folks need additional support, but it all depends on your individual travel needs. As digital nomad and writer Amna Shamim said, her ideal shoe needs to look chic in London or Paris, be small enough to toss into her bag, and be secure enough to stay on her feet while she’s ziplining or wandering the temples of Angkor in Cambodia. Her go-to annual purchase is this classic alpargata-style design by Toms. “They’re perfect because they’re simple, light, and work in temperatures from 60-100 degrees Fahrenheit. I average between four and 10 miles every single day and wear mine at least 180 days a year, so I get 720-1,800 miles out of them. Not bad for a $50 shoe that doesn’t look hideous,” she says.
To buy: zappos.com, $48
Asics Gel DS Trainer
You know the feeling when you find that perfect pair of jeans that actually fits in all of the ways you need it to? When you buy multiple pairs, just in case the style is discontinued? The same goes for shoes in travel blogger Brian Belley’s case. He’s bought the same pair of Asics trainers eight times since 2006. In addition to being the most comfortable pair of shoes he’s ever owned, Belley also enjoys the neutral pronation style, among other quality features. “These have small dots on the soles for traction and I have noticed that they also function exceptionally well as walking and hiking shoes in slippery conditions,” he said. In addition to general travel, Belley says these shoes have transformed his running style, and they last for hundreds of miles. Belley says he’s walked an estimated 400 miles in his recent pair, and his last few have made it into the thousands.
To buy: amazon.com, from $84
Merrell Women’s Siren Sport
There’s a saying when you walk the legendary Camino de Santiago in parts of Spain, France, or Portugal that you pass on to fellow trekkers, “buen camino,” which translates into a version of “happy trails.” To ensure her feet remained as happy as her spirit while taking the journey step by step, location-independent web developer Jess Tatham choose these hiking shoes by Merrell. Not only did they prevent blisters from sprouting on mile two of her daily 12, but they could battle the unpredictable weather conditions that inevitably happen when you’re spending more than a week outdoors. Considering Tatham has made this journey once with her family and once solo, it’s safe to say they’ve stood up to the test.
To buy: amazon.com, from $75
Sam Edelman Sandals
Getting lost — whether in translation or actually, because your SIM card stopped working — is both a thrill and a pain of traveling. Like it or not, you might find yourself wandering through narrow streets without any idea where you’re going or how to get back to your Airbnb. That’s when you need to rely on your footwear to remain comfortable, even if you’re feeling less than calm or collected. For Christina Vidal of Jetset Christina, her Sam Edelman sandals always come to the rescue: “They go with every outfit, are easy to walk long distances in, and are the comfiest sandals I’ve ever had,” she said.
To buy: zappos.com, $65 (originally $80)
Keen Women’s Voyageur Hiking Boots
Since travel blogger Megan Starr’s journeys are about exploring former-USSR countries and other unusual destinations, she often finds herself in cold climates. Icy sidewalks and slippery streets aren’t exactly conducive to high heels, so she sticks to these Keen hiking boots. Over the past eight years — yes, you read that correctly — they’ve traveled to five continents and 60 countries and are still going strong. Thanks to their durability and structure, she can depend on them to get her from point A to point B, no matter the conditions.
To buy: amazon.com, from $72
Will’s Vegan Shoes Work Boots
When you’re traveling, it’s important to have a shoe that does double-duty — like allowing you to take that impromptu sunrise hike but also getting you through airport security quickly. For travel editor Theresa Boehl, these vegan boots are the definition of versatile. Not only are they breathable and water-resistant, but they’re able to take on many an obstacle — be it the French Quarter or the hiking trails of Michigan. “They’ve got grip soles, so they’re ideal for hiking and the outdoors, not to mention wandering around cities for days on end,” she said. “If you leave the laces untied and skip the top two hooks, they slide off easily when you’re going through security at the airport.”
To buy: vegan-shoes-usa.com, $118