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Tips for Picking and Packing the Best Travel Shoes for Women

Best Travel Shoes
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You pack three sets of high heels for a business trip — and then your client suggests you take a tour of the office and then walk half a mile to lunch.

You pack rugged sandals and sneakers for your European tour — and then find out you'll be dining at fancy Michelin-starred restaurants.

You can't win. How do you choose the best travel shoes for your next trip? Here are some suggestions for dressy, athletic and walking shoes for women travelers.

Best travel shoe packing tips

  • Pack no more than three pairs. The pros say two should do, but for a longer trip, or one with variable weather, you can choose three. Travel blogger Hitha On The Go has created a fun grid of travel shoe combinations for various situations. For example: A wedding weekend combo might include metallic or nude heels + flats for the airport + neutral oxfords.
  • Pick a travel palette. The easiest way to pack a versatile travel wardrobe is to choose an accent color and a base of neutrals. Use the same palette when packing your shoes. This means you should go ahead and pack the ruby or kelly-green flats — just make sure you can wear them with multiple outfits.
  • Be honest: Will you exercise on your trip? Don't waste suitcase space with bulky athletic shoes when there’s only a 10% chance you’ll hit the gym. If you're committed to your workout regimen, pack lightweight athletic shoes (see below).
  • Wear your biggest shoes. Need to bring hiking boots or sneakers? Wear them on the plane to save room in your suitcase.
  • Don't bring brand-new shoes. While some travelers say they can wear high-quality walking shoes right out of the box without any problems, it's not wise to risk it. Break in your new walking shoes a few weeks before your trip.
  • Invest in good socks. Wearing cheap, thin socks negates the benefits of high-quality walking shoes. Bombas, Thorlo and Darn Tough all are favorite socks for travelers.
  • Pack first aid for your feet. Moleskine (fuzzy adhesive strips) can help prevent blisters from forming, while a blister treatment kit helps heal raw spots on your feet.
  • Buy a travel shoe bag. A great travel bag will keep dirty shoes away from your clothes; protect shoes from scuffs and scrapes; simplify unpacking; and make you feel like an all-around neat and organized traveler. Some travel shoe bags double as wash bags for shoes that can be laundered.

Buy high-quality travel shoe bags from REI, which makes a sustainable and compressible version; Tumi, which offers simple and durable shoe bags; or Sole Premise, which makes special travel bags that can hold up to five pairs, plus clothes and accessories.

Best travel walking shoes for women

Did you know that fractures from falls are some of the most common medical emergencies we see in travelers? Cobblestoned streets or other uneven surfaces are often the cause of these falls, which makes it especially important to wear shoes designed for balance, stability, traction and comfort.

When buying walking shoes for travel, consider the conditions. Is it likely to be icy, snowy or rainy at your destination? Will you be climbing lots of stairs, trekking on dirt trails or pounding the pavement?

Style’s important, too. If your travel walking shoes are also going to be your travel dining-out shoes, you may want a classic, understated style that doesn’t scream “tourist.”  Allbirds’ wool sneakers are great travel walking shoes because they’re lightweight, cushioned and cute. Naot women’s sandals feature a shock-absorbing cork and latex footbed that conforms to your foot.

If you prefer athletic-style walking shoes, Merrell’s shoes are waterproof and breathable. The soles are designed to grip slippery terrain, whether slick streets or mountain trails. KEEN sandals, boots and athletic shoes feature rugged construction and oversized toe bumpers. Clarks’ understated but supremely comfortable walking shoes are another good choice for travelers.

Best travel shoes for exercise and fitness

If you're committed to an active lifestyle wherever you are in the world, invest in a pair of ultra-lightweight athletic shoes that pack easily. Nike’s Flyknit shoes are light, bendy and breathable. Hoka is known for colorful, fun styles and hi-tech shock absorption. On-Running’s Cloud collection is supremely comfortable, and some models are waterproof.

One of the best travel shoes for trail running is the Spark from VJ Shoes. This lightweight running shoe has butyl rubber treads for gripping tough terrain. When a friend wore them on Adirondack trails, says Running World deputy editor Jeff Dengate, “he was stuck to the wet rocks on Giant Mountain like a gecko.”1

Softstar makes minimal, handcrafted athletic shoes that are so flexible they can be rolled up and stuffed in a suitcase. Consider the RunAmoc running moccasins, with an extra-wide toe box. You can even customize the colors for a pair that’s all your own.

Best travel shoes that can dress up or dress down

When you're packing for an overseas trip, you want your walking shoes to be comfortable enough for a full day of exploring but chic enough to wear to dinner.

Here are a few of the best all-purpose, all-star travel shoes.

French company Mephisto makes high-quality shoes for women that are dressy enough for business wear. Its Soft-Air midsole reduces foot fatigue even after a day of walking.

Dansko is synonymous with clogs, but their sandals and heels are polished and chic — not to mention ridiculously comfortable. Flight attendants say Dansko does wonders to prevent foot and back pain.

Travelers are freaks for Tieks. These Italian leather flats are flexible enough to fold and stash in your purse (in the included pouch). But they're also substantial enough — with a non-skid rubber split sole and a cushy instep — to wear on an all-day walking tour of Barcelona. The vegan version is made of durable fabric.

Rothy’s makes comfortable flats in classic colors and fun prints that are sustainable, comfortable and — here’s the best part — washable. When you get home, you can toss them into the washing machine to get rid of the travel grime, so they’re fresh for your next trip.

Remember that it's important to keep your feet happy while traveling, so great travel shoes are a worthwhile investment. Another smart investment? Travel insurance. Insurance is there to protect you in case of last-minute trip cancellations, trip interruptions, travel delays, baggage loss or theft, and medical emergencies (if you do end up taking a tumble on those cobblestones.) Find the best plan for your next adventure!

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