Since we’re in prime getting-out-of-town season, the Strategist has returned to thinking about the best travel gear (see what our editors can’t get on an airplane without, and a roundup of the best rolling luggage). Below, our updated guide to the best travel shoes — as in, shoes that can withstand both airplanes and cobblestones, as recommended by travel writers, photographers, tour guides, and other frequent fliers. Quick shopping note: A lot of these shoes come in both men’s and women’s, or in unisex, sizes.
Best sandals for travel
“For good measure, I never leave home without my Birkenstocks. They are classic and fit me like a glove. They’ve become a staple of my wardrobe — I often find myself slipping them on every day when traveling. I usually also bring along my Philip Lim mule loafers because they can add sophistication to a business meeting and I can slide them on for dinner with friends. When it comes to sneakers, I go with the Allbirds wool runners. They’re incredibly comfortable and extremely lightweight.” —Ariel Kaye, CEO and founder, Parachute
“I’ve always been a huge fan of Chacos. I love that you can wear them with a casual dress, take them hiking, go for long city strolls, or hang out around the campfire. They’re incredibly weatherproof and seem to last forever. The only time I’ve ever had to buy a new pair is when I somehow left one sandal in a hotel room in Reykjavik. If it gets a little chilly, especially early mornings, I can even fit a pair of wool socks under them until the sun comes up.” —Erika Skogg, National Geographic explorer
“I asked the youngest — and therefore coolest — person on my team if I could pull these Tevas off. She called them ‘ugly cute,’ which I took as affirmation that I found my version of Danskos. They are incredibly comfortable, don’t rub or cause blisters, are waterproof, and I feel like the thick, sole makes them look kind of fashion-y. In Oman, when I wore them to the Grand Mosque, I was required to put socks on to hide my toes, and even that kind of worked? I’ve since worn them out in L.A. with a silk jumpsuit and will be wearing them when I go to the Everglades next week.” —Rose Annis, director of sales and marketing strategy, Atlas Obscura
“I personally always bring a pair of Adidas foam sliders on my long-haul flights, so I can easily slip them on when running to the restroom, and they are ultracomfortable and are my ultimate lounging shoes when hanging at a resort or going to the beach.” —Brian Kelly, founder and CEO, The Points Guy
Best athletic sneakers for travel
“I’m an active traveler, so I know I need footwear that will be comfortable, lightweight, and good-looking. For walking all day or a quick run, I would go with the Altra Escalante. They’re versatile enough for a run, yet low profile and understated, so they look great in an urban environment. I love the fit, and they’re a huge REI customer favorite. ” —Kristin Finton, category merchandising manager for footwear, REI
“I’ve worn these shoes to hike or run in north Vancouver along a river trail that was fairly wet and muddy. The grip made me feel secure, and I was especially pleasantly surprised that the grip held over larger wet boulders, when exploring closer to the river was calling, and also chasing wet dogs. Recently, I wore this same shoe in Runyon Canyon in the Hollywood hills. Super-hardpack, dry trail with a layer of loose sand on top. I thought I was going to go down because everyone was slipping on the sand layer, but nope — I felt secure, cushioned. Plus, I love the color and the quick laces — techy cool. ” —Kristin Finton
“I fell in love with these shoes during my short-lived stint as a distance runner, but they’re still in rotation as a comfortable pair of sneakers I take on most city trips. I recently packed these for a marathon of a different sort: a breakneck visit to Paris, which had me running (figuratively) beneath the span of the Eiffel Tower and strolling around Cathédrale Notre Dame — all without the sore feet usually felt after a lengthy day sightseeing.” —Alex Howard, managing editor, Lonely Planet magazine
Editor’s Note: While the Nike LunarEpic Low Flyknit 2 is unavailable, the Nike Free RN Flyknit 2018 is available here.
“I just finished rocking the Vivobarefoot Swimrun’s on a trip to Roatán, and they were awesome. Hiking, swimming, scrambling over rocks and sharp coral: They crushed it and weigh next to nothing.” —Josiah Q. Roe, director of creative services, the Outbound Collective and Pursuit Series
Best casual sneakers for travel
“Traveling or not, I can almost always be found in white Superga sneakers. I’ve gone through so many pairs and styles over the years, but I’d have to say these are my favorite. They’re classic and comfortable enough to wear pretty much everywhere, especially while traveling.” —Steph Korey, co-founder, Away
“My go-to are Golden Goose sneakers, but I also just designed these Capybara Espadrille, which are Argentina inspired. They are incredibly easy to slip in and out, you don’t have to take them off at security and they are warm and soft.” —Sofia Sanchez de Betak, art director, fashion consultant and author of Travels With Chufy
“The best travel shoe is Common Projects Original Achilles. Shoes are not only comfortable but the most versatile option for travel. From the Jetway to the boardroom or the beach, this shoe has the broadest style spectrum than any other shoe. I can go straight to a meeting in our Tokyo office or be comfortable showing up on the beach in Tulum.” —John Sencion, co-founder, Flight 001
“The socklike, seamless construction makes these very comfortable and ideal for long flights. They’re breathable, easy to get on and off and packable. Pro tip: You can tuck in the heel to wear as a slip-on. It’s a technical take on the iconic silhouette.” —Rafa Oliveira, creative director, Tracksmith
“Allbirds, hands down. Their wool runners are light, comfortable, hypoallergenic with the wool, and look pretty rad for sneakers. The last place I wore them was a few weeks ago in Panama. They were perfect because the airport and TSA were a breeze since they easily slide on and off. They look smart and can pair with joggers or slacks (for that first-class upgrade … that never came). And once I landed and the shorts came out, going sockless in them was no problem since the wool wicks away moisture. Not to mention they are as light as any shoe out there and comfortable for eight hours on the go. For the price, the quality, the environmental factor, and style, nothing comes close. My old Nikes are great; but for something a bit more original, more forward-thinking, classic, and stylish, I’m an Allbirds convert.” —Grant Nyquist, director of adventure, the Outbound Collective and Pursuit Series
Best slip-ons for travel
“For 12 years, I’ve walked all around New York to find and share the best food with tourists and locals who take our tours. When I travel myself, I only take one shoe with me. These are casual, but still feel feminine and stylish, with lots of color options. I love the fact that they are foldable and easy to fit a few colors — your basic black or brown and a fun color — in your suitcase without going over the weight limits on your bags. I’ve worn them over the concrete of NYC and the cobblestones of Rome.” —Amy Bandolik, creative director, Foods of New York Tours
“Sabahs are the ultimate travel shoe because not only do they slip on and off with complete ease, but they are suitable for so many different climates. I wear the same pair to the beach that I wear in the winter with wool socks. Their supple leather molds to your foot making them super comfortable even after a long flight, and the unfussy design keeps them very lightweight. Not to mention they can elevate even the most basic stretchy pant to gypsy chic, and only look better the more global miles logged.” —Abra Boero, founder and creative director, Off Season Rockaway
“I own eleven pairs of Mephisto’s. They began as walking shoes, or as the English call them, trainers. The same comfort technology is applied to their dress shoes. You can carry one pair for daytime hiking, and another pair for a nice dinner. I can comfortably walk back to my hotel at the conclusion of the evening.” —Navin Sawhney, CEO Americas, Ponant
Best boots for travel
“I’ve been rocking these Ecco Wedge Booties in the colder weather. They’ve really held up during my trips to Iceland and Greenland this past year and are lightweight for packing, but most importantly they are really comfortable to withstand an entire day of pavement wanderings.” —Erika Skogg
“I have a pair of Bussola boots that I have been wearing for eight years straight, and I am hard on shoes both due to having flat feet and walking often on hard city surfaces. These are water-repellent with cushioned inner soles and anti-slip outer soles. They even have an antibacterial shield for those long work days or traveling adventures where you could use some added protection against ugly odors.” —Amy Bandolik
“If you’re looking for one boot to rule them all, the vintage styling of the Danner Mountain Light is iconic, and the one-piece leather design makes for a sturdy boot that can handle anything from a casual walk around Telluride to a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. They’re the boots that Reese Witherspoon is wearing in the movie Wild. Once these babies mold to your feet — if you’re invested in the process, they should be absolutely comfortable within a month, if not just a few weeks — you’ll have a pair of boots to adventure in for years to come. To best break them in, my recommendation would be to wear them around the house for a few days (even just while watching TV for a few hours at a time), then go on a few short hikes. ” —Zina Bougri, account manager, Backcountry
“I’m a light packer, so I need a pair of shoes that can do double duty on trips where I’ll be spending as much time on the trails as I do in the city. These were my only shoes during a recent research trip to Alaska, and they worked great as lightweight, waterproof hiking boots, while remaining the right side of stylish as I checked out the craft-brewery scene in Anchorage. Other hiking shoes are definitely function over form, but these Danner boots have trendy leather uppers and red accents with all the support and ruggedness of proper trail boots.” —Alex Howard
“The Lowa Locarno or Asolo Agent are super versatile and great for hike/lifestyle crossover or for traveling — think town-to-trail: Stout enough to help support while carrying a pack between towns, but stylish enough to not look out of place in the pub that afternoon.” —Tad Summersett, category merchandising manager for footwear, REI
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