Choosing the right shoes for your trip
Let’s talk about travel shoes for women. Travel = walking. A lot of walking. Having sturdy, comfortable shoes is crucial since you need to be able to wear them all day, every day. If they are cute, well, that is an added bonus. But honestly, that probably should not be your focus when packing for a trip.
Disclaimer: we have mentioned before that we are not fashionistas. We are all about comfort when we travel and you will not find us walking through the airport in a pair of heels. If that is your thing, well, you probably won’t get much out of this post.
Travel shoes for women
Confession: I am shoe addict. I love shoes. My love (aka obsession) with shoes sometimes makes it difficult to pack for a trip. I want to pack light, but I want to be prepared for every sort of situation. The two do not go hand in hand. Regardless of how many shoes you choose to pack, below are a couple of tips for selecting the right pair of shoes for a trip followed by some specific stories from the road.
Quality: you get what you pay for
Tip number one: invest in quality. It is time to say goodbye to cheap shoes (sorry Payless). It just is not worth it to skimp here. Blisters and bad smells are always a concern when it comes to shoes. Cheap shoes will only compound those issues. Trust me. Save up your moola and buy a quality pair of shoes. Not only will they be more comfortable, but they will also last longer. Cheap shoes wear out quickly or break and you will have to buy multiple pairs. I would rather spend a chunk of money on a pair that lasts then $20 over and over again on a pair that does not hold up.
R and I are both big fans of Chaco sandals and have been since before they became the “it” shoe on campuses around the country. When it comes to comfort and durability, my Chacos have never let me down. I have more pairs than I would like to admit, but my first pair is still going strong after 10+ years of solid use. That is impressive. Now I personally think Chacos are cute, but I understand that not everyone does. Regardless of how they look, they are comfortable and durable. Very few sandal brands can say the same.
Of course, sandals are only good for warmer weather. Traveling in colder climates requires a completely new strategy when it comes to choosing shoes. When the temperatures drop, I prefer my Teva boots. These boots have it all. They are waterproof, warm and very comfortable—I can spend all day walking around in them. In addition, they are cute. I have had them for over five years now and although they take up a lot of room in my bag when I am not wearing them, they have been worth every penny I spent on them.
It really does not matter which brand you prefer. Just make sure to choose shoes that are comfortable and will stand the test of time.
Quantity: how many pairs of shoes do you really need?
Well that depends. Because shoes take up so much space in your bag, you want to make sure you really need a pair before you throw them in. Unless you know for sure you are going to go for a run, do not bother packing running shoes just in case (unless they also double as your walking-around-town shoes). Is the chance of rain small? I would not recommend packing your rain boots then.
As mentioned previously, R subscribes to a three-shoe rule: usually a pair of Chaco sandals, a pair of flip-flops and some sort of close-toed shoes. Between the three, she has most situations covered. I, on the other hand, prefer to pack only one or two pairs if possible. Therefore, I stress over my choices a bit more.
I find it easy to choose shoes for straight up cold or hot climates. It is the in between that gets me. Our last trip was to Puerto Rico. I packed one pair of shoes: Chaco sandals. For this particular trip to a tropical climate, my choice was spot on. They worked great for walking around town, hiking to a waterfall and combing the beach (although I usually took them off and walked barefoot in the sand). Trips to places with variable weather and temperatures are a lot harder to decide on.
A note about work shoes
If you are not concerned about space or packing light, then you do not need to analyze your shoes quite as much. I will be traveling for work later this week and since I need separate outfits for every day I will be interacting with clients, I will not be bothering to pack as light as I do for my personal trips. That means I have plenty of room for shoes! I still do not plan to pack shoes I might never wear, but I am free to pack a pair I may only wear once.
Each trip is unique. Therefore, you should choose shoes that are appropriate for that specific trip based on the length of the trip, weather, activities and the size of bag you will be using.
Stories from the road
I recently began packing foldable flats on some of my travels. I have found them to be a useful addition to my bag and I will continue to travel with them in the future. They work great for plane rides and easy walking. On a recent Christmas trip to Europe, I packed a gold pair of foldable flats to wear to our fancy Christmas dinner. They were festive and fun and took up very little room in my bag. I was also grateful to have them on the long plane rides.
On my first backpacking trip through Europe, I packed my hiking boots. I am not entirely sure why. Maybe I had the image in my mind of what a backpacker is supposed to look like and it included hiking boots. Regardless, they were big, bulky and I rarely wore them—I remember having to tie them to the outside of my backpack because there was not enough room in my pack!
I did not need hiking boots to trek around London or Madrid. I did not need hiking boots to walk along the beach. Even when we traveled to rural areas like the Wicklow Way in Ireland, they were superfluous. I learned a valuable lesson on that trip: do not pack hiking boots unless you plan to do some major hiking. (And small hikes do not count since Chaco sandals or quality walking shoes work just fine in those situations.)
Several years after that first backpacking trip, a friend and I traveled to Peru to see the sights and hike to Machu Picchu. We opted to take a five-day hike over the Salkantay Pass. It was intense and hiking boots were very much needed for this particular trek. I was glad to have them. However, very few of my trips entail intense hiking. Therefore, very few of my trips require me to pack hiking boots.
I mentioned my trip across Canada via the railroad in an earlier post. I went during a time when the rain could be counted on to fall and I made the choice to pack my rain boots knowing they would take up a lot of room in my pack. Well, it did rain and I was happy to have those rain boots even though they made packing light a challenge.
Any kind of boot should be carefully considered before it goes into your pack. However, in cold or rainy climates, you will not regret the extra bulk. R usually gets a little short on space in her pack as trips wind down. One thing she’ll do to make sure everything fits is to wear her biggest shoe on travel days during the trip. This frees up more room in the bag for newly acquired treasures.
On that same trip to Canada, I tried out my first pair of Toms. I resisted purchasing a pair (even though I love the One for One concept) because I thought they were ugly. Honestly, I still think they are ugly but their comfort is hard to beat. In terms of durability, they are not going to win any awards. But they were perfect for traveling on the train (and airplane) and they complimented my bulky rain boots nicely when it came to taking up space. Toms have worked great for me, but there are plenty of slip-on options to choose from should a trip call for that kind of shoe.
Now make sure that after you find that perfect pair of shoes, you break them in before you hit the road. R and I recently went hiking in North Cascades National Park and I packed a new pair shoes—some trail sneakers. Although I was familiar with the brand and had worn them the weekend before on an outdoor adventure, they were basically still new. Luckily, they performed like a champ and are now officially broken in. But still, it was risky of me to pack them without being certain they would be comfortable for hours on end and you never want to take that risk before a big trip.
As mentioned previously, my days of hostel bunk beds and shared showers are a thing of the past. If that is still your thing or you are finicky about potential germs in the shower, I recommend you pick up some flip-flops for the shower. The last time I stayed in hostels on a trip, I packed a pair of those disposable flip-flops they give you at a nail salon. They do not hold up great, but they are cheap, light and do not take up a lot of space. They were perfect for showering and just before I came home, I threw them away.
Over the years, I have found shoe brands and styles that work well for me. However, I am always on the lookout for a good pair of shoes that might make a trip even more enjoyable (I recently bought a pair of Allbirds and I cannot wait to try them out). If you have any suggestions for a good travel shoes for women, I would love to hear about them.
Shoes are an important part of travel (and life, in my opinion). However, choosing the right pair of travel shoes for women can sometimes be a challenge. You want shoes that are comfortable and will stand up to miles and miles of walking. Sure, you may have to make an investment. But it will all be worth it when those shoes take you to some amazing place in this big old world.