If your travels call for you to be doing a lot of walking, the right pair of shoes can make a profound difference.   To discover just how important this is, try walking a few miles on cobblestone streets with a poorly designed, ill fitting pair of shoes; a carefree vacation can quickly begin to resemble the Spanish Inquisition!

I’ve tested several different walking / casual shoes this year, and will offer a few observations in this post.  An important disclaimer:  taste, and how shoes fit, are both very individualistic.  You may find that your tastes differ from mine, and the only true test of how shoes fit and feel is to try them out yourself.  Fortunately, many online shoe retailers offer excellent return policies, making this reasonably easy.

One final point,- I wear shoes that are medium width and although there’s nothing particularly unusual about my feet, they are flat, making the search for supportive, comfortable shoes all the more important.

1.  Rockport Pro Walker World Tour Classic

I had high hopes for the Pro Walkers:  a buddy has been a loyal wearer of these shoes for years, and OnlineShoes.com users have rated them at 4½ stars.  In several respects Pro Walkers are the classic walking shoe.

Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed.  I bought the Chocolate Nubuck version (shown here) and found them bland looking and not especially comfortable.

Frankly, I think my expectations were high for this particular shoe, and I just wasn’t wowed by them in any way.  I sent them back after gently subjecting them to a couple days’ testing.

~$75; available in several colors and W, M, and N widths

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2.  Sebago Clovehitch II

Yes, I know – these are not walking shoes, they’re boat shoes, and I couldn’t care less: I absolutely love them.  Sebago has been making boat shoes since the early 20th century, and although production has moved offshore  from New England, the shoes are very well made and fit well out of the box.  The shoe features an anatomically shaped EVA footbed for comfort, and full grain leather uppers.

The Clovehitch II is available in several different colors, including some  with mesh panels, as shown here.  The model I own features two shades of brown leather and to my eye is very distinctive.

~$95; available in ~6 different colors and M, W, N, & X-W widths

3. GoLite Rock Lite

These admittedly tend toward the rugged/off-road milieu, but regardless of their intended use, they are fantastically comfortable.

I routinely wear these to work with chinos, and upon seeing them,  no one has yet fled the building screaming.  Funky, yes, but equally suited to knocking around town, or the office.  …and on rainy days, the grippy rubber tread makes for greater security, and I can attest that the lowers are completely waterproof.

Sporting a more conventional look, this shoe’s sister, the GoLite Discover Lite, might be more to your liking if you find the multi material/color and blue highlights on the Rock Lite a bit much for your taste.

It should be noted that Rock Lites include Go Lite’s customizable footbed, enabling you to match the shoe to Medium, Wide, and Narrow widths.  I also suspect that the shoe’s diamond tread (“Paw Pad”) sole helps absorb shocks and adds comfort.  These are very comfortable shoes!

The Rock Lite sells for ~$110, is available in 4 colors, M width with adjustable footbed for N and W sizes

4. Merrell Milano

This shoe is a study in contrasts:  I love the Euro look, but  am not convinced the shoe will hold up over the distance from a comfort standpoint.

Merrell has long been a player in sport and trail shoes, and the Milano takes the firm’s design principles and styling to a street-oriented shoe.

What struck me when I first slipped them on was the relative lack of cushioning.  Click on the following thumbnail to see a close-up view of three of the shoes reviewed here; the Milano (in brown) is of course on the left:

Even in this shot, I think you may be able to see how minimal the footbed in the Milano is; my fear is that when subjected to a few tough miles over uneven surfaces, the shoe will become uncomfortable.

~$120 in the Herrington catalog; 3 colors, 1 width only

Other thoughts

One thing which some of you have no doubt noticed:  none of these is a slip on shoe.  Slip-on shoes are advantageous when it comes to navigating TSA checkpoints, without a doubt.  Reader Till swears by the Cole Haan Air Jackson Two Gore slip ons; you can read his comments about that shoe in this Forum thread:  Shoes for Travel.  (The thread also includes a photo of the Sebago Clovehitch II I own.)

Reader Michael W. recently emailed me regarding the Inov-8 F-Lite 230 PK, a shoe that’s a bit similar to the Merrells described above.

How about you? Have a favorite shoe for travel?  If so, please  share it by commenting.

The Fine Print:  I have no connection to any of the companies mentioned in this post.  Most are available from OnlineShoes.com, Zappos, and other online retailers.

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28 Comments on Desperately seeking comfortable travel shoes

  1. ChrisM says:

    I can highly recommend the Merrell “World Passport” shoes.

    I bought them specifically so that I could travel to Europe for a few weeks with only one pair of shoes. They are comfortable enough to walk in all day, every day and stylish enough to wear out to a nice restaurant at night.

    The only minor drawback is that they aren’t 100% waterproof out of the box. This is only an issue if you get caught walking all day in the rain so make sure you spray them with some waterproofing sealant before you go.

    Also these are proper leather shoes, not sneakers, so you need to wear them in a bit. It only takes a few days for the leather to stretch to the shape of your foot, but it’s best for those days to be at home before you leave.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Chris,

    Thanks for the suggestion; another plus – they’re slip-ons.

    Kevin

    [Reply]

    Andy Reply:

    I bought a pair of Merell “World Passports” specifically for my three month Europe trip for the same reasons mentioned; they looked dressy enough for going out but had sneaker bottoms for comfort. I even waterproofed them with a spray.

    I broke them in for a few weeks at home and thought I was good to go, but I gave up on them after a week in Europe. 12 hours a day walking on cobblestones destroyed my feet. I ended up getting an ugly pair of white running shoes in Seville that didn’t at all match any of my dark clothes and made me look like a dumb tourist. But, my feet were comfortable.

    I made a friend in Italy and we met again in Germany, and he says the Eccos his mother bought him were amazing. I’ve heard similar praise from others. The consensus on Rick Steves’ Graffiti wall seems to be Rockports and Eccos.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Thanks, Andy – great comment.

    Mark Reply:

    I looked at the Merrell World Passport and liked them quite a lot. They were comfortable, and style-wise they were just what I was looking for. But in the end I just could get past how wide the toe box was on those shoes. It felt like I was looking down at a pair of clown shoes on my feet.

    Perhaps I would have grown accustomed to it, but I couldn’t pull the trigger on a purchase.

    [Reply]

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  3. Michael W. says:

    The Innov-8 230 PK (PK=Parkour) shoes are free of the large clumpy soles on the skateboard shoes I used to favor for travel, and are considerably trimmer than most running shoe/hiking shoe derived walking shoes.

    That means I can fit a pair of size 10 Innov-8’s into the lower compartment of a Bihn convertible backpack/packing cube –

    http://www.tombihn.com/page/001/PROD/ACC/TB0925

    which I use to hold my change of clothes in a 22″ Rick Steves wheelie (which I check through).

    Bulkier shoes will not fit that lower compartment.

    I wear penny loafers through security and during the day. In the evening I prefer lace-up shoes that won’t slip on the pavement and can help me “scoot” out of trouble, should I need to scoot. Also good if you take tours where there are slippery decks or floors.

    The Go Lites look really nice too.

    [Reply]

  4. Buzz says:

    I’ve been wearing different models of Rockport Dress style shoes for over 20 years. (They keep changing models so I can’t give you a specific one.) I first learned about them when I was a tour director and had to be on my feet all day. I never had sore feet. (They might look like dress shoes but they feel like sneakers.)

    I would also suggest you might want to think differently about loafers. Yes, loafers are easier at TSA checkpoints, however, if you plan to be on your feet all day, they have a downside. Feet swell as the day goes on. With loafers, you have one size and it could get tight. With lace up shoes, you can always loosen the laces for a more comfortable fit. This is the type I would suggest for leisure travel.

    If you’re traveling for business and you do more sitting than walking, then loafers are fine. Your feet won’t swell as much.

    One trick I will pass on is to get some disposable air-soles–Dr. Scholls or generic, it doesn’t matter–and change them every week or so. Not only does it give a little extra cushion, they keep the shoes from absorbing any odor coming off your feet. And if you’re walking all day, your feet will sweat. Take a pair with you when trying on shoes as they do take up a little extra room. With this trick, I can vacation anywhere with just one pair of shoes.

    [Reply]

  5. BD says:

    I hear the Dansko Professional mentioned a bit by people that are on their feet all day. Dansko touts on their website that several of their shoes have received a seal of acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association.

    [Reply]

  6. I am a bit biased because I work for the company, so take that into account, but I think that any of the Kuru Footwear (www.kurufootwear.com) shoes would make excellent travel shoes:

    Why is Kuru the Perfect Travel Shoe?
    Lighter – Research has shown that even 1 or 2 ounces of extra weight on your feet exponentially increases your oxygen use, taxing your cardiovascular system and wearing you out. Kuru is lighter, leaving you refreshed with extra energy to enjoy your trip. Kuru travel shoes weigh the same as many lightweight, performance running shoes.
    Durable – 93% of customers agree that Kuru is Durable and Lasts Long
    Full Rubber Outsole – all Kuru’s feature a cupped rubber outsole construction for superior durability and performance. Kuru wears better and lasts longer.
    Supportive – 88% of customers agree Kuru is Ergonomic for My Feet while 79% agree Kuru is More Supportive than other shoes. Podiatrists have identified poor support in travel footwear as one of the leading causes of foot problems.
    Versatile – we couldn’t say it any better than Dennis at RickSteves.com or Sara:

    I’ve got narrow feet and have had bouts of plantar [fasciitis] in the past, and none of my shoes meet my need for a single pair of traveling shoes.

    Based on a recommendation, I ordered a pair of Kuru shoes. Very comfortable out of the box, and true to size…I have no hesitation in saying they will be the perfect travel shoe for me, stylish enough for the cafes in Paris and rugged enough for walking the trails of the Swiss Alps.

    Graffiti Wall: Best Walking Shoes, RickSteves.com

    I just spent ten days tramping through (extremely wet) Irish countryside in your Halcyon shoes, and they were absolutely terrific–comfortable all day long, great traction and support for uneven terrain, perfectly wet/weatherproof, and good looking enough to wear anywhere. An excellent travel shoe!

    Sara, NJ

    [Reply]

    James May Reply:

    Nathan,

    Hi I checked out your site, and more then interested. Do you have an email to discuss offline.

    Thanks,

    Jim

    jilytibrme@me.com

    [Reply]

    Jim Reply:

    Follow up…

    I bought a pair of Kuru Major Browns not long after this topic ran. I think they are some of the best shoes I’ve worn, for the short time I’ve had them, they are wearing well. Light, comfortable, quality construction, easy to pack and kinda cool looking too. I will be buying more from the Kuru brand

    Weird name, sounds more Swahili then Finnish ha

    [Reply]

    Nathan Mathews Reply:

    Jim,

    That is great news, I love to hear feedback like that, and I am glad that I found your post in the first place so we could connect.

    I think the Kuru name has some Japanese background to it as well, it means something like Cool in Japanese.

    [Reply]

  7. Adriano says:

    My favourite now is Karrimor Trail Event Mens. Comfortable enough even for very long walks, with the safety of Vibram sole (a well known brand for high quality mountain boots) and eVent transpiring membrane. Ok, not really stylish…

    About 2 weeks ago I tried the Vibram Fivefingers in a shop. It took me some time to wear them, as every “foot finger” (how do you call them in English?) needs to get into the right hole, just like a glove… Moreover they hadn’t my size, so I tried a slightly bigger one. In a couple of weeks they’ll get new models and sizes, so I’ll go back and let you know. I would be tempted to use them (in the black version) on formal events, just to see whether people realize it and how they’d react…

    When I’m at exhibitions I use geox shoes. Not really waterproof, but your feet will breathe on those long days indoor, and this is very useful, especially during winter time. And they look good too. Drawback: weight…

    I admit that I haven’t found the right all-purpose shoe, which I am aware is practically compulsory for carry-on only travellers. So I’m quite curious to see what you can recommend.

    Regarding TSA slip-ons. What’s the problem in using normal shoes when passing airport controls? I went through many of them here in ole’ Europe, and I simply took my shoes off whenever this was requested by the authorities. Walking barefooted/with socks? No problem – or you can keep and reuse those little plastic bags which are given out at some checkpoints for this purpose.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Adriano,

    The TSA reference relates to the need to lace up shoes, vs. just slipping on loafers… admittedly not a huge issue, but it IS an added inconvenience.

    [Reply]

  8. jim says:

    Kevin et al,

    I have worn Keen sport sandals during travel portions, with great sucess. I finally bought my first pair of Ahnu sport sandals and im impressed with thier quality and comfort. During the non travel days i usally wear Merrels with great success. Im also flat-footed and have had multiply surgeries to correct pretty bad bunions due to the flat feet, so im very picky on shoes/socks. Heres my plug for the sock choice…Darn Tough are absolutely amazing, wear nothing but for all activities now and they back it up with a iron-clad warrenty. (no afilliation, just passionate about things that perform absolutly). Ive used Patagonia, SmartWool etc and think Darn Tough out preform the others. Anyway just my 2.5 cents. Kevin your site still rocks, thank you for your efforts.

    Jim

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Jim,

    Thanks for the comment, recommendation, and kind words.

    I’m amazed at how many suggestions everyone’s come up with… !

    kc

    [Reply]

  9. Mark says:

    Kevin,

    I’ve too have been researching for an upcoming trip to Italy (in Sept). I am also new to the world of one-bag travel and have bought into the concept fully.

    I’ve been on the search for for the perfect pair of shoes for the trip, since I’m only going with one pair. I’ve looked at everything I could track down (Clarks, Ecco, Merrell, countless others, etc.).

    I’ve settled on the exact Rockports you show in the first picture. I found them to be quite comfortable, feeling fully broken-in the minute I put them on my feet. I also felt that they would work well as a combination of casual and dressy. I wanted a pair that could look fine with both pants and shorts, and in my mind they fit the bill. My wife agrees. The online reviews are universally glowing as well.

    I just picked them up a couple of days ago, so I haven’t given them a thorough testing, and perhaps my opinion may change. Also, they may just suit my foot shape better. But so far I’m pleased with them.

    Great site by the way. I’ve scanned through just about all of it, along with many other sites as I’ve gotten the one bag religion. I started by researching bags, and now I’m just waiting on my back-ordered Tri-Star to arrive and trying diligently to trim weight off my packing list.

    Mark

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Mark,

    Welcome to the site and thanks for your comment. Your experience is proof that fit – when it comes to shoes, certainly – is a very individualistic thing. I think my expectations for the Pro Walkers were just too high, and felt a bit deflated when they actually arrived and I tried them on. But they sound perfect from your viewpoint, and that’s what it’s all about. Thanks again – and best of luck with your trip – and the Tri Star; you should love it, it’s a great bag.

    kc

    [Reply]

  10. Alan Birnbaum says:

    If I could take just ONE pair of shoes, for travel anywhere and everywhere, no doubt I would take my Lowa low-cut trail shoes, Renegade II GTX® Lo, with a Gore-tex lining, in a brushed gray leather. Besides being puddle-proof, these are supremely comfortable, and very important for me, come in a Narrow width. They would look somewhat out of place when worn with a suit, or even a sports coat, but otherwise, coordinate well with my usual palate of travel clothes, offer protection against slipping, and cobblestone streets. These cost me around $130, but recently have gone up, though the recent devaluation of the euro may help reverse that.

    [Reply]

  11. Jonathan says:

    Hi Kevin

    For more than 10 years I have been a great fan of Salomon shoes. One reason is, I have narrow but long feet, and their shoes hold my feets better than any other brand.

    First models were more low-cut textile walking shoes. Now they have a wide range of trailer shoes. My shoes are the predecessor of this model : http://www.salomonrunning.com/.....tx%AE.html. It is recommended by another seasoned traveller : http://www.markhodson.net/#/my.....4528179753

    But as the soles of my pair of Salomon are dead (they make a funny noise) and I had to buy new shoes fot the next trip (holidays, not business). I just got a pair of Handwag : http://www.hanwag.de/schuh-detail.php?shoe_id=47. They look decent (would not fit with a suit, but good enough with linen trousers in a restaurant, as recommended by my wife) and they seem veeeerrrry confortable, until now. I will tell you more when I am back from Japan next month.

    Bye,
    Jonathan

    [Reply]

  12. Mike says:

    Have been wearing Nike Frees and love them. Lightweight, comfortable, and leather-free.

    [Reply]

    Michael W. Reply:

    I just got a pair of Nike Free 7.0’s and agree with your comments. There IS a lot of flex in the forefoot, but that’s because they are trying to replicate barefoot running. Good grip on wet surfaces. Toes don’t slide to hit front of shoe when walking down steep hills. Wish they had some ALL black versions – stripe, body, and sole. Mine have white soles. These are kind of like skateboard shoes but with a much more flexible sole.

    [Reply]

  13. I picked up a pair of the Orvis French Foreign Legion oxfords before leaving for 16 days in Scotland on a couple of fairly remote islands. It was the best decision I made…the shoes are light and comfortable, airport security-friendly, and the only time I wore other shoes the entire trip was when I needed business dress. These oxfords got me onto and off of wet rocks and slippery hillsides without a slip or fall, and I’ll buy another pair if and when these wear out…

    Mark

    [Reply]

  14. I either wear a pair of my running shoes or a pair of skater shoes. Comfy and practical.

    [Reply]

  15. Jim Pursell says:

    If I had to pack only one pair of shoes, I’d wear my most comfortable walking shoes and pack my Sperry Topsiders. My walking shoes are relatively heavy and lace up so it’s OK if your feet swell sitting for hours on a plane. My Sperry Topsiders are conventional dark brown moccasins with white soles. The Sperrys have an amazingly comfortable arch support for a boat shoe, you don’t need socks, they look smashing, and they last forever!

    [Reply]

  16. Becky J. says:

    Solamon are the best

    [Reply]

  17. Marc says:

    Oh, I simply use crocks and they are best I have found so far. Thanks for the tips and its a very interesting article.

    [Reply]

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