Finding something stylish *and* comfortable isn’t easy, so we did the work for you.
If you’re prone to overpacking — like, you regularly find yourself sitting on your suitcase to get it to close — then you know how frustrating it can be once you get to the one item you need no matter where you’re headed: Shoes. Yes, destination aside, you always need a pair of kicks to cover up your feet.
But getting your shoes to fit and stay in your bag is a huge hassle. Especially when you find yourself needing to bring more than one pair due to varying climates or special occasions. (A simple rule for packing: try to keep yourself to two pairs of shoes maximum — one to wear while you travel, and the other for your suitcase. Anything more, and you’ll find yourself struggling.)
SEE ALSO: Our top 5 eco-friendly luggage picks
If you’re in a situation where you just can’t seem to find the travel shoes you need without packing a second carry-on, we’ve got you covered. After a ton of research and reading countless reviews, we think we’ve found the best pairs of shoes for you to consider for your next adventure, whether you’re venturing into a frozen tundra, hitting the shore, or keeping it business-only.
What should you look for in a pair of travel shoes?
Most of us care a lot about how our shoes look, but when you’re traveling, comfort matters just as much. When parsing through our top picks, we gave special attention to reviews that attested to how each pair of shoes lasted throughout the day, in addition to our eye for style (take note that fashion products often depend on personal preference as well, so it’s a little harder to find something for literally everyone).
We also kept our eyes peeled for shoes that served a specific purpose. For example, if you find yourself in a wet, marsh-like area, you’ll want a pair of waterproof rain boots (or duck boots, as you’ll find below). If you’re wandering through city streets, you’ll want something like a trainer or a pair of running shoes that’ll keep your feet from aching, all while impressing the locals. You’ll want to make a list of the places you’re going to hit and the activities you’re planning to take part in, as that’ll be indicative of what travel shoes will be necessary for you.
How do you find shoes that’ll fit well?
In order to ensure that your new kicks will be a good fit (literally), you’ll need to take accurate measurements of your feet. Seriously, measure them — a size 10 in one brand may be different in another, so exact numbers can be really helpful. If you’re not comfortable buying online and you don’t have the time to return an ill-fitting product before you embark, just get up and go to your local shoe store so you can be certain that you have the proper size and shape. We know, not ideal, but this is important.
Here are some general tips:
Make sure you’re standing when you measure your feet and arches.
You want between one and two centimeters of wiggle room between your big toe and the front of the shoe.
Take measurements late in the afternoon — your feet swell as the day goes on, so measuring them at the day’s midpoint will get you your best fit.
Re-measure your feet every two years, as they can change size with time.
Consider the types of socks you’ll be wearing with each shoe — you’ll want to size up with boots because you’ll most likely be wearing a thicker sock.
Other things to consider
Always check the descriptions of shoes if you’re buying online — more often than not, you’ll see fine print that gives more insight into what you’ll get if you buy. Look for things like wide and narrow sizing, arch support, shock-absorption, flexible soles, and other unique features that can help influence your eventual decision.
Also, reviews are always a great indicator. Are shoppers saying that they run big? That they aren’t wide enough? Those are definitely things that you want to know ahead of time.
And if you’re concerned about longevity, take a look at what the shoes are made of. High-quality leather hiking boots can last you years if you take good care of them, but canvas or merino wool shoes (like the Allbirds wool runners), while lightweight, will fall apart much sooner than that.
What are the best unisex travel shoes?
Keeping all of those things in mind, we scoured the internet and ended up with these six options for the best travel shoes — one for each common travel scenario.
OK. Time to sole search.
Allbirds Wool RunnersAirport travel is a high-stress situation as it is. Wear these comfortable, lightweight, and flexible runners to alleviate at least some of your frustrations.
So, it’s imperative that you have dedicated airport shoes that have full coverage of your foot, that are comfortable, and that you can remove really easily once you get to the front of the TSA line. Having a specific pair of kicks for the airport is also vital because it allows you to pack your nicer and less flexible shoes away — airport travel is already stressful enough, and foot pain won’t make that any more tolerable (it’s even worse when you’re mid-flight).
Allbirds Wool Runners come in men‘s and women‘s sizes and are a great casual shoe as well, but really shine when it comes to flexibility and breathability — making them a great choice for trotting around any airport, from JFK, to Heathrow, and every one in between. The delightfully comfortable trainers are light as a feather (you may forget you’re even wearing shoes), and are so soft on the inside that you can even pop them on without socks. We don’t advise doing that in an airport, though.
Another selling point of the shoes is how they’re made. Every pair is made from ethically sourced materials (like recycled water bottle laces) and shipped in recycled cardboard packaging on all orders for full-circle sustainability.
Wool shoes may have you worried about sweaty feet over the course of the day, but Allbirds’ runners are effective at wicking away any excess moisture and fighting any unwanted odors. You can even chuck them in the washing machine to freshen them up without worrying about any possible damage.
The renowned aesthetic of the Bean Boots aren’t all show — the iconic footwear is also geared towards practicality and durability. They tend to last wearers years before signs of weathering.
The boots’ full-grain leather design feels already worn-in out of the box, meaning you won’t have to go through the growing pains of breaking them in after a few uses. What’s most special about the shoes is that the bottom half switches materials to a rubber, waterproof cap that you can totally submerge in water or snow without any leakage. All of that in tandem with the shearling liner make for a cozy, warm, and undeniably unique pair of boots.
The tried and true L.L. Bean duck boots are a no-brainer for your next adventure into a snowy tundra, and once you put them on, you’ll feel like you’ve been wearing them for years (and they’ll last you for years to come).
Nike Roshe OneNike Roshe Ones will keep you comfortable while exploring the streets of any city, impressing the locals all the while with their versatile look that pairs well with almost any outfit.
Nike’s Roshe Ones sit well at that intersection of comfort and style, making them a very city-friendly pair of shoes.
The minimalistic mesh upper sneakers are easy to dress up or down — they can pair with almost any outfit, making them the only footwear you’ll need on your many city adventures. Plus, they’re soft enough to wear without socks. (Hey, the sock-less look is in right now.)
So, that’s the aesthetic aspect out of the way. Now, are they comfortable?
Yes. Very. The Roshes are extremely well-cushioned by their foam soles and make walking — either at a leisurely or “I have to catch the 6 train in five minutes” pace — a breeze. That mesh upper that we mentioned is also effortlessly flexible and breathable, wicking away sweat and forming to your foot with every step. It’s an all-around performer in temperate climates, which makes it a versatile option if you’re planning on visiting multiple cities across the world.
Case in point, exploring city streets just feels good in a pair of Nike Roshe Ones.
Cole Haan ZeroGrand Stitchlite Wingtip OxfordWhile oxford shoes are notoriously uncomfortable, Cole Haan’s take on the classy dress shoe employs unique Stitchlite fabric and supportive padding to keep you looking and *feeling* good at every one of your meetings during business travel.
While formal oxford shoes are notorious for their look, they’re also known for how uncomfortable they are from the moment you pop them on. Who would want to go into a meeting with aching feet? Not us. No thanks.
The ZeroGrand Wingtip Oxfords from Cole Haan are the perfect remedy, because they ensure that you can achieve that classy, businessperson look without sacrificing your poor, unsupported arches. Dress shoes that you won’t want to peel off in pain at the end of the day? Who would’ve thought? That’s due to their well-padded insoles and supportive footbed that act like a shock absorber and cushion combo that extend the longevity of wear by hours. And under that layer is a rubber bottom that provides greater zonal traction and durability. On the top of the shoe, Cole Haan makes use of their Stitchlite knit upper and fully padded sock lining for extra breathability, flexibility, and overall comfort.
While all that may sound like you’re getting a Skecher-type deal, the reality is that Cole Haan’s ZeroGrands maintain the sleek and classic look of an oxford dress shoe (with some modern touches) without making any compromises on comfort. So, go ahead and take those meetings — and feel as good as you look while doing it.
Danner Mountain Light BootsAvid hikers should look no further than the Danner Mountain Lights if they want the perfect mesh of quality and nostalgia — they bring comfort, support, and practicality to the table, if you can foot the bill.
Nostalgic outdoors-people will appreciate the heritage style and overall quality of Danner’s Mountain Light boots (some of you might recognize them from the movie Wild based on Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling book of the same name). It’s not all about aesthetic, though — when it comes to hiking boots, they need to be able to weather tough conditions and stand the test of time. These boots do exactly that, if you take care of them.
Each pair is hand-made from full-grain, durable leather on the outside, and breathable waterproof Gore-Tex on the inside. They also come with vibram heels for enhanced shock-absorption (which is paramount on harder hikes), and better traction. The ultra-tough boots also provide great ankle support (especially once broken-in), and you’ll have lifetime access to Danner’s post-purchase services once you buy for tasks like restitching, part replacement, and more.
If you’re off to the mountains on your next journey, you shouldn’t look any further than Danner. Happy trails.
HavianasHavianas’ minimalistic flip flops nail all of the basics, making them a great choice for tropical vacations both on and off the sand.
Most people tend to avoid flip flops because, let’s face it, they fall apart fast. Havianas shouldn’t deteriorate after a year, and if they do for some reason, the low price is perfect for getting a few pairs at a time (plus, they come in a ton of fun colors and designs).
When we said “minimalistic,” we meant it. Havianas are super simple, coming with a supportive signature sole and durable straps that will keep you comfortable on any and every tropical vacation, both on and off the sand.
There’s not much more to say other than that, so slip on your Havianas and post up at the tiki bar. Just… don’t wear them with socks. Cool?