- I’m an avid traveler who has walked thousands of miles around the world, some in comfortable shoes, some in not-so-great shoes.
- To get the best advice on choosing walking shoes specifically for travel, I asked two well-respected podiatrists. Here’s what to know when choosing your next pair of travel shoes.
Whether you’re part of a tour group or exploring a destination on your own, chances are you’re going to be doing a lot of walking while traveling. I’ve learned the hard way that city sightseeing and visits to world-famous museums are far more enjoyable when your feet don’t hurt.
My best advice to travelers looking to really enjoy a trip is simple: Treat your feet (and the rest of your body) well by wearing comfortable walking shoes. The right footwear can help prevent blisters and other irritations and provide needed support and stability for long days of traveling. Here, I’ll take you through everything you need to find your next great pair of walking shoes for travel.
What to Look for When Choosing Walking Shoes
Every person and foot is different, so you want to start by confirming your current shoe size. “What a lot of people do not realize is that as we all age, our foot size can change as things shift and move and even flatten out,” says Alicia Canzanese, DPM, vice president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine and an adjunct teaching faculty member at the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine.
Getting a fitting at a shoe store is the best way to go about this, and a good heel to toe (and width check) fitting will provide information on not only length and width but also the right kinds of walking shoes for your foot type.
BEST OF THE BEST: Best Tour Companies for Guided Tours
With that information in hand, you then want to think about what kind of walking you’ll be doing. For general walking, podiatrists say a running shoe is generally the best choice. If you’ll be doing a lot of trail walking, you’ll want to consider more specialized hiking shoes that offer support and traction on different kinds of terrains like rocky paths.
I’m going to focus on general walking in this story, the kind you would do on a typical travel tour or while sightseeing in a new city. Running shoes are a good choice for this type of travel because:
- They’re lightweight and tend to have non-slip rubber outsoles.
- They generally have a cushioned foam midsole (the part of the shoe underneath your foot) designed for shock absorption. “With travel and a lot of time standing and walking on hard surfaces, it is important to have a shoe that has cushioning built into the midsole,” says Dr. Canzanese.
- They tend to have uppers (the part of the shoe that’s on top of your foot) made from breathable materials. Mesh uppers or those made from other breathable materials “which will expand if you have any swelling in your foot as the day progresses,” says Dr. Canzanese.
- Running shoe brands often provide options for extra stability support, which can be good for people with flat feet or who are overweight.
The bad news for fashionistas is this: When you know you’ll be walking a lot on long travel days, you don’t want to wear hard-soled shoes like wing tips, loafers, or flats. These kinds of shoes are “a recipe for disaster,” says Mark Mendeszoon, DPM, a physician spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association, “causing problems that can be inclusive of blisters, painful toenails, sore arches, and irritation to the nerves in the feet.”
The same goes for shoes that are overly thin, flat, or overly flexible—shoes like flats. These aren’t great for walking either, as they don’t provide the support and cushioning needed and can lead to foot pain.
WALK THE WORLD: Best Walking, and Trekking, and Hiking Tours
If you have a trip coming up, prioritize getting your just-right pair of shoes sooner rather than later. Buy your walking shoes well ahead of your trip and start wearing them before you’re ready to jet off. “It is recommended that the shoes be bought several weeks prior to departing on vacation, so that the shoes are broken in and you become accustomed to them,” says Dr. Mendeszoon.
Where to Buy the Best Walking Shoes
Many retailers offer a wide selection of running sneakers ideal for all the walking you’ll be doing on your next trip. Here are some of the most dependable (in alphabetical order,):
Online megaretailer Amazon offers a staggeringly wide array of men’s, women’s, and kids’ running shoes from brands that include Asics, Adidas, Brooks, Under Armour, and New Balance. If you’re already used to buying stuff off Amazon, this can be an easy option, especially if you’ve got your returns routine down (for instance, heading to a local drop-off center where you don’t even have to package your returns up). Since you should expect to buy a variety of shoes and then return those that don’t work, the easy-return factor is pretty big when you’re buying shoes online.
Dick’s Sporting Goods
Dick’s Sporting Goods is a popular online and brick-and-mortar seller for athletes and outdoorsy types. The company sells men’s, women’s, and kids’ running shoes from brands including Nike, Under Armour, Hoka, Brooks, and Asics online and at its hundreds of retail locations. You can also pick up all kinds of athletic apparel and gear here. The online shopping experience is generally pretty good with Dick’s.
With some 550 stores in the U.S. and Canada and a strong online presence, DSW is a big and trusted shoe seller that offers discounted running shoes for men, women, and kids from brands like New Balance, Brooks, Adidas, Saucony, and Reebok. The company also offers a slew of other footwear options ranging from sandals and flats to boots and loafers, often for less than you’ll find elsewhere.
Sneaker options abound at Foot Locker, a sneaker wonderland whose portfolio of stores focus on sneakers and youth culture include Kids Foot Locker and Champs Sports. Websites, mobile apps, and about 2,700 retail stores in 29 countries make shopping for men’s, women’s, and kids’ kicks from on-trend brands like Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Puma, and Reebok an easy experience.
The much-loved online shoe retailer Zappos shines with a free, 365-day return policy. It stocks men’s, women’s, and kids’ running shoes from names like Hoka, Sorel, Brooks, and Adidas. And that’s just one category of footwear you can find on this site, which also carries everything from sandals and clogs to oxfords and slippers.
Best Walking Shoe Brands
When it comes to choosing the best running shoes for walking while traveling, these are the brands that these and other podiatrists recommend:
The Altra brand got its start a decade ago at the back of a running store, founded by two friends who met as high-school cross country runners. The company offers a range of its FootShape fits to take into account things like the biological differences in men’s and women’s feet and offers a 30-day guarantee. Also, unlike many sneaker brands, Altra’s tend to be easy to pack (note that you can get around this issue by just wearing bulkier shoes in transit so you don’t have to pack them at all).
Its Shoe Finder tool helps shoppers search for men’s and women’s shoes based on activity, terrain, and desired cushioning. I like that Altra’s have shoe features like the company’s Active Stance Rocker for a more efficient toe-off (how you push off through your toe) and its Balanced Cushioning platform that helps with alignment and form.
This longtime global athletic shoe and clothing company offers a range of running shoes for men, women, and kids, plus gender-neutral options. Detailed shoe descriptions help match the best shoes to different kinds of pronations (the movement of the foot that occurs during foot landing when walking) and include lots of information on things like cushioning, materials, and the technology used in each shoe style.
That might include things like the company’s PureGEL technology offering lightweight cushioning and Rearfoot GEL technology for better impact absorption. Reviews, photos, videos, and a Shoe Finder feature provide even more details and insight to help buyers know if they’re choosing the best shoes for their feet.
The Brooks brand is all about running, so it’s not surprising its shoes come highly recommended. The company makes it easy for shoppers to find the right shoes for their feet and needs, with a Shoe Finder feature that takes into account everything from how you’ll use the shoes to recent injuries and a 90-day trial run period for all purchases. Even for non-runners, Brooks can be a great option.
Shoe descriptions offer information on elements like cushioning and support as well as stats like midsole drop and weight to help with decision making. Look for features like the company’s GuideRails technology for added support or its nitrogen-infused DNA LOFT v3 for extra cushioning. Shoes come in a range of sizes, widths, and colors to work for almost any wearer.
Hoka makes shoes for “pro runners and first milers, ultra-marathoners and mountain roamers, neighborhood walkers and wild trail runners.” So it’s not surprising there are lots of options for men’s and women’s shoes on its website. You can search for shoes by the surface on which they’ll be used, desired cushioning, and stability options, as well as factors like color and price. Or use the site’s Shoe Finder to narrow down your choices.
Descriptions for individual shoes offer even more information on things like heel and forefront support, materials used, and other features. The company offers a 30-day, no-matter-what guarantee to help you find the perfect fit.
Venerable American footwear brand New Balance is known for craftsmanship and comfort. The company has a wide variety of men’s, women’s, and kids’ running shoes that range from understated classics to flashier options, offering features like its Fresh Foam technology for cushioning.
The company’s website makes it easy to compare different models and how they stack up in terms of stability, cushioning, drop (the difference in height between the heel and forefoot), and weight. A helpful size guide offers both basic info and sizing tips, and the company offers a 45-day return policy.
Saucony got its start back in 1898 and that longevity tells you the company must be doing something right. Search for running shoes for men, women, and kids (plus unisex options) using filters like needed arch support, surface on which they’ll be used, and the activity you’ll be doing, along with categories like color and size.
The company’s website includes a Shoe Advisor feature for insight and advice, and shoppers can also “text with an expert” for even more assistance with selecting the right running shoe. The brand earns praise from podiatrists for aspects like cushioning and durability.
Beyond Running Shoes
Yes, the podiatrists recommended running shoes. But if you’re just not that into the running shoe look, you’ve still got options. Here are some brands that offer sandals and other shoe styles with support and cushioning well suited for walking.
Birkenstock shoes have become classic go-tos for a reason, with their well-known cork and latex footbed with a suede lining, deep heal cup, arch support features, and roomy toe box. A handy fitting guide helps you choose the proper size and learn how to break the shoes in. Birkenstock’s recent rise in popularity has led to a bunch of new styles too, so even if the classic sandal isn’t your look, you have other options.
Vionic is another shoe brand that gets some love from podiatrists. The brand’s shoes offer arch support, stability, and cushioning to promote full-body alignment, and some shoes are even designed for people who suffer from plantar fasciitis. Vionic has lots of different shoe styles, including walking shoes, sandals, flats, and boots.
Teva sandals offer traction, arch support, and durability and make for good options for walking, hiking, and other outdoor activities. The company’s Shoe Finder can help you choose the best pair for your travels. And like Birkenstock, it has plenty of styles beyond that traditional sandal silhouette.