How to Choose the Best Walking Shoes for Travel

Doctor advice on how to choose the best walking shoes for travel, plus brand recommendations.
person walking on a beach in comfortable walking shoes
(Photo: Envato/ikostudio)

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. City sightseeing, a stroll through a park, visits to world-famous museums and landmarks—it’s all more enjoyable when your feet don’t hurt.

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.

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 fitting will provide information on not only length and width but also the right kinds of walking shoes for your foot type.

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.

We’re 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.
  • They generally have a cushioned 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, “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 flatter feet or who are overweight. 

When doing a lot of walking while traveling, 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. These aren’t great for walking either, as they don’t provide the support and cushioning needed.

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):

  • Amazon: The online megaretailer offers a wide array of men’swomen’s, and kids’ running shoes from brands that include Asics, Adidas, Brooks, Under Armour, and New Balance.
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods: This retailer serving athletes and outdoorsy types sells men’swomen’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.
  • DSW: With some 550 stores in the U.S. and Canada and a strong online presence, DSW offers running shoes for menwomen, 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.
  • Foot Locker: Sneaker options abound at Foot Locker, whose portfolio of stores focused 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’swomen’s, and kids’ kicks from brands like Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Puma, and Reebok an easy experience.
  • Zappos: This much-loved online shoe retailer with a free, 365-day return policy stocks men’swomen’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, the following brands are podiatrist-recommended:

1. Altra

The Altra brand got its start 10 years ago at the back of a running store and was 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.

Its Shoe Finder tool helps shoppers search for men’s and women’s shoes based on activity, terrain, and desired cushioning. Shoes offer 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. Reviews and a Q&A section provide additional insight when shopping.

2. Asics

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 and the materials and 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.

3. Brooks

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.

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.

4. Hoka

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.

5. New Balance

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.

6. Saucony

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 there 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.

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.

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.

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Beth Luberecki writes about travel, business, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in publications including The Washington Post, USA TODAY, FamilyVacationist.com, and The Indianapolis Star. The Florida-based writer shares her travels on her website bethluberecki.com and on Instagram at @bethluberecki and @findingfloridafun.