Hi Frugalistas! The frugal first class travel readers have spoken. So many questions I receive are about what shoes to pack for travel. So, this week, I’m talking the best shoes for travel. And of course, they are the best comfortable walking shoes for travel, because that’s what frugal first class travel is all about. Even if you aren’t looking for the best travel footwear and you want to check your luggage, my choices will give you maximum comfort and maximum choice, with minimal effort. This post is updated as at November 2023.
What are the best shoes for travel?
While it obviously depends on where you are going, and your personal style, there are some general principles to think about in choosing the best travel shoes for women:
Comfort is key: always choose shoes that will be comfortable that you can walk in all day, and that can cope if your feet are inclined to swell a little.
Choose shoes that suit your itinerary: unless you are going to a wedding or some other formal occasion, leave the heels at home. Similarly, if you know you are going to be doing a lot of walking on cobblestones, make a good quality pair of walking shoes your number one priority. At a resort you probably won’t need gym shoes, but will need sandals – think about what you going to be doing and forget about packing shoes “just in case”.
Choose shoes that multitask: don’t choose shoes that will only go with one outfit, or suit one travel situation. The best shoes for one bag travel will keep you comfy all day, and then take you out in the evening.
Choose shoes that go with your clothes: I must admit, when I’m traveling, I decide what shoes I’m taking first, then choose clothes that I know will go with my shoes. While it may seem a bit around the wrong way, I find I think about my packing wardrobe in a very different way once the shoes are locked in. It’s one of the key ways I manage with just two pairs of shoes.
The Best Walking Shoes for Travel
When I first started writing packing lists on frugal first class travel back in 2012 I never recommended sneakers as the best women’s walking shoes for travel. Remember them back then? Hard, thick, clunky things that were fine for the treadmill but just looked horrible in the sophisticated cities of Europe (and anywhere else for that matter). Fast forward a few years, and the fashion wheel has turned. Sneakers are now a viable option to pack and make a good walking shoe choice for travel in Europe. The best sneakers for travel are water proof and have support in the inner sole. Choose carefully, and they will also go with a casual skirt, and still be smart enough for casual evening meals.
If you prefer a coloured sneaker Ecco have a good range of coloured leather sneakers.
Don’t be afraid to go for a coloured sneaker depending on your own personal style – just make sure it will match every item of clothing you want to wear sneakers with.
I know gold or silver sneakers are not to everyone’s taste, but chosen carefully, the right pair of a more fancy sneaker can be worn with casual skirts or dresses for maximum multitasking, making them among the best walking shoes for Europe.
The Best Ankle Boots for Travel
Unless I’m going to a resort, or traveling in the summer, I love to pack a pair of ankle boots. I pack them in place of a walking shoe because I don’t hike and I like how I can wear them out to dinner in the evening without feeling under dressed. The best ankle boots for travel have a nice thick sole, and some support in the arch.
I wore a pair of Ecco molded sole boots similar to this in Europe in the winter. And I was the only one in the family not to slip on the ice.
The Best Flat Shoes for Travel
My favorite flat travel shoes are ballet flats. I find ballet flats the best shoes for travel as they go with both skirts and pants. Choose a pair that are nice and soft, with a thicker sole. Leave the really flimsy, flat ballet style at home in preference to a more substantial shoe. Invest in a good quality flat shoe for walking with a nice, soft upper and a sturdy sole.
If you need a dressier shoe for more formal evenings I love the idea of dressing up a pair of plain ballet flats with a bit of shoe bling. If that is what you are looking for, make sure you choose your shoes with a view to what they will look like with the bling.
As an alternative to ballet flats, a pair of mary janes can be a good option, especially for those who need or prefer an ankle strap. Again, choose something with a good thick sole for better support. A Velcro closure works best in case your feet swell.
The Best Sandals for Packing
If you struggle with swollen ankles when you are travelling, make sure you avoid an ankle strap sandal. A velco closure is more forgiving of swollen feet and again, depending on your own personal style and wardrobe, don’t be afraid of buying a colourful sandal for travel.
If you prefer something more traditional, still make sure your choice has a good thick sole.
An open toed espadrille is also a good choice.
The Best Summer Shoes for Travel
Personally I love espadrilles for summer travel. I find them good to walk in as an alternative to a walking shoe or sneaker and find they are the best shoes for travelling in summer I also like them for resort holidays.
If you are looking for espadrilles, go for a style with a strap or tie rather than slip ons as they are better for walking. I like these ones as they have good thick soles which should give more support.
My other favorites are blingy flip flops (thongs). I take them to resorts instead of sandals. I use them at the pool and around the resort in the day time as well as with a dressier outfit for dinner out in the evening. They are not great for extensive walking, but are fine for a little shopping and parading around the resort.
These are a traditional rubber flip flop, but the more solid sole makes them good for walking and the rhinestones definitely add the X factor for a casual evening.
While my choice may not be exactly to your taste or budget, hopefully they give you a good idea of what to look for when choosing the best shoes for travel. You can click on the links to find out more about these great shoes for one bag travel.