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.
BEST AIRPORT SHOE
Allbirds Wool Runners
Airport travel is a high-stress situation as it is. Wear these comfortable, lightweight, and flexible runners to alleviate at least some of your frustrations.
BEST FOR WET/COLD CLIMATES
Bean Boots by L.L.Bean (Shearling-Lined)
Battle those cold, wet environments with warmth, practicality, and durability.
BEST FOR CITY TRAVEL
Nike Roshe One
Nike 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.
BEST FOR BUSINESS TRAVEL
Cole Haan ZeroGrand Stitchlite Wingtip Oxford
While 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.
BEST HIKING BOOT
Danner Mountain Light Boots
Avid 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.
BEST FLIP FLOPS
Havianas’ minimalistic flip flops nail all of the basics, making them a great choice for tropical vacations both on and off the sand.