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The best travel shoes are lightweight enough not to incur excess baggage fees, yet durable enough to serve you well throughout your trip. If possible, they should save you space by performing more than one function — for example, a shoe that gives you good support on the hiking trail but still looks fashionable in the pub at the end of the day means you only have to pack one pair of shoes instead of two. Of course, the best choice for you is entirely subjective and depends on where you’re going and what you want to do when you get there. In this article, we look at a handful of great traveling shoes in different categories ranging from the best sports sandals to the best shoes for formal occasions.
Our Top Picks
If your vacation plans require style in the city and practicality outdoors, keep your packing light by achieving both with the same pair of shoes. With their hand-sewn moccasin construction and full-grain leather, Sperry’s Top-Sider Authentic Original Boat Shoes are a classic choice guaranteed to look good with pants or shorts. Color options range from conservative tan or classic brown to statement-making oat/magenta. Rawhide laces and rust-proof eyelets complete the shoes’ timeless nautical look.
Best of all, these shoes are also exceptionally practical. The brand’s razor-cut Wave-Siping sole pattern provides excellent wet/dry traction, while the beveled heel allows you to brace yourself against uneven surfaces. If you’re planning on spending time at sea or in high humidity, the leather’s resistance to salt and freshwater staining is a major plus. They also boast a shock-absorbing heel cup and an Ortholite insole, while the 360-degree lacing system lets you customize the fit. Keep them loose when in transit so that you can slip them off easily at airport security.
The Altama OTB Maritime Assault Low Cut Boots are a perfect match for those that spend their downtime in search of their next adrenaline high (think diving, caving, climbing or skateboarding). Designed for military use in tactical water operations, they fit most open-heel dive fins. The abrasion-resistant 1,000-denier Cordura side panels are lightweight and quick drying, while the Ultron PU contoured insoles do not absorb water. The laces are low-profile and won’t chafe on long swims. The drain ports and lace hardware are rust-proof.
If you plan to spend a lot of time on a caving ladder, you’ll appreciate the additional support offered by the shoes’ full-length ABS shank. Even if you’re not an extreme sports enthusiast, these may be the right travel shoes for you. At 13 ounces, they’re incredibly lightweight and comfortable. They are available in four different colors: black, black multicam, coyote and regular multicam. Sizes run small, so consider sizing up.
Whether you’re headed to the Alps or the Appalachian Trail, the Merrell Moab FST Hiking Shoes offer a lightweight alternative to traditional hiking boots without sacrificing on traction and support. They are athletic, low profile and breathable (weighing just 1 pound, 11 ounces per pair). The uppers are made from mesh and TPU, while the Vibram MegaGrip outsole offers superior, long-lasting traction. An air cushion in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability to prevent injury on tough trails. The blended EVA footbed keeps your shoes fresh with the help of organic odor control.
Use the traditional lace closure system to achieve a secure, supportive fit. The bellows tongue keeps debris out, making the shoes perfect for routes with plenty of loose sand. Most sizes are available in a regular or wide fit. No matter your tastes, you should find a color to suit you with options ranging from all black to grey/orange and navy/green. If you’re planning a winter trip, bear in mind that the shoes are not waterproof.
MAIITRIP’s Lightweight Running Shoes are recommended for all workouts — whether they take place on a beachfront boardwalk or at the hotel gym in between business meetings. They are comfortable and breathable, with a dual vent mesh structure that helps to wick moisture away from your feet. This feature works in tandem with an anti-odor insole to keep your shoes fresh — a big plus when you have to pack them in a suitcase alongside all your clean clothes.
The lightweight EVA sole has multi-directional grooves for added flexibility and slip resistance, even in wet weather. A pair of size 8.5 shoes tips the scale at 15.5 ounces, making it easy to stay within your luggage allowance; while the stylish design makes them a versatile choice suited to socializing in the city as well. There are three colors to choose from: black, black/white and blue with neon accents. At just over $20, these shoes are also a contender for the best budget travel shoes for anyone wanting to keep fit and look good on their next vacation.
If you’re more likely to be touring cafés in Europe than tearing up the running track, Xero Shoes’ Casual Canvas Hanas could be the best fit for you. With their sleek canvas uppers, huarache-style lacing system and microfiber accents, they make a fashion statement while still keeping your look low-key. The heel is flexible so you can wear them as enclosed shoes or sliders. In terms of color, neutral shades of black/black, brown/black, sand/chocolate or black/rust go with everything — so you can pack one pair of shoes to match all outfits.
These shoes are the closest you can get to barefoot comfort without sacrificing the protection of a 5.5mm rubber sole. A wide toe box and non-elevated heel allow for a natural fit, promoting proper posture and excellent balance. At 8 ounces each, the shoes are also super lightweight, making them perfect for packing in your carry on for weekend getaways. Lastly, they are vegan-friendly and easily washable. The only drawback is the small sizing — consider ordering a bigger size than normal.
Like the Hanas, Vivobarefoot Men’s RA II Classic Oxford Shoes are inspired by the freedom of going barefoot. However, their smart lace-up design makes them the better choice for formal occasions. Made from premium Wild Hide leather, they’re ideal for the business traveler who needs to impress in the boardroom but also wants a shoe that can convert from work to play after hours. The ultra-thin sole is super lightweight and flexible, and although it’s not suitable for tackling rough terrain, it offers the last word in urban comfort.
A puncture-resistant layer makes the sole five times more protective than a standard sole of the same thickness while still allowing you to feel a difference in the textures beneath your feet. If you want an added layer of warmth, make use of the removable cork insole. The shoes come in two colors: brown/hyde and black/hyde, the latter being the most suitable for situations that require dress shoes. Both options can be worn without socks, making them compatible with shorts and roll-ups as well.
Adventure seekers who are planning a trip to the tropics will love the Xero Shoes Z-Trek Minimalist Sandal. It’s designed with activities including hiking, running, rafting, and canoeing in mind, yet is up to 70-percent lighter than regular sport sandals. Each shoe weighs around 7.2 ounces and can be rolled up to keep packing space to an absolute minimum. Even in hot weather, this lightness makes it easy to forget that you’re wearing the sandals, especially as the Zero-Drop soles allow for anatomically correct foot positioning.
The shoes are easy to slide on and off. When you’re wearing them, however, they stay securely in place thanks to a comfortable Z-pattern webbing system that allows you to adjust the fit across your foot and behind your heel. A molded heel cup keeps your heel in place. With rust-proof nylon hardware and fast-drying straps and soles, the shoes are well-suited for watersports, while the 5.5mm FeelTrue outsole offers good protection and a 5,000-mile warranty. Colors include charcoal/coal black, mocha/coffee and multi-blue.
Generally speaking, hiking boots are less travel-friendly than hiking shoes. However, if you require the added support afforded by a higher cut (or simply prefer the different aesthetic), the Salomon Men’s Ultra 3 Mid GTX Boots are one of the lightest options on the market. The boots’ Sensifit design cradles your feet from the midsole to the lacing system, ensuring a snug fit that reduces your chances of rolling an ankle on uneven ground.
Similarly, the foam-cushioned Advanced Chassis stabilizes your heel, while Descent Control technology comes into its own on steep downward inclines. On the soles, you’ll find two different types of rubber, patterned to provide flawless grip even in wet conditions. The upper is made from weatherproof GORE-TEX, a technical fabric known for its breathability and durability that will keep your feet dry without making them sweaty. Lastly, the boots sport an eye-catching three-toned color scheme, with shades ranging from navy blazer/indigo bunting/pearl blue to castor grey/black/green sulphur.