Shoes are one of the most annoying things to pack for your travels, yet they're also one of the most important.
Heavy, bulky, and often dirty, there's always a battle between carrying as few pairs as possible so you can stay under your baggage limits, and having enough versatility and comfort for everything you plan to do during your trip.
While no shoe fits every possible travel situation, choosing good multi-purpose footwear will help reduce weight and space in your luggage more than almost any other decision you can make. Here's what you need to consider, and a few recommended options.
Exploring the City
If you're looking for a great way to end up with sore knees and tender feet, wear an impractical pair of shoes around a European city for a day.
Rough, uneven surfaces put a lot of pressure on feet and ankles, but it's hard to find footwear comfortable enough to clamber up and down stairs and over cobblestones in Paris for several hours, yet stylish enough to wear into a restaurant afterward.
One of the few good options is the Voinic range, which has a podiatrist-designed orthotic insole system. Walking or standing for long periods is much more comfortable with shoes like these, as long as you can still find a style that suits your needs.
The Bryson Men's Casual Lace-Up works well as an all-day city walking shoe, and comes in a few different colors. If you'd prefer a darker, leather-based option, the Branxton offer similar features with a slightly more up-market feel.
If you'd prefer something in more of a sneaker style, check out Maratown's highly-cushioned offering. With three times as much padding as most shoes, they keep your feet happy and pain-free even after waking all over town.
Available in several different styles, albeit in the same black and white color scheme, they don't look out of place in casual restaurants, cafes, or bars.
You won't be getting too far off the beaten path with shoes like these, but for urban exploring and long travel days, they cover all the bases without costing a fortune.
A Little Light Hiking
One of the biggest problems when choosing travel footwear is finding anything that's appropriate for light hiking and day walks, while still looking good enough to wear out to a bar at the end of the day. While the right choice will depend on your personal sense of style, it's possible to narrow down the requirements for most travelers.
The shoes will most likely be brown, with a minimum of brightly-colored accents, laces, eyelets, or stitching. They also need to have a solid, well-constructed sole with plenty of grip, but not one that's so thick it makes them look like hiking boots.
This is one situation where leather really is the best choice. Unlike nubuck, canvas, or other fabric, leather is easy to clean after your shoes inevitably get muddy on the trail, and you often won't need anything more than a cloth or paper towel to do it.
Basically, whatever you choose needs to hold up to plenty of abuse, be simple to clean and extremely comfortable, yet still look good when worn out with a pair of pants for dinner.
Unsurprisingly, it's not that easy to find any shoes that fit the bill perfectly, but one of the best options in recent years has been the Merrell Moab Rover. These shoes have leather uppers and sturdy Vibram soles for light to moderate trail walking, yet remain subtle enough to wear out at night. Well, once the dirt's been scrubbed off them, at least!
On that note, it's always worth packing something to keep dirty shoes separate from the rest of your luggage. You can buy dedicated shoe bags, but plastic grocery bags work just as well.
Sometimes the Classics Are Best
The same old things you wear at home can be just as useful when you travel, and surprisingly, this can even include shoes. Plain Converse sneakers are durable, comfortable, and lightweight, and they'll even squash up small enough to throw in your hand luggage if you need them to.
They're much cheaper than dedicated travel footwear, and if you're not planning to hike muddy trails or spend time in the fanciest restaurants, will cover you for most requirements.
They go equally well with shorts and long pants, and are easy to replace if you manage to destroy them after a few particularly hard days of sightseeing.
A word of warning, though: if you're buying a new pair, be sure to test them out with a couple of long-distance walks before you travel. Blisters can be an issue, and this style of sneaker doesn't have any real arch support, so be prepared to pick up some insoles if you need to.