Not all shoes were created equally, and not all shoes are up for the challenges of travel. This is something I’ve come to accept reluctantly, after tossing out countless pairs of ruined Converse shoes, which are what I happily wear every single day at home. Turns out that Converse high-tops are good for many things, but those things don’t include hiking, anything involving water or cold weather, or – it turns out – long term travel. After losing my beloved shoes to rips and tears or un-washable mud, or trying to stuff the darn things into my backpack (why are they so heavy and giant?!) I’ve learned that I do, in fact, actually need specific shoes for travel.
Luckily, since promising to leave my Converses at home in my closet where they belong, I’ve found several pairs of excellent travel shoes. After trying on, returning, trying on again, and field-testing like crazy, I’ve found FOUR absolutely amazing pairs of travel shoes for men. Yes, four. It seems extra, but that whole thing about women packing too many shoes is some sexist crap and you’re not winning any dude-awards wearing your Reef flip flops to a four-star restaurant.
All of these shoes are lightweight and easy to cram into my luggage or backpack without taking up a ton of room, and they’re sturdy enough to handle absolutely anything – and I’ve put them through the ringer just to make sure of it, too.
With these four shoes, I’m able to handle snow, rain, high-altitude hiking and trekking, cobblestones and dirt and mud and sand and everything in between. These days, I’m back to not thinking twice about what shoes to pack for trips – I just stuff these into my pack and go, knowing I’m covered no matter what adventure I’m up against. They’ve changed my travel game entirely.
Table of Contents
Psst: Looking for more travel tips to upgrade your next trip? Take a look at some of our other helpful posts:
- The 3 Best Travel Pants for Men: Functional, Field-Tested & Not Hideous
- Travel Safety Tips: How to Protect Yourself and Prevent Theft while Traveling
- Long Haul Flight Essentials & Travel Tips for Economy Fliers
And don’t forget to read our guide to the best women’s travel shoes, too!
How I Evaluated my Travel Shoes
I field-tested my travel shoes by hiking up mountains, white-water rafting, horseback riding, canyoning, waterfall rappelling, snowboarding, literally jumping off a cliff into the unknown water below, snow shoeing, rock climbing, and meandering aimlessly through ancient cobblestone streets in multiple continents. There’s nothing like a year-long honeymoon to allow for plenty of scientific shoe-related experiments.
Wow, that list makes me sound SO much more outdoorsy and athletic than I actually am.
In my search for the best men’s travel shoes, I was seeking to find shoes that fit certain criteria:
✔ I need to be able to walk (and stand) in them for at least 12 hours straight with minimal pain.
✔ I need them to be durable enough to withstand the elements: rain, snow, dirt, dust, etc. I don’t want to be worrying about my shoes while I’m mid-adventure.
✔ I need them to be well made, so that I don’t have to worry about replacing them every year.
✔ I need them to be lightweight and flexible, so that I can shove them into my backpack without taking up a ton of space or adding a ton of weight.
✔ I need them to actually look good, because unless you’re Zuckerberg, Drake, or my father in law you look ridiculous in New Balance sneakers.
It took me plenty of trial and error, but I’ve finally found the perfect combination of shoes. All together, these shoes weigh less than the clunky hiking boots that I paid way too much for and are currently taking up a huge amount of space in my closet.
Do I feel extra throwing 3 or 4 pairs of shoes in my pack on every trip I take? I mean, yes. But you know what’s even more extra? Complaining that my feet hurt while we’re exploring a new city. Refusing to wetfoot portage my kayak because I don’t want to spend all day sloshing around in cold, wet shoes. Limping my way through a beautiful hike.
I’d rather know with certainty that no matter where my travels take me and what ridiculous activities I randomly decide to do, I don’t have to be concerned about what shoes I’m wearing – and if that means packing 3 pairs on every trip, I’ll happily do it!
A quick note about the shoes on this list: most of them fall into the “barefoot” category. Hold up – I can feel you heading up to click that X in the corner because you’re imagining those ugly, awful 5-finger shoes. But that’s not what I’m talking about at all!
When I say barefoot shoes, what I mean are shoes that allow my feet to have a full range of motion – thin, flexible soles, WIDE toe-boxes, and no heel lift at all (the technical term is “zero drop”). My wife suggested trying out barefoot shoes and I was afraid I’d have to move to a yurt and start making my own granola. When I first started testing these kinds of shoes, I was freaked out by both the fact that I could feel every pebble and twig beneath my feet, and the fact that I couldn’t walk more than a few hours at a time without feeling like I had just run a mile. My calf muscles weren’t accustomed to the full range of motion that your feet are actually supposed to be doing with every step, and they were actually underdeveloped. It was eye-opening.
But as I continued wearing the shoes, my calf and foot muscles strengthened. I found myself able to run and hike for longer than ever before. I was even performing better at the gym – I was able to tackle more challenging climbing walls and even squat heavier weights thanks to improved stability in my lower half. And my wife and I even went full cavepeople for a minute and started hiking and rail-running completely barefoot. Yes, that bit is definitely a bit nutty and no, you don’t have to go quite that far. We’d just read Born to Run and we got REALLY into it. Great book, by the way.
By the way, while we’re talking about barefoot shoes, I’ve got a quick rant about “arch support.” When have you ever seen a bridge with supports under the ARCH? Since when have arches, the strongest shape in the world, used throughout the history of mankind’s greatest architectural achievements, ever needed support? What happens when you stick something under an arch? Does it help make the arch stronger? No. It does not. The term arch support is a non sequitur. Arches don’t need to be coddled.
These days, every single shoe that I wear for travel allows my feet their full range of motion. So before you run away screaming from the word “barefoot,” consider trying something different! You might be surprised by how much you like it.
The Best Men’s Travel Shoes for Every Day
If I only had to choose one shoe to bring with me on every single trip, it would be the VivoBarefoot Gobi II Desert Boot. They’re expertly constructed from leather with a comfy cork insole, with a sole that’s so thin and flexible that you can literally feel the cracks on the ground as you walk – fantastic for balancing and stretching out your toes as you explore (but maybe not great if you’re superstitious, I guess).
I wear these exploring cities for hours, I wear them to go out for a nice meal, I’ve even worn them salsa dancing and in a pinch, I actually worked at the gym in them. (I may or may not but definitely did just forget my favorite work-out shoes, which are also on this list.) They’re the perfect travel shoe for everyday wear!
Here’s why I think the VivoBarefoot Gobi II are the perfect men’s travel shoe:
✔ Lightweight and flexible for easy packing.
✔ Looks good with everything from jeans to chinos.
✔ Breathable enough that I honestly don’t have to wear socks (but I sometimes do anyway because I spend a lot of money on silly socks).
✔ Comfortable enough to walk in for miles and miles.
✔ Puncture resistant soles, in case you find yourself walking on egg shells around people.
The Best Men’s Weatherproof Boots for Travel
Boots never even crossed my mind as a good option for traveling, because every boot I’d ever come across in my life was extremely heavy and extremely specific. You’ve got your steel toe boots, which are useful if you’re the kind of person who’s regularly around heavy falling things – but not terribly helpful for travel. You’ve got your standard waterproof hiking boots, which will get you absolutely anywhere in any weather condition while protecting your ankles from snakes, bears and velociraptors … if you can find the room for these 5lb behemoths in your pack, that is. Then there are the novelty cowboy boots that you only pull out of the closet to do a Woody bit (or when you’re visiting Nashville, Tennessee). You’ve got your boots with the fur, the whole club looking at her. And then there’s snow boots and rain boots and so on and so forth.
It’s overwhelming and unnecessary. In my opinion, a good pair of boots should tick all the boxes when it comes to weather. There is NO GOOD REASON why I should need different boots for different weather conditions. Snow? Rain? Cold weather? Just cuz I want to wear boots? I want the same boot for ALL of those things. Ain’t nobody got closet space for multiple boots.
The all-weather travel-friendly boot seemed to be a myth, and I figured my options were either staying indoors whenever it rains or snows during our travels – which is ridiculous – or laying on 15 pairs of wool socks and suffering through it.
Thankfully, all that changed when I found the VivoBarefoot Scott II Boot. These are the boots I’d been wanting: the go anywhere, do anything boot that’s comfortable, lightweight, and even looks good enough to wear to work … or on a date.
These rugged lace-up boots do it all and look fly AF the whole time. I’ve worn them all over the world in rain and in snow, ice and cold. I once literally went snow-showing in these boots. Like I just put the snowshoes over my boots and went to town on the mountain. Verdict? My feet stayed warm and dry and my boots still look brand new. AND, that added level of comfort helped me beat my wife in our snowshoe race. She didn’t know it was a snowshoe race. Salt Lake City law enforcement, please find my wife. ANYWAY, these boots are high-key magic.
These are the kinds of boots that make you WANT to walk through puddles. They’re the kind of boots that make you excited for a cold day because you know your toes will stay toasty warm thanks to the thermal insole. They’re the kind of boots that you wear every single day all season long, year after year after year. And they look damn good – something about the weatherproof canvas combined with the smooth, shiny leather just works.
Here’s why I take my VivoBarefoot Scott II Boot with me on every winter trip:
✔ Waterproof AF in both snow and rain
✔ Keep your feet warm no matter how cold it is outside thanks to the thermal lining and insole
✔ Actually look good
✔ Comfortable enough to walk in for miles and miles
✔ Lightweight and easy to fold into your bag for travel
✔ Unlike a lot of lined boots, these breathe so you don’t have moist feet after you take them off. I promise not to use the phrase “moist feet” for the rest of this post.
If you live somewhere cold, plan to travel somewhere cold, foresee rain at some point in your life, or just get cold feet sometimes (hopefully not on your wedding day! Ba-dum-ssh, I’ll see myself out) the VivoBarefoot Scott II are the boots for you.
The Best Comfortable Sandals for Travel
Something you always need when you travel somewhere hot is an easy to throw on pair of shoes that work for the pool or beach. Up until now, I bet you were using some flimsy gas station flip-flops OR if you’re budget minded, those free sandals from nail salons (look, Wolverine, you’re not doing yourself any favors by having toenails that barely pass TSA regulation – go get a pedicure).
I was the same. Who cares? They’re just sandals. Or if you’re a dad, “thongs,” so you get a double-take from everyone around and maybe an audible cringe from your kids. Things like this are exactly why I’m excited for fatherhood, TBH.
Well, all that’s changed. These days, I can’t go anywhere without my leather Teva Sandals. If there is a chance I might even get a hint of a warm day, they go in my bag. They’re durable, quick-drying, and made of soft, pliable leather and rubber cushioned soles. I know that it seems counter-intuitive to wear a leather sandal as your water sandal, but trust me, these things are built to handle it and more.
In these sandals, I’ve gone hiking, white water rafting, rappelled down a giant waterfall, climbed up out of the canyons I rappelled into, jumped off a cliff into the water below, chased after blue-footed boobies on razor sharp volcanic rocks, and explored destinations in the Americas and Asia and everywhere in between. They’ve stood the test of time and are still looking good as new after our year-long honeymoon, which is amazing considering I wore them for about 6 months straight.
Here’s what I love about my Teva sandals:
✔ Durable leather straps and a flexible rubber sole.
✔ Honestly not unattractive. I know “Teva” used to be synomous with those dorky water sandals at 8th grade summer camp, but they’ve grown up and matured. Just please, get a pedicure before you wear them, for everyone else’s sake.
✔ As good at being water shoes as they are at being walking shoes and city shoes.
✔ The most comfortable men’s sandals for travel that I’ve ever worn – yes, that includes every fancy schmancy brand of flip flops out there (look, if you can’t wear it white-water rafting or canyoning, it’s useless to me).
✔ Will give you the coveted “Teva Tan” which is like a wearable badge of honor from all of your travels (at this point I think mine is permanent).
If these sandals ever give out, I’ll be purchasing another pair. Do yourself a favor and upgrade your travel sandals!
The Best Trekking Shoes for Men
I used to think you needed big, chunky boots to go hiking in – for ankle support and snake protection or whatever – and I thought that the best boots of all were waterproof and cost hundreds of dollars for good reason. For years as I explored the best hikes in Northern California, I wore whatever clunky hiking boots I found on sale at REI, nursing my feet after long hikes, aches and blisters and sore calves and all.
I dropped several hundred dollars on a beautiful pair of hiking boots that ticked every box: supportive, protective, waterproof, yadda yadda. They were perfect … for hikes I could drive to, that is. The darn hiking boots weigh about 5lbs and take up roughly 1 cubic foot of space, which is about half of what I usually pack. So I avoided taking my hiking boots with me on trips, and fretted about whether I could just rent hiking boots everywhere I went instead. Yep, I’m the sucker who spent $300 on my hiking boots just so I could pay to rent hiking boots all over the world. FML.
Then I found out about trail runners, and it changed everything.
Trail runners are like the shoe that sits directly in between regular sneakers and massive, clunky hiking boots. They have the grip of hiking boots with the light-weightedness of sneakers. They’re build to stabilize your foot as you run through forests and unstable terrain, leaping over logs and probably doing the occasional Tarzan swing through the trees, and they’re excellent for hiking.
Once I laced up my Altra Lone Peak Trail Runners– and hit the trails, I knew my hiking boots’ days were numbered. Without the weight and bulk of those boots on my feet, I felt light and free – and yes, I even went trail running a few times out of sheer excitement. (Again, Born to Run is fully to blame for this temporary insanity.)
Here are a few of the reasons why I love my Trail Runners:
✔ They’re zero drop, which means no heel or arch pain after a long hike.
✔ Flexible sole, so my foot can move with full range of motion and flexibility to keep me stable even on tricky terrain.
✔ The upper is made of lightweight mesh, which is incredibly breathable, keeping my feet sweat-free. This does, however, mean that whatever socks you wear might get a bit dusty.
✔ Who needs waterproof boots? My trail runners dry lightning-fast, so that if I have to wet-foot portage (that’s hiking nerd speak for “walk through a puddle or something”), my wool-blend hiking socks and shoes are dry not even 15 minutes later. If I end up hiking in the rain, I just pull out the pair of waterproof socks I keep in my Camelbak and pull them on over my regular wool hiking socks to keep my feet completely dry (yes, I’ve done a full submerge test just to check).
✔ Have never given me even close to the inkling of a blister. They’re soft and comfortable and lightweight and wonderful and nothing rubs or sticks out or irritates my feet at all!
✔ The perfect hiking shoes for travel. They’re lightweight and the mesh upper collapses to nothing at all, so you can smush these in your bag (or in my case, in the mesh cup-holder on the side or the front pocket) and hike anywhere your heart desires! I’ve taken my trail runners hiking everywhere from the Andes Mountains to the Inca Trail and they’ve never once let me down.
Oh, and as for ankle support? Turns out that whole thing is a myth, much like the concept of “arch support.” When you let your feet do their thing naturally, your feet and calf muscles develop into the super-strength feet you were born to have, and your muscles do the job of stabilizing your ankles just fine.
If you’re still hiking in clunky hiking boots and lugging them around (or renting untested boots) on every adventure, let me tell you: it doesn’t have to be that way! Trail runners changed my attitude towards hiking and even helped me develop a 1-hike-per-week habit during the year leading up to our year-long honeymoon (which I haven’t exactly picked back up again now that we’ve returned, but it’s not my shoes fault – they’re miraculously as good as new).
What questions can I answer for you about the four best travel shoes for men? Are you still skeptical of the whole “barefoot” thing? Think I’m ridiculous for packing 3-4 pairs of shoes on every trip I take? Drop me a comment below – I can take it!
Psst: Looking for more travel tips to upgrade your next trip? Take a look at some of our other posts, and don’t forget to read our guide to the best women’s travel shoes, too!
- The 3 Best Travel Pants for Men: Functional, Field-Tested & Not Hideous
- Long Haul Flight Essentials & Travel Tips for Economy Fliers
- 25 Truly Terrible Travel Tips: What NOT to Do When You Travel
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Disclaimer: This post was created in partnership with VivoBarefoot, a shoe brand that we’ve both been obsessed with for years (dreams came true writing this post, y’all). That said, we purchased all of the shoes in this post with our own money several years ago, and have been testing them on trips ever since. All opinions, bad jokes, and strong feelings about shoes are 100% our own and absolutely nobody else’s fault.
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