It took me years to find the perfect combination of women’s travel shoes. Every trip I would stare dubiously at my suitcase, trying to figure out how the heck I was going to cram in the number of shoes I needed to achieve the various activities I wanted to do – you know, adventurous things like walking without hobbling in pain or hiking without hobbling in pain – while also trying to maintain a basic level of not-hideous-ness.
Squeezing shoes into my luggage was a battle every time I went on a trip.
But today, that’s all changed. After trying on, returning, trying on again, and field-testing like crazy, I’ve found SIX absolutely amazing pairs of travel shoes for women. And what’s more, they’re all lightweight and easy to cram into your luggage without taking up a ton of room!
With these six shoes, I’m able to cover all of my bases and not think twice about what shoes to pack for trips. It’s changed my travel game, and I’m about to change yours, too!
This post was originally published in 2018 and was updated significantly in 2019.
Table of Contents
Psst: Looking for more travel tips to upgrade your next trip? Take a look at some of our other helpful posts, and don’t forget to read our men’s travel shoes guide!
- The 5 Best Travel Pants for Women: Functional, Cute, & Field-Tested
- The Ultimate Guide to Makeup & Beauty for Backpacking
- Long Haul Flight Essentials & Travel Tips for Economy Fliers
The Problem With Women’s Travel Shoes
I think a lot of the problems with women’s travel shoes actually mirror the problems that women generally face every day, namely the creeping feeling that society doesn’t want us to be able to move very quickly. While some of us are surely able to do things like run from a charging Tyrannosaurus Rex while wearing heels (by the way – if you haven’t seen this Jurassic Park YouTube parody yet, please stop reading right now and go watch it – I’ll wait), the vast majority of us really just need like, comfortable walking shoes. And while your cutest pair of flats may be perfectly adequate for a long day at the office, walking 10+ miles as you explore on cobblestones or sand is a whole different ball game.
Tell me if any of this sounds vaguely familiar in your search for your favorite pair of travel shoes:
✔ The shoes that give your feet cramps if you walk in them for more than 20 minutes.
✔ The shoes that you can totally walk in all day long! … But you have to pay for later with those miserable midnight Charlie Horses (UGH WHY) and a full day of post-exploring hobbling.
✔ The shoes that are absolutely perfect in every way except for that 1 very specific spot that rubs your skin until it’s a miserable, aching blister. You regularly carry around pieces of Moleskin, bandaids, and duct tape just to stave off the inevitable for as long as possible.
✔ The shoes that you loved to pieces … literally, you wore them on 1 trip and they fell apart. You can’t bear to get rid of them because they were so beautiful and perfect, so now you just have a pair of shoes with a giant, gaping hole just mocking you from your closet.
Yeah. Things are bleak.
So bleak, in fact, that I literally injured myself in my search for shoes I could wear to do what is currently my full-time job (that would be running around in heels being chased by t-rexes. No, just kidding, it’s travel blogging).
Story time! Years ago, back when this blog was merely a twinkle in my eye, I got myself a cute little pair of trainers and thought I’d pick up running as a hobby. It sounded fun. It sounded athletic. It made me think back nostalgically to scenes from Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, where Blake Lively gallops like a gazelle on foreign beaches, blonde hair flying behind her as every leg muscle rippled in beauty and power. I wanted that REAL bad. So I picked up the cutest pair of sneakers I could find, laced them up, downloaded the Couch to 5K app, and hit the road.
2 weeks later, I couldn’t walk. I was in SO MUCH PAIN. Every step felt like I was jabbing a nail into my heel, and the very arches of my feet were so cramped up I started rolling them on frozen water bottles every night just so I could hobble into bed. It got so bad that I started wearing sneakers to work. And I worked in the corporate fashion world, so that was a HUGE faux-pas.
Turns out I had a raging case of Plantar Fasciitis. I had it for nearly a YEAR. A year of ugly sneakers, hobbling around, rolling my feet on stuff every night, and waking up in horrible pain every morning. It was awful. I was desperate to find a solution, and I was willing to go extremes to relieve my pain.
No, this isn’t the story of how I developed a raging addiction to nutella. This is the story of how I found barefoot shoes. OK WAIT – I can feel you heading up to click that X in the corner because you’re imagining me wearing 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 at all (the technical term is “zero drop”). When I first started testing these kinds of shoes, I was freaked out by both the fact that I could kinda feel the ground beneath my feet, and the fact that I couldn’t walk more than 5 minutes at a time without feeling like I had just run a mile – my calf muscles were so underdeveloped from years of wearing cute, fashionable shoes that my body had essentially forgotten how to walk. It was eye-opening.
But as I worked my way up by adding a few more minutes of walking in barefoot shoes every day, my plantar fasciitis started going away too. It was like just walking around was stretching my feet out in ways that the ugly foot-cast contraption I’d started wearing every night never could.
A year later, my feet had developed muscles I never knew they had. I could stand and walk for miles and miles with no pain at all. I could do things at the gym I’d never been able to do before. And I even went full granola 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. Today, I even work at a standing desk: I stand all day long whether I’m at home on my computer or running around having adventures, and my feet NEVER slow me down.
So, here’s the point I want to make: 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 – especially if you struggle with foot pain like I did before I changed my attitude towards shoes!
OK, now that I’ve given you my cavewoman spiel (I’m KIDDING they’re not that granola, I promise) let’s get to the actual shoes!
The Best Women’s Travel Boots
Here’s the thing about most boots: they’re adorable, but they’re totally impractical. There is NO GOOD REASON why I should need different boots for different conditions. Snow? Rain? Cold weather? Just cuz I want to look cute? I want the same boot for ALL of those things. Ain’t nobody got closet space for multiple boots.
Yes: I actually went snow-showing in these boots.
I slipped the snow-shoes right on top of them, and actually I was kind of terrified that it might ruin them. But it didn’t, and my feet stayed toasty warm and dry!
These are the kinds of boots that make you WANT to walk through puddles when it’s raining, just to show the world that you’re UNSTOPPABLE, dammit! They’re the kind of boots that make you excited for a cold day so you have an excuse to wrap your toes up in the cozy faux shearling lining. They’re the kind of boots that you wear every single day all season long, year after year after year.
Oh, how I love these boots. Let me count the ways:
✔ Legit adorable, especially with lil’ socks on some leggings or tights
I like to layer my boots over a pair of socks and pull them up over my leggings in cold weather for maximum adorableness and cozyness.
✔ Waterproof AF in both snow and rain
These are my ONLY snow boot. I’ve worn absolutely nothing else on any of my winter trips for the past 3 years. I’ve worn them snowshoeing in Lake Tahoe & Banff, reindeer herding in the Arctic tundra, Christmas Market-ing all over Europe, and everywhere in between.
That said: one day I did actually end up with slightly wet feet after spending a long day exploring Montreal, Canada through slushy freezing cold puddles of ankle-deep water. But hey, 1 damp pair of wool socks after 3 years is pretty darn good!
✔ Lined with faux shearling so it feels like you’re walking on a warm cloud of baby sheep
The inside of these boots are so soft and cozy! I love them! Not only are they lined with faux shearling, there’s a layer of warm, thin insulation to keep your feet EXTRA toasty.
✔ Comfortable enough to walk in for miles and miles
I have tested many times and I’ve never, EVER gotten sore feet in my boots! Not once. Standing, walking, snowshoeing, winter hiking, whatever – they’re comfortable for miles and hours and days on end.
✔ Lightweight and easy to squish up into your bag for travel
How many winter boots can you squish flat or roll up and stuff into your suitcase, taking up absolutely no room? Literally no other shoes that I know of. These are the most versatile, lightweight, flexible boots I’ve ever seen in my life, and that makes them ultra travel friendly!
The Bottom Line: 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 Gobi Hi-Top are the boots for you.
Psst: Use the code PW10 to save 10% off any pair of VivoBarefoot shoes!
*If you find these wonder boots are sold out on the VivoBarefoot website head over to Amazon for a pair (or 2!)
The Best (& Cutest!) Travel Walking Shoes
I don’t know why I waited so long to finally try out a pair of Allbirds. I think I waited for like 3 years before finally taking the plunge. And I have nothing but regrets because my Allbirds Tree Skippers are AMAZING!
Y’all, these are hands down the cutest and comfiest pair of walking shoes I’ve ever owned! Let me break my obsession down for you:
✔ They are cute AF.
Was anybody else obsessed with Dirty Dancing growing up? These remind me of the shoe Baby wears in her little dance practice montage scene up the stairs (you know, this one). I feel like I’m channeling that movie every time I wear these, and it makes me feel ADORBS.
Also, white shoes are like, all over Instagram right now, so I’m technically insta-cool, to. (I’m really super not, though.)
The point is, these shoes go with everything: jeans, leggings, shorts, even dresses! I have yet to find something they don’t look good with, and I’ve been trying.
✔ They’re the perfect city walking shoe!
I’ve taken to wearing these on all of my long daily walks through my neighborhood, and on city exploration days while traveling. Normally I’d wear sneakers for long walks days, but my sneakers have been officially decommissioned because these are WAY cuter and just as comfortable!
✔ They’re up for a challenge.
True story: I took my gorgeous bright white Allbirds on a dusty hike. Yup. I didn’t want to, but I left my hiking shoes at home like an idiot and had no choice but to test ’em out. They got filthy, but my feet stayed comfortable the whole time.
That said: I don’t recommend hiking in these if you can help it. Traction on slippery, dusty slopes was a bit of a challenge, and like .. they’re way too cute to get that dirty. Don’t be me! But the point is, in a pinch, they can handle it, and that’s pretty amazing.
✔ They’re hella lightweight.
Because the Allbirds are made with lightweight knit fabric and flexible foam soles, they’re incredibly lightweight. Which makes them perfect for throwing into your suitcase or backpack!
✔ They’re perfect for both hot and cool weather.
The knit fabric is full of tiny, barely-noticeable little eyelets that help your feet breathe. Plus, the material of both the shoe itself – eucalyptus – and the insoles – merino wool – naturally helps regulate both temperature and moisture. Nature is pretty freakin’ high-tech.
✔ They don’t get stinky.
By using high-performance natural materials like merino wool, Allbirds shoes fight that stinky shoe smell even when you don’t wear socks. And you really don’t have to wear socks – they’re THAT comfy.
✔ They’re made with sustainable materials!
Sustainability is incredibly important to us, especially since as frequent travelers, we need to go above and beyond to offset all of our carbon emissions. The Allbirds fit the bill perfectly!
The knit fabric is made from ethically grown & harvested eucalyptus pulp. The laces are made with recycled polyester. The insoles are made from merino wool (no sheep are harmed in the making of merino wool).
Plus, as a company, Allbirds is committed to fighting climate change as a fully carbon-neutral company from the ground up. We LOVE supporting companies whose values align with ours, and Allbirds is one of those special, responsible, ethical companies that we feel really, really good about supporting!
Plus, like, ya know … super cute, awesome shoes that we’re in love with help, too.
One thing to know: I loooove the all-white Tree Skippers, but one thing you should know: they do get dirty. After about 3 trips and one accidental hike, mine were fairly grungy looking.
Luckily, you can just throw ’em in the washing machine to clean them off – just be sure to lay them out to dry rather than throwing them in the dryer!
Ready to try out Allbirds?
The VivoBarefoot Jing Jing travel flats are flexible enough to allow you to do things like jump on your husband’s back! They do not, however, fix clumsiness.
The Best (Two!) Travel Flats
Flats are the ideal travel shoe for 3-season travels. They’re perfect for exploring cities, going out at night (on the rare occasion that I manage to drag myself away from Netflix & drooling on myself to actually do something after dark, that is) and doing ~professional things.
I wear them on cobblestone streets and asphalt. I wear them at conferences, where I walk upwards of 15,000 steps per day as I hustle from booth to booth to beg brands to throw money at me (HAHA just kidding I love my sponsors being a travel blogger is so glamorous whee).
I wear them when I’m speaking onstage at conferences. I wear them when I attend the networking parties after the conferences that always last all night and cut into my Netflix & drool time. Y’all: I wear them constantly. Because they are adorable, and I can walk a zillion miles in them and never feel any pain whatsoever.
The Vivobarefoot Jing Jing flat is deceptively simple but masterfully created. I’ve had my pairs for 4 years now and worn them all over the world on multiple trips, and you guys, they don’t even have a scratch. I only recently discovered the Ollio Ballet Flat (pics coming soon!) but I’m thrilled to find something that’s just as cute & comfortable as the JingJings at a fraction of the price!
Here’s why I love each of these travel flats:
✔ Lightweight and easy to pack
The JingJing flats are incredibly thin and lightweight, and roll up so small they fit in the palm of my hand. I never give a second thought to packing them, because they don’t take up any room at all.
But unlike most thin flats, which wear through in a few months and inevitably fall apart, the Jing Jing is made to last. They feel and look just as good as they did the day I bought them.
The Ollio flats are also flexible enough to roll or fold up, and don’t weigh very much at all, making adding them to my suitcase or backpack a no-brainer (you never know when you might need to look halfway decent).
✔ Super cute with everything from jeans to dresses
Both pairs are a pretty classically styled ballet flat – no painful pointy toes, no ribbons or bells or whistles. But they look good, add a nice pop of color to my outfit, and frankly if I’m on the go and running around a city or conference, I care a lot more about comfort than style.
They’re cute enough, super comfortable, and that’s all I need!
✔ Roll up or fold down into teeny palm-sized mini shoes
The VivoBarefoot JingJing flats are some of the most flexible shoes I’ve ever owned in my life and literally roll up to fit in the palm of my hand.
The Ollio Ballet Flats fold in half (much like Tieks), making them just as conveniently tiny!
✔ Comfortable enough to walk in for miles and miles
Both of my favorite flats are made from soft material, are wide enough to fit my feet, and offer plenty of comfort for me to stand & walk for miles without sore feet or next-day hobbling.
That said: be aware that the JingJing flats ARE barefoot flats. And if you’re not used to barefoot shoes, that might feel really, really different. I promise you: even if you can feel every crack in the pavement between your toes, nothing is going to puncture the sole – I’ve had my flats for 4+ years now and there’s not a single scratch or hole on them. (Psst: Vivobarefoot does have a 100 day trial so you can test out that crazy barefoot science for yourself, risk-free).
If you prefer a little more cushion and aren’t quite into the whole barefoot thing, the Ollio Ballet Flats have a still-flexible but much thicker sole for added padding.
- Wait! Here’s a Very Important Tip for your travel flats: I, errr, tend to get kind of sweaty feet on hot days. Especially when I’m walking several miles and standing for hours and hours. So I found a really good little sock to wear with my flats. They’re made from wool, which is naturally antibacterial (aka anti-stink) and absorbant in a not-gross way, and they’re the perfect size and shape to fit seamlessly (and secretly) into any pair of flats! Pick up a pair to take with you on every trip.
Psst: Use the code PW10 to save 10% off any pair of VivoBarefoot shoes!
FAQ: Are Tieks and Rothy’s worth it?
They … did not work for me, y’all. Not at all.
The Rothy’s were uncomfortably narrow and rigid and gave me blisters. Being made from recycled plastic is a super awesome and sustainable, but also not breathable and honestly kinda painful. Not worth the insanely high price tag, in my opinion.
The Tieks were a bit more comfortable. They’re made from real leather, which is a lot softer and more breathable, but ultimately they were far too narrow for me and I couldn’t walk in them for very long without pain. They also do that thing where they kinda show toe cleavage, which makes it feel like my feet are going to slip out of the front of my shoes and rubs my little toes uncomfortably. Sooo, also not worth the insanely high price tag IMO!
The verdict? Overpriced & over-hyped.
For the price each of those shoes cost I was expecting miracles, like a self-pedicuring foot massaging travel flat or something. But nope. They are just ordinary flats. And like … can we do the math? I can buy 7 pairs of the Ollio Ballet Flats for the same price as ONE pair of Tieks, or 5 pairs for ONE pair of Rothy’s. That’s nuts.
My advice? Try one of the 2 pairs I recommended above instead!
The Best Women’s Sandals for Travel
My love for the Teva Ysidro Sandals can only be described as “cult-like.” I’m currently on my 4th pair of these babies. They comprise the entirety of sandals in my closet, and when I bring them on a trip to somewhere hot, they’re all I wear.
I wore pair #3 for 6 months straight during our year-long honeymoon. I hiked in them. I rappelled down a waterfall in them (and then got rescued in them). I went white water rafting in them. I stomped through cities and frolicked on beaches in them. We had some really good times together, but every couple of years, it’s time for a new pair.
I’ve been buying leather Teva sandals regularly for the past 8 years. Here is a photo of my very first pair of Teva sandals, taken 8 years ago with a cutting-edge cell phone camera on a trip to the Grand Canyon:
I still have those sandals in the back of my closet. I couldn’t bear to throw them away – we’ve been to so many places together! I’m slightly verging into hoarder territory with the Teva shoe cemetery in my closet…
It’s not just me who’s obsessed with these sandals, either: one time I was getting mani/pedi and noticed that someone else was wearing the same pair of Teva sandals. We struck up a conversation and spent a solid 20 minutes loudly fan-girling over how much we loved these sandals, much to the irritation and bewilderment of the rest of the salon.
But you guys: they’re SO GOOD. Here’s why I think the Teva Ysidros are the best travel sandals:
✔ Durable leather straps and a flexible cork sole make these one tough, rugged pair of sandals
✔ Legit cute. I know “Teva” used to be synonymous with those unattractive sandals at 8th-grade summer camp, but they’ve grown up and matured and blossomed into some truly adorable, stylish shoes
✔ As good at being water shoes as they are at being walking shoes and city shoes
✔ The most comfortable sandals for travel that I’ve ever tried – and I’ve tried SO. MANY.
✔ Will give you the coveted “Teva Tan” which is like a wearable souvenir from all of your travels (at this point I think mine is permanent)
I’m obsessed and I want you to be obsessed too! Grab a pair and try them out. You’ll never go back to regular sandals again!
The Other Best Women’s Sandals for Travel
So I have to make a confession. I cheated on my Teva’s.
I bought a new pair of sandals this summer, and brought them along with me for a month in Colombia & Panama. I was going to two hot, tropical destinations and I knew I wouldn’t want to wear anything but sandals for a month straight.
So I found a new pair of travel sandals. To be fair, I also brought my Teva’s!
What I found was that my new sandals, the Born Tusayans, are the perfect city sandal! They make a great alternative to my go-anywhere, do-everything Teva’s on the days where I just want a cute sandal for running around a city exploring.
Here’s what I love about them:
✔ They’re super cute and come in a bunch of adorable colors.
✔ The thick, stretchy, soft strap on top holds everything in place so I never slide around while I’m walking.
✔ The sole is thick enough to cushion my feet on long walking days but flexible enough to allow my feet to move and stretch naturally while I walk.
✔Now I can add fun new tan lines to my pre-existing Teva Tan, which is going on its 5th straight summer.
Want to try out a pair? You can scope out all the fun colors on Zappos!
The Best Women’s Lightweight Hiking Shoes
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 assumed that my problem was that I couldn’t afford to drop bands on a pair of good waterproof hiking boots, not hiking boots themselves. And I avoided taking my hiking boots with me on trips, because they weighed a zillion pounds and took up half of the space in my suitcase.
Then somebody told me 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 built 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 – with some lacing tricks I’d learned in my years-long quest to make hiking boots actually work for me – and hit the trails, I knew I’d never hike in clunky, inflexible boots again.
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. (It’s actually REALLY fun, and I usually hate running! Don’t believe me? Read Born to Run and tell me it doesn’t make you want to gallop off into the mountains somewhere for a casual 50-mile run.)
Here are a few of the reasons why I love my Trail Runners:
✔ They’re zero drop, so there’s no risk of re-aggravating my plantar fasciitis
✔ 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 the 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 Wonder Woman feet you were born to have, and your muscles do the job of stabilizing your ankles just fine.
And arch support? Since when have arches, the strongest shape in the world, used throughout the history of mankind’s greatest architectural achievements, 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!
If you’re still hiking in hiking boots and take for granted the fact that your feet will hurt after a long day of hiking, let me tell you: it doesn’t have to be that way! Trail runners changed my attitude towards hiking and 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).
*This version of trail runners has now been replaced with the 4, so if you want more variety in sizes check them out here
If you’ve struggled finding the women’s travel shoes, vent to me in the comments! What are your frustrations? What are your concerns? What questions can I answer for you about the best travel shoes for women?
Psst: Looking for more travel tips to upgrade your next trip? Take a look at some of our other helpful posts – and don’t forget to read our men’s travel shoes guide!
- What to Pack for a Beach Vacation: the Curvy Girl’s Beach Vacation Packing List
- The 3 Best Travel Pants for Women: Functional, Cute, & Field-Tested
- The Ultimate Guide to Makeup & Beauty for Backpacking
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Disclaimer: This post was originally created in partnership with VivoBarefoot, a shoe brand that we’ve actually high-key fan-girled 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, slowly becoming more and more obsessed. All opinions, bad jokes, and strong feelings about shoes are 100% our own and absolutely nobody else’s fault.
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