Walking is, without a doubt, one of the best ways to take in a new city. On foot, you can spot the details that bring a destination to life. It’s easy to lose track of time perusing the shops along Via del Corso in Rome, exploring a bamboo grove in Kyoto, or weaving your way through the medieval medina of Fez. But there’s no quicker way to shatter the magic of these immersive cultural experiences than wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes.
Comfort vs. style has long been a classic conundrum for the fashion-conscious traveler. Your everyday flats may not necessarily be the best walking shoes for a packed itinerary, but something more orthopedic in design might have you cropping your vacation photos from the ankles up.
Some destinations call for a sturdier shoe due to rugged terrain or extreme weather — Iceland in the winter, perhaps — and in that case, you’ll need some trusty, travel-friendly boots. But when mild weather and walkable streets open up the possibilities, it gets a lot harder to choose the perfect pair.
We sorted through sneakers, sandals, slip-ons, and every style of footwear in between to find the best walking shoes for women. Our picks are designed to maximize comfort — using technology like shock absorption, memory-foam insoles, and breathable upper fabrics — without compromising style.
There is one more important element that sets an OK pair of travel shoes apart from the best travel shoes: versatility. If the same kicks can take you effortlessly from shopping to a six-hour walking tour to dinner, sans blisters, you’re set. We know it’s a ludicrous ask, but planning to wear only the pair on your feet makes it much easier to pack everything else to match. Plus, those five just-in-case pairs of shoes are often what add the most weight to your luggage. Wouldn’t you rather have the extra suitcase space to pick up a few souvenir pairs?
Below, we've rounded up the very best walking shoes for travel, in every style category. Oh, and one last suggestion: A weekend staycation is a great way to break in your new favorite travel shoes before you go.
Best Casual Sneaker: Allbirds Wool Runner
Allbirds' superfine merino wool sneakers give you the best of both worlds with the feel of a slipper and the look of a sneaker. You get all the coziness of wool without any of the scratchiness. Plus, the outsole's unique "S-curve" was designed to distribute your weight more naturally, making them equally as supportive as they are soft. If you're usually a half-size, the brand recommends sizing up. Also, if you generally find you need more arch support for long days spent on your feet, we recommend replacing the insole.
To buy: allbirds.com, $95
Best Comfortable Flat: Everlane Day Glove Flat
Save precious suitcase space with a shoe that can take you from day to night. Everlane — one of Angelina Jolie’s go-to brands for travel shoes — makes this modern Day Glove flat with buttery, molds-to-your-foot leather that pairs well with jeans, skirts, business attire, and beyond. They've even got durable rubber soles for slip-free grip and side vents to keep your feet from overheating.
To buy: everlane.com, $115
Best Sandal With Arch Support: Olukai Upena Sandal
If an easy pair of sandals is your vacation footwear of choice, you don’t need to give up on comfort. OluKai’s crisscrossed leather pair has an anatomically built footbed that feels better and better with every wear and the toe loop and adjustable ankle strap will keep your foot secure. It comes in six color options, and we love this gold and leather combo.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $90
Best Leather Sneaker: Ecco Soft 7 Sneaker
The Ecco Soft 7 has been a traveler-favorite for a while, and for good reason: it delivers on arch support and high-quality materials with simple, Scandinavian style. Though its supple leather upper is available in 13 colorways — from floral prints to metallics — keep in mind that when packing, neutrals will be the easiest to work with.
To buy: zappos.com, $160
Best Knit Sneakers: Rothy’s The Sneaker
Looking for a lightweight slip-on that's comfy right out of the box? Rothy's has you covered with its new slip-on sneaker. The upper is made of the same upcycled material used for the brand's beloved flats — of which Meghan Markle is a fan — but it's been given a more sturdy sole that offers more support for a long day on the go. Both the sneaker and the removable insole are machine-washable, too.
To buy: rothys.com, $125
Best Espadrilles: Cole Haan Cloudfeel Espadrille Sandal
The Cloudfeel collection from Cole Haan is designed to live up to its name. They cored out the jute sole of a traditional espadrille and filled it with lightweight, super-cushioned foam to make it feel as if you're walking on air — whether you're on smooth pavement or bumpy cobblestone. The elasticized ankle strap makes it easy to slip on and off, too.
To buy: colehaan.com, $40
Best Active Sneaker: Merrell Trail Glove
These slip-resistant walking shoes by Merrell may look more like sneakers than hikers, but they hit all the basic technical points — like a breathable mesh upper and a barefoot technology for natural comfort — to keep your feet happy for all the miles ahead.
To buy: zappos.com, $80
Best Leather Sandals: Born Trang Sandal
With a silhouette inspired by Menorcan-style avarca sandals, Born's Trang has recently become one of the brand's best-selling shoes and it's no wonder: the footbed is packed with cushion and the leather is super soft and supple.
To buy: zappos.com, $90
Best Summer Travel Shoes: Sperry Seaport Boat Shoe
Heading to the coast this summer? Opt for this sophisticated take on the deck shoe by Sperry. The 360-degree lacing system allows you to make the fit as wide or narrow as you need it to be, and they're cushioned with memory foam. Plus, the upper is pre-treated to withstand the effects of salt- or freshwater so you can wear your pair seaside without worry.
To buy: sperry.com, $100
Best Canvas Sneakers: Superga Cotu Sneaker
A favorite among the likes of Kate Middleton, Emma Watson, and even a mainstay in Princess Diana's casual travel wardrobe, the Superga Cotu sneaker has been a go-to for travelers for decades. This navy is a classic but there are also several fun colors to choose from.
To buy: nordstrom.com, zappos.com, $65
Best Water Shoes: Sea Star Beachwear Slingback Espadrille
Would you believe us if we said these sneaky slingback espadrilles are actually water shoes? With a fast-drying neoprene upper and a grippy rubber sole, they'll take you straight from lunch beneath the palm trees to a rocky surf, sans stubbed toes. And there's also a traditional beachcomber style if you'd prefer the full-coverage upper. For both styles, we recommend sizing up if you typically wear a half size.
To buy: zappos.com, $96
Best Slip-ons: Toms Alpargata Cupsole
While you may be familiar with Toms' classic alpargatas and its philanthropic One-for-One mission, there are a few other shoe styles making waves with travelers like the durable, rubber cupsole version of the alpargatas. This lightweight canvas number is equipped with removable molded textile insoles that rebound with each step.
To buy: zappos.com, $55
Best Dress Shoes: Sarah Flint Rosie Loafer
Sarah Flint — a made-in-Italy brand beloved by celebrities like Meghan Markle and Amal Clooney — is known for effortless, feminine shoes like this elevated loafer. The footbeds have 3mm of extra padding for all-day walkability and the one-inch block heel is inset a bit to keep your steps from feeling clunky.
To buy: sarahflint.com, $345
Best Casual Sneaker: Vionic Remi Casual Sneaker
One of Oprah's favorite shoe brands, Vionic is known for working with podiatrists to blend trend-forward style with comfort technology (like a biomechanically molded footbed and a shock-absorbing midsole). Reviewers are calling the casual Remi sneaker "super comfortable right out of the box."
To buy: vionicshoes.com, $140
Best Driving Shoes: M.Gemi Felize Suede Moccasins
Pebbled driving soles soften each step in M.Gemi's hand-crafted Felize moccasin. We're into this neutral mustard yellow this season, but there are also tons of colors available. In our experience, they fit perfectly true to size from day one, but if there's any chance of rain where you're headed or if you plan to spend some time exploring less-than-pristine city sidewalks (sorry, New York City) we recommend you pre-treat them with a waterproofing spray.
To buy: mgemi.com, $198
Most Stylish Flat: Free People San Marino Slip-on
Made in Spain, this pointed-toe, leather slip-on by Free People is the perfect casual pair to step into for a day of wandering. Right out of the box, the leather feels ready to go. And if you like the backless mule style, but want something a little more formal for fall, it also comes in a solid brown leather style.
To buy: zappos.com, $70
Most Stylish Sandal: Finch Pigeon Criss Cross Sandal
With Beek's 100-percent leather sandals like the Finch, you're getting the best of both worlds: arch support that doesn't get in the way of unique design. It's molded into the slim sole of the sandals, all of which are handcrafted by artisans in Mexico. The brand makes a ton of other creative styles if you're not into the cross-top design.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $240
Best Loafers: Steve Madden Feather Loafer
These sleek, pointed-toe flats may not look like a comfort shoe, but the flexible, generously cushioned footbeds will prove otherwise. Made with imported leather, this pick from Steve Madden's collection of casual-chic comfort styles can easily be dressed up or down.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $72
Best Walking Boots: Blondo Villa Waterproof Bootie
This cognac leather Blondo ankle boot will take you seamlessly from breakfast to nightlife, adding a bit of sophisticated Western edge to dresses, skirts, and denim. There are seven different colors of suede and leather uppers, and they're all waterproof. The footbed is cushioned for natural-feeling comfort, and the low block heel is the perfect height for all-day wear.
To buy: zappos.com, $150
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