Best Travel Shoes for Women: Walking, Hiking, Comfort

Best travel shoes women
Comfortable, cushy, slip-ons, Kizik shoes come in a variety of styles that defy categories.

This is an updated version of a post originally published in 2016. Significant revisions here (June 2024) are based on new shoe brands and styles – and ever more experience walking and hiking in them.

Ever since we started traveling, and especially since we walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the travel questions we get most often have to do with footwear and packing. And packing footwear!

The more I travel and the more time I spend on my feet, the easier it is to answer this question. We all want to pack the best women's walking shoes, we all want comfortable shoes with the perfect fit that can be worn for a full day and go long distances. And we all prefer stylish shoes, no matter our foot type, if that element can be added to the footwear mix. You'll find my current top picks for your next trip below.

But the primary message is to keep it simple. We recommend packing a good pair of shoes in each of three categories. I wear the bulkiest of these – the sturdy shoes I’ll wear hiking – on the flight. That leaves two pair to pack: one “city shoe,” decent looking and suitable for being on pavement most of the day, and another sandal or versatile shoe that can slip on and be appropriate for pool or beach, or even for hotel breakfast or late dinner around the corner.

I’ll describe these three categories of travel shoes for women below. First, let’s pause to remind ourselves what we want out of our footwear.

Type of Traveler, Activities, and Destination

Women over 50 who’ve weathered foot problems such as bunions or plantar fasciitis for decades are always on the lookout for solutions to sore feet. My doctor even asked about my travel footwear choices, because she wanted to pass on information to her inquiring patient-travelers.

My outlook on the best travel shoes for women was defined early on. My mother regularly reminded my sister and me not to skimp on shoes. Cheap shoes would hurt and not last, she warned us as she displayed her bunions. She also told us that shoes would last longer if you didn’t wear them every day but alternated to give them a rest. I internalized that: My feet, too, require an alternating set of footwear. Indeed, I’m convinced my success walking the Camino de Santiago’s 500-mile route can be credited to my daily alternating between hiking boots and trail hiking shoes.

My feet are admittedly weird. My super bendy ankles and loose joints mean crooked toes. I’ve had two foot surgeries, spent a small fortune on Dr. Scholl's aids and orthotic insoles, and have moved up a half shoe size about every decade since I had children. I have arthritis on the top of my foot (metatarsal) and in my knees, both of which have undergone meniscus surgery. I look for shoes suitable for a medium high arch and wide feet.

When I think of packing shoes, I consider that I’m an active traveler constantly trying to fit nature hikes into our itinerary, grabbing last minute opportunities to kayak or bike. In cities, we’re the ones who’d rather walk across town than take the metro. And then there is the standing and slow walking required for museum visits or walking tours, arguably the most challenging travel activity of all.

Best hiking shoes and boots for women
For hiking mountain trails or traipsing across airports and cities, these have been my go-to shoes for years.

Comfort, Support, Weight, Appearance, Packability

With all of the above in mind, here are the qualities that matter in good, versatile women’s travel shoes. No matter if you are hiking in the National Parks or traveling for a family wedding, the variety of shoes you’ll select to pack will serve you all day and evening. There is no one perfect shoe. Style will follow if comfort comes first.

Comfort for Long Distance. Even if you aren’t focused on a hiking holiday, be realistic: Travel involves a lot of walking – just to board your plane! Top priority for your first pair of shoes is to choose comfortable walking shoes that will go the distance. Important note: allow adequate break-in time for any new shoes before you travel with them.

Extra Support. The more you walk, the more your foot will appreciate a sturdy sole, good arch, ankle support, and general durability. Good support really saves your feet and legs from fatigue and foot pain.

Weight. Can’t decide between two pairs of shoes? Select the lighter ones.

Appearance. I know, you don’t want to look like a vagabond when you roll into the restaurant for dinner. Fortunately, options on all three categories below include nice looking shoes that are often available in different colors and are appropriate for day or evening. Casual styles are now more widely accepted into evenings, too. And while it used to be true Americans stood out because of their sports shoes, sporty footwear is ubiquitous these days.

Packability. By wearing the bulkiest shoe on your flights and travel days (probably the trekking shoe), that leaves just a couple pair of slim shoes to pack, no problem. See notes on packing below.

Three Styles of Women's Shoes to Pack for Every Trip

When you are deciding what shoes to pack, forget about the specific shoe that you want to wear with a certain dress. The best walking shoes are all about comfort and range of use. I use this handy Three Category Method to organize my options and narrow down my choices. By choosing one pair from each category, I'm confident I'll have all my bases covered and be able to give my feet and shoes a rest every day. The main thing to keep in mind is the right pair of shoes is the comfortable one. The wrong shoes are the one that makes you miserable by the end of the day.

In each of the three categories of travel footwear, I’m suggesting three or four options. Your selections will depend, of course, on your destination and activities, on weather and seasons, and on special events within your itinerary. Many of my choices work in more than one category. Pick one in each group and you are good to go.

best women's travel shoes
This Xero shoe – a lightweight women's road runner – can improve posture and relieve pain.

Trail or Sport Shoes for Women: Trails to Town

Your most serious shoes for walking and hiking: a substantial shoe or boot or both.

This is for active wear, so don’t get hung up on the look or color options. Just add good socks, and wear for lengthy city walks, hiking in rough terrain, and even jogging and running. Maybe your everyday pair of sneakers is sufficient, but you'll want to be sure your hiking shoes offer great support and arches.


The low waterproof Oboz trail shoe, shown at the top of this post, is my current favorite. Besides being a great fit with good support and substance, I like the shoes' hooks for the upper laces. That and the roomy toe box make it easy to slip these on and off at airport security, during flights, or entering shoe-free zones. This is the rare shoe that has the technology and fit for all sorts of terrain, but isn't gaudy or too sporty looking. It can easily double for long days of city walking, too.

Shop Oboz shoes at Zappos

Shop Oboz shoes at REI

La Sportiva

Also in my hiking/trail shoe arsenal are another pair of trail shoes and a pair of hiking boots. The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor GTX Trail Running Shoe has excellent traction and stability, like a low boot. It feels cooler to me than the Oboz shoe, so I prefer it in summer. I'd pick this for National Park trails.

Shop La Sportiva shoes at Zappos

Shop La Sportiva shoes at REI


In winter, or to alternate with a lower shoe, I don Keen's indestructible boot, similar to this Voyageur Mid Hiking Boot. On rocky or uneven terrain, I appreciate the ankle support.

Shop Keen shoes at Zappos

Shop Keen shoes at REI


Here's an example of a shoe that works in both hiking and city categories. A new favorite shoe of mine for long days on my feet are the delicious Xero shoes. The main attraction is their natural fit, with non-elevated heel and a wide toe box, sort of like a barefoot experience combined with the technology behind sports shoes. My first miles in the lightweight road runner HFS II style have resulted in feeling good posture and less stress on my lower back. Though I reserve this particular style for pavement, other Xero styles with more solid soles are built for trails. Xero's shoe finder tab on their website guides you through finding the shoe for your intended use: fitness, walking, running, water, everyday, etc. Check 'em out!

Shop Xero shoes

Best travel shoes
So many reasons to like Rothy's. While they look good, the stretchy fabric molds to your foot for comfort, and they transition from the city to a special event.

Walkable City Shoes for Women

An attractive yet comfortable city shoe, versatile, suitable for day and night.

I always pack what I call my “city shoes,” the shoes that are versatile around town, fine with jeans or skirts, OK for going out to dinner when you want to shed the hiker look, but still substantial enough for walking all day on hard surfaces such as concrete or uneven surfaces like the cobblestones in old European cities. Bonus points go to shoes you can wear with or without socks.

My choice in this category will depend on whether I’m in New York or London for theater (dressing up my footwear) or touring multiple cities and on the go every day (with more need for sturdy support).


The newest pair in my the city shoe category are by Kizik. Kizik features a particular style for travel called “London,” with plenty of cushion on a dense hearty sole. My “Irvine” style is great for summer, easily worn with or without socks. While all Kizik shoes are marketed for their convenient slip-on style, these shoes really stay with the foot. After trial and error, I purchased the wide shoe in my size but, bonus, I can tighten the laces on my right, smaller foot to compensate. Genius! can also be adjusted with the laces – a wonderful feature if one foot is larger than the other, like mine. I will take these on a road trip to Colorado.

Shop Kizik shoes


womens shoe picolinoAnother favorite in my city shoe group are Pikolinos, made in Spain. I'm wearing these especially in summer, since no socks are required. These “elegant sneakers”, like Pikolinos' sandals, clogs, wedges, and loafers, feature soft leather and good support.

Shop Picolinos at Zappos

NAOT or Pandere

Other favorite city shoes include a Mary Jane style NAOT shoe and the Pandere brand (featured in an earlier post here). For colder climes, these are both fine with socks and both have sufficient arch support. The NAOT packs small. The Pandere is a bit heavy so I'd wear these in flight. I've recommended the Pandere to friends recovering from bunion surgery, as they are very adjustable across the top and at the heel. I prefer to add my own insole to these for better arch support.

Shop NAOT shoes at Zappos

Shop NAOT shoes at Amazon

best travel shoes
At the end of the day, recovery shoes will refresh your attitude as well as your feet. These Crocs and Oofos have taken to water as well as restaurants.

Recovery Sandals or Slip-ons. Relaxing Shoes for Women

Comfy footwear that makes your feet and legs happy, and can be worn around the hotel and to the pool or beach, maybe even to an evening reception.


Both Tom and I have delighted in the cushy-soled OOmg styles by Oofos. Billed as “recovery” shoes, this is a comfortable sandal that is exactly that: a great relief for the feet after hikes or runs, and a nice casual shoe for rest days. The OOmg style makes a great boat shoe, too. Runs generous.

Shop Oofos at Zappos

Shop Oofos at Amazon


Of the black sandals I've packed over the years (from heavy leather to airy flip-flops), the Crocs have probably served me best. They are super lightweight, decent enough for the hotel restaurant, and transferable to the beach or pool, into a shower, or through the driving rain for that matter. The nubby footbed offers a mini foot massage. This sandal doesn't have the toe separator of a thong flip flop, so you can wear socks while resting your feet.

Shop Crocs at Zappos

Shop Crocs at Amazon

Rothy's and AllBirds

These popular slip-on options could easy fulfill your good-looking ‘city shoe' or this ‘sandal, slip-on' category. I used to decry the use of little flat slip-ons I'd see on other travelers; my arches hurt just looking at them. But shoe technology has improved not just for sport shoes but for stylish women's shoes, too. I was inspired to try Rothy's when I was packing for a wedding in England. I ended up buying two pairs: their popular Point shoe and the Almond Toe Loafer. There's always room for one of these in my bag because when I slip them on I feel like I've cleaned up for dinner! They look great, have some cushion and arch, and they are washable.

Many of our readers have testified that Allbirds are the best city shoe for them. Like Rothy's they are light, washable, and constructed for comfortable all-day wear.

Not just any Flip-Flops.

My trusty FitFlops, long-time favorites because they feel great, stay on the foot, and go into evening without embarrassment, are now looking their age. The style I've worn isn't available anymore, but the iQushion line is similar and all their flip-flops have a nice foot bed.

My updated picks for best sandal wear include Oofos flip flops for cushion (think beach, boat or standing around) or these Oboz flip flops with great sturdy soles (think all terrain or city walkabouts). Both are highly recommended.

Shop Oofos flip-flops at Zappos

Shop Oofos flip-flops at Amazon

Shop Oboz flip-flops at Amazon

Is there a Wrong Shoe to pack?

The only wrong shoe is one which may not support you on uneven pavement. I really discourage packing those super comfortable mules or clogs you wear around the house. On cobblestone and stairs, they can invite ankle-twisting falls.

Socks and Insoles


Good socks are, in our opinion, as essential as good footwear. We recommend compression socks for longer flights, and good absorbing socks like Point6 for hiking and long walks.

We've stocked up recently on Point 6 socks for summer. For all seasons, we favor merino wool. Find good quality socks for all seasons and uses, for men and women, at REI. Great gifts!

Custom Insoles

FitMyFoot Insoles: There’s an app for that! Here’s a new experience: ordering custom insoles without the hassle and expense of prescription foot devices. I've used these in casual sneakers in order to upgrade their support. Consider custom insoles to refresh older sneakers or turn those nice looking city shoes into something you can actually be comfortable in all day. FitMyFoot uses an app which, in turn, uses your phone camera to build an image of your foot. I completed the simple process and am now using my custom insoles, making my favorite shoes like new again. True to promise, the precise fit boasts a deep heel cushion, custom arch, and durable footbed with breathable fabric and lots of fun designs to choose from. The foot imagery is saved in the app. So now that I’ve tried out the insoles, it took me just a few seconds to order up another set. Your foot impression can be used to order custom flip-flops, too. Who doesn’t want a pair of flip-flops that have enough support to wear all day?

Packing Hiking Boots
Beloved Gear. These boots doubled as a footrest on long flights.

How to pack your travel shoes

Assuming you are wearing shoes on your flight (please do), that means you only have to pack two pairs, right?

I pack shoes at the bottom of my bag, not even stuffed with socks, but surrounded by the lounge wear, swimsuit, and packing cubes I use for small items like socks and underwear. That leaves the little lightweight sandals, which you can toss on top or even pack in your carry-on so they are ready to slide on when you reach your hotel.

I place each pair in a cloth or plastic bag before packing – both to protect the shoes and to prevent dirty shoes from spoiling my other clothes. Savvy travelers use hotel-provided shower caps to cover their shoes for packing.

If you're back-packing, consider carrying spare shoes on the outside of your pack so they can air out and thoroughly dry between wearings.

See our Women's Packing Tips post for ways to simplify your packing for extended travel, as well as notes on what to wear for comfortable long flights.

In summary, find the shoes that fit and feel the best. I get it: shoes are the ultimate accessory. But they literally influence how we carry ourselves, how we project ourselves, how we feel. Color, heel, and profile are secondary features–just for outside observers. Only you are walking in your shoes, so don’t hesitate to treat yourself with something that keeps your feet and posture healthy. It's a long road.

One final bit of advice: if you're buying from an online shoe store, pick one that offers free returns such as Zappos or Kizik. Sometimes it requires more than one try to get the right size.

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24 thoughts on “Best Travel Shoes for Women: Walking, Hiking, Comfort”

  1. It is amazing how many travel bloggers recommend the thing you should cut down on when packing is shoes – three pairs maximum, two if you are really clever. It is refreshing to hear from someone else who thinks shoes are important. I don’t have to be in the latest style but I do know that the pair I have worn around all day for hours and hours of walking/hiking are just not going to cut it at that nice restaurant for dinner.

  2. I’ll have to check these shoes out. I’m always fretting the shoe selections for travel and usually end up packing the same ones each time. I think it’s time to try something new. Thanks for the tips.

  3. Two foot surgeries? Poor you! The hardest thing about shoes and travelling is that they take up so much room! But I agree, the right shoe can make all the difference. As a result of wearing crappy (no support) shoes WITH orthotics, I still got a stress fracture. Granted it was probably also running a 1/2 marathon and walking all day in Paris, but the shoes make the difference. Thanks for sharing the different brands. I’ll be checking them out.

  4. I obsess over shoes in general and specifically ones for travel because “barking dogs” are never welcome whether literal or not! I love AGL and Beautifeel shoes because they both look nice and have well-made lasts. I had a brilliant 2 week career in sales at Nordstrom years ago and asked the others what they wore that they could stand to have on for 8 hours at a time of basically never sitting down and that’s how I got to those two brands. I’m going to have to have a look at Therafit’s collection.

    • I developed a relationship with my Nordstrom shoe salesperson almost as deep and meaningful as with my hair stylist! She introduced me to NAOT and, back when I was working in an office, Taryn Rose. I’ll check out AGL (? never heard of it) and Beautieel!

  5. I swear it’s so true. I can figure out everything else wardrobe-wise, but shoes are always the problem. Too many, too few, too much space in the luggage, etc. Someone needs to invent a convertible shoe that does it ALL!

  6. Of all these, the Bernie Mev (now) and the NAOT (previously) were stellar performers–both lightweight and compact! They fit in the suitcase so well you are tempted to add another pair:)

  7. I like the looks of that Therafit Austin Clog. I have several similar shoes from Merrell that I like a lot. And I also have a pair of Bernie Mev shoes that are soooo comfortable, but I only wear them for the airport and plane when traveling because they are so stretchy and easy on and off; they aren’t so good for serious walking. Great ideas!

  8. Shoes are always a dilemma when packing, especially when you have to transition to many different types of events. I like the looks of the Bernie Mevs-particularly since navy is my color of choice these days. I do love my Tieks, they pack up into a little ball, I can walk in them all day and they are a nice flat for evening. Two pairs-yikes, i admire the skills of that traveler!

    • I’m glad to hear you can walk in the Tieks all day, Alison. I assumed they would not have enough arch for me, but I’ll try some on … next time. (p.s. I’m on a navy blue kick, too.)

  9. Impressive. All these travel shoes are attractive especially that sandals are looks pretty. Actually, I love sandals. Sandal looks smart and inexpensive. Thanks for sharing your article. :)

  10. Ha! I have even bought another pair of sandals since writing this post, a simple Born Concept B.O.C. black leather thong sandal. It just goes to show, you’ll (hardly) ever say, “Gee I regret buying those sandals.”

  11. Kris! You had hallux rigidus? Was the surgery successful? I was diagnosed recently and buying shoes has been a mysterious journey. I love the La Sportivas. They worked well?

    • Hallux rigidus? I’d never heard of that before, but it’s apparently one of my foot issues. Sorry I didn’t see your note earlier. I have since purchased a La Sportiva trekking shoe, too (not high top), and love them. I again sized up a half size.

  12. Some handy shoewear tips and new to me brands! I love my Remonte ankle boots for travel in Italy and a pair of hiking sandals for Mexico. I’ll look and see if I can find those Minnetonka moccasins – my Mocs are almost worn out!

  13. I’ve had sensitive feet my entire life and can relate. Sorry to hear about your sole woes though. If my feet are compromised my trip is as well. It’s one reason I packed a lightweight hiking boot for Japan and ended up wearing them for only three days of the 17 day trip. Still worth it as those days hiking the mountain trails were pivotal and my poor sister ended up missing one of the greatest temple adventures to give her poorly supported feet a rest. Thanks for the tips. Love your city boots.

  14. Good recommendations here-I’ll have to check some of these out. I wear a weird size which can be hard to find. For walking around in cities, I like Clarks Cloudsteppers brand – very comfy and look very nice.


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