Travel Intelligence from our Readers:
Best Walking Shoes
|Tour guide Dave Hoerlein's favorite travelin' shoes point the way to scenic Urbino, Italy.|
Readers compare notes on their favorite traveling footwear
Footloose and fancy-free is not so easy if you have the wrong shoes. And now is the time to start breaking in what you plan to wear on your next trip.
Here are some thoughts distilled from a 30-page collection of tips submitted to our online Graffiti Wall by our well-traveled readers. For the complete and unabridged conversation, visit Best Walking Shoes on the Graffiti Wall.
I've had great luck with any shoes made by Montrail. The soles are specifically designed to handle the added weight of, say, a backpack. You can find them at most outdoor stores like REI.
I've loved my Dr. Martens since my punk rock years in the early 80's, and have yet to find a more comfortable walking shoe. HOWEVER — these shoes have about a two-week breaking-in period, during which they're pretty darn stiff and uncomfortable.
I picked up a pair of Campers about a month before going to Rome, and I was very pleased. They are light, comfortable and stylish. In fact, many an Italian foot was shod exactly like mine.
I took one pair of Rockport Pro Walkers to Europe for two weeks, and they were wonderful. Comfortable and stylish, they went with everything. With only one pair of shoes, I was careful to shake a little foot powder into them every night to keep them from smelling too bad.
Hush Puppies work for me. A cloudburst in Siena soaked me and my shoes. They dried out and looked as good as new. Mine are roomy enough for thick socks, which helps for long walks. The smooth black leather looks great with a little touching up. I wear orthotics and they fit fine in the shoes. I carry a lightweight pair of flip-flops for showering and wearing around my hotels or B&Bs.
My Ecco Gore-tex hiking shoes scrambled through Scottish highlands and County Kerry, muddy bogs, wet grass and muck, not to mention cobbled medieval rambles. Excellent grip. It's not a heavy shoe. The waterproofing is a good idea.
|Achtung! Ve're valkin' here...|
Last year I took a pair of Merrell men's walking shoes to Italy. The best part is they are an oxford-type lace-up shoe, but with a cross-training type sole. We did some light jogging before breakfast and went all day and dined out in dressy evening restaurants. Great shoes if you need to consolidate to just one pair.
I bought a pair of Ecco shoes three and a half years ago. After a three-month backpacking trip through Europe, they had kept me comfortable and dry — not easy in the Swiss Alps! I am now a tour guide, and for two years these shoes have been the only ones to pound the cobblestones for me.
I purchased a pair of Mephisto Diva boots (workboot styling) for $67 at the Jezebel shoe store on Rue Cler in Paris, and back here in the USA they cost $295! My feet really like these boots! I got great shoes, and a great souvenir of France that I can wear anytime.
I have tried several different brands, but always come back to Dansko. I have traveled to Europe on several occasions and have worn the sandals and/or the clogs without any problems. Recently, Dansko has come out with a new sport clog. You can purchase "slightly imperfect" Dansko footwear for 30 percent less at danskooutlet.com.
I traveled Europe for six weeks this spring with an 18 pound backpack and one pair of shoes: Teva Hydro Rodiums. They were great for everything — walking, hiking, whatever. They're light, breathable, and dry very quickly. No socks necessary, either, unless it's cold.
I've worn Arizona Birks for years. They have a new Arizona with a padded sole that is really comfortable for standing and walking. They have microfiber straps, and the Birk clerk said the shoes were originally designed for diabetics. Translation: No blisters. Bonus with Birks — they slip off easily to allow a few minutes of barefooted bliss.
I've been searching for the perfect travel shoes. Must meet four criteria: (1) won't look too goofy with khakis, (2) won't look too goofy with shorts, (3) enough comfort and support to walk all day, and (4) preferably waterproof. I finally found a shoe to meet all four requirements: Rockports. Mine are nubuck leather, Gore-tex, and comfortable. And I don't feel like a dork when wearing shorts.
As a doctor who treats foot and ankle problems, here are a few tips: Buy quality, break them in first, get used to walking before you go (maybe you'll discover that foot problem before you leave and have it treated here), take along some Advil or other pain reliever, and consider the use of prescription orthotics. They will make your foot do what you hope the "right" shoe will do — but often doesn't.
|The travel footwear tradeoff: warmth vs. ventilation.|
I find that a good pair of hiking shoes (low-cut, lightweight boots) is often more supportive in a Euro situation than most shoes. A hiking shoe with a nylon shank (sole stiffener) and some ankle support will often take most of the load off your feet when walking on cobblestones and hard pavement.
As a physical therapist, I would recommend taking two pairs of shoes with good socks. If you are on your feet a lot, simply changing shoes every eight hours prevents foot discomfort.
I just came back from 10 days in London and Paris. I saw bowling shoes everywhere, on both men and women. And the matching handbags look like bowling ball bags. Who'd have thought that if I'd brought my ugly bowling shoes I'd be trendy while walking in Trafalgar Square or strolling the Champs-Elysées?
I travel frequently to London and Paris, often in winter. I came across Ecco shoes and can't be happier. Even though they are rubber soled, I always pack a pair of Tingely Moccasin Stretch Storm Rubbers in case it rains. They look like shoes and really keep a rainy day from becoming a soggy day.
If your feet still hurt after a long day tramping around, regardless of your shoes, try this: put about four inches of cold water in the tub, sit on the side, and put your bare feet in the water. The cold water will numb your aching feet and help reduce swelling. You could also stick your bare feet in any other available cold water, such as a stream.
If you're prone to blisters, try this. Use your underarm antiperspirant stick on your feet. I'll use it on my heel, arch, top of my foot and toes. Blisters come from heat, heat comes from friction, and the body's response is sweat. Antiperspirant saves your socks and your feet. I use this trick all the time when I run in any distance race. Before I started using antiperspirant, I'd have blisters (or the beginning of blisters) in every race. Remember use antiperspirant, not just deodorant. If not, you'll just have nice smelling blisters.
After two uncomfortable foot trips to Europe, I've finally found my solution. I switched to more technical socks. Good socks are as important as good walking shoes. Use a pair of light running socks that are blended (not 100% cotton) and wick away moisture.
My husband and I first tried Thorlo socks a couple years ago (the light hiker is wonderful), which are great but SmartWool makes an even better sock. These keep your feet dryer, and are more durable then the Thorlos, and they stay odor free longer.
What does Rick wear? "Mephistos are comfy for my stateside needs. But for all the walking I do in Europe, I need something sturdier. For many years I wore Rockport Walkers, but now I'm really into the warmth and solid support of my Eccos."