Travel Accessories

Finding a Sneaker for Travel

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I don’t often wear sneakers when traveling, but when I do, I wear…

Ok, now that I got my world’s most interesting woman impression out of the way, here’s what I look for in a travel sneaker. And no, I don’t (quite) always wear heels. 🙂 For cities and trips where there will be 8-10 hours a day of public transportation, walking up hills, and cobblestone streets, not to mention inclement weather, sneakers are best. But if you’re trying to pack light fitting them in with your wardrobe and your carry-on rollerboard can be a pain.

Key elements:

  • Comfort — above all else, you want them to be really comfortable. If you’re not going to wear heels, your feet certainly shouldn’t be hurting.
  • Low profile — you want a pair you can pack, not a pair you have to wear in transit because they won’t fit. So pick a pair that doesn’t have a huge rubber heel or thick sole. This will also help make the transition from trails to restaurants.
  • Discrete coloring — the thing that makes the typical American tourist stand out the most (other than an inordinate love of all things old) is the bright white sneakers or running shoes. Choose a dark grey, brown, or navy color. This helps blend in with whatever color pants or shorts you’re wearing. Choosing bright non-white colors poses it’s own problem — do you really want friends to differentiate trip pictures by “oh yeah, that’s the one where Keri was in love with her lime green converse sneakers”
  • Versatility — the three points above are most important, but in an ideal world go for a sneaker that can serve a multitude of purposes on your trip, rather than a hiking boot. Climbing Arthur’s Seat outside Edinburgh one day, walking the rainy streets of London the next, then a last minute pre-transatlantic flight workout. I’ll admit I have yet to find a great sneaker for travel and for working out, but mine do in a pinch.

While you can do the Crocs or the Mary-Jane look, my personal aesthetic is to just own I’m wearing a sneaker and go with a traditional look for my shorts and jeans. And if it’s warm enough to wear a skirt, it”s probably warm enough to don a comfortable, non-clunky flat.

Suggestions to start your search:

Overall I find their shoes really comfortable (dating back to the days when I back packed around England in my giant military-esque Sketchers black boots)  and they hold up pretty well. They specifically design shoes with fashion and trends in mind, so there’s a wider selection of shoes with minimal rubber and dark colors. I finally took my favorite navy pair of 3 years out of common use when I donned them for a whitewater trip in the absence of Tevas.
I love their minimalist design and tiny soles, you can fit 3 in the space usually occupied by one pair of sneakers. Unfortunately my foot always has a bulgy look so I stay away. If you don’t suffer the same problem, they’re definitely worth a look. For friends these tend to make packing for long weekend perfect since the small size easily allows room in an overnight bag for a pair or two of heels as well.

If you’re looking for a littlemore comfort and durability than sleekness, Merrell has some nice options. They also have good looking “barefoot” sneakers as well.


Where to buy? Online I favor Amazon for ease and speedy delivery, and REI Outlet and for stalking clearance items. If you’re interested in paying $30 or less without having to wait, definitely check out the selection at your local DSW clearance, Marshall’s and TJMaxx, that’s where I consistently have the greatest success.


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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

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  1. Pingback: Travel Cheat Sheet — Our Tips For Comfortable Chic Travel

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