PackHacks: Choosing the Right Shoes for Slow Travel with Limited Suitcase Space

This week's PackHack is about choosing the footwear that best suits your needs. Like our previous post on our favorite carry-on bag, shoes are a fundamental item for travel. Choosing the right shoes for your trip is absolutely essential. In our case, we were planning on being on the road for over three months, during the winter, while spending time at work exchanges in the countryside. It was key we have shoes that would be good for walking the cobblestone streets of an Italian hill town or working in the mud on a farm in France. Also, we were carrying only one small carry-on bag apiece so conserving space was very important. I brought three pairs with me and they worked perfectly for every situation we came across. 

The first pair of shoes I brought were Sorel's Cheyanne Lace Full Grain Leather Boots. These waterproof and insulated boots keep my feet dry and warm no matter how cold or wet it got outside. They are perfect for hiking, taking the dog for a walk or working out in the garden and yet still stylish enough to wear out to a casual dinner. These boots have excellent grip on wet, muddy, snowy or icy surfaces and they clean up easily with water and a soft brush - we even treated the rubber with olive oil to keep them healthy. They are versatile enough to wear on a long bus or train trip without being too hot or heavy. What really makes these boots stand out from the crowd though is how good your feet feel at the end of the day. They have enough cushioning to prevent foot fatigue and blisters, but not so much that you loose feel of the terrain. If you plan on spending any length of time out in the elements during your next trip, I highly suggest packing a pair of these boots. 

The second type of shoe I suggest bringing with you on your next trip is a pair of trail-runners. I really love the New Balance 610 series. After trying over a dozen different brands and styles, I finally found these and quickly fell in love. Trail-runners have a unique combination of support, traction, cushioning and breathability that make them a perfect all-around shoe. One of my favorite aspects of this shoe is its ability to dry quickly overnight. Whether we got caught out in the rain or our feet got a little sweaty from a long day of walking, by the next morning these shoes were bone dry. This also helps keep away any odors that might develop from wearing the same shoes for 12 hours a day for weeks on end. Here is a handy guide to help you choose a pair of shoes that best fits your needs. 

Lastly, I suggest bringing a pair of sandals or flip-flops, preferably made from rubber or plastic. The key here is flexibility, comfort and water resistance. You are looking for something you can wear into the shower if you find yourself staying somewhere with less than sanitary facilities. You also want something sturdy enough to be able to walk around in without having your feet hurt at the end of the day. The pair I brought was the Ohana flip-flops from OluKai and they worked great. What I really like about these shoes is that they are stiff enough to be sturdy on uneven ground but flexible enough so it doesn't feel like you are walking on skis. I also really like the foam sole on this shoe which provides a little extra cushion and prevents my heels from hurting. The straps are made from a waterproof synthetic leather which provides comfort and reduces friction on the top of your foot and between your toes. I also found that they come ready-to-wear, so there was no need to break them in before our trip. This is definitely helpful when going from a cold to a warm climate.

My three favorites may not be the most fashionable shoes available but it is important to choose function over form when planning for long term travel. Keeping your feet happy and pain free will allow you to enjoy your travels without limitation.

We are preparing for another journey this fall so if you have a favorite shoe that you think we should try on before we leave, please let us know.