Picking a pair of shoes for travel is an important decision. Here I’ll explain why the best walking shoes for travel are running shoes. You might be thinking that the internet tells you that wearing running shoes, athletic shoes, “sneakers,” or “tennis shoes,” make you look like a tourist.
In particular, wearing white sneakers makes you look like an American tourist, especially in Europe. If you’ve spent time, any time at all looking for advice on travel attire, you’ll find that many people believe you should avoid this appearance at all costs. I ignore this advice and unapologetically wear running shoes when I travel.
Comfort and Function
Why would I choose to wear running shoes when I travel, even in Europe? The short answer: I have bad feet, and I’ve had them for many years. As a result, I put a premium on having comfortable shoes at all times, and especially when I’m traveling. Starting with the airport, I’ll likely be walking a fair amount, and I need appropriate, practical footwear. While others may be able to get away with cute or stylish walking shoes, I need shoes that perform: it is essential for me to be comfortable walking several hours a day for multiple days.
The industry has made great strides (pun intended) in the last several years toward developing comfort shoes that look somewhat attractive. I’m thrilled to have these options. What might be suitable for a day at the office or a night out, however, is not necessarily going to work for a vacation filled with walking tours and other pedestrian exploration, whether outdoors or inside. It will probably not be a surprise to you to learn that the shoes I choose to take on my travels are those that may give away my status as a(n) (American) tourist. Yes, I’ve found that the best walking shoes for travel are running shoes.
My Running Shoes for Travel
What are my favorite travel shoes? For several years, I have used Brooks Cascadia Trail Running shoes as my primary shoe for trips with colder weather or any trip with an outdoorsy or active component. I should mention that I have the Brooks Cascadia 11, but the current version is 13. Suffice to say, these shoes are incredibly durable. The 11’s are starting to show their age a little bit, but are still in excellent shape, and I don’t anticipate having to update them for another year. Of course, they are extremely comfortable and come in unusual color combinations (not white). I remove the insoles included with shoes and substitute my own orthotics. For everyone else, the original Brooks Cascadia insole is a good arch support.
Features for Comfortable Walking
As trail runners, Brooks Cascadia are superb for running and other outdoor activities, such as hiking. Somewhat counterintuitively, these shoes have many features that also work well for dealing with city landscapes:
- Stability, helpful in navigating uneven terrains such as city streets, cobblestones, puddles, and other urban obstacles.
- Extra tread, meaning extra traction that performs well in wet conditions, including slick pavement in the rain.
- Additionally, the thick tread and cushion mean your foot won’t feel every little bump.
- Additional support and toe protection mean you’re less likely to twist an ankle or stub a toe in an unfamiliar location.
- Breathable mesh upper sheds water.
They also are suitable for mud or dirt, which comes in handy if I decide, say, to take a detour through a park. Even city streets can get pretty grungy, and the Brooks Cascadia can handle the grime much better than a dressier pair of shoes. If things get really messy, they’re washable!
One minor point about these shoes is that they are slightly heavier than comparable trail running shoes. This is apparently a tradeoff for their excellent stability and durability. I always wear these on travel day, following the standard travel advice of wearing the most substantial footwear on the plane to save space in the luggage.
Running shoes are the best walking shoes for travel
The Brooks Cascadia Trail Running shoes meet my needs as a walking-centered traveler, and I have worn them daily on many trips. Do I look like a tourist? Probably, but my feet don’t hurt. More importantly, as I’m not distracted by pain, I’m able to focus on enjoying my experiences. Even if I could find a different pair of shoes to wear on my vacations, I’d still be an American tourist. I’m pretty sure that wearing a different pair of shoes isn’t going to fool anyone. Would you agree?
I know this is an old article but I’m curious if you have continued with the cascadias and now have the 16s? I am thinking of getting them to replace my hiking shoes, including an upcoming trip to Israel.
Darla G says
Hi Jen, and thanks for your comment. I tried to continue with the Cascadias, but when I needed them, they were out of stock at my local store. I went with the Saucony Peregrines and they definitely have a different “feel” than the Cascadias. Overall, I think I like the Cascadias more. Definitely try on a few different models from different manufacturers to find what feels best on your own feet!