The Best Shoes to Pack for Summer European Travel (Reader Question)

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We receive lots of questions about what to pack for travel, and I was particularly excited to receive this reader’s dilemma. I assure you my giddiness had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Reader A referred to me as the leading, worldwide, brilliant AND gorgeous expert in comfy and cute shoes. Okay…well maybe she didn’t go quite THAT far with her compliment. And…maybe her very nice compliment DID play a bit into my delight at responding. I am honestly super-excited about her question, for other reasons as well. Primarily, this trip sounds ah-mazing, and also, her mind is totally where mine would be before a trip like this….WHAT SHOES???

Here’s her note:

Hi all! I love you all and would love to hear input from any editor who has an opinion on this question, but my question is directed to Linzi because she seems to be the expert on comfy but cute footwear. My family and I are taking a 10 day trip to Italy this summer – Rome followed by Catania, Sicily. We have dreamed about this trip for years and are super excited. I am in search of a comfy but cute pair of sandals to trek around Rome and Catania. There will be much walking, so comfort is important. But, it’s Italy and Italians dress beautifully. I don’t want to look like a frumpy American. Any and all suggestions are welcome. Thank you!  Reader A

Yay! Now this is a fun challenge! My first step in answering Reader A’s question was consulting my family friend who leads tours all over Italy. She pointed out that she often sees Italian women dressed gorgeously in designer super-tight jeans and stilettos at the grocery. Yikes! — I personally (as the self-designated Comfort Queen) don’t think I’d want to try and compete with THAT! I’m no fun to be with when my feet are grumpy, and uncomfortable shoes could definitely ruin a dream trip like this. I hear you, though, Reader A — if I was taking a trip to Italy this summer, I too would want to step up my style game a bit. It’s fun to try to blend a BIT when traveling, right? There has to be a happy medium.

To go for that perfect balance, I took a look at stylish but comfortable sandals (as Reader A requested), and I also took a look at a few of other types of shoes I would pack as well. Packing two-to-three pairs of shoes may be a way to maintain style while not being physically miserable. I also took the liberty of generalizing my suggestions for “European Travel” because I think many of these recommendations would work not just for Italy. From polling friends, co-workers and family members, as well as a very heavy dose of my own opinion…here’ s what I’ve got:

Shoes to Pack For Summer Travel to Europe

Your packing list for travel to Europe this summer MUST include 2-to-3 pair of walkable, stylish shoes. We're on it! Our style suggestions right here.Walkable Sandals: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Fashion Sneaks: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Bonus Pair: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

1. A Wear-With-Everything Walkable Sandal (That’s Also Lux Looking)

This will be your vacation workhorse of shoes. In my opinion, you’re going to want to stick with a trusted comfort brand. They use a lot of resources engineering shoes that keep your feet happy until the end of the day. If there’s a comfort brand you especially like or works well with your feet — wear a pair you love from them. If you’re trying to blend, look for a lux-looking pair because, as you said, it feels like ALL Italians dress beautifully. Pick a neutral pair that will look good with all your casual touring clothes, but will also work if you get a bit more dressed up. These are some of my favorites that I think will work, but make sure to wear them BEFORE your trip to be sure they can handle this big job!

Your packing list for travel to Europe this summer MUST include 2-to-3 pair of walkable, stylish shoes. We're on it! Our style suggestions right here.

 

2. A Really Good Fashion Sneak

Many folks pack their workout/running shoes when traveling as their only sneaker, but I suggest taking a good fashion sneak instead (unless you plan on actually jogging). It has worked for me to travel with a cute fashion sneak and throw in a pair of superfeet insoles for extra support. With a good fashion sneak, you can give your feet a rest from sandals, but still wear them with stylish casual outfits and your pretty summer dresses. Ordinarily, I would suggest a neutral pair for versatility and to blend a bit more, but my tour guide friend just sent me a photo of an Italian store window with these gorgeous Emilio Pucci sneaks, so if color is your thing, go for it. Bring a pair you have and love that make you feel great! Or, if you need a new pair, below are some I’m in to right now.

Your packing list for travel to Europe this summer MUST include 2-to-3 pair of walkable, stylish shoes. We're on it! Our style suggestions right here.

3. A Bonus Pair (To Match Your Personal Style or Itinerary)

If you’re going to be in a mostly urban setting, pack an edgy pair of summer booties or a cute wedge to spice up your overall look occasionally. Keep them comfortable, though, so they don’t inhibit your adventuring. If you’re going to be doing extensive hiking, your bonus pair could obviously be your hiking boots. If you’re going to be exploring areas near the water, make sure to pack a pair of water-friendly sandals. Or…if you’re the jogger I talked about above..obviously pack your running shoes and do your thing! Here are some of the bonus options I would think about. 

Your packing list for travel to Europe this summer MUST include 2-to-3 pair of walkable, stylish shoes. We're on it! Our style suggestions right here.

Clogs

Heels

Booties

Wedges

One of the best suggestions I received about shoes for travel came from Shana’s sister-in-law (via Shana). She said she always packs shoes with different heel heights, so you’re mixing up the pressure points on your foot day-to-day. Brilliant! And that totally works with the suggestions above.

Another option is if you have free time in the first few days of your trip, and you really want to try and blend in, you could shop for a pair of shoes at your destination. A little risky for sure (especially with comfort), but especially for your “bonus pair”, that could be very fun!  

Reader A, I hope you have a wonderful trip. We are so excited for your adventure! Please write in and share some pics…and of course what shoes you ended up packing! Everyone else, what are your go-to travel shoes that are walkable and stylish?

-Linzi

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Linzi (or 'Linz' as we like to call her) is our reigning Queen of Comfort Shoes but we suspect you'll love even more about her style than what's on her feet. You can also look to her for everything Kids - from the best toys to the cutest functional coats, she's got the well-researched recs and we love her for it.

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18 Comments

  1. Hey Linzi! These look great, but I am wondering if you have any suggestion for a neutral sandal (or fashion sneaker) that comes in wide?

    • Of course! I have lots of suggestions when it comes to shoes. 🙂 . The Sofft Natessas here , the Papillios in some colors here, these Vionics here all come in wide sizing. I also think these clarks here are pretty. Have you ever tried Fitflops? They don’t have wide sizing, but most run on the wider side. They have a lot of neutral options with back straps here. I guess it depends on how wide you need. Will let you know if I find anything good in fashion sneakers.

  2. These are great, and I would really second the sneakers. I just came back from a quick European trip and I swear everyone was in cute sneakers. Adidas gazelles everywhere. I think a lot of those people were tourists, but unless you’re dead set on being mistaken for a local, you wouldn’t stand out. Also they are easily the most comfortable least blister prone option.

    • Thanks for the comment, Lindsay. I know Adidas are huge….hard to tell, though, who is local and who isn’t sometimes.

  3. I wore these Sorel Ella sandals allllll over London and France. So comfortable, worked with shorts, jeans, skirts and dresses, and they don’t show any of the miles I walked in them.

    • So funny! I actually just had these pink/gold Sorel Ella’s on earlier this week trying to decide if they should “make” this post. I couldn’t decide if they would give me enough support for all day walking, but I’m so glad to hear that they worked for you. They are SUPER cute and seemed very comfortable. I liked the way they hugged my foot. The security felt nice.

  4. Elizabeth Rafter on

    While I’ve never been to Europe, I’m bordering obsessed with these Ancient Greek sandals and they strike me as Uber cool and European. I’m definitely taking them on my imaginary, fabulous vacation.

    https://www.ancient-greek-sandals.com/mobile/en/usd/product/2175768/Women/Semele-Comfort/

    If you’re looking for the most comfortable sneaker ever made, hands down it’s the Adidas Ultraboost (I like Ultraboost X even better). They’re definitely the most expensive sneakers that I own but they are amazing. As a nurse working 12 hour shifts, I can wear them all night with no complaints at all. Nothing (hips/knees/feet/back) hurts at the end of my shift when I wear these and that’s pretty impressive! I think they’re pretty cool looking, too! Especially the Stella McCartney leopard sole ones! I currently have the mint colored pair and they’re my best ones yet!

    https://www.adidas.com/us/ultraboost-x-shoes/B75904.html

    https://www.adidas.com/us/ultraboost-x-parley-shoes/BY2707.html

    Have fun on the trip!!!

  5. on vacation right now. Shana’s Ugg sandals are prefect. Lightweight and so cushy.
    small breaking in period. nothing to bad. such a great buy. thanks for the post!

  6. Arche shoes, especially the ones with the cutouts, are good looking and comfortable for all day walking. Wore them all around Italy and Greece, and they were perfect.

  7. I just returned from a European trip and wore a pair of OTBT sneakers nearly every day. They were super comfortable and stylish enough that I fit right in. I saw LOTS of local young women in Vans while I was there.

  8. Pam Maroulis on

    I found the brand OTBT last year and have a pair of sandals by them that I absolutely love! I usually go to Vionic for my comfortable but stylish brand. If you haven’t tried them, you should! I was surprised not to see them in your list. I wore their flip flops through Germany and Austria last summer without any flare-ups of my plantar fasciitis. Thanks for all these great suggestions!

  9. Morgan Calinski on

    I’ve got boots on the ground info for you after just returning from Catania!

    The vibe is extremely casual in Sicily: no stilettos seen anywhere, not even in two star Michilin restaurants. Everyone wears flats or cool sneakers. The most popular sneaks were definitely Saucony, Nike, and Adidas for guys and girls. I wore white low top Chucks and felt pretty cool, especially in a sundress. (And on a side note, be sure to pack lots of layers because the weather changes rapidly! Leather jackets are the chic pick.)

    My husband likes more support in a shoe and he loved having his Danner hiking boots. They were the only shoe he needed in 10 days.

    Have an awesome time!

  10. Highly recommend Birkenstock Papillio wedge sandals- they go with everything, from shorts to skirts to pants. Lana and Alyssa are two of the wedge styles that have an ankle strap, so they stay on, and they are comfortable and cute.

  11. My last summer trip to Europe was about 5 years ago. I packed meticulously and included 5 pairs of shoes in a hiking pack for a 12-day trip, and my bag was still the lightest of our entire group. Lots of travel advice suggests packing just 2 pairs of shoes, because they take up space in your bag. I, however, find that having a variety of shoes is essential for comfortable feet and versatile outfit options, even if my other pieces are limited (I had black jeans, shorts, 2 neutral tees, a skirt, a tank, a white linen button down, and a light structured jacket.) I packed flip flops for the beach at Cinque Terre, trusty worn-in black Converse for the streets of Paris, some really supportive and cool Nike sneaks for hiking and extra long days, brown leather sandals (similar to Shana’s Saltwaters) for Rome’s ancient ruins and one pair of lovely stiletto heels *just in case*. I didn’t wear the heels once and even so – this is important – I DID NOT REGRET BRINGING THEM. It was great to know that I could be ready for a fancy dinner or opera if the occasion arose. However, if I *had* to pare back, I could have gotten away with just my leather sandals (the right pair can take you from the beach to the streets to a nice dinner) and my converse (ie a classic neutral pair of sneaks). Good luck and happy traveling!

  12. Agree with this. Was in Sicily not too long ago and everyone was wearing white sneakers, including with dresses. Having been to Italy numerous times, I have never seen any Italian in a supermarket wearing high heels. Also, note that people dress differently in different parts of Italy. Sicily is a Mediterranean island that developed its own unique culture and the people there do not dress the same as people in Florence or Naples, for example. The fact that every Italian dresses beautifully is also a myth. There are plenty of Italian people who do not dress well at all.

    Catania is a bit grittier than Palermo, for example. It reminds me more of NYC. So if you would wear it in NYC, then you will be fine in Catania. And like any big city, I do not recommend sandals or open toe shoes. As a NYC resident and a traveler, I can tell you that walking around a big city in sandals will result in your feet getting dirty with urban grime (yuck). You also don’t want to have to worry about people stepping on your toes or dropping something on your feet in a crowded location or on public transportation. So just go with the sneakers. Canvas sneakers or slip on sneakers with perforations will keep your feet cooler if you are worried about that. It is all I wear in the city in the summer and when I travel and have never had an issue. Save the sandals for the pool or beach.

  13. The absolute most comfortable and stylish shoe I have ever worn is the Frye Ivy. I’ve lived abroad and travel a ton, and I wish I had known about these years ago! Worth every penny!

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