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
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!
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.
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.
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?