My Quest for Comfortable Walking Shoes for Vacation Continues

Last year I wrote about some of my best walking shoes for travel, including my trusty Dansko sneakers and sandals, Clark flip flops, and Sperry Topsiders. While those shoes are all great, mine are getting a little worn after walking around Spain, Canada, Rhode Island, Florida and countless other places over the last few years. So with our trip to Italy looming, I am once more on the quest for comfortable walking shoes for vacation. And it isn’t just for me, my entire family needs shoes that can carry us across miles of cobblestones and ancient ruins in comfort, and then transition to evening for dinners out in cosmopolitan Rome, Positano and Capri.

We did some SERIOUS searching — from combing the malls, outlets and shoe discount stores like DSW, to outdoor specialists like REI and LL Bean, to scrolling through page after page on Zappos and other websites — and this is what we came up with. They have all been tested and wear comfortably with no rubbing or discomfort. In fact, my lower back feels much better after walking around for a few hours in the Abeo’s than any shoes I’ve worn in the past.

Comfortable walking shoes for vacation

Our Favorite Walking Shoes

But first let’s talk a moment about shoe strategy. One thing about comfortable walking shoes for vacation is that they are heavy and weigh down the luggage. And the more shoes you need, the closer to your 50 lb. max you’ll come. So here is what I keep in mind while packing:

  • Wear my heaviest shoes on the plane
  • Coordinate my evening outfits so that I only need one or at most two pairs of fairly comfortable sandals (this may vary depending on the type of vacation like a cruise vs. a trek around Europe)
  • Include one pair of closed-toe shoes if we’ll be doing any hiking or walks through ancient ruins
  • Buy shoes in neutral colors — this is easy for me since I always gravitate toward those colors anyway

One thing you are going to see in my list below is that we had a lot of luck finding what we needed at The Walking Company. I can not say enough about the experience. First off, they perform a foot scan to see where you carry your weight, what your arch looks like, and if you have any problem areas. Then, their highly trained (and, in our case super friendly) sales staff help get you into the right shoes and suggest orthotic inserts if necessary. It was eye opening. If you have a store in your area, I’d highly recommend stopping in for a scan. If not, you can always check out their selection online.

Just remember that everyone is different. My recommendations below work great for our feet, but we all tried on dozens of others shoes to find the ones that really were the best fit for us. I’ve compromised in the past on shoes that were almost right (they were comfortable but didn’t come in half sizes so that arch support didn’t hit in quite the right spot) and this time I really wanted to get it right. Hopefully these suggestions are a good starting point in your search for comfortable walking shoes.

Comfortable Walking Shoes for Women

Abeo Huntington Sandals from Most Comfortable Walking Shoes for Vacation

Abeo Huntington Sandals

1. Abeo Huntington sandals from Walking Company – these are not sexy but they are oh so comfortable. And seriously, can’t you see me climbing around the ruins of Pompeii or hiking the Trail of the Gods in these? I love the arch support (in just the right place, finally!) but I also like that they are ultra-adjustable with velcro adjustments across the toe, around the heel, and across the ankle. One tip our sales person told me was to start adjusting at the toe and work your way back, and then readjust as necessary and only loosen one strap to take them on and off during the day.

Abeo Balboa Sandals - Most Comfortable Walking Shoes for Women

Abeo Balboa Flip Flops


2. Abeo Balboa flip flops from Walking Company – I have a number of really cute flip flops to wear to the pool and beach so I wasn’t sure if I really needed another, bulkier pair. But then I started thinking about the 90 steps I was going to have to climb to get from our apartment to the beach in Positano and I decided it was worth the investment. While the sandals above I’d reserve for days of serious walking across uneven terrain, these provide the same level of support but in a more casual, slip-on, slip-off style.

Trotters metallic sandals -- most comfortable walking shoes for women

Trotters Sandals


3. Trotters metallic sandals – for evening I wanted something a bit dressier but still comfortable as we planned on doing a lot of walking to dinner in Rome, Capri and Positano. I got lucky with these by finding a close out on Zulily that actually fit well.


Teva Riviera Wedge Sandals - Most Comfortable Shoes for Vacation

Teva Riviera Wedge Sandals

4. Teva Riviera Wedge sandals – also for evening but when I want a little height and to be a bit dressier, I found these Teva sandals on another Zulily close out (but they are still offered online.) I have some great wedge sandals for summer but after walking to dinner or standing a while on them I feel like I’ve been standing on wood or concrete. These have the cushioning and comfort you’d expect from Teva but still the nice strappiness you sometimes want in a summer sandal.

Comfortable Walking Shoes for Kids

Birkenstock Rio Sandals - Comfortable Walking Shoes for Kids

Birkenstock Rio Sandals

The most frustrating part of my search was finding comfortable walking shoes for kids. I understand not wanting to spend a lot on kid’s shoes when their feet might grow at any second. BUT…how can we expect their tired little legs to keep up with us if they are wearing crappy shoes? It is REALLY hard to find good quality, supportive comfortable walking shoes for kids. We’ve always had good luck for trips, camp and school with Keens but this year, my daughter’s feet are narrower than usual and she just floats in most of the shoes designed for walking, leading to rubbing and discomfort. I looked through 864 pairs of sandals on Zappos to try to find something for her recently and the only brand of walking shoes for kids that seem to come in narrow (that I could find) are Birkenstocks. I’m still searching for a closed toe sandal like a Keen for her for camp but these are the options I found for our vacation.

1. Birkenstock Rio sandals – these come in narrow-medium width and are adjustable across the toes and around the ankle for a good fit. In addition to arch support, the footbed molds to the shape of the foot. We opted for neutral, but they do also come in some fun colors for kids.

Merrell sandals for kids - Comfortable Walking Shoes for Kids

Merrell Sandals

2. Merrell sandals – the next quest was a decent looking sandal to go out to dinner in sundresses and skirts, but still be comfortable enough for taking pre- and post-dinner strolls, especially since on vacation we are mostly walking to dinner versus driving or taking a cab (and thinking about those 90 steps to climb in Positano!) After searching around all the usual suspects (Stride Rite, Marshall’s, Target, Zappos, Nordstrom, etc), I eventually found these off-white sandals at the Merrell outlet that adjust in the front and back to help with those narrow feet. They are fairly casual but still look better than the Birkenstocks or sneakers for going to dinner, and they even worked at a family wedding recently when I just couldn’t find anything at all that would fit her skinny feet (she wears a size 2 and measures a toddler size 10 in width — and she is 10 years old!)

Comfortable Walking Shoes for Men

My husband tends to wear the same shoes for years, sticking to his trusty Keens, Timberland sandals, running shoes, and loafers when traveling but this year I convinced him (or the salesperson in the Walking Company did really) to invest in some good casual shoes that give him the support he needs to spend a hot summer day walking around Italy. After trying quite a few options, this is what he settled on.

Olukai Ohana comfortable walking shoes for men

Olukai Ohana Sandals

1. OluKai ‘Ohana flip flops – many of the flip flops he tried on had a very thick leather thong between the toes that just wasn’t comfortable. These sandals provided the arch support, toe bed and comfortable fit he was looking for.

So these are our top picks. What about you, do you have a favorite walking shoe? How many pairs of shoes do you bring on vacation? Leave me a comment below!

Photo credit: The awesome picture of Mt Baker framed by some tired feet is courtesy of Missy Leone via Flickr Creative Commons. This post contains affiliate links, if you make a purchase I may earn a small commission.

3 Comments on “My Quest for Comfortable Walking Shoes for Vacation Continues

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  1. I struggled with the same quest. Ultimately, I ended up with an extremely ugly pair of Tevas that are oh so comfortable! I’ve never seen the rios before, I will have to check those out! And pay more attention to my zulily emails apparently 🙂

    THANK YOU!! Although my families foot needs are different than yours, I appreciate the fact that you’ve given me some go-to sources. We all love walking and being active when we travel, and footwear is a huge challenge. A lot of GTK info!

    […] Plan around your shoes. Shoes take up weight and space so whether you are checking baggage and need to keep it under 50 lbs., or you are trying to minimize space in your carry on, you just don’t have the luxury of bringing a ton of shoes. If checking a bag, I try to wear my heaviest shoes on the plane if I think weight will be an issue. Otherwise I try to pick a comfortable pair that works well with multiple outfits — definitely don’t choose a pair that you will only wear once! (Here are my suggestions for comfortable walking shoes for vacation.) […]

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