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What is the best shoe for traveling?

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Q&A: We plan on wandering to the Mighty 5 National Parks in Utah. We’ve both budgeted for some new shoes for the trip but we’re not sure what type to get. Any suggestions? Thanks.

– Eric and Jessica Shallot of Denver, Colorado.

A: Good question Eric and Jessica. A bad pair of shoes can literally make or break your travel experience to the MIghty 5 (btw, They’re one of our Top 10 Destinations for 2023). I’ve known wanderers who came back from a national park adventure with some seriously damaged feet after hiking with poor fitting, non-supportive generic boots. And I’ve known even more who suffered through days of pain as they wandered the well paved streets and alleys of Paris and Rome in a shoe designed without proper cushioning. The good news is, there is one all around shoe you can rely on to get you comfortably through most of your travels.

My “shoe strategy” for travel

The choice of footwear for wandering the globe ultimately depends on the type of activities you plan to do and the terrain you will encounter. But basically, I’ve enjoyed decades of travel with a minimalists approach that includes:

My favorite light weight sneakers are so pliable that they can be easily sstacked and queezed to minimize space in luggage. Plus, they’re low maintenance and can be quickly and easily cleaned in a hotel sink if needed. When travelling, they’re my “go-to” shoe and are always with me. They’re often the only shoe I take with me.

If I’m wandering to a place where I might encounter some rugged off-trail conditions, I’ll also bring along my sturdy pair of waterproof hiking boots. If not, I just leave them at home.

Some might say “just one pair of shoes?” Well, a wanderer packs light. Using only one pair means you have to wear them, not pack them. This saves a lot of space in your backpack.

When should I wear hiking shoes?

Hiking shoes are designed to provide better traction and support for challenging terrain and can help prevent injuries such as ankle sprains or slips on wet or icy surfaces. If you’re visiting a national park with extensive ecosystems, like Yellowstone or Kenai Fjords, then you’ll likely be off trail on occasion.

This may include actual hiking of longer and more strenuous trails instead of paved paths or greenways. Or, if you plan on encountering steep or rocky terrain, then you’ll definitely be glad you wore a well-built hiking shoe with good ankle support and a sturdy sole that is not “over-treaded.” In that case, be sure to bring them along with your sneakers. But I’d never rely on hiking shoes alone. While most are pretty comfortable, they are built different than sneakers and 24/7 wear can get tiresome

When should I wear sneakers?

You’ll find that most of your wandering can be done just fine when wearing sneakers, even at most national parks. About 75% of my wandering has involved casual walks or light hiking so a light weight, well ventilated sneaker has worked perfectly.  

A big advantage of sneakers over hiking shoes or boots are that they’re generally more comfortable and lightweight. This makes them ideal for exploring more accessible parts of parks that don’t require the added support and traction of a hiking shoe. And after a long day of wandering winding city streets and alleyways – and climbing stairs – you’ll appreciate their light weight and ventilation.

Ultimately, it’s important to choose a comfortable and well-fitting shoe that matches your planned activities and the terrain you’ll be encountering. It’s also important to consider the weather conditions, as certain shoes may be more suitable for wet or muddy conditions than others.

Which brands of hiking shoes are the best?

Honestly, I’ve had them all: Merrell, KEEN, Columbia and more. But none lived up to the hype. Especially the Merrells – they were the absolute worst and I still wish I had my money back on those.

But the hiking shoes I like best are . . .

Best shoe for travel Clarks Waterproof Hiking Shoes
My Clarks waterproof hiking boots have travelled the world as well. They’ve provide wonderful support on day-long hikes while ensuring a steady grip on steep slopes and rocky terrain. Plus, they’ve kept my feet nice and dry in heavy rains and when crossing creeks.

I finally whittled it down to Clarks. I always thought of the brand as “hippie” shoes for some reason – probably because a former coworker was, in fact, a hippie and wore them religiously. But I digress – the truth is they’re not hippie shoes. Far from it.

Over several pairs and years of global travel, my Clarks (which include one daily wear slip on hard leather top model and a waterproof high top hiking boot) have provided outstanding comfort and durability.

There are several reasons why I consider Clarks to be the best all-around hiking shoes:

I suggest taking a look at the Clarks Wellman Trail waterproof hiking shoe before purchasing any other brand. They’re a great choice for those who need a reliable and comfortable shoe for hiking and outdoor activities.

Which brands of sneakers are the best?

The highest-rated pairs of sneakers for comfort may vary based on personal preferences and needs (especially your individual foot shape), but based on feedback from our fellow wanderers we feel the most comfortable sneakers currently on the market are:

But the sneaker I like best is . . .

Adidas CloudForm Shoes for Travel
I wandered Asia and Europe, including the Great Wall of China, throughout Thailand, London, Paris, and Rome wearing my Adidas Cloudforms (top). And I’ve just broke in another pair (bottom) at Yellowstone and in Alaska.
A great travel shoe holds up over several years plus they are easy to care for. That’s why I love my Adidas CloudForm’s so much! All I have to do is scrub them with a soft brush in my utility sink, under hot water. Then I let them air dry.

I’ve had great success with the Adidas Men’s CloudForm. It’s under $50 and a great deal. I grew up wearing other brands and came to Adidas in the past ten years. But I’m glad I did! Their cushioned sole design stands up against a lot of abuse yet still keeps its bounce. Plus, as mentioned above, they excel at ventilated fabrics. They have a large color selection and the styles are definitely modern. Best of all, they’re priced affordably compared to brands like Nike (which I feel charge far too much – you’re basically just paying for marketing).

I’ve worn Adidas around the world; throughout Europe, Asia, and major national parks and cities in America. Never had an issue. Period. And the ventilated fabric has proven surprisingly sturdy, without a single tear in either pair after heavy use at home and many times around the globe. The fabric is so good that I can clean the shoes in warm water, using no detergent, and scrubbing with a soft bristle brush. I then let them air dry. Neither pair has suffered any distortion or discoloration of the fabric afterwards.

If you take a close look at the photo of both shoes above, you’ll notice the one on the top looks very bright and clean. The colors pristine. Even the white sole looks great compared to the one below. That’s because I just washed it. Yet it is at least six years old, probably more. I lost count.

That old pair of Adidas CloudForms traveled throughout Asia multiple times, several major U.S. National Parks, and the major cities of Europe. Plus, daily wear back home. Yet no tears, no staining, and the sole is still holding strong. This is trully a “wonder shoe” in my book. And just like my North Face Venture II rain jacket, is a part of my life I’ll never dispose of. I’m proud to say that pair of Adidas CloudForm ventilated sneakers has earned a place in our Wanderer’s Hall of Fame.

So my advice, Eric and Jessica, is search for a pair of affordable Adidas CloudForm sneakers for your trip to the Mighty 5. And if you’ll be doing a lot of off-trail hiking or climbing, compliment them with a pair of Clarks waterproof hiking shoes. It may be a bit more than you budgeted to buy both pairs, but not much. And it may actually be less (definitely less than Nikes). One things for sure, it will be a great investment that will provide you outstanding returns for many years, or decades, to come.

One last thing before you go, be sure to check out latest post on What to Pack for Every Trip.

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