Yes, it can be done—these travel shoes hold up to a long day of walking but are still chic enough for a night out on the town.
In the competition for suitcase real estate, beautiful shoes often lose to practical ones. But what if you could explore all day on foot in shoes that are both comfortable and stylish? With the following impeccably designed pairs, it’s a real possibility.
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The flat: Rothy’s
Flats are are rarely considered long-distance walking shoes, but Rothy’s, a San Francisco–based brand that crafts sustainable shoes out of recycled plastic, has created a shoe that beats the odds. Flexible, nearly weightless, and moisture-wicking, Rothy’s shoes can go from the countryside to the museum; a quick spin in the washing machine will erase any signs of dusty roads. The Point ($145), a style that comes in over 20 hues and patterns, is especially chic and works well with jeans and dresses alike.
When it comes time to explore a city’s nightlife, the black ankle bootie is the one thing you’ll always regret leaving behind. The Sera ($265), an incredibly comfortable boot from the women-owned ARNO Cooperative, destroys any assumption you might have that boots aren’t made for walking—at any time of day. Despite its small heel, the soft-suede Sera provides sturdy support, and the elastic side panels ensure that the shoe works with you, not against you. The stud detail adds a memorable touch; dress it up, dress it down, wear it day to night.
A mule is the footwear equivalent of a sleeveless coat; warm yet airy, it’s a chameleon fit for many climates and occasions. Designed in California and produced in Italy, Bells & Becks Mirella mules ($345), are hand-stitched and constructed using an old-school Italian technique. They hug the foot just right with a flexible sole and a soft, forgiving upper. Available in a variety of colors, the attention-grabbing mules are also adorned with irresistible tassels.
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The sneaker: Sarah Flint
Forget the bulky, lace-up gym shoe tourist cliché—designer Sarah Flint’s Andrea sneakers ($195) are anything but. Their clever shape, which features a “flip” detail instead of laces and a thicker sole for an elongated silhouette, delivers a distinct off-duty-supermodel vibe. Handcrafted in Italy out of nappa leather, these sneakers are meant to stand out, whether paired with jeans or a track suit. But comfort is just as important: Inside the shoe is a removable, padded footbed that provides arch support, making them perfect for all-day sightseeing. Yes, they come in black, but for a real style moment opt for striking white or light pink.
There’s something undeniably romantic about espadrilles; they’re the perfect shoe to pair with frayed jeans or frilly dresses. In both comfort and style, Viscata’s suede Fondas ($110) are akin to a good linen dress: casual yet presentable, forgiving and at the same time feminine. Made in Spain using artisanal materials and traditional techniques, the espadrilles have a natural jute sole and a light suede upper. They don’t weigh down the foot and are breathable enough to walk miles in. While you wear them around Paris or Rome, the brand will plant a tree thanks to your (and every) purchase.
Not all travel-friendly kicks are created equal. Plae, an environmentally friendly brand based in San Francisco, makes tech-forward unisex sneakers for kids and adults that are a cut above the rest. Both gorgeous and cleverly constructed, the slick Mulberry sneaker ($160) is perfect for fast-paced trips; it’s equipped with a single-motion fastening mechanism, a breathable sole with good traction, and a customizable modular insole.
Whether your travel plans include hiking or clubbing, you should always pack a reliable boot. Pikolinos, a Spanish brand with a charitable side (the brand frequently collaborates with NGOs around the world to launch collections that benefit at-risk communities) makes boots that look seasoned and ready for action. Its Santiago boot ($190), a leather lace-up with a suede accent, features a flexible sole, calf support, and an elegant look that is still rugged enough for the wilderness. The low-cut style can work well with jeans or with hiking shorts, and the textured leather will still look great with some wear and tear.
What shoe seamlessly works itself into all vacation looks, from poolside to happy hour? That would be the moccasin, the slick, lace-free stunner. Vayarta, a small brand out of Mexico, makes one of the best-looking versions out there for men ($88-$195). Crafted out of nappa leather and hand-dyed with natural dye, the shoe’s slip-on design is perfect for airports. The shape is roomy yet chic, and the sole is soft yet able to sustain long walks. The brand’s earthy tones go with everything, while the trendy terrazzo prints photograph well on foreign sidewalks.
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