Never underestimate the importance of a good pair of shoes when travelling! Your shoes can make or break your journey, so knowing how to pick the right pair is an essential skill that any decent traveller needs in their arsenal.
To help you with your next pair of travel shoes, we came up with a list of considerations to take on board. Let us know if you agree or have any other suggestions to add in the comments below!
Image by Tom Barrett
Your travel destination is one of the most important starting points when deciding on your next pair of travel shoes. This applies particularly when you consider that certain countries possess weather that are, shall we say, more fierce and rugged than what we Malaysians are used to.
Iceland is a good example. Even in the summer, you will find yourself bundled up in four layers of thermal wear, woollen scarf, beanie, gloves and BOOTS. That’s right, boots with proper ankle grip. In the height of summer in a country where the sun never sets. Moreover, the travel shoes you pick can’t be just any off-the-street boots. They must be thick, durable and waterproof because it is a cold country (does the name give that away?), it rains a lot and you will be seeing a lot of waterfalls that will get you drenched!
Image by Alex Blajan
Having considered your destination, let us turn towards the shoe itself.
Comfort is king. In Malaysia, we are blessed to have numerous affordable shoe shops to choose from: Bata, Aldo and Clarks, or even Shoopen along Jalan Bukit Bintang (near Fahrenheit 88). Patronise a shop that you know sells good quality shoes and one that you will love walking in for hours on end because travel is all about the walking. At least, far more than we are used to in Malaysia where we tend to park right outside the shop we want to visit (and any other parking spot is considered too far!).
A top tip for comfort is to pick shoes the right size. It should not tightly grip your toes (unless it is leather in which case it will loosen after awhile), but neither should it be so loose that your feet might slip out. However, that is no hard rule.
If you are travelling to a cold country and you know you will be wearing multiple layers of thick woollen socks, you will need to invest in shoes at least a size bigger than what you would normally wear. In that case, if you didn’t bring those socks with you, ask the shop assistant for a pair to try on. If that shop sells hiking boots, they will definitely sell hiking socks, and be more than willing to let you try them out. Who knows, you might even leave that shop with both shoes and socks!
Image by Llum Isart
I also believe in investing in a pair of good quality shoes that will last. This becomes especially important if the journey planned spans several weeks in which case, you might want to consider bringing more than one pair.
Why? Because you can never be too prepared and shoes really do make or break your journey. Let us go back to the cold, wet Iceland example. The last thing you want is to be trudging for the remainder of the journey soaked and miserable with a heel hanging off, even if they were the most comfortable shoes you have ever worn.
Image by Nathan Walker
For all that has been said about comfort and durability, the question remains: what matters to you the most?
I have known travellers who hold different priorities when travelling. Some travellers prefer to travel with minimum luggage while looking like a real life Carrie Bradshaw from all angles, at all cost. These are the ones who hike up in a pretty dress just to get that perfect Instagram shot. You know the one. The girl in the dramatic, flowy dress standing in heels against the ledge of a gorgeous ravine.
No judgment here if that is what rocks your boat! However, please do embark on your travels knowing full well that you might end up walking most of the time barefoot and sore but as the cliche goes, no pain no gain.
Image by Fikri Rasyid
Personally, I know that I am no Carrie Bradshaw. I will always prioritise comfort over style, my feet over the gram, but that doesn’t mean that I go out of my way to look frumpy!
My advice: pick something that is of a neutral colour. Black or white tend to be very easy to match and go well with pretty much any outfit you might pack. Avoid the loud printed colours as those draw attention to themselves and tend to pair with a very small selection of outfits! Of course, this would not be a concern if you have a vast amount of luggage space and want to make sure your shoes are perfectly paired with your outfit!
Image by JESHOOTS.COM
Airport shoes are important and deserve a category of its own. These are the shoes that will get you from your home to the airport and in between destinations. Travel is not going to be the most hygienic of experiences, so you want something that is comfortable and lightweight. Nothing too expensive in case it gets damaged, or if you lose a sequin from an embellished shoe.
More importantly, airport security is a huge pain. If you are going hiking in Nepal, consider investing in a pair of lightweight but comfortable flats for getting to your destination. Pack those heavyweight hiking shoes in your check-in. Trust me, it is a huge pain taking off your boots just because the security scanner takes offence at your choice of footwear!
The airport shoes are also perfect for when you are settling into your flight. You don’t want something uncomfortable gripping your feet the whole way. Neither do you want to be lacing and unlacing your shoes on repeat.
Solution? Invest in airport shoes and another pair of travel shoes specifically for the activity you might be doing at your travel destination.
Image by Jacob Owens
I couldn’t end this article without throwing this extra nugget of information in: when picking your next pair of travel shoes, make sure they are broken in!
This applies even if those shoes come from brands you are familiar with and I speak from personal experience! I recently presumed that the shiny mustard coloured sneakers I had brought would be my ultimate, “stylish” pair of comfort shoes and lo and behold, they were not. They left my pinky toes (I don’t even know why) incredibly sore and a pain to walk in every day, and I was gone for two weeks! It was not fun, I can tell you that.
So don’t be me. Break those shoes in before you travel.
Picking your next pair of travel shoes will be one of the most important decisions you will be making before travelling, even if you are no fashionista. If in doubt, do your research. Read up on the comparison reviews and try out the shoes available in person. If the choices overwhelm you, tell the shop assistants where you will be heading and what you are looking for. They are the ones with the most knowledge of their shoe products and in the best position to help you find your perfect pair of travel shoes!
You’ve got this. And let’s get shopping!
A faith-driven Sarawakian lawyer who believes that it is never too late to start crafting a socially impactful legacy. When not grappling with warranties and liabilities, she loves pursuing adrenaline-fueled adventures, improving her Español and playing the violin. You can find her at @vidadeliya or https://www.vidadeliya.com