Every trip involves some amount of walking, whether across a large airport, down winding cobblestone streets on a tour or along a rocky nature trail. You always want to be prepared with the right shoes to tackle any short stroll or long walk, so painful feet don’t ruin your vacation plans.
The best walking shoe will be different for every traveler, depending on your shoe preferences and needs. Those with flat feet may need more arch support, for example, while other travelers may be in search of a stylish shoe that’s still comfortable. For tips from podiatrists on how to select the best shoe for you, consult the FAQ section at the bottom of this page. Whatever type of walking shoe you seek, here are some of the top recommendations from experts and consumer reviews to make your travels comfortable.
The Top Walking Shoes for 2023
(Note: Prices and availability were accurate at the time of publication; they may fluctuate due to supply chain issues or other factors.)
What makes these shoes stand out: These shoes are ideal for travelers and runners alike, offering all the cushioning and support you need while on the go. The mesh top of the shoe makes the ASICS Gel-Contend particularly breathable and flexible. They are designed to support your feet and absorb impact as you run or walk, with the brand’s rearfoot GEL technology, AmpliFoam midsole and Ortholite sockliner for cushioning. These walking shoes come in options for men, women and children of various ages, as well as more than a dozen colors. Other popular ASICS running shoes include the Gel-Excite and Gel-Venture.
Travelers appreciate: “They are super comfortable,” says Suzanne Mason, travel editor at U.S. News. “I wear them for all of my trips and they are durable. Plus, they go up to a women’s size 12 with options of both narrow and wide for people like me with big wide feet.” Erin Evans, managing editor of travel at U.S. News, also praises the comfort and sturdiness of these shoes.
Skechers Skech-Lite Pro
What makes these shoes stand out: Skechers’ Air-Cooled Memory Foam insole cradles your foot when you wear these lace-up shoes for women. The Skech-Lite Pro shoes are made with vegan materials, including the mesh upper. The outsole provides flexible traction, while the midsole is made for shock absorption. Choose your favorite color out of multiple options – including a bright red – and wear these sporty walking shoes on your next trip; when you return, you’ll be able to pop them right in the washing machine. This option is also more budget-friendly compared to other walking shoes.
Travelers appreciate: “I wear them at least four times a week,” says Marisa Méndez, senior travel editor at U.S. News. “I haven’t washed them yet, but I love that they are washable. They’re super comfortable and go with a lot. I also find it to be a decently wide toe box, which is nice for wide feet or thicker socks if you’re cold.”
Orthofeet Edgewater Stretch
What makes these shoes stand out: These athletic shoes for men are specifically designed to protect sensitive feet and relieve pain for those with a number of orthopedic conditions. The Orthofoot Edgewater Stretch comes with orthotic insoles that have a removable arch support as well as a slip-resistant rubber outsole and an ergonomic, well-cushioned sole. The roomy toe box and stretchy fabric upper are especially useful for travelers with wide feet or foot problems such as bunions. There’s an inclusive size range, with four width options from standard to XX-wide.
Travelers appreciate: Reviewers say the excellent design of these sneakers creates a cloud-like walking experience, with many calling the Edgewater Stretch the most comfortable shoe they’ve ever owned.
Allbirds Wool Runners
What makes these shoes stand out: These lace-up sneakers are especially useful for cool weather vacations. Allbirds Wool Runners, designed for both men and women, get their name from the soft merino wool that the upper and heel lining are made from. The material is sustainably sourced using regenerative agriculture and carbon-reducing practices; it also makes for a cozy, itch-free fit around your foot.
Travelers appreciate: “My Allbirds Wool Runners are the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned. They require zero breaking in and look great with a bunch of different outfits,” U.S. News senior travel editor Nicola Wood says. “I’ve worn them through multiple airports and to tour around big cities all day. They are like walking on a cloud and I never have any foot pain! You can wear them with or without socks, and they are machine washable which is the cherry on top.”
Naturalizer Morrison Sneaker
What makes these shoes stand out: These simple sneakers are a staple for many travelers, as they come in various sizes, widths, colors and materials. Whether you choose white leather or gray suede, the Naturalizer Morrison Sneaker is a casual and practical lace-up shoe for women that’s still fashionable. In addition to its nonslip outsole, the inside is designed to meet the contours of your feet while you’re on the go.
Travelers appreciate: “I got them on a Thursday and wore them around New York City that entire weekend with no blisters or breaking in needed,” says Elizabeth Von Tersch, senior travel editor at U.S. News. “So far they’ve held up well and are really comfy.”
Brooks Ghost 15
What makes these shoes stand out: These beloved running shoes are named for the director of product management at Brooks, who was known for going on nighttime runs, but they’re also a great option for walking and sightseeing. The newest version of this shoe is the Brooks Ghost 15. Its air mesh upper is made from recycled materials, while the midsole has a soft, lightweight cushioning. Sizes range from 5 to 13 for women and 7 to 15 for men. You can also choose from four width sizes between narrow and extra wide – and more than 30 colors.
Travelers appreciate: Leilani Osmundson, digital producer for travel at U.S. News, swears by Brooks Ghost shoes. “These are running shoes but I wear them everywhere, from half-marathons to surviving Disney and Universal,” she says. “Seriously, I wear them 90% of the time I step outside.”
New Balance 574 Core
What makes these shoes stand out: These New Balance sneakers are one of the brand’s most beloved styles. The suede and mesh upper combines with a foam midsole and rubber outsole to create a reliable, versatile walking shoe that cushions each foot. The 574 meets New Balance’s “green leaf standard,” which means the leather is responsibly manufactured and parts of the shoe are made from recycled materials. Men and women alike can find a pair of these sneakers that suits them, in hues varying from burgundy to black, with width options for standard and wide feet.
Travelers appreciate: Wearers say these shoes are incredibly comfortable when they’re on their feet all day, with some reviewers noting they didn’t even need to break in the sneakers at all and others saying they bought multiple pairs.
Merrell Moab 3
What makes these shoes stand out: These shoes have received plenty of accolades for being durable hiking shoes, but they can weather all kinds of terrain on your next trip. The Merrell Moab 3 has laces, webbing and a mesh lining all made from recycled materials. The rubber heel and toe cap are designed to protect your feet, while the outsole gives you traction and the Merrell Air Cushion technology absorbs impact. What’s more, the leather on these shoes is gold-rated, and the contouring footbed offers maximum comfort.
Travelers appreciate: Reviewers rave about the comfort and support provided by these shoes as they wear the Merrell Moab 3 everywhere from hikes to everyday errands.
Cole Haan 4.ZERØGRAND Loafer
What makes these shoes stand out: If you prefer a fashionable loafer to a sneaker style for your travels, this shoe is a great option for both women and men. The layers of foam and deep rubber flex grooves in these Cole Haan loafers can provide your feet with all-day comfort. The upper is made from stylish leather, while the outsole is a sturdy and lightweight TPU that’ll give wearers good traction.
Travelers appreciate: “I’m obsessed with this loafer from Cole Haan,” says Rachael Hood, senior travel editor at U.S. News. “They have the most comfortable footbed and sneaker-like base, and I can walk for miles in these. I won’t take a trip without them.”
Vans Slip-On Shoe
What makes these shoes stand out: The iconic Vans Slip-Ons are easy to dress up or down for any occasion, making them a versatile option to toss in your carry-on. The uppers come in many different materials and designs, from classic black perforated leather to a duck tapestry design to a space-themed canvas print. These slip-on shoes have supportive padded collars, rubber waffle outsoles and elastic side accents. You’ll find a large range of sizes for both women and men.
Travelers appreciate: Evans highly recommends these shoes. “I’m a big fan of the Vans Slip-On Shoes,” she says. “I had them in light pink and wore them for years on trips throughout Europe and on various weekend getaways.”
ECCO Yucatan Sandal
What makes these shoes stand out: If you’re headed somewhere warmer and want to give your feet space to breathe, opt for a sandal style. The ECCO Yucatan Sandal, with versions for women and men, uses various materials to make a supportive walking shoe. Cushioning is provided by the lightweight sole and EVA footbed; there’s also a leather upper, neoprene lining and rubber outsole to give you a good grip. Color options range from a bright chili red or marine blue to more neutral shades like black.
Travelers appreciate: People who have these shoes say they’re great for travelers who prefer to wear sandals on vacation, offering good support even when you’re out walking all day. Some note, however, that the toe straps may be too narrow for wider feet.
What makes these shoes stand out: Birkenstocks aren’t just a trend on TikTok – the company’s sandals are popular walking shoes for good reason. The brand’s contoured cork and latex footbed, which has a spacious toe box and a deep heel cup, provides all the necessary arch support and shock absorption as you walk. The Mayari style reinvents the flip-flop, with crisscross straps, adjustable buckles and a toe loop. You can choose from different materials for the upper, including real or vegan leather, as well as colors running the gamut from mocha brown to matcha green. This sandal has sizing for both men and women.
Travelers appreciate: Those who own this Birkenstock style appreciate how the footbed molds to your feet once you break them in – though travelers warn that the break-in process can take a few days, so make sure you do that before setting off on a trip.
Frequently Asked Questions
No matter where in the world you want to go, your travels will likely involve some amount of walking as you explore new cities and natural wonders.
“The dirty little secret of travel, especially air travel, is the true amount of walking involved just getting to the destination,” says board-certified podiatrist Ernest L. Isaacson, of Paragon Podiatry. “For instance, airports are cavernously large, and it’s not unusual to walk a mile or more just to get to the gate after spending what can seem like an eternity in a long security line.”
If you don’t bring the right footwear, walking can become painful, limiting what you’re able to do on your vacation.
“Investing in high-quality shoes ensures durability, support, and overall foot health during your travels,” says Maggie Trevillion, founder of Callen Olive, a luxury leg and foot skincare brand, and podiatrist at Walk This Way Podiatry. “Quality shoes are designed to withstand the rigors of exploration, offering better cushioning, stability and traction. They can help prevent foot fatigue, blisters and other discomforts, allowing you to explore your destination with confidence and gusto.”
Quality walking shoes are important for more than just your feet, too: “Wearing proper walking shoes with adequate cushioning and support helps to distribute the body’s weight evenly, reducing the strain on our feet, ankles, knees and hips,” according to Daniel Pledger, podiatrist and founder of ePodiatrists.
When weighing your options, Trevillion recommends looking for the following features:
- Comfort, including cushioning and arch support
- Breathable and durable material, with features like sturdy outsoles
- Lightweight build, for easy packing
- Traction, with rubber or multidirectional lug soles to give you a good grip
- Versatility, so you can use one pair of shoes in different environments
Pledger emphasizes the importance of arch support in your walking shoes. “This helps to maintain the natural alignment of the foot and reduces the risk of arch-related problems like plantar fasciitis,” he says. He also recommends a well-cushioned midsole to absorb the impact as you walk; a supportive heel counter for stability; and a flexible outsole, which will allow for natural foot movement.
Follow your instincts as you try on shoes. “The shoe that feels most comfortable in the store is probably the best shoe, whatever style that may be,” Isaacson says. “And if it’s not comfortable in the store it’s not going to magically conform to the foot in the bag on the way home.”
With so many shoe brands on the market, your choice will ultimately come down to personal preference and foot characteristics. There is no one shoe that will work for every foot.
Pledger’s patients, for example, offer consistent positive feedback for shoes from New Balance, ECCO and Merrell. Even still, “I would caution against blindly following brand recommendations without trying on the shoes and assessing their fit and feel,” Pledger says.
Trevillion also recommends ECCO and New Balance, adding that KEEN and Salomon also have great options for challenging terrain. These brands are all praised by travelers worldwide, but don’t be discouraged if the shoes that work for others just don’t fit your shoe preferences. At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to wear them, so try out different options if you need to and discover what features suit you best.
When looking at a walking shoe, look for the following:
- Outsole: This is the bottom of the shoe that will have direct contact with the surface you are walking on. It should be flexible and shock absorbing. A sturdier outsole will provide more stability for a variety of pavements.
- Insole: This is the interior bottom of the shoe. You’ll want a comfortable fabric to prevent your foot from rubbing, as well as cushioning and support.
- Midsole: This is the area inside the shoe where the arch of your foot rests. Having a strong foundation here is key for foot alignment and proper support.
- Upper: This refers to the fabric and construction of the portion of the shoe that will cover the top and sides of your foot. The fabric type will determine breathability, durability and if it will repel water.
- Heel cup: This is the area where your heel sits inside the shoe. It should be secure for walking and may have additional cushioning for shock absorption.
Why Trust U.S. News Travel
Catriona Kendall is a frequent traveler who knows well the importance of a comfortable walking shoe. Having weathered blisters and other foot pain from wearing the wrong shoes to hike up a mountain or explore the streets of Europe, she now makes sure to pack her Birkenstocks and a comfy pair of sneakers each time she travels. Kendall wrote this article with the help of personal experience, extensive research and recommendations from experts.