A trip to Europe presents the ultimate shoe-packing dilemma—you want to look stylish (and not out of place in running shoes), but you know you’re going to be walking for miles every day on hard sidewalks and cobblestones. I tested out a number of different travel shoes on recent trips to Europe; here are the ones that I would pack again.
Best Shoes to Wear in Europe This Season
These are the best shoes to wear in Europe because they not only are stylish but also stood up to days of nonstop walking.
I am skeptical of folding flats, because while they are great for packing, they rarely are comfortable for walking. The Born Izzabellas completely surprised me—they are not only a stow-and-go flat that folds neatly into a bag for packing, but they offered a high level of support and padding. Born uses a patented handcrafted construction method that sews together the entire shoe at once, which eliminates rigidity and unnecessary seams that rub, and I could definitely tell the difference. The footbed is very cushioned as well, so I didn’t have problems wearing these on hard surfaces. The Izzabellas are hands-down my new favorite ballet flats—they didn’t cause blisters or foot fatigue and the nude color matched with everything. I packed these and wore them when I was transitioning from sightseeing to dinner, and they worked wonderfully and looked great.
Adidas Originals NMD_R2 Sneakers
Adidas’ sneakers have exploded in popularity among fashionistas—you’ll definitely see stylish locals rocking these throughout Europe. The NMD_R2 style is part of Adidas’ street-style focus, and the design draws inspiration from vintage runners, lending these sneakers an ultra-cool look. In addition to the fashion, you’ll get all of Adidas’ performance technology keep you comfortable—including a Primeknit upper (which is super light and won’t cause blisters), trademarked boost energy-returning properties, and great arch support.
Sperry Seaside Perforated Sneaker
Sperry’s Seaside Perforated Sneaker is a great compromise between a full-on sneaker and a slip-on flat. The shoe slips on and off easily (they are my go-to flying sneakers as they’re perfect for airport security), but still offers plenty of support and padding on the bottom. The PU footbed is super light, yet still manages to have incorporated arch support. I highly recommend these shoes to wear in Europe for days when the weather might be wet, as they have Sperry’s patented Wave-Siping outsole that gives you great traction on slippery surfaces.
I’ve written diatribes in the past against wearing white sneakers, but now I have to eat my words, because I rocked Allbirds’ white wool runners all over the streets of New York City and Switzerland on recent trips. Made from a breathable Merino wool (I wore them on 80-degree days and they didn’t make me hot), these unisex shoes are designed to be worn without socks and look miles different from a regular white workout shoe. The shoe is lightweight and fairly crushable, so they pack easily—plus, they are machine-washable, which is a huge bonus when you’re wearing white. I can’t overstate how comfortable these are right out of the box—and I think they are pretty stylish for a sneaker.
Aldo Perine Slip-Ons
Aldo’s Perine Slip-Ons work with dresses and pants for either a dressy or casual look, but still pull their weight in the comfort department, making them ideal shoes to wear in Europe. These cool embossed faux leather plimsolls have a foam sole and ultra-cushioned liner that help absorb shock and prevent leg and foot fatigue, even on hard surfaces.
Knitted shoes have rapidly become my favorites for packing—they weigh almost nothing, plus they squish down easily to save suitcase space. Knitted uppers rarely irritate my feet or cause blisters compared to other more traditional shoe materials, and they offer more ventilation. One of my favorite brands of knitted footwear is made by People Footwear. I tried out the Stanley Knit sneaker style (unisex) and the Spanno slip-on, both of which are made using the trademarked DreamKnit construction using computerized knitting machines. I loved how lightweight both styles were, and how they molded to my feet (no socks required). If you’re looking for shoes to wear in Europe, you can’t go wrong with knitted ones.
Nisolo Elayna Sneaker
Nisolo’s handmade Elayna Sneakers are definitely some of the most stylish sneakers that I own, thanks to details like rose gold eyelets and waxed cotton laces. Aside from being beautiful, the Elaynas offer comfort and stability in the form of Vibram soles—making these the perfect stylish walking shoes for Europe.
Rockport Raelyn Knit Tie Sneaker and Ballet Flats
Rockport takes sports technology, knitted fabrics, and casual style and combines them into the Raelyn (available in both a ballet flat and a sneaker). Both styles have a great firm sole that’s made from a lightweight EVA material, which provides shock absorption without weighing you down; as well as a patented Ortholite foam footbed that cushions every step you take. The woven fabric textile sock liner means you can wear these with or without socks.
Ecco Soft 7
Athleisure sneakers are super on-trend right now, and Ecco’s Soft 7 (for men and women) works the style perfectly. They have a classic, basic style that goes with pretty much any outfit, and are packed with comfort features like a removable leather inlay sole, the ECCO Comfort Fiber System (which fights moisture and odors), an anatomical shape that molds to your foot, and long laces to help you get the perfect fit.
Pink Lily Silver Knit Sneakers
If you think all sneakers are unstylish, you might reconsider after seeing Pink Lily’s Diana Sneakers, which come in a fun metallic silver that sets them apart from athletic shoes. These are cool and functional, with a cozy knit upper, padded inside, and slip-resistant outsole.
Sperry Crest Ebb
Sperry’s Crest Ebb sneakers were practically designed for going through airport security, with an elastic back that offers an easy slip-on and slip-off styling. The shoes are made from a soft cotton that eliminates any breaking-in period, and the boat-shoe fashion is great for European beach vacations.
Aldo Merane Sneakers
Aldo’s Merane Sneakers are effortlessly chic and will look great with even your fancier dresses. The interior is lined with a cozy cotton for comfort. The durable sole will last you for many trips, no matter how far you walk in these.
You don’t want to ruin the look of these cool shoes with regular socks, so I also tested out Bombas No-Show Socks, which are a much lower profile than standard socks. Unlike most no-show socks, these have a special heel grip that prevent them from slipping down and bunching up in your shoes, and they worked with most of the pairs I tried above.
If even a no-show sock is too much for you (like if you’re wearing a ballet flat), I recommend Gekks, a new system that you install into your shoes to give you all the benefits of socks (no blisters, no odors) with no sock lines, even in the lowest shoes. These are ultra-thin and won’t interfere with your shoes’ fit, and you can get ones designed especially for ballet flats, loafers, slip-ons, or sneakers.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 7 Spring Travel Shoes That Can Handle Any Type of Weather
- Lightest Winter Shoes and Boots
- Lightweight Shoes Perfect for Packing
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.