My motto: the lighter the shoes, the more pairs I can pack (and still be within the carry-on weight limit). As an added bonus, lighter footwear won’t weigh your feet, which can minimize leg fatigue when you’re walking a lot. Here are nine travel-friendly pairs that won’t weigh down you or your suitcase:
Innox Evo GTX
Hiking shoes are the worst to pack—they’re heavy and take up far more space than regular shoes. But for tougher trails, you’ll regret trying to do it in a pair of old sneakers. The compromise: the Innox Evo GTX trail shoes by LOWA Boots, available for women and men. When I picked up these shoes, I was blown away by how lightweight they felt (they’re only a little over a pound). They don’t sacrifice performance either, with features like a waterproof GORE-TEX lining and a climate control footbed.
I like to think of these as “undercover Crocs“, shoes that have the comfort of Crocs without the telltale clog look. I’d never worn Crocs before, but once I tried on some of the brand’s newer, fashionable models, I instantly understood why they have such a cult following. They’re shockingly lightweight (well under a pound per pair) and have a surprising amount of cushion and arch support. The Rio Flats capitalize on the pointed flat trend, and will work with any outfit. I also like the Crocs Isabella flats for a fun update on jellies. Another bonus to Crocs: they’re antimicrobial and very easy to clean, which is great for travel.
My number one excuse for not going to the gym or running while on vacation: no room to pack sneakers. Topo’s ST-2 shoes (available for men and women) are perfect for working out, but also have a collapsible heel that packs down flat, giving you more suitcase space and less of an excuse for avoiding exercise. You can even leave the socks behind if you want, since the ST-2s have a sock-like, breathable mesh liner. The shoes are super light as well, weighing just 5.6 ounces for the women’s size 7 and 6.9 ounces for a men’s size 9. Unlike many low-profile workout shoes, these don’t skimp on cushioning, so you can safely hit the pavement in the ST-2s.
Rockport truWALKzero II Stretch 2 Band Sandal
If you like extra cushioning, check out the Rockport truWALKzero II Stretch 2 Band Sandal, which have a special sole by Adidas and a memory foam footbed for supreme comfort. The stretchable straps will keep these firmly on your feet, and they only weigh 7 ounces.
Adidas Adios Boost 2
Move over “barefoot” shoes. The new trend is for “racing flats,” a slimmed down version of regular running shoes that are lighter and thinner, but still cushioned. I like the Adidas Adios Boost 2, the eight-ounce shoes worn by Dennis Kimetto when he broke the world marathon record. If they’re good enough for a champion marathoner, they’re good enough for me to work out or walk around in.
Xero Shoes Barefoot Sport Sandals
A lot of hikers I know rave about Xero Shoes’ Barefoot sandals—they like them for walking around campsites when they just can’t put their boots back on after a long day on the trail, and they add almost no weight to their pack. At just 3.4 ounces for a men’s size 9, you won’t even notice them in your bag, and they’re surprisingly durable.
Sperry Elise Ballet Flat
The Sperry Elise Ballet Flat are designed to get wet—they’re quick drying and have a removable footbed that pops out easily so you can wash them. They’re also the easiest shoe to pack—they roll up or can be stacked flat, and they only weigh 3 ounces.
Sport sandals don’t have to be hideous, as the Merrell Enoki Twist proves. They also don’t have to be heavy—this one clocks in at 11 ounces, in part thanks to the unique air cushion in the heel that works better than bulkier materials. Men might like Merrell’s Duskair Slide, which has similar technology, and is only 13 ounces.
Sketchers Performance Go Step
Sketchers Performance Go Step is a ballet-flat style shoe that’s tricked-out to support your feet better than regular flats. Go Steps are made from a breathable knit mesh (which helps them stay light, at just 8 ounces), and have a high-rebounding SQUISH cushioning sole. These are also some of the best casual shoes out there for arch support.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 7 Summer Shoes You’ll Love to Wear When Traveling
- 10 Walking Shoes You Won’t Be Ashamed to Wear in Public
- Shoes Travel Pros Swear By
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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.