It’s my eternal dilemma as a traveler when I’m going to a city destination—I want to be able to wander on foot for miles and miles, but I have too much pride to wear running shoes outside of the gym.
If you share this problem, read on, for I’ve found the perfect walking shoes that perform like athletic sneakers but are cool enough that I don’t have to crop my photos from the ankles up.
Walking Shoes You Won’t Be Ashamed to Wear in Public
The Propet Travelwalker has gone on many trips with me. I can always find room for it in my suitcase, since the shoe’s upper is made from a lightweight mesh that collapses to be nearly flat. These feel like athletic sneakers, but have a much thinner sole, which means they don’t look like bulky workout shoes. I’ve got the basic black pair, which I think is the best for travel (hello dirt and grime). But you’ve got plenty of options, as the Travelwalkers come in every color of the rainbow.
Sperry Paul Sperry Collection
When I think summer shoes, I think Sperry—this classic line is designed for outdoor wear in all kinds of conditions, but still maintains a fashionable, preppy look. Just in time for warmer weather, Sperry has launched the Paul Sperry Collection, which takes the classic boat shoes and retrofits them with athletic features. Basically, it’s like Sperry heard we were looking for walking shoes we weren’t ashamed to wear in public and designed this line for us.
I wore the Paul Sperry Sayel Away Shoe straight out of the box on a long walk that turned unexpectedly rainy. I didn’t get any blisters, despite the shoe’s newness, and the lightweight cotton dried quickly once the rain stopped. Although these shoes are slim and look like they lack support, they actually have a surprising amount of cushioning.
The men’s Paul Sperry Flex Deck CVO Sneaker is perfect for travel, thanks to its adjustable bungee lace with toggle closure, which lets you slip these on and off at airport security. You can rock these on the boat or boardwalk, since the lightweight, breathable mesh upper will keep you cool and dries fast, and the patented SON-R Technology sole and footbed help keep you surefooted and stable even on slippery surfaces.
Yep, Teva! You may hear the brand and only think of the iconic walking sandals, but the company has some cool shoes and boots as well. Its sneakers are the perfect blend of street style and comfort. I have the Willow Lace in white, which is great for summer, as they pair with both a casual dress (thanks to the low profile) and shorts. Since these lace up, they stay on and support my foot, meaning I can wear these for long distances and not be sore.
The men’s version of this style is the Teva Sterling which earns high marks from wearers for being lightweight, breathable, and cool.
Rockport Boat Shoes
Boat shoes really are the best undercover walking shoes. They look so stylish, but their casual design makes it easy to add in awesome foot-friendly features. Rockport does this well in options for both men and women. The Cambridge Blvd Boat Shoe and Bennett Lane 3 Boat Shoe both have a secret—they’ve got ADIPRENE by Adidas sport technology built-in, which provides the same shock-absorbing heel cushioning and all-day comfort that your Adidas running shoes do.
I love the removable EVA footbed in the Cambridge Blvd Boat Shoe, which contours to my foot, and provides extra pockets of comfort. Bonus: these have a washable upper, which is easy to clean, and the Bennet Lanes are machine washable, so you’ll be keeping it fresh even after the hottest of days.
Sperry Top-Sider Seacoast Canvas Shoe
Lace-up shoes are great for long walks, but having white shoelaces tied in a bow can take a cute shoe into gym shoe territory. That’s why I love the Sperry Seacoast Canvas Sneaker, which isn’t designed to be tied. The laces spiral through at the end, keeping the shoes firmly on your feet without sacrificing style. I have these in navy, which go great with jeans or dresses.
I’m torn on the Nike Flyknits. On one hand, they’re designed for hardcore workouts, so walking for miles and miles in them won’t be a problem. They’re also lightweight and super easy to pack. The downside—they’ve all got that giant Nike logo plastered on the side, which makes them stand out more than I like my shoes to. The solution: grab a pair in all black (with a black swoosh) so the logo blends in.
No need to pack any socks when you bring Clarks’ Fallston Style Shoe on vacation. The Fallston is an upgraded boat shoe that’s designed to be worn without socks. It has a fabric lining designed to reduce friction and a cushion-soft OrthoLite footbed. This is the perfect shoe for those hot destinations where you still need something sturdy.
For women, the Clarks CloudSteppers Sillian Joss live up to their name, with a super-soft foam insole. These are also really lightweight, adding to that feeling of walking on a cloud.
The Aureus line started as golf apparel, but the company expanded its designs to include casual footwear a few years ago, taking the sports technology and fusing it with a lifestyle shoe. The Aureus Insignia is great for style-conscious guys, as the shoes come in a wide variety of colors and have standout features like contrasting shoelaces. That sports technology comes into play in the sole, which has AM-TECH technology offering cushioning and arch support. The Aureus are unique, because unlike many shoes, these don’t use glue but rather bond the outsole directly to the upper, so you won’t get separation after you’ve worn these a bunch.
Blu Kicks, are an easy to wear and comfortable to walk in slip-on for men and women. I’ve had a pair of these for a few years, and the cotton canvas has conformed to custom fit my feet over time. Unlike many flat shoes, these come with a removable insole that offers real arch support, so these are healthy to walk in. I also like that these are machine washable, which has been really handy, since I’ve worn my Blu Kicks in all kinds of conditions. I love the designs these come in, especially the night-out worthy metallic and preppy stripes.
Puma Slip-On Sneaker
Athletic brand Puma knows a thing or two about footwear. The Asha Alt 2 Slip-On Sneaker is a more fashionable version of the sneakers, offering a EcoOrthoLite breathable sockliner for a perfect fit and a lightweight structure that won’t tire out your feet.
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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.