Happy Feet, Happy Travel: 4 Perfect Shoes for the Active Female Traveler

Happy Feet, Happy Travel: 4 Perfect Shoes for the Active Female Traveler on northtosouth.us

Early this year, Ian and I decided to embark on a full-time travel adventure (and we’re still going). In order to make our transition as simple as possible, we decided to get rid of most of our stuff. I knew I had a lot of clothes in general, but as I was filling up donation boxes I was quite surprised at how many shoes I’d accumulated during my always-on-the-go life. I had a go-to pair for any situation.  You ladies know how it goes. A few pairs I’d never even worn. Some shoes I’d worn a little too often, but they were too comfortable to replace. Many I hadn’t worn in a year or more, but since I always had plenty of closet space, I never felt the need to part with them.

I needed to “pare” down my pairs. I now own 4 pairs of shoes that I take on my travels. With these shoes, I’m covered for 99% of the conditions I’ve surrounded myself in. Versatile. Comfortable. Stylish. In a word: perfection.

I had a hard time naming this article as I was writing it. Alternate titles included ‘Minimalist Travel: 4 Shoes for a Year of Travel,’ ‘The 4 Pairs of Shoes I Travel With,’ and ‘The Only 4 Shoes You’ll Ever Need for Travel.’ These are all accurate names for this article’s content, but the main points are these:

  • I’ve owned these particular 4 pairs for about a year.
  • They’re the only ones I’ve been packing for my travels this past year.
  • They’re all still in great condition.
  • None of them went out of style.
  • I have no intentions of replacing them any time soon.

In fact, as I’m writing this article (from a coffee shop across from Pike Place Market in Seattle), I’m sporting this first pair I show here.

1. A Lightweight, Breathable, Multisport Shoe: Merrell Pace Glove 2

Merrell Pace Glove 2 Trail Running Shoe

Seasons to Wear ‘Em: spring, summer + fall

Back in May of last year, we were preparing for a trip to Vietnam. Scheduled activities included city walking, hiking opportunities, wet cave exploration, and plenty of heat and humidity. So I visited REI and found a shoe that fit our itinerary. These and a pair of flip flops were the only shoes I took on that 9-day trip, and this set-up worked perfectly. I’ve had these shoes for 15 months now and still wear them frequently — at least once a week — for a variety of activities. Mine are black with purple laces, but they come in a variety of colors.

A rundown of my experience with this shoe:

  • Where they’ve been: Vietnam, Hawaii, Fjord Norway, Berlin, Milan, California, + almost the entire Western US
  • What they’ve done best: Hot weather hikes, running, kayaking, city walking and biking
  • Where they’re not so hot: Yucky puddles, below freezing temps, or cold weather rain
  • What’s great about them: You can wear them with or without socks (I go without if my feet will get wet). Everyone loves them (average Amazon customer rating is 4.5/5). They’re super lightweight and packable. And they rarely come untied (They have these neat twisted laces that hold a bow better than your average lace).

2. A Supportive, Waterproof, Warm Weather Hiking Boot: La Sportiva FC ECO 3.0 Goretex Boot

La Sportiva FC ECO Goretex 3.0 Hiking Boot

Seasons to Wear ‘Em: spring, summer + fall

Last spring, we backpacked to the Sykes Hot Springs of Big Sur, California. With a full day’s hike each way, it was going to be the longest hike I’d ever done. And with several river crossings required, I needed some more legit kicks than my sub-optimal cross training tennis shoes. Again, I went to REI and made use of their fake rock to test how my feet and ankles would feel on inclines and declines in every single one of their available hiking boots. By far, these boots felt the best.

Find the newer version of this boot — the La Sportiva FC 4.0 GTX — at REI.

I wear these camping and whenever I’m hiking on a dusty, rough, or wet trail. I also bring them along on our nighttime desert excursions for photographing the Milky Way so I don’t twist my ankle or get stung by a scorpion when I can’t fully see where I’m going. They only come in one color, but the muted earth tones make them easy to wear with pants or shorts of any color.

A rundown of my experience with this shoe:

  • Where they’ve been: California, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon + Washington
  • What they’ve done best: Crossing shallow rivers, any and all types of hikes (wet, dry, dusty, rocky, muddy, nighttime), exploring US National Parks, camping
  • Where they’re not so hot: Driving a car, water deeper than ankle-deep, below-freezing temperatures
  • What’s great about them: My feet stay completely dry hiking through shallow water. They’re easy and quick to put on with the lace hooks at the top. They’re easy to adjust for comfort and different situations. (I set my ankles free and don’t use the top hooks when I’m walking on flat ground or need to throw them on quickly.)

These also come in a low-top version, but I prefer the added ankle support of the 3.0 for longer or more strenuous hikes. (Note: Since this was the most I’d probably ever spent on shoes, I decided to get an REI membership when I bought these. Their annual member sale offers 20% off one item, so I paid the $20 one-time membership fee and got about $40 off the boots.)

3. A Comfortable, Everyday Flip Flop: Sanuk Yoga Mat Flip Flop

Sanuk Yoga Mat Flip Flop

Seasons to Wear ‘Em: spring, summer + fall

Back when I had a “real” job, I’d spend 45 minutes of my lunch break walking along the paved beach path beside my workplace in Santa Monica. Sandals are the easiest option for sandy pathways, and flip flops are my favorite. But my flimsy, sub $3 pairs from Old Navy or Target weren’t cutting it for the long walks. My heels were really starting to hurt. So I went out in search of a more comfortable flip flop that I could still wear with any outfit. My Sanuks come in about 15 different colors, including basics like black, white and brown as well as super bright fun colors. I have them in white and wear them with pants, skirts, shorts — almost anything. I LOVE the thick padding on these and the strap is extremely comfortable. I have these in white because that was the best option available where I bought them, but there are way more color options and you can sometimes find them for cheaper than the standard $30 on Amazon.

A rundown of my experience with this shoe:

  • Where they’ve been: Santa Monica, Vietnam, Hawaii, Berlin, Milan, St. Louis
  • What they’ve done best: hot weather, long distance driving, shopping (plus other extended wear on non-abrasive surfaces)
  • Where they’re not so hot: Extensive city walking, puddles, heavy rain (They’re not slippery on wet painted pavement like rubber-soled flip flops, but they will absorb a LOT of water).
  • What’s great about them: Thick padding = super cushy + comfortable. The bottoms are black, so there’s no nasty stains from sweaty feet. Everyone loves them (average Amazon customer rating is 4.5/5). They come in a variety of really great colors. Seriously. Check out the options and try to tell me you don’t like at least half of them.

Note: While writing this article I also discovered some additional Sanuk sandals that are VERY cute. When it’s time for a new pair of sandals, I might try the Sanuk Yoga Serenity Flip Flop or the Sanuk Women’s Yoga Sling 2 Flip Flop.

4. A Stylish, Multi-use, Cold Weather Boot: Merrell Decora Chant Waterproof Boot

Merrell Decora Chant Waterproof Winter Hiking Boot

Seasons to Wear ‘Em: fall, winter + spring

When you’re minimizing your wardrobe, quality becomes extremely important. I’ve never put as much effort into a shoe search than I did for these boots. Before we left for Norway early this year, I did a LOT of research to find a warm, waterproof, quality boot that was also reasonably stylish. I needed to be ready for cold temps, rain, and possibly snow. I first thought I wanted taller boots and ordered a $200 pair of lace-up North Face boots with a boot shaft that covered me to about mid-calf. But I found the fit to be less than perfect on those — the leather pinched in awkwardly at the ankle — so I immediately returned them. Queue the Decora Chant. When these arrived, I immediately loved them. They were clearly higher quality, and with a side-zip design they were very easy to put on. They’re definitely a cold weather boot, so I haven’t worn them since wearing them daily during our month in Norway, but 30 days straight in the same shoe was proof to me that this is a fantastic boot. I’ve got these in dark brown (“mocha”), but they also come in black and white, for a totally different look. They’re a bit pricey — $190 — but believe me, they’re worth every penny. Mine still look brand new.

A rundown of my experience with this shoe:

  • Where they’ve been: Fjord Norway, Berlin
  • What they’ve done best: Walking or hiking in cold or wet weather, cold weather sailing, stomping around in snow and slush, and they’re surprisingly comfortable when riding a bicycle, too.
  • Where they’re not so hot: In your suitcase. They take up a lot of room, especially compared to the Sanuks and the Gloves. I wear these on the plane to save packing space. Also, I’d imagine these would be pretty uncomfortable in hot weather, but I can’t say that I’ve tried.
  • What’s great about them: They’re both cute AND comfortable (yay!) and they keep my feet warm. Wear with a pair of wool socks and you’re set for winter. Any pants style works with these, too. Leggings, jeans (skinny, straight or boot cut — tuck ’em in or leave ’em out), rain pants, whatever.


I do own a few other pairs of shoes, but I tend to not bring these traveling since they’re not nearly as versatile. I own a pair of sweater-style Uggs to keep my feet happy when I’m sticking close to home, and I have my classic zebra-stripe pumps for special occasions.

I hope you enjoyed this article! Have you found any shoes that travel well? Share your favorites in the comments below.

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