This is a guide to the best shoes for backpacking. A list of shoes that are versatile, light-weight and comfortable for travel all over the world!
Shoes are one thing that take up a lot of unnecessary space in your backpack. It can be very hard to find travel shoes that fit the huge array of activities, temperatures and occasions covered in any one trip, let alone long-term travel. For me it is about doing away with shoes that only fit one purpose and investing in some versatile shoes for backpacking.
Now, I don't consider myself to be a fashion guru but I do like to find a balance between comfort, practicality and not looking like an 80-year-old or a hiking enthusiast going for a walk in the city. Good travel shoes must be able to be walked in all day, light, durable, washable and at least a little bit cool.
We currently travel full-time with carry-on backpacks so finding the best travel shoes is pretty important. I travel with a pair of waterproof sandals, sports shoes, comfortable flats for day and night and of course, a pair of flip flops.
I've made these decisions based on the places we'll be travelling to and my travel footwear decisions in the past, some excellent some disastrous. This list has something for every taste and climate and I can personally recommend most pairs on this list.
Best Travel Shoes:
These are a recent addition to our travel wardrobe and we’re already in love. It took a couple of wears to get used to but now they are truly living up to their reputation as ‘the most comfortable shoes in the world’. Their versatility and comfort make them some of the best shoes for backpacking we’ve ever owned.
Crazy comfortable for walking around cities.
Made from sustainable materials and ethically produced with minimal waste.
Come in a range of colours and styles and look great in many situations.
Can be very warm, particularly the wool ones.
Only available in some countries (US, Canada, UK, Aus and NZ)
The fabric is soft so often looses shape after lots of wear.
SKECHERS GO WALK
Supportive. Something I used to scoff at when my mother told me it was important. Just the 4687th time my Mum knew best.
Comfortable, and I'm talking 'walk around alllllll day without the slightest problem' kind of comfortable.
Durable. I wore mine all over South East Asia for a few months and then on and off for the next couple of years and they're still going strong.
Smell. The material isn't so breathable so after a day walking around they start to smell but you can always throw them in the washing machine.
Heat. I have them in black and the material is similar to a wetsuit so they can get quite hot in the height of summer.
Comfortable. Mine are a new purchase but they took no wearing in and are some of the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn.
Can be worn in the water. This was important as I wanted something I could wear for activities like going through caves or bush walks.
Simple and can be worn with anything.
Huge variety of colours and styles. I went for plain black and white.
Not very fashionable. They look a little bit adventure-traveller for my usual tastes but I'm willing to adopt that look for the comfort and versatility.
I'm worried that the velcro might wear out after wearing them long-term (*Update* they are fine after 1.5 years of constant wear).
Comfortable and breathable
Sturdy and provide more supportive than flip-flops
These are very fashionable at the moment so you can wear them around European cities without standing out as a tourist.
Slip on and off so they are great for camping and beaches.
Available in a huge range of colours and styles for women and men.
Heavier and more rigid than some of the other shoes mentioned here which makes them harder for minimalist packing.
Made from leather so they aren't very good at getting wet.
Look nicer than normal travel sandals
Comfortable and supportive
Made of leather so they aren't great for getting wet
They are quite covered so they can get hot and sweaty
As a result they get smelly and it's hard to clean leather shoes!
Ecco is quite expensive.
HAVAIANA FLIP FLOPS
I can't believe I've started referring to these as flip flops! (In NZ we say jandals.) But whatever they're called you can't travel to hot places without them. Perfect for beachwear and anything involving water including showering. I've owned 2 pairs of Havaiana's in my life and both have lasted a good few years of constant wear. They are extremely comfortable, good quality and come in a huge range of colours and patterns.
Surely this one is self-explanatory! Doesn't everyone own a pair? The perfect all-weather (except rain), all occasion, all colours, trendy looking travel shoe.
NIKE RUNNING SHOES
Great for all active endeavours but also fine for walking around cities. I like to pretend I'll go running while we're travelling.
Incredibly light and flexible.
Range of styles and colours
Can be fashionable when paired with an active looking outfit.
Can be unfashionable when worn with jeans or dresses.
Can get hot it summer.
If you use them for hiking (like us) they aren't very waterproof.
Basic, comfortable and colourful. I haven't owned a pair of these before but as I was researching this article I saw their entire range. They also offer more sophisticated looking flats in a range of colours. Plus for every pair sold TOMS donate a pair to a child in need.
Max recently bought a pair of the men's slip on sneakers and they look and feel great!
Crocs ballerina flats
I bought these as a cheaper alternative to Rothy's although without the recycled bottle element. The idea of Crocs also put me off but these shoes are so practical. They look like normal flats but are made of rubber so they're super light, easy to clean and really comfortable. The only downfall is that they make your feet sweat a lot as rubber is not very breathable. Have a look at this article for a natural solution for shoe odour.
So there's my picks for some great versatile shoes for backpacking. Shoes are an essential part of packing and when you get the right ones you can save a lot of space and stress. If you're going on a longer trip it's definitely worth investing in at least one pair of decent shoes that you can rely on.