This is a post I’ve been meaning to do for a while. In my opinion there is nothing more important than having the right shoes when on vacation. Proper footwear can make or break a trip. Read on for my tips and opinions on having the right shoes for your trip and how to break them in before your trip.
Having the wrong shoes can break a vacation. If you don’t have proper fitting comfortable footwear you might end up with back problems which keep you from enjoying your trip, and you will likely end up with blisters on your feet which can make it impossible to walk.
What type of shoes should I bring with me.
If your luggage will allow it I recommend bringing at least two pairs of shoes. The first pair should be a good comfortable pair of walking shoes. Basically I suggest the pair of shoes you wear most often especially if they are tennis shoes. The second pair of shoes should be a pair of sandals. You would wear these around water and at the end of the day to let your feet relax and breathe.
If you are going to fancier restaurants or museums you may also need to bring a pair of dress shoes. I recommend a pair of loafers that are easy to slip in and out of and which can be easily stowed in your luggage.
What to look out for in a pair of shoes?
Your shoes should be comfortable and fit you well. they should be snug and grip your heal so that it can be supported and doesn’t move around. The movement of the heal against your sock or shoe is what causes blisters. It should also be wide enough in the toe box so that your toes aren’t pinched but not to wide to allow excess foot movement. Finally it should have enough cushioning and support so that your feet and eventually your back doesn’t get damaged from excessive impacts.
For these reasons I recommend whenever possible bring your normal shoes with you, the ones you wear every day and that your feet are used to.
I also don’t recommend wearing sandals all day while vacationing. First your foot lacks protection from hitting it on curbs or other things, also most sandals lack adequate support for the foot and heel and you are more prone to blisters. I have tried to just wear sandals in the past, and I have done it when my main shoes got wet and I needed to switch out, but I almost always ended up with blisters within a few days.
Remember you will be walking probably 3+ times further then you do on a normal day for multiple days in a row. Do yourself a favor and take a good pair of shoes with you.
After the day is done and you are back at your hotel or hostel or tent, break out the sandals for a few hours and let your feet breathe and dry out from all that walking you have done today.
Don’t take new shoes on your trip
You may think the best thing to do is to take a new pair of shoes on your trip. They’ve got no miles on them and will hold up well. Don’t do this please, shoes need time to break in, and when you are on a trip you will be walking with shoes that haven’t had time to do this. Wear new shoes for a few hours each day before your trip to allow your feet to get used to them and to allow your shoes to conform to your feet. All shoes change over time and start to take on the shape of your foot, this is a good thing but not during your trip.
Also consider replacing your insoles a week or so before your trip. This will ensure you have the proper cushioning and comfort on your trip.
How to take care of your feet?
If you happen to get blisters because your shoes aren’t fitting well or is rubbing as you walk. The best solution is to use mole skin or blister bandages to protect the sore until your body can absorb the liquid. If you happen to pop a blister either accidentally or on purpose I recommend that you apply antibiotic ointment to it and place a bandage over it to protect it from getting infected.
At the end of the day of extended walking it is important to air out your feet and let them dry out. Your feet will sweat as you walk and most socks do not wick that moisture out well which can lead to blisters. Airing out your feet and wearing sandals at the end of the day will help your feet recover. Also the wearing of wool based or technical socks will help wick the moisture away from your feet and keep them dry. Walking in the rain or in watery areas will only exasperate the problem. If you are going to be walking in the rain or through water consider changing your socks often. In general if you are going to be walking a lot consider changing to dry socks at lunch to help prevent sores on your feet.
What shoes do you wear?
I wear shoes from xero shoes. Specifically I wear the Z-Trek and Z-Trail sandals, and the terraflex shoes. I’m also looking at getting a pair of leather Hana shoes for when I need a more dressy option. My current dress loafer is a pair of memory foam sketchers.
I like the xero shoes because they are zero drop shoes, and my heel is not elevated which makes it easier to walk long distances. The trek and trail sandals are very similar and differ only in the thickness of the soles. My daily wear shoes are the Z-Trail as I like the extra comfort of the thicker sole. They can both be rolled up to take up less room when packing.
The only issue I’ve had is with my original Z-Trek sandals. Because the sole is so thin it is easy to roll it under your foot if you step incorrectly or hit a curb with the edge. I actually managed to tear one of the strap attachment points on my sandal by hitting a curb. I did go out and buy a new pair as I like them that much.
For the Terraflex shoes I have replaced the insole with one that provides more arch support as the ones that ship with the shoes are very thin and provide none. While wearing the shoes I was getting pain in my arches until I replaced the insole with one that had more support.
The Bald Traveler