A trip to Europe presents the ultimate shoe-packing dilemma—you want to look stylish (and not out of place in running shoes), but you know you’re going to be walking for miles every day on hard sidewalks and cobblestones. I tested out a number of different travel shoes on recent trips to Europe; here are the ones that I would pack again.
The Best Shoes to Wear in Europe This Season
These are the best shoes to wear in Europe because they not only are stylish but also stand up to days of nonstop walking.
I am skeptical of folding flats, because while they are great for packing, they rarely are comfortable for walking. The Born Juliannes completely surprised me—they are not only a stow-and-go flat that folds neatly into a bag for packing, but they offered a high level of support and padding. Born uses a patented handcrafted construction method that sews together the entire shoe at once, which eliminates rigidity and unnecessary seams that rub, and I could definitely tell the difference. The footbed is very cushioned as well, so I didn’t have problems wearing these on hard surfaces. The Juliannes are hands-down my new favorite ballet flats—they didn’t cause blisters or foot fatigue and the tan color matched everything. I packed these and wore them when I was transitioning from sightseeing to dinner, and they worked wonderfully and looked great.
Adidas Men’s Originals NMD_R2 Sneakers
Adidas’ sneakers have exploded in popularity among fashionistas—you’ll see stylish locals rocking these throughout Europe. The NMD_R2 style is part of Adidas’ street-style focus, and the design draws inspiration from vintage runners, lending these sneakers an ultra-cool look. In addition to the fashion, you’ll get all of Adidas’ performance technology to keep you comfortable—including a Primeknit upper (which is super light and won’t cause blisters), trademarked boost energy-returning properties, and great arch support.
Ilse Jacobsen Tulip Perforated Slip-on Sneaker
Ilse Jacobsen’s Tulip Perforated Sneaker is a great compromise between a full-on sneaker and a slip-on flat. The shoe goes on and off easily (it’s perfect for airport security), but still offers plenty of support and padding on the bottom. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
Allbirds Wool Runners
I’ve written diatribes in the past against wearing white sneakers, but now I have to eat my words, because I rocked Allbirds’ white Wool Runners all over the streets of New York City and Switzerland on recent trips. Made from a breathable merino wool (I wore them on 80-degree days and they didn’t make me hot), these unisex shoes are designed to be worn without socks and look miles different from a regular white workout shoe. The shoes are lightweight and fairly crushable, so they pack easily—plus, they are machine-washable, which is a huge bonus when you’re wearing white. I can’t overstate how comfortable these are right out of the box—and they’re pretty stylish for a sneaker.
Aldo’s Jille slip-ons work with dresses and pants for either a dressy or casual look, but still pull their weight in the comfort department, making them ideal shoes to wear in Europe. They slip on and off easily at security.
Skechers Ultra Flex Harmonious
Knitted shoes have rapidly become my favorites for packing—they weigh almost nothing, plus they squish down easily to save suitcase space. Knitted uppers rarely irritate my feet or cause blisters compared to other more traditional shoe materials, and they offer more ventilation. One particularly comfy option is the Harmonious shoe from Skechers. They’re lightweight, they’re well cushioned, and they come in more than half a dozen colors. If you’re looking for shoes to wear in Europe, you can’t go wrong with knitted ones.
Nisolo Elayna Sneaker
Nisolo’s handmade Elayna Sneakers are definitely some of the most stylish sneakers that I own, thanks to details like rose gold eyelets and waxed cotton laces. Aside from being beautiful, the Elaynas offer comfort and stability in the form of Vibram soles—making these the perfect stylish walking shoes for Europe.
Rockport Raelyn Knit Tie Sneaker
Rockport takes sports technology, knitted fabrics, and casual style, and combines them into the Raelyn sneaker. It has a great firm sole that’s made from a lightweight EVA material, which provides shock absorption without weighing you down, as well as a patented Ortholite foam footbed that cushions every step you take. The woven fabric textile sock liner means you can wear these with or without socks.
Ecco Soft 7
Athleisure sneakers are super on-trend right now, and Ecco’s Soft 7 works the style perfectly. It has a classic, basic look that goes with pretty much any outfit, and is packed with comfort features like a removable leather inlay sole, the Ecco Comfort Fiber System (which fights moisture and odors), an anatomical shape that molds to your foot, and long laces to help you get the perfect fit.
M. Gemi Palestra Minimo
If you think all sneakers are unstylish, you might reconsider after seeing M. Gemi’s Palestra Minimo. These minimalist leather sneakers look good, are built to last, and feel comfortable right out of the box.
Mercanti Fiorentini 48600 Sneaker
This men’s sneaker from Mercanti Fiorentini is stylish enough to fit in on the streets of Europe but comfortable enough to keep you walking all day. It’s made of leather, with a vulcanized rubber sole and a cushioned footbed.
You don’t want to ruin the look of these cool shoes with regular socks, so I also tested out Bombas No-Show Socks, which are a much lower profile than standard socks. Unlike most no-show socks, these have a special heel grip that prevents them from slipping down and bunching up in your shoes, and they worked with most of the pairs I tried above.
If even a no-show sock is too much for you (like if you’re wearing a ballet flat), I recommend Gekks, a new system that you install into your shoes to give you all the benefits of socks (no blisters, no odors) with no sock lines, even in the lowest shoes. These are ultra-thin and won’t interfere with your shoes’ fit, and you can get ones designed especially for ballet flats, loafers, slip-ons, or sneakers.
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More from SmarterTravel:
- 7 Smart Tips for Packing Shoes and Boots
- Packing for Europe: 8 Items You Should Leave at Home
- The Most Comfortable Travel Shoes
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.