This post is mainly for the ladies! I feel like men have it so much easier with travel shoes. As a female, my criteria for travel shoes are:
- Comfortable – can walk miles, which is often a full day of travel
- Well-padded – so you don’t feel the ground
- Cute – generally nobody wants to wear ugly shoes
- Durable – so it doesn’t fall apart from the rigors of travel
- Multi-purpose – looks good with any outfit including dresses/skirts, should be able to go from a whole day of walking straight to a nice dinner, helps keep packing light by not taking up precious suitcase volume, and eliminates the need to carry around extra shoes all day or have to make an extra stop by the hotel before dinner
- Easy to clean – sometimes travel can get shoes a bit dusty/dirty
- Lightweight and breathable – walking around all day can get uncomfortably sweaty
To be clear, I have not found the magic unicorn shoe for women yet that fits all or or even most of all these criteria. I usually travel with at least 2 pairs of shoes – my sneakers (the daily travel shoe, can’t get more comfy than this, but it does not look good with dresses or nice dinners, unfortunately, and it’s bulky), and a pair of Tory Burch Minnie Travel Ballet Flats (extremely comfortable, cute, takes up very little space and comes with a travel pouch, very light…BUT pretty thin sole, so can’t do all-day walks in them).
Over the years I’ve ordered many many shoes from Shoebuy, Amazon, Zappos, Nordstrom, Kohls, etc, and I’ve returned 95% of them. Most of the time, the reason is that the back of the shoe rubs against my ankle, and after just 10 minutes my ankle is already rubbed raw. I’ve tried a number of remedies such as:
- using gel or memory foam pads on them (helps, but they fall off easily)
- wearing socks (this definitely helps a little)
- wearing a bandaid on my ankle (not sustainable)
- rubbing that part of the shoe with wax or J&J friction block stick (gross and not sustainable)
- putting insoles in to raise my foot so the back of the shoe doesn’t reach my ankle (helps but then shoe falls off foot really easily)
- and more
As you can see, I’ve purchased a LOT of products to try to fix this issue…to no avail. A second reason I’ve often returned shoes is that they pinched either my little toe or my big toe uncomfortably. But generally, the ankle rubbing is the biggest reason.
Recently, I saw a Facebook ad for Rothy’s (referral link), which is a San Francisco-based shoe startup that makes 3D-printed shoes in really cute styles, and the very first thing it says on their website is: “Frequent Flyers: Our easiest travel companion is always ready for adventure.” A beautiful flat marketed towards frequent flyers like me! I was intrigued. I read some of the reviews, and most women rave about it. I found this thread particular helpful with some other suggestions on shoes to buy for people who didn’t find Rothy’s to be as amazing as they hoped.
I ordered a bunch of shoes as other ladies recommended in the thread (they’re medical residents, and as a doctor myself, I totally had the same issues in school finding decent flat to wear in clinic) and decided to make a post about it so and figured I would start documenting my adventures in finding the perfect travel shoe, much like how Vinh over at Miles Per Day is in search of the perfect travel pants. Today I will describe the latest shoes I tried and how I felt about each! I apologize in advance if you hate feet photos and I realize I’m not exactly a good foot model…let’s just try to put that aside, k? 😉
Note: I wear a size 7, and ordered a size 7 for each of these. I typically wear socks made for flats, but did not wear them for these photos because I wanted to be able to feel the inside of the shoe to evaluate it for comfort. The price in parentheses is manufacturer’s retail price before any sales/discounts/referrals/portals/etc.
Rothy’s The Point ($145)
I usually don’t wear pointed shoes, it’s not really my style. I figured I might as well try them anyways, since pointed shoes are generally more professional looking. You can get $20 off by using my referral link, but if you need to return the shoes for a different size, I read that they don’t honor the $20 on the exchange so you’d have to use a new referral code or something. Just something to keep in mind.
What I liked:
- The material is soft and stretchy (3D printed fabric made from recycled water bottles, no seams, no stitching) and feels nice to touch and seems very breathable
- Generally the shoe is very well made
- Cute color palettes, love that the sole is a different color, love the V-cut topline
- The sole is very nice rubber with excellent traction
- The back of the shoe did not seem to rub my ankle
- The insole is made of the same 3D printed fabric material and feels nice, it should be porous and moisture-wicking as well but I did not test this claim
- Ability to just throw it in the washing machine and line dry it
- Very light, would definitely be travel-friendly
What I did not like:
- I still don’t like the pointed toe style – just personal preference
- The insole was not thick enough to me
- The price – even with a referral discount, this is honestly still an expensive shoe. I’d be willing to pay the price if it was an unicorn, but it wasn’t…
Rothy’s The Flat ($125)
Similar to above, with a couple differences:
- The back of the shoe has a nice soft microfiber lining inside, but has a small VERY irritating edge that rubs against the ankle (see the white strip below). On every step I take, the edge digs into my ankle. The back appears to rise higher than the Point flat above I tried. Not sure if this is an QC inconsistency among Rothy’s shoes or if the Point generally has a lower back than the Flat.
- The size 7 was too big and I could insert my finger in the back; the size 7 in the Point was a better fit. I probably need a size 6.5 for The Flat.
- I usually wear cotton socks with my flats anyways and did try the shoes with my socks and they fit better, but even with the socks, the back was too tall and was still irritating.
Josef Seibel Pippa Mary Jane ($114.95?)
I put a question mark on the price since pretty much every shoe seller is discounting this shoe by around 50% from that supposed price.
What I liked:
- Quite comfortable
- Lots of padding on the insole (“double air reaction”)
- Back of the shoe does not really rub ankle (but I only tried it on for 5-10 min, as with most shoes I don’t test them outside because I want to be able to return it)
- Great fit
What I did not like:
- Ugly!!! Why did I even buy this? I looked at the Pippa non-Mary Jane version and it looks slightly better, but I still don’t like how it looks. However, it is clear that this company specializes in comfort shoes, so this may be a very promising lead.
- Not super light
Uggs Lynley Flats ($119.95)
Uggs makes flats?! Yeah, that was my first reaction too.
What I liked:
- ZOMG THEY ARE SO COMFORTABLE! The back of the shoe didn’t rise too high. Some rubbing but the back of the shoe is very thin and smooth so I think it’ll be minimal irritation.
- The sole looks thin on product photos, but it’s actually stiff and thick with a Poron-cushioned footbed. This is actually great because from the outside it looks very sleek, professional, and feminine, without compromising the feeling inside the shoe.
- Super cute. This is definitely the style I like with the V-cut topline.
- Great fit!
- Super light and flexible
What I did not like:
- I seriously wanted to keep these because I got such a great deal for them on Nordstrom Rack (for $46.97) BUT the fatal flaw is the slippery bottom. There’s no traction. I have a hardwood floor at home and it felt very slippery. This would not be acceptable for walking around in airports and cities, especially on a rainy day.
- The particular pair I bought was suede, and I generally don’t like suede material because it is not durable – it usually starts rubbing off in patches and will quickly look worn and tattered. An all-leather pair of these would be better, but the sole really has no grip so it is not worth further exploring for me.
Skechers Women’s Kincaid Callao Slip Resistant Work Flat ($47)
This is the current flat I’ve been wearing for work currently.
What I Liked:
- Amazing footbed – memory foam cushioning, very thick, feels just like wearing sneakers
- Rubber soles have excellent traction, definitely will not slip
- The back of the shoe has built-in heel pads, which does help decrease the pain of rubbing, but there is still slight rubbing
- Looks decently good with any outfit and would be acceptable for nice dinners
What I Didn’t Like:
- The front of the shoe is slightly pinchy, but not unbearable. However, it would prevent me from walking in these shoes for many miles a day outside and I certainly wouldn’t bring it as my only pair of shoes while traveling.
- Not super light nor flexible
- Wish it had a V-cut topline
Ongoing Search for the Unicorn
I’m returning all of the above except for the Skechers for various reasons, but I may be interested in trying Rothy’s regular round flat again in a smaller size.
Other brands/models I have tried are: Aerosoles (never found a comfortable one), Tom’s (not comfy to me, had to put my own thick insole in, not cute), Clark’s (these were the worst), Cole Haan Air Monica (horrible ankle rubbing), Born (pinching and ankle rubbing), Patagonia Maha Breathe (was my go-to before, insole was too thin so I had to add my own, but now this brand is discontinued), Crocs (comfortable, but stretched out and obviously not that good looking), Sam Edelman (too thin), Payless shoes (that was a pretty bad idea), and other Skechers (most of them are comfortable but don’t look very professional). I have *not* tried Tieks (looks thin?), Dansko (no cute styles), Lucky (looks thin), Allbirds (I want to try them, though they’re not my style), or super high fashion brands.
I generally don’t like to have to break shoes in either, and would like them to be comfortable right off the bat like sneakers. If any of you ladies out there have any recommendations, let me know! I am probably pickier than most, since sometimes I feel like I’m the only one having so much trouble finding good travel shoes!