Recommended Travel Footwear

Every cowboy needs cowboy boots!
Every cowboy needs cowboy boots!

The Right Shoes for Your Next Trip: Light enough to take on a journey and fit in a roller bag

By Max Hartshorne

More and more of our readers say that hiking is one of their favorite activities when they travel. But toting along big heavy boots is no fun, even if you are planning to scale some Alps or some Andes. But today’s technology has come to the rescue–boots are now so lightweight that you can get the big Vibram grip and solid footing and they’re still very lightweight. Even if you’re not checking bags, you can probably fit these sturdy hiking boots into your roller suitcase.

GoNOMAD’s editors tested six different shoes in preparation for hiking season, and these models from Lowa, Vasque and others have passed all of our tests.

Vasque mens Breeze 2.0 GTX

Men’s Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTX

I have a fond memory of hiking and loving an old pair of Vasque hiking boots in the 1970s. Yeah, I’m that old! I was on my first journey through Europe, and we were on a train from Rome down to Calabria. I had taken my boots out to apply more mink oil, shining them up to a delicious shine.

I later tucked them up onto the luggage rack…and when we departed the train, the boots stayed on to Sicily. I was crushed! These Vasque Breeze hikers are a whole other breed compared to their heavy ancestors.

We took these out for a stroll on a mountain near our offices, where snow was still all around and didn’t slip at all. Then we walked through puddles and found the Gore-tex lining took care of that too…no wet socks!

I am not totally crazy about the kinds of laces that require hooking into hooks, it’s hard to see where the hooks are, and if I had my way, they would make these with a little velcro top part instead of boot hooks.

These feel so good I can wear them around the office, although with the big Vibram treads and it being mud season here in New England, I would probably track in a lot of mud.

But I am used to boots that I want to kick off the moment I get inside, yet with the ankle support and the comfort of these, I’ll likely leave them on longer. But one thing I wouldn’t do is wear these to the airport…nobody wants to be lacing and hooking while the TSA hovers over you, and people give you dirty looks at the belt. Vasque Men’s Breeze GTX Hiking Boot,Taupe/Burnt Orange $159

Vasque Women’s Breeze 2.0

Like me, Mary has to contend with hiking up slippery slopes with snow adding to the challenge. She also has to navigate the corridors of the elementary school she works in, and these boots proved up to that task too…remaining comfortable for a whole day of running around with kids!

One of the features that appeal to her is the padded collar, it makes the whole boot more comfortable.

Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTX boots list for $159
Vasque Women’s Breeze 2.0 GTX Hiking Boot

Mary’s report on the LOWA shoe was very positive, it felt less like a hiking shoe and more like a regular shoe. These boots are from a maker who’s been in business in Europe for 90 years. Made of Nubuck leather, like thLowa womens Renegade Loe Vasque shoes, the LOWAs are extremely lightweight. Yet the nonslip rubber lugs gave her firm traction on the slippery winter trails she tested them on outside our Massachusetts offices.

The GTX designation has a breathable waterproof GORE-TEX lining that reduces hot spots on the feet. A full-length nylon shank gives the shoes a good stability as well.

There is something appealing about a hiking shoe like this that’s low, it feels like it’s not as much of commitment to don them as it would lace up a traditional pair of hiking boots. Yet with the sturdy tread, overall boot-like construction, they offer that same level of sure-footedness, without the weight. Definitely happy with these.

Women’s Lowa Renegade GTX Lo (7 M U.S. in Taupe/Sepia)ir?t=gc0a7 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B001JYKN3A $199

Wolverine Falcon Composite Toe Slip-on

This is not so much a hiking shoe as a very durable work shoe. To test this out, we gave these shoes to a friend who works as a cook in an all-night diner. He had worn through a pair of Sketchers that were more like sneakers than these durable work shoes, so this was a step up. Besides, who wants to tie laces when you’ve got an entire night of work ahead of you?

Wolverine Falcon composite toe slip-onThese slip ons with very thick bottoms appear to do the trick. With full-grain leather uppers and double-stitched seams make them very strong and spending eight hours a shift on your feet, I can think of no shoes that would be more up to the task. “I like not having to tie them,” said our cook.

They also come in extra wide size which helps when you’re a big guy with some heft…it pushes down on your feet and makes them wider.

Wolverine Falcon Composite toe slip-on $105.00

Birki Men's Skipper Clog

Men’s Birki Skipper Clog

Now for a shoe that’s going to be a great addition to any traveler’s collection, but are nothing like the shoes mentioned above. These Birkis are a throwback to the old days of peace, love and Birkenstocks…now they’re called Birkis and I’ve been test-driving a pair called Skipper.

Do I want to wear a shoe named “Skipper?” Well, not really, but hey, the comfort is the key, and there’s plenty of it here, that’s for sure.

One trend I’m not wild about is products that arrive new yet appear to be all worn out. Right out of the box these Skippers have a ragged edge around the front that makes them look old…and they’re new! But I can’t complain about the comfort or the fit.

Even though they’re clogs, they manage to stay on my feet easily and are so lightweight, they feel like slippers. As a person with a tradition of taking off his shoes and putting on slippers during the winter, I honestly can’t tell whether I’ve got the Skippers or the slippers on. They are also sturdy enough to be comfortable on a hike through the woods. The quality is indeed baked in. The price, though is not cheap.

Men’s Berki Skipper Clog $119.95

Birki Women’s Granada Fashion Slide Sandal

Just like the men’s Birki’s the women have that solid feel of a well-made shoe. Our tester, Mary, said she liked the feel of these sandals and can’t wait for it warm up enough here in Massachusetts to wear them outside!

These sandals come in some great color combinations, and the cork footbed adapts to the shape of your foot. These sandals also feature an EVA shock-absorbing sole, and the cut-outs give you a stylishly cool look. This women’s sandal is set in a thick yet supple leather upper, without additional dyes to keep it breathable, durable and comfortable. That’s the earthy-crunchy Birki way, and it’s worked for many generations.

Heck, Birkenstock has been making simple, well-constructed shoes since 1774, so their pedigree is pretty much indisputable. As for durability, one reader said that the reason she doesn’t order a new pair is that her old ones that she bought 18 years ago are STILL in great shape. No planned obsolescence here, I guess Birki Women’s Granada fashion slide sandal $61.00

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