Best Travel Shoes for Backpackers

If you want to be safe, comfortable and happy while exploring, having a good pair of travel shoes is vital. 

We’ve all experienced the agony of deep blisters after walking too far in uncomfortable shoes. That gnawing sensation keeping you awake at night is only magnified when you try to squeeze your wounded feet back into shoes the next day.

Yet all too often backpackers fail to put thought into choosing the best shoes for travelling. 

And even when we do, it can be hard to know where to start:

  • How many pairs of shoes will you need?
  • Are waterproof shoes necessary?
  • Will you need hiking boots?
  • Do you need to bring shoes or can you buy them out there?
  • What are the best shoes for travel?

Drawing on years of travel experience and the knowledge of our community of globetrotting readers, we’ve put together this all-encompassing guide to help you choose the best shoes for your next trip! 

Trekking boots
Knowing which shoes to take backpacking can be a chore!

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Best Travel  Shoes: Quick Answers!

The Best Shoes for Travel

Travellers require different shoes for different environments and activities. If you’re backpacking, chances are you’ll need more than one type of footwear!

Most travellers take two or three pairs of shoes with them

These are usually flip flops/sandals, sneakers/trainers and walking shoes. This variety means they’re covered for most activities and conditions. 

The Best Shoes Made For Travellers

In recent years, shoes made specifically for travellers have appeared on the market. They’re usually lightweight, quick-drying, supportive and super comfy. They can be used in a variety of circumstances from running and hiking to swimming or exploring. 

They’re mostly made from sustainable materials and using eco-friendly methods. Some are waterproof while others are made of super lightweight mesh. 

Girls lays on towel next to quick dry travel shoes
Shoes made for travel are versatile, allowing you to carry less and do more!

Tropicfeel Canyon Sneakers

  • Price Range – $$$
  • Best Feature – 4 in 1 versatility 
  • Feature To Improve – Only available online so not possible to try them on

Based in Barcelona, Spain, Tropicfeel funded their first shoe via Kickstarter and they’ve never looked back. 

Then the Tropicfeel Canyon arrived as their second model. Check out my in-depth Tropicfeel Canyon review here.

It’s had a number of upgrades over the years and is now our favourite travel shoe! 

The Canyon features 4 in 1 versatility —  which in real terms means they’re as comfortable as athletic shoes, can be used as water shoes, have technical materials like hiking shoes and are stylish enough to be worn without drawing attention.

They have an athletic look to them and thanks to their built-up cushioning, are well suited for travellers wanting to get into rougher terrain. They also hold up well in urban environments, meaning they can easily replace your walking shoes, as well as your chilling out trainers! 

The Tropicfeel Canyon shoes can be slipped on and off thanks to their clever lace design. They’re still supportive though, gently gripping the top of your feet to feel like a comfy sock with a thick sole. 

At just 200g per pair, they’re lightweight too. If you choose to throw the Canyons in your bag, you’ll barely notice them there. They even compress down well, so don’t take up too much room! 

As well as the Canyons, Tropicfeel currently have three other models on the market. All their models are unisex and each features 4 in 1 versatility. 

The Sunset Sneakers are more formal but still suitable for hours of pounding around a big city. The Monsoon Sneakers have a more casual appearance and are super comfortable. Finally, the Jungle Sneakers, Tropicfeel’s newest model, are a slight variation of the Canyons — they’re fractionally lighter and feature a new heel counter for more comfort and support. However, we’re yet to test the Jungle Sneakers so cannot personally say whether they are a big improvement! 

Each pair of Tropicfeel shoes is made using up to eight recycled bottles. The insoles are made using algae harvested from dangerous blooms and the midsole is made using at least 20% recycled EVA.

Tropicfeel Canyon Travel Shoes
Tropicfeel Canyon shoes in ‘oat’ colour!

Loom Shoes 

  • Price Range – $$$$$$
  • Best Feature – Waterproof yet breathable
  • Feature To Improve – Sizing can be a little off, consult the sizing guide

Loom Footwear produce excellent waterproof sneakers for travellers. Unlike Tropicfeel, they’re not unisex and are instead available in men’s and women’s models. 

Loom shoes excel thanks to their waterproof yet highly breathable mesh construction. The outer layer is made from proprietary H2-Go technology. This allows air to flow in and out of the shoes but easily repels water.

The inner layer is merino wool. One of the most popular materials for travellers and outdoor enthusiasts, Merino Wool keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It’s moisture-wicking, quick-drying and naturally odour resistant — everything you could want from your shoes! 

Loom shoes are lightweight and fit easily into your travel backpack. They’re also stylish enough to go with any outfit and the casual/athletic look means they fit in almost anywhere! 

The outsole provides good levels of grip on easy terrain but the limited tread pattern makes walking over rocky or slippery conditions a challenge. With the thick midsole and comfortable Merino Wool lined insole, these shoes are suited to well-maintained trails and exploring built-up areas like towns and cities. 

Loom advertise their shoes as vegan friendly but this is a bit of a misnomer — they use Merino Wool after all. They claim the Merino Wool is shorn using ‘vegan-friendly shearing practices’ but can any industry using animal products ever be vegan friendly?

Despite this slightly questionable claim, Loom do source their materials from eco-friendly farms and using sustainable practices they’ve managed to reduce the carbon footprint of their shoes by over 500%! 

It’s worth noting that Loom shoes officially retail for around $250USD! However, this appears to be a marketing ploy so they can offer massive discounts all the time. Generally, you’ll find Loom shoes at 60% off for around $99USD.

A man steps in a puddle to illustrate the waterproof aspect of Loom shoes
Waterproof shoes by Loom

All Birds Tree Dasher

  • Price Range – $$$
  • Best Feature – Made using sustainable materials and practices
  • Feature To Improve – All Birds shoes have a unique look that some people don’t like

Based in New Zealand, All Birds shoes were created after their founder noticed merino wool was practically absent from the footwear industry. Merino Sheep are plentiful in New Zealand and their wool is excellent for all sorts of clothing. It’s lightweight, moisture-wicking, breathable and exceptionally comfortable against your skin. 

All Birds’ first shoe was the Wool Runner — made from merino wool —  but they quickly moved on to producing shoes made from sustainable eucalyptus tree pulp too. Now their range is expansive and covers everything from athletic running gear to casual high tops and even lounging shoes. No matter the type of shoe you’re interested in, All Birds produce a wide range of stylish options made from natural, sustainable materials.

Our favourite All Birds shoes for travel are the Tree Dashers, which as of January 2022 cost a very reasonable $99 USD.

Made from sustainable tree-based materials, the Tree Dashers are lightweight, slip-on athletic shoes that feature plenty of cushioning — making them a good choice for high impact activities such as running or hiking on rough terrain. 

They’re comfortable and stylish,  feel good on your feet, and weigh very little. They can also be packed down small, making them a solid choice for travel. 

As well as the Tree Dasher, which is made from eucalyptus, the Dashers are available in water-resistant merino wool models. These allow your feet to breathe without getting wet. They come in low cut and mid-cut models and are all available in both male and female versions. 

All Birds are all about sustainability in their products. They use natural materials and are transparent about the environmental cost of each item made. They also offset their CO2 to make each shoe carbon neutral. 

AllBirds Tree Dashers Men's

The Best Flip Flops for Travel

When travelling in hot climates, flip flops quickly become a backpacker’s best friend. They’re easy to slip on and off. They keep your feet cool and are pretty lightweight. They’re perfect for days on the beach and can also be used in dodgy hostel showers! 

To be honest, you don’t need to spend a ton of money on flip flops. Popular brands like Havaianas or Reef make good quality and well priced standard flip flops. 

But it usually works out cheaper to buy your flip flops when they get to your destination. This saves the hassle of buying and packing them before you leave. In most countries, flip flops are super cheap, just ensure you’re getting a comfy pair that won’t tear your feet apart! 

If you’re interested in more expensive flip flops that offer an element of arch support from their moulded footbeds, check out the Teva Pajaro for men or the Terran Post 2 from Merrell for women. 

Flip flops stuck in the sand on a beach.
Flip flops are great for days on the beach or short walks around cities!

Teva Pajaro Flip Flops for Men

  • Price Range – $$
  • Best Feature – Contoured footbed offers good arch support
  • Feature To Improve – Repeated soaking in water makes the glue dissolve 

The Pajaro flip flop from Teva is an ultra-comfortable choice for walks to the beach or long days perusing the sights.  

The leather, fabric combination means the strap is tough but kind to your feet. It doesn’t cause friction or blisters. The rubber outsole provides excellent levels of grip, even in damp conditions. 

Teva note that these flip flops are not designed to handle extreme temperatures, do not leave them in direct sunlight on a hot day or the inner footbed is prone to shrinkage which renders the flip flop useless! 

Teva Men's Pajaro M Flip Flop,Dune,12 M US

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Merrell Women’s Terran Post 2 Sandal 

  • Price Range – $$$
  • Best Feature – Supportive with A LOT of grip offered from the M Select outsole
  • Feature To Improve – They stand out more than ‘normal’ flip flops

When it comes to walking shoes, Merrell creates some of the sturdiest, most comfortable and most reliable out there. The Terran Post 2 is everything you’d expect from a company with such a strong pedigree. The great-looking, flip flop style sandal is probably the most comfortable you’ll find. 

With a combination of soft microfibre lining and memory foam footbed, these flip flops will make you feel like you’re walking on a cloud! Merrell claims the sandals are made of quick-dry materials but they can actually take a day or two to fully dry out. Bear this in mind before paddling in the sea or splashing through puddles.

MERRELL Women's Terran Post II Athletic Sandal, Sleet, 7 M US

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The Best Walking Sandals for Travel

Teva Terra Fi Universal Sandals – Best walking sandals for men

  • Price Range – $$$
  • Best Feature – Durability 
  • Feature To Improve – Fit is slightly large

Teva’s Terra Fi Universal Sandals are our favourite walking sandals for male travellers. The moulded footbed makes them super comfy and supportive. Whether you’re wandering around an urban environment or taking on some serious trails, they cradle your feet and deliver reliable arch support to reduce aches and pains.

The outsole provides excellent traction and the midsole layer ensures there’s enough cushioning to protect you from the impact of your footfalls. 

Velcro straps make getting the sandals on and off an easy task. The straps themselves are made using recycled polyester and present a classy but understated look. 

The downside of these sandals is the lack of protection and their relatively high price point. While not super expensive for walking sandals, they’re pricey compared to other open-toe shoes like flip flops. However, they offer way more in terms of comfort and support. 

They’re also hyper durable so you can expect them to last years if not decades! 

Teva Women's Terra FI 5 Universal Sandal, Black Wavy Trail Black Wtbc, 13


Teva Tirra Sandals – Best walking sandals for women

  • Price Range – $$$
  • Best Feature – Versatility and comfort
  • Feature To Improve – Fit is on the small side

The Tirra Sandals by Teva are a good choice for women’s travel sandals. They’re ultra-comfortable thanks to the supportive EVA footbed and cushioned heel pad, which works in conjunction to absorb impacts and reduce foot fatigue. 

They can also be used across a multitude of environments. They’re formal enough to be worn in towns and cities but durable enough to handle rugged terrain. The outsole is made of Teva’s proprietary Spider Rubber — it’s high friction yet durable, meaning it delivers long-lasting traction. It also performs well when wet so these sandals can be used for river crossings or exploring near the water’s edge. The sole also features a nylon shank for maximum stability on tricky terrain.

The velcro straps make getting the sandals on and off easy. They’re quick drying and are backed with neoprene so remain comfortable and don’t rub even when wet. Finally, the footbed features an antimicrobial treatment to reduce odours. 

Teva Women's Tirra Sandal,Bering Sea,9 US


The Best Trainers/Sneakers for Travel

If you’re travelling for extended periods, chances are you’ll want a nice comfy pair of shoes for chilling and relaxing. That’s where trainers and sneakers come in. Like slipping on an old pair of jeans, trainers offer comfort and security. 

They’re great for nights out (assuming they look presentable), or for walks across flat terrain. They’re also ideal for relaxing around a hostel or hotel.

However, trainers don’t tend to breathe well. If you’re in a hot climate, you may notice your feet overheating quickly — this can lead to discomfort and eventually smelly shoes! 

Most of the previously mentioned ‘Shoes made for travellers’ also fall into this category. If you opt for a pair of Tropicfeel, Loom or All Birds, you likely won’t need to worry about sneakers!

Person climbs on rock in shoes
Trainers/sneakers are comfortable and can be worn for a ton of activities!


  • Price Range – $$
  • Best Feature – Charitable 
  • Feature To Improve – Can take a few wears to break-in

Toms began life in 2006 with a pair of shoes and a radical business model. They donated a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair purchased.

While they no longer operate their ‘one for one’ program, Toms are still focused on making the world a better place. These days they donate a whopping 33% of their profits to grassroots organisations and have helped more than 100 million people since setting up shop. 

Their shoes are generally lightweight and are renowned for their minimalist comfort. They tend to have a laid back hippy vibe to them which makes them perfect for lounging in a hostel or chilling at the beach. 

However, they’re not very supportive and don’t offer much protection from the elements. Their unique styling also makes them less appealing to some travellers. 

Picking out the best Toms is hard but the more popular models include the TRVL Lite Sneakers and Baja slip ons for men. For women, popular models include the Cabrillo Sneaker, the Mallow Alpargata slip ons and the Bree Sandals

TOMS womens Cabrillo Sneaker, White, 7 US

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  • Price Range – $$$$$
  • Best Feature – High-quality materials make for durable shoes
  • Feature To Improve – These shoes are expensive

Known for making premium quality shoes, Ecco are a mainstay for those with a little more to spend. Sported by the likes of Kate Middleton (the Duchess of Cambridge), Ecco shoes are perfect for travel thanks to their comfort, durability, support and breathability. 

Ecco shoes are made using the finest leather from their own gold-rated tanneries. They produce 97% of the leather themselves using some of the most up to date tanning techniques, including DriTan which uses significantly less water and chemicals than traditional tanning. All leather is sourced from well-regarded farms and is a byproduct of the meat industry. 

But it’s not only in their tanning process that Ecco are innovating. They’ve also developed manufacturing techniques to improve the overall quality of leather, including the amazing FSDX Dyneema. This fuses leather and Dyneema to make some of the lightest and strongest leather available — however, shoes that use FSDX Dyneema are expensive!!

Our favourite Ecco trainers for travel are the Street Tray Classic for men and the Soft 7 for women. 

ECCO Men's Soft Classic Sneaker, MINK/LION, 10 M US


  • Price Range – $$
  • Best Feature – Simple lightweight comfort
  • Feature To Improve – Durability

You know what you’re getting with a pair of converse. Chances are you’ve owned numerous pairs throughout your life. And if you haven’t, I bet your friends have. 

They’re comfortable, lightweight shoes that allow your feet to breathe. They look good with everything, are easy to pack and offer reasonable protection. 

Of course, they’re not the most durable shoes. The canvas upper is prone to tearing if you put it through too much abuse. But to be honest, you won’t want to wear these shoes for anything too strenuous anyway. Thin soles and limited padding mean walks over rough terrain can be quite uncomfortable. 

For travelling, we recommend the low cut classic converse. They’re smaller and easier to slide on and off than the classic high tops. This means they’re easier to pack too! 

Converse Unisex Adults' Chuck Taylor All Star Ii Reflective Camo Hi-Top Sneakers, Optical/White, 6.5 Women/4.5 Men

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The Best Walking Shoes for Travel

Skechers Go Walk

  • Price Range – $$
  • Best Feature – They’re like walking on clouds
  • Feature To Improve – Durability

Today, the Skechers Go Walk range is as popular as it’s ever been. Various models are included within the range, these include boat shoes, slip ons, lace-ups and more athletic versions too. They’re all available for both men and women. 

No matter which model you choose, you can expect a lightweight mesh upper. This gently grips the top of your foot, securing the shoes in place. It also allows air to flow to your feet, reducing sweat build-up and keeping you cool. It’s not waterproof but is quick-drying in case you do get wet. 

Inside, the shoes feature an air-cooled Goga Mat insole. This provides support and cushioning to prevent foot fatigue and keep you comfortable even after a long day exploring. The outsole is super-cushioned to absorb impacts and protect your whole body from the strains of walking. However, it’s not the most durable and isn’t well suited to rocky or rough terrain. 

The newest generation of Go Walk shoes, the Go Walk 6, feature High Rebound Hyper Pillars within the sole too. These help keep your foot firmly planted within the shoe and spread the force of your footfalls across your entire foot. The older models, such as the Go Walk 5, tend to feature the Gen 5 sole which performs in much the same way. 

Skechers Women's GO Walk 5-15901 Sneaker, Black, 8 M US

VivoBarefoot Primus Trail II FG

  • Price Range – $$$$
  • Best Feature – Ultra packable 
  • Feature To Improve – Quick lace system wears out quite fast

If you’ve not joined the barefoot shoe revolution yet, now is the time. Since 2012 Vivo Barefoot have created top quality barefoot shoes across a range of designs. From hiking shoes to casual sneakers, work boots and formal looking models, they’ve created a shoe for every occasion. Plus, they’re all available in both male and female models!

The Primus Trail II is our favourite walking shoe for travellers and is available for both men and women. The Trail II FG model features a chunky tread pattern that delivers excellent traction across any terrain. There’s also a textured tread around your arch for unparalleled grip on technical trails. 

They’re durable too. The lightweight mesh upper can take a real beating before showing any signs of wear and the rubber sole lasts hundreds, if not thousands of trail miles. 

What’s even better is how easy these shoes are to pack. They can be rolled or folded, leaving you with plenty of room in your backpack! 

If you’re looking for a barefoot walking shoe more suited to city life than challenging trails, the Primus Lite III features a softer, less aggressive tread pattern.

Much like the entire VivoBarefoot range, the Primus Trail FG has a wide toe box. This allows your toes to naturally splay as you walk. When combined with the almost non-existent padding, this allows your feet to rebuild the natural strength that is lost while wearing built-up shoes. 

After letting their feet get used to the shoes, users of barefoot shoes (including myself) report less knee and ankle pain after a long hike. It’s also common to feel less fatigue. 

Vivo Barefoot also offer a repair service for when your shoes are coming to the end of their life. If the shoes are too far gone, you can send them back to the recycling program and receive a discount on your next pair.

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG, Womens Recycled Breathable Mesh Off-Road Shoe with Barefoot Firm Ground Sole


Merrell Nova/Antora

  • Price Range – $$$$
  • Best Feature – Responsive cushioning for maximum comfort
  • Feature To Improve – Very narrow shoes

In stark contrast to the previous pair of barefoot shoes, the Merrell Nova and Antora shoes are heavily built-up — they house a ton of cushioning and support features. 

The Nova is the model built for men while the Antora is built around the female foot form. Aside from this difference, all the features are the same between the shoes. 

The mesh upper is lightweight and breathable. In the standard models, it’s not waterproof but if you’re desperate for waterproof shoes, Gore-Tex versions are available. Be aware that the Gore-Tex shoes weigh a little more than the standard models. 

The Vibram outsole provides excellent traction, even in wet rocky terrain. It’s also super durable so you don’t need to worry about the tread pattern wearing away too fast. The EVA midsole delivers plenty of cushioning. It absorbs the repetitive impact of your footfalls to protect your feet, ankles and knees from long term injuries. 

There’s an external heel strap that ensures your feet remain secure. This allows you to take on tough terrain without your feet sliding around inside the shoes. There’s also a rock plate between the midsole and outsole. This protects your feet from rocks and other sharp objects without restricting movement. 

Both the Nova and Antora are good walking shoes for travel. However, despite being lightweight, they are quite bulky. You might have trouble cramming them into your backpack — they’re still easier to fit in than hiking boots though!

Merrell Antora Sneaker Moc Black 8.5 M


Merrell Nova 2 Men's Mesh Lightweight Trail Running Shoes Black Size 11


The Best Hiking Boots for Travel

VivoBarefoot Tracker

  • Price Range – $$$$$$
  • Best Feature – Allow you to feel the ground beneath your feet
  • Feature To Improve – Can get very warm in hot environments

The level of protection offered by VivoBarefoot’s Tracker II FG is unparalleled in barefoot shoes. The tough leather construction is waterproof and can take a real beating. It will protect your feet and ankles from knocks, scrapes and even snake bites if that’s a concern for you. 

The leather all comes from small scale farmers who allow their cattle to roam relatively free. This means there can be unique natural marks and scarring on the leather. 

The outsole is the same as the Primus Trail II FG. It will keep your feet planted even in wet or slippery conditions. 

Thick padding around the ankles prevents rubbing and ensures the boots remain comfy for hours at a time. However, in hot environments, the padding restricts airflow and can cause your feet to overheat. If you’re not hiking in awkward or tough terrain, you won’t need boots with this much ankle support. 

Like every other pair of Vivo Barefoot shoes, the Tracker features a wide toe box for maximum comfort. This helps keep your feet a little cooler and also gives plenty of room for your toes to splay. Another advantage of the wide toe box is that it allows your feet to swell without rubbing and causing blisters. 

There’s also a removable thermal insole included with these boots. If you’re hiking in a cold environment, we recommend using this. Otherwise, pull it out. 

As mentioned above, VivoBarefoot will do their best to repair worn shoes. If the shoes can’t be repaired, VivoBarefoot will recycle the components and offer you a discount on your next pair!

VIVOBAREFOOT Tracker II FG, Womens Leather Hiking Boot With Barefoot Firm Ground Sole and Thermal Protection


Scarpa Kailash Plus GTX

  • Price Range – $$$$$$
  • Best Feature – Long-lasting
  • Feature To Improve – Expensive

Scarpa manufacture top of the range walking boots specifically designed for use on tough trails. If you’re not tackling rough terrain, you don’t need to spend this kind of money! However, for long hikes through extreme environments, these boots take some beating. 

Made using Gore-Tex, they can be almost completely submerged without letting water in. They’re also ultra-resistant to wear and abrasion! 

The durable soles provide reliable traction that lasts years on end. There’s a reinforced toe box to keep your feet safe and the ventilation holes allow air to flow in and out.

Not only will they keep your feet dry, protected and well supported but these boots have a reputation for lasting years, sometimes well over a decade before they need to be replaced!

They’re available in male and female models but need some serious breaking in before you take them on a trek. Don’t pick these up a week before your trip, you may need months of short hikes before they’re at their best.

SCARPA Men's Kailash Plus GTX Waterproof Gore-Tex Leather Boots for Backpacking and Hiking - Dark Coffee - 10-10.5


What to consider when choosing the best footwear for travel

Where you’ll be travelling

The region you’re travelling in will play a big part in deciding the best travel shoes for you. 

If you’re expecting cold weather for most of your trip, you may as well leave the sandals at home. Likewise, if it’s going to be super hot, big chunky boots will be unbearable!

It’s also worth being aware of local customs when it comes to footwear. 

Across much of Southeast Asia, it’s common practice to remove your shoes before entering temples, massage parlours and even people’s homes. The practice literally and metaphorically keeps the dust and dirt from the street out of safe clean spaces. 

If you’re planning on visiting a lot of these buildings, opt for shoes that are easy to take on and off. You’ll only end up hating your shoes if they take an age to lace up!

It’s normal to leave your shoes in large unattended piles while in temples or massage parlours. It’s also not unheard of for people to come back looking for their shoes, only to realise someone else has taken them. With that in mind, don’t take shoes that you can’t bear to lose!

In some countries, you may be asked to remove your shoes on overnight buses too. Again, it’s a good idea to have shoes that are easy to slip on and off. They make jumping off the bus for a midnight pee much less hassle — trust me, bus drivers get impatient if you spend too much time on your laces! 

High-end bars and restaurants usually have a dress code too. If you plan on visiting any of the world’s fancier rooftop bars, you’ll need to bear in mind that men cannot wear flip flops or sandals. Only closed-toe shoes will be allowed! 


Honestly, most backpackers don’t need fully waterproof shoes. 

Sure, expats in Thailand will forever sing the praises of their waterproof boots but they don’t have to carry them around for months on end. Instead, they leave them at home until the monsoon season arrives — only really using them during bad flooding. 

Waterproof shoes are big and heavy. They also take an age to dry if they do get wet. I’ve had waterproof shoes that took days to dry out after I fell into a deceptively deep stream — my lightweight trail runners would’ve dried out overnight. 

Waterproof shoes will protect your feet from any grossness floating in puddles, streams or floods but an average backpacker is unlikely to use them often enough to warrant carrying them around for months at a time. 

The one-time waterproof shoes are worth using, is if you’re hiking in snowy terrain. Being able to keep your feet dry and warm is imperative for long days in such challenging environments.

Tuk tuk in the rain
During monsoon season waterproof shoes are tempting!


What you plan on doing while travelling also plays a big role in deciding which shoes are most suitable. 

Will you be trekking through a lot of rough terrain? If so, hiking boots or sturdy walking shoes will be a good choice. But if most of your time will be spent exploring cities and chilling in beach bars, sneakers or sandals are a better option. 

If your plans involve water sports: kayaking, rafting, tubing, etc, a pair of lightweight, quick-drying shoes are perfect. Trail runners, minimalist hiking shoes and travel sneakers are all good options. They’re comfortable enough to wear while walking through cities and even on more challenging terrain too — meaning you can carry one less pair! 

It’s also worth considering how your shoes will hold up on a motorbike. Even if you have no intention of riding while travelling, chances are you’ll end up using a mototaxi at some point — especially if you’re backpacking and relying on cheap overnight buses! These tend to drop you off in small bus stations during the early hours. 

It’s not uncommon for the only onward transport available to be guys on mopeds. Sturdy closed-toe shoes that you can tighten are important. They won’t offer anywhere near the same protection as proper motorcycle boots but they’re much better than flip flops!

Trekking in Bukit Lawang.
Difficult terrain requires sturdy shoes!

Shoe weight and packability

Remember that every pair of shoes you’re not wearing will need to go in your backpack. If you’re a lightweight, one bag traveller, you’re going to be very limited on space — and even if you’re not, you don’t want an extra 4kg of shoes weighing you down as you traipse from the bus station to your accommodation! 

Lightweight shoes are a backpacker’s best friend, especially if they can be squashed or compressed into your bag. 

When it comes to packing, keep an eye out for backpacks built to carry shoes. The Shell Backpack by Tropicfeel has a compartment designed specifically for this — it can also be zipped away when not in use! 

Comfort vs fashion

We all want to look good while travelling — especially in the world of Instagram and social media. 

But feeling good is always better. 

Having sore feet and blisters is a guaranteed way to drop your mood, so avoid this by choosing the most comfortable travel shoes you can find. 

Thankfully, most shoes designed for travel today are made to look as good as they feel! 


The more uses you get out of your shoes, the fewer pairs you’ll need to take. 

If your water shoes are the same as your hiking and relaxing shoes, you’re onto a winner! 

Swimming in Tropicfeel shoes
It’s all about versatility with travel shoes!


When it comes to avoiding blisters and keeping your feet happy, good quality socks are almost as important as shoes. 

Look for socks that will keep you warm in cold environments but also keep you cool when necessary. Merino wool or synthetic socks are your best bet. Cotton socks hold onto too much moisture and can take an age to dry. When wet, they’re also prone to rubbing which causes blisters. 

It’s usually worth opting for a couple of different styles of socks. Eg, normal length, quarter crew and ankle socks. Compression socks are great if you’re concerned about the effect of long flights on your body

We recommend Fox River Socks for travellers. They’re on the expensive side but their comfort and durability make them worth the investment! Plus, they produce socks in several styles and for different activities!


Good shoes aren’t cheap but they don’t have to cost hundreds of dollars either — unless you’re buying highly specialised technical hiking boots of course!

For $50-$150USD you can expect to buy a durable pair of shoes with great travel features. Any less than this and you’re either getting a great deal or you’re going to regret the purchase. Spending any more than $150USD on shoes for travel is usually overkill. 

Break-in shoes before leaving

As with all footwear, make sure you wear your travel shoes at home before taking them abroad. This lets you see how the shoes feel and begins to mould them to your feet. 


Do I need waterproof shoes?

Waterproof shoes aren’t usually necessary for travellers. If you’re travelling somewhere with a lot of rain or snow, they might be a good option. However, as a general rule, lightweight quick-drying shoes are a better choice. 

Waterproof shoes are usually heavy and bulkier than their non-waterproof counterparts. This makes them difficult to pack and carry around while travelling. It also makes them impractical in warm conditions as your feet can easily overheat. 

Rain soaked road
Even in monsoon season, waterproof shoes are more hassle than they’re worth!

How to pack shoes for travel?

While shoes are bulky, they aren’t too difficult to pack for travel. 

Just follow these steps:

  1. Clean your shoes well — you don’t want dust and dirt contaminating all your gear!
  2. If you can squash or roll your shoes to make them smaller, do so and place them into a plastic bag. You can also use a specific shoe bag. These tend to be waterproof and are sometimes odour resistant too. 
  3. If your shoes won’t compress, use them to store small items like pants and socks — any space in your bag is valuable space!
  4. Try to place your shoes near the bottom of your backpack. This will give you a sturdy base to pack everything on top of. It also keeps them out of your way while on the move. 

Alternatively, some backpacks will come with specially designed shoe pockets or pouches. The Tropicfeel Shell backpack is a fine example. It has a stowable pouch on the bottom that can be used to carry one to two pairs of shoes. 

How many pairs of shoes should I take travelling?

Most backpackers say you should take two to three pairs of shoes when travelling. One pair of flip flops/sandals, one pair of trainers/sneakers and one pair of walking shoes/boots. 

But this depends on several factors: where you’re going, how long for and what activities you’ll be partaking in. 

If your trip is two weeks of lounging on the beach in Thailand, you’re unlikely to need three pairs of shoes. One pair of sneakers and a pair of flip flops will be enough. 

On the other hand, if you’re spending months travelling through South America, you’ll likely want sandals for warm beaches, trainers for chilled days and walking boots for tough Andean treks.

How to soothe feet while travelling:

Sometimes you can’t avoid getting sore feet while on the road. When this happens, it’s better to take care of them ASAP rather than leave them and hope for the best. 

To soothe tired feet while travelling follow these simple steps:

  1. Lay down and raise your feet. Move them around in circles and spell out the alphabet with your big toe. This helps reduce swelling and keeps your joints moving. 
  2. Stretch. As well as keeping your joints and muscles moving, you want to prevent scar tissue building up in your muscle fibres. Regular stretching will ensure muscles don’t become tight and scarred. You’ll want to do a range of stretches focussing on your entire body — everything is interconnected! If you’re in Southeast Asia, there’s a ton of great yoga schools and classes that can teach you effective stretches! 
  3. Soak your feet. Bathing your feet in warm water can give you a huge amount of relief. If you can get epsom salt or essential oils, these will help keep you relaxed and happy. 
  4. Massage. Massaging your feet has the same effect as stretching. It keeps your muscles and joints moving and reduces scar tissue. Be aware that both massaging and stretching can prove a little painful if you’re already suffering — the long term relief is worth it though. 

Final Thoughts On The Best Shoes for Travelling

Choosing the best shoes for travel will depend on where you’re going and what you’re doing, as well as what style or type of shoe you prefer to wear!

Versatility, weight and comfort are the most important things to consider and for that reason, the Tropicfeel Canyon shoe is our top pick. 

Tim Ashdown | Gear Specialist

After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since then, he has travelled Southeast Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and backpacked South America. His first book, From Paralysis to Santiago, chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident and will be released later this year.

3 thoughts on “Best Travel Shoes for Backpackers”

  1. I was trying to reply to your reply but it didn’t let me! 😅
    First of all thanks for replying and so quick! Second, I was curious because we’ll probably start an extremely LONG trip around south east Asia, visiting cities, also going to viewpoints, swimming, maybe on treks I guess, etc. Normal stuff you do while there, probably not rock climbing 😂 And were looking for something that looks nice either with a dress or pants, but can do everything, that’s why I was curious about the Sunset shoes, since they look a bit nicer to wear with everything, but obviously if they’re not as good as the Canyon, or not exactly for what we want to do, no point haha

    Thanks again! 😁

  2. Hi! Loved this!
    I really love tropicfeel shoes, and I was wondering if you think the Sunset ones would be good to do everything you said you can do with the canyon.

    1. Hi Micaela!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. The Tropicfeel Sunset shoes are super lightweight, quick-drying and can be worn in water like the Canyons. They feature a bit less padding in the midsole and have a less aggressive tread pattern so are more suited to easy terrain, like in towns or cities. You wouldn’t want to be running down a muddy trail in them!
      The back of the shoe is soft and can be folded down, meaning you can slide the Sunsets on and off like slippers! This is a nice addition for quick trips outside or for particularly lazy days.

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