It goes without saying that you if you plan on doing a lot of backpacking, you’ll need a good pair of travel shoes.
Believe it or not, a lot of people neglect this part of their packing list and just bring whatever’s available. In the process, they end up neglecting their body and start to suffer from ailments like joint pain or achy arches.
To help you find the right pair, I have assembled my top picks in this epic review of the best travel shoes!
I have spent that last eight years traveling around the world and know a thing or two about footwear. This review is a reflection of my experiences and research getting to know the best of them on the market.
By the end of this review, you will have all of the best travel shoe options at your fingertips. With the right pair of shoes, you can focus your time and energy on what really matters: having fantastic travel experiences!
Quick Answer: These are the Best Shoes for Travel in 2020
- North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX – Overall Best Travel Shoes for Men
- Loom Waterproof Sneakers – Best Waterproof Travel Shoes (Lightweight) For Men and Women
- Five Ten Access Mesh Approach Shoe – Most Versatile Travel Shoe (Men and Women)
- Merrell Moab 2 WP Low – Best Hiking Shoes (Men)
- Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX Low Cut – Best Shoes for Backpacking in Hot Climates (Men)
- Vasque Grand Traverse – Best Walking Shoes for Travel (Men)
- Salomon X Ultra 3 Low GTX – Overall Best Travel Shoes for Women
- KEEN Targhee III Mid WP – Top Travel Shoes for Hiking (Women)
- Women’s Merrell Moab 2 WP – Best Shoes for Backpacking in Hot Climates (Women)
- Oboz Sawtooth Low Cut – Best Walking Shoes for Travel (Women)
To make choosing the perfect pair of travel shoe even easier, I have assembled my top picks into a few different categories. I do, however, want to make one thing clear before we begin.
I am a firm believer in practical, versatile, multi-use shoes. You won’t find any pair of shoes on my list that only offer a singular purpose. Backpackers are dynamic people with dynamic needs.
Of course, some traveling shoes will serve you better for certain specific applications, but generally speaking, you will be able to use any of my selected shoe options in a variety of different travel scenarios.
My goal in writing this review was to help each individual backpacker find the best travel shoes to suit their own individual needs. I am certain that there is a pair on my list for every type of backpacker.
Let’s now check out my top picks for the top shoes for backpackers in 2020…
Table of Contents
- Best Shoes for Travel: Top Picks and Performance Reviews
- #1 North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX
- Overall Best Travel Shoes for Men
- #2 Loom Waterproof Sneakers
- Best Waterproof Shoes (Lightweight) for Men and Women
- #3 Five Ten Access Mesh Approach Shoe
- Most Versatile Travel Shoe (Men and Women)
- #4 Merrell Moab 2 WP Low
- Best Hiking Shoes (Men)
- #5 Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX Low Cut
- Best Shoes for Backpacking in Hot Climates (Men)
- #6 Vasque Grand Traverse
- Best Walking Shoes for Travel (Men)
- #7 Salomon X Ultra 3 Low GTX
- Overall Best Travel Shoes for Women
- #8 KEEN Targhee III Mid WP
- Top Travel Shoes for Hiking (Women)
- #9 Women’s Merrell Moab 2 WP
- Best Shoes for Backpackin in Hot Climates (Women)
- #10 Oboz Sawtooth Low Cut
- Best Walking Shoes for Travel (Women)
- How to Choose the Best Shoes for Travel: Buying Advice
Best Shoes for Travel: Top Picks and Performance Reviews
|North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX||Check on AmazonCheck on REI|
|Loom Waterproof Sneakers||Check on Loom|
|Five Ten Access Mesh Approach Shoe||Check on REI|
|Merrell Moab 2 WP Low||Check on AmazonCheck on REI|
|Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX Low Cut||Check on Amazon|
|Vasque Grand Traverse||Check on AmazonCheck on REI|
|Salomon X Ultra 3 Low GTX||Check on REICheck on Salomon|
|KEEN Targhee III Mid WP ||Check on AmazonCheck on REI|
|Women’s Merrell Moab 2 WP||Check on AmazonCheck on REI|
|Oboz Sawtooth Low Cut||Check on AmazonCheck on REI|
Overall Best Travel Shoes for Men
For my overall top pick regarding the best travel shoes for men, meet the North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX hiking shoes. If ever there was one single shoe to pack along for just about any adventure, the North Face Hedge Hogs are where it’s at.
Broke Backpacker founder Will Hatton has been rocking the Nort Face Hedgehogs for over a decade (not the same pair!). That says a great deal about the quality and performance of the Hedgehogs. Point being, they kick ass and perform at the highest level for just about every kind of backpacking scenario short of technical trekking and mountaineering.
The outside material of the Hedgehogs features polyurethane-coated leather uppers and a waterproof, breathable Gore-Tex membrane that does a good job of keeping your feet protected from water penetration.
For chaffing management and control, the abrasion-resistant, breathable textile mesh lining virtually eliminates unwanted movement and rubbing.
For a versatile, lightweight, tough waterproof shoe that is up for any adventure that you are, the North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX Low Hiking Shoes are a sure bet.
Even better is the price tag. For $120.oo you can score a truly excellent pair of waterproof hiking shoes without breaking the bank.
Best Waterproof Shoes (Lightweight) for Men and Women
Obviously, if you submerge the shoes completely in a river they will get wet – but the good thing about the Loom Sneakers is that they dry fast. In your average rain storm or puddle splash, the shoes will keep your feet dry. I especially recommend these shoes for hot-weather regions like South East Asia or Central America. The breathability factor is huge. You don’t your feet to be more sweaty than they have to be.
The temperature regulation technology uses merino wool to keep your feel cool, while also serving as an anti-microbial agent. This translates into less stinky feet over time, which is something every traveler (myself included) can use some help with.
For the price, build construction, and minimalist look you’d be hard pressed to find a more versatile waterproof travel shoe.
Check out the women’s Loom Waterproof Sneaker.
Most Versatile Travel Shoe (Men and Women)
The Five Ten Access Mesh is technically whats called an “approach shoe”. Originially designed for backcountry climbers who need the all-in-one movement shoe, which is the ideal travel shoe.
Stealth S1 rubber lines the bottom of the shoe. What does that even mean? Think of the rubber that comes standard on the bottom of climbing shoes. Most places general hiking shoes/boots will lose traction, the Stealth S1 rubber allows you to commit to that delicate step without concern.
Imagine hiking the day after a large rainstorm. You come across a stream that crosses right in the middle of the trail, trying to cross that stream you accidentally swamp your feet. Thankfully the shoe is comprised of “Sandwich Mesh” for one reason, breathability. The synthetic mesh is also ideal for quick-drying. So at the end of the day take that damp/sweaty shoe and stick it in the sun, it’ll surely be dry by sunset.
Hey ladies! Interested in making this purchase for yourself? Thankfully Five Ten makes an Access Mesh shoe for women.
Best Hiking Shoes (Men)
I have been using some version of the Merrell Moab (either the Moab 2 WP low or the Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP) shoes for many years now and I have always been pleased by their performance.
On any given adventure, you never know when you might set off into the jungle, desert, or the mountains. With the Moab 2 WP low hiking shoes, you will be ready to take on most outdoor activities with confidence. They are also supremely comfortable for walking around cities too.
They feature waterproof breathable membranes that protect your feet from wet weather. The breathable mesh lining in the interior of the shoe allows for ventilation.
For comfort, the Moab 2 Wp low shoes come equipped with Merrell air cushion technology in the heels which absorbs shock and adds to stability/balance.
Like the North face Hedge Hogs featured above, the Merrel Moab 2 WP low hiking shoes are some of my favorite hiking shoes for men out there.
The Moab 2 low also comes in a non-waterproof version.
For even more hiking-related awesomeness, check out my in-depth review of the best hiking boots to take traveling here.
Best Shoes for Backpacking in Hot Climates (Men)
In recent years, Adidas has expanded into a whole new line of adventure footwear. The Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX shoes are ultralight, waterproof, attractive, and designed to crush warm-climate travels.
Now I say that these shoes are best for backpacking South East Asia, but really they are perfect in any warm region of the world.
From my experience, I only wore actual shoes about 50% of the time I was backpacking around South East Asia. That said, when the time came to do some trekking, visit cities, or head to the jungle, I absolutely needed a decent pair to throw on.
A big advantage is that the Terrek Swift R2 GTX shoes is that they are light and super flexible. If you are only carrying a 40 liter backpack, you can easily strap them to the outside or if you don’t have a ton of stuff, even fit them inside the backpack.
Of course, the Gore-Tex lining will keep your shoes waterproof and breathable for the days where you head out into the mountains and jungle.
All said, the Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX shoes will keep your feet happy while you are backpacking your way around the warmer parts of our planet.
Best Walking Shoes for Travel (Men)
If you have ever done even a little bit of backpacking abroad before, you know that you often walk. Like, a lot. Having the best walking shoes for travel—the Vasque Grand Traverse— will help your feet stay comfortable during all day sight seeing escapades.
Whilst not a shoe I would recommend for long distance hikes, the Grand Traverse is certainly up to the challenge of walking around cities and even extended day hikes.
I really like that the Grand Traverse shoes were meant to take a beating. The come equipped with Vibram Ibex soles which are molded with two grippy rubber compounds—Idrogrip for wet-rock traction and Megagrip for maintaining balance. I’m into that; you will be too.
For the best walking shoes for travel, look no further than the Vasque Grand Traverse.
Overall Best Travel Shoes for Women
Well it is about time I cover the best traveling shoes for women in this review! Since, I am a dude, I have reached out to a few trusted female travel experts/friends of mine who have provided me with more than enough feedback to present you this my top picks for the best travel shoes for women.
First up on my list is my top choice for the best overall travel shoes for women: the Salomon X Ultra 3 Low GTX hiking shoes.
For long, tiring days of travel the Ortholite sock liners combine a specific Ortholite foam with the contoured EVA heel cups for enhanced heel support and cushioning. Furthermore, they were sculpted specifically for women’s feet with the intention of preventing slippage and chaffing after prolonged use.
To deal with some of life’s wild cards, the mud guards and integrated rubber toe caps provide durable protection from roots and rocks. These boots also come with Gore-Tex protection to keep your feet dry and happy.
For adventurous ladies seeking fully-functional, versatile travel shoes that will cover your bases from the city to the mountains, the Salomon X Ultra 3 Low hiking shoes are an excellent choice.
Th check out the cheaper, non-waterproof women’s Salomon X Ultra 2 Low hiking shoes here.
Top Travel Shoes for Hiking (Women)
For the best women’s shoes for hiking, my top pick are the KEEN Targhee III Mid WP boots.
Evolving from the beloved Targhee 2 model, the new Targhee III has received a few improvements that make these kickass boots even sweeter. The Targhee III Mid WP shoes are now leaner, tougher, and grittier for an even better hiking performance.
First off, the KEEN DRY waterproof breathable membranes keep feet dry while allowing perspiration to dissipate. Despite what society might tell you, ladies are just as prone to stinky, sweaty feet as men. To combat this the Targhee III shoes feature Cleansport NXT treatment to combat foot-funk odor.
The Targhee III provide great ankle support, traction, waterproof protection, breathability, and style points; it is easy to see why they are the best women’s shoes for hiking. Plus they are durable and can handle plenty of the inherent abuse any given backpacking journey will bring. Enjoy…
FYI I am not sure why these boots are so expensive on Amazon. Check out the KEEN website for the latest deals.
Best Shoes for Backpackin in Hot Climates (Women)
The Merrell Moab 2 WP (waterproof) shoes have made it back on my list, this time for the women’s model. The women’s Merrell Moab 2 WP offer up the same awesome features as the men’s version, with female-specific tweaks to crush your travels like a pro.
Again, the Moab 2 WP shoes are not only good for a South East Asia backpacking trip – they kickass in most 3-season conditions! However, they perform exceptionally well in warm climates.
They feature great shock absorption, waterproof protection, ventilation qualities, and a low, sleek cut that won’t crowd you backpack too much when not in use.
For women backpacking in hot/wet climates, the Moab 2 WP are great because they really do breathe, are light, and can provide for an excellent hiking experience in the cities, jungles/mountains of Colombia or Thailand (or where ever the jungle may be).
When backpacking in South America or South East Asia, you’ll probably find yourself in sandals a lot of the time. That said, you will absolutely want to have an awesome pair of shoes for traveling, like the Moab 2 WP model. With these, you’ll tackle any and all adventure opportunities that may come up.
Best Walking Shoes for Travel (Women)
For that, you’ll need the best walking shoes for travel even if you are not into hiking much. Enter the Oboz Sawtooth Low Cut shoes.
Like any good walking shoes for travel, cushion and support are very important. The supportive BFit deluxe insoles are engineered for fitting and comfort. Also, the dual-density EVA midsoles and nylon shanks provide cushioning and ankle support. The ankle support is not as good as a higher cut shoe, but the Oboz Sawtooth Low model provides decent support all the same.
When considering all your daily walking needs, you can’t go wrong with the Oboz Sawooth Low hiking shoes. Even better – when the opportunity to do a couple of day hikes presents itself, you’ll be ready. Very ready.
For women travelers, the Oboz Sawooth Low shoes are the best walking shoes for travel on my list. Get stoked!
|Travel Shoe (Men's)||Weight||Waterproof?||Good for hiking?||Price|
|North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX||1 lb. 14 oz.||Yes||Yes||$120.00|
|Merrell Moab 2 WP Low||2 lbs. 1 oz.||Yes||Yes||$120.00|
|Addidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX Low||1 lbs. 8 oz.||Yes||Yes||$135.00|
|Vasque Grand Traverse||1 lb. 10 oz.||No||Yes||119.95|
|Travel Shoe (Women's)|
|Salomon X Ultra 3 Low GTX||1 lb. 7.2 oz||Yes||Yes||$150.00|
|KEEN Targhee III Mid WP||1 lb. 12.4 oz.||Yes||Yes||$144.95|
|Women's Merrell Moab 2 WP||1 lb. 12 oz.||Yes||Yes||$120.00|
|Oboz Sawtooth Low Cut||1 lb. 11.6 oz.||No||Yes||$110.00|
How to Choose the Best Shoes for Travel: Buying Advice
Now that you have seen my top picks for the best travel shoes, we will further explore the factors that go into buying the right pair.
Depending on the type of backpacking adventure you plan on embarking on, you’ll need the best shoes for the job – a pair that can meet the demands of your own preference and plans.
Let’s now examine some of the important things to consider when buying your next pair of shoes to take backpacking…
Above all else, the best travel shoes should have the necessary performance and be able to meet your needs. If you plan on going to New Zealand or Nepal and doing heaps of hiking, you’ll most likely need a sturdy pair of hiking boots. Backpacking Europe on your itinerary? You’ll need the best walking shoes for traveling around Paris, Rome, and wherever else.
Point being, you’ll need realistic expectations for your shoes. Many experienced travelers have a favorite pair of shoes for traveling that they buy over and over again. For me, it is the Merrell Moab 2 WP Low hiking shoes. I love them, and can’t get enough.
Be honest with your self and go with shoes that leave the door open for a wide range of adventures. Some do lean towards better performance in different categories but all of the top shoes on my list are versatile. Finding the right balance of performance is crucial and they key to long term happiness on any backpacking adventure.
After dialing in what type of performance you are seeking in a travel shoe, comfort is an obvious close second.
Most shoes these days are blessed with plenty of cushion and padding but the exact fit each pair offers varies wildly. Some tend to be narrow, while others are meant for wider feet. The lighter the shoes, the likelier it is to have less padding.
Top Comfort Tip: Consider buying a full size (or at least a half size) larger than you normally wear. The purpose of doing this is to allow room for your feet to swell over the course of a busy day. In the hiking boots world, it is standard practice to go a size up.
For the first half of my adult life, I wore a size 10. Now, whether I am buying shoes for traveling or hiking, I always go with size 11. My feet never feel cramped and they also don’t feel loose or too big.
Everybody’s feet are different, so maybe go a half a size bigger at first and go from there.
Weight it typically tied to both performance and comfort. You’ll want your travel footwear to be relatively lightweight because, when not in use, they will be inside your backpack. The last thing you want is super heavy, bulky travel boots cramping your style.
If you are traveling around South East Asia or another warm part of the world, I recommend going as light as possible. The reality is you’ll probably only be wearing shoes for half the time anyway when visiting hot climates.
A higher performing hiking/travel boot will of course weigh more. Don’t go for ultralight flimsy shoes if your backpacking trip will revolve around lots of hiking. The good news is that all of the hiking shoes on my list are lightweight and will serve you well whether you’re trekking or in town.
Even a midweight models like the women’s KEEN Targhee III Mid WP hiking shoes only weigh 1 lb. 12.4 oz. per pair! If that isn’t a great weight to performance ration I don’t know what is.
Countless beaches, cities, jungles, forests, train stations, airports, hostels, Airbnbs, small towns, and everywhere in between. These are the places you are likely to haul your rucksack to on any given backpacking trip. In order to have your travel shoe choice integrate seamlessly into your backpacking gear kit, you’ll need them to match what your packing system.
What I mean is, if you are an ultra minimalist traveler (or at least trying to be) you don’t need me to tell you that buying massive travel boots, that you have no hope of actually fitting in your 30 liter backpack, is a bad idea.
When not in use you’ll need a spot to store your shoes. For long term travelers, going with something lightweight, flexible, and versatile is the obvious way to go.
In terms of packability, the North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTXs are a great example of what we like. They will serve you well in a variety of situations without bogging you down with a burden in your backpack.
Going with waterproof shoes is a personal choice. Some people say that waterproof materials tend to have poor breathability, which then causes your socks to get more sweaty faster. For these people, sweaty feet is apparently an issue.
For me personally, I don’t notice much of difference in terms of breathability. My feet just sweat and it is a fact of life I live with while traveling or doing anything else. I prefer to have waterproof shoes because I also do lots of trekking and sometimes have to cross a river. In the end, sweaty feet are better than soaking feet.
Waterproof shoes also tend to be more expensive and weigh more. That said, they are freaking awesome to have when conditions turn wet, even in a city. You will have noticed that a majority of the shoes on my list are indeed waterproof.
The good news is that if you are not so keen to have waterproof shoes, most models featured in this review have cheaper, non-waterproof alternatives. These are basically the same exact travel shoe minus the Gore-Tex.
Breaking in Your Traveling Boots
I don’t know how many times I have heard backpackers say “Ahh these shoes are so damn uncomfortable!” Usually, they are talking about shoes they have just put on out of the box.
For most hiking boots, YOU NEED TO BREAK THEM IN. This isn’t always true for lightweight/flimsy shoes but the break-in period should certainly be on your radar.
Indeed, some shoes for traveling may straight-up feel uncomfortable, even after breaking them in. In that case, clearly the shoes are not meant for you. The good news is that a lot of retailers, like REI, have an awesome exchange policy. You can take the shoes back even after you have worn them should they not fit right.
Point being, you need to break in your shoes before traveling to achieve the right fit. It is as simply as that.
If you plan on going on a backpacking trip, take a few weeks to break in your shoes. Wear them every day or go on a few small walks and see how they feel. That way, you can avoid many problems and the inevitable disappointment that will result from wearing shoes that were not properly broken in and/or do not fit right.
After saying all that I have about breaking in your shoes, I’ll add this: the Merrell Moab 2 WP Low hiking shoes have always felt great right out of the box for me. I can pop them on my feet right after receiving them and head up a mountain with no problems. But again, everyone is different and I certainly would not assume other shoes will be the same.
Costs and Budgets
Most of the shoes featured in this travel shoe guide are neither super cheap nor super expensive. For non-technical, high-performing shoes, you’ll probably end up spending between $120 – $160 for a good pair and even less if they are not waterproof.
High-quality shoes for traveling just cost money. Not lots of money, but enough for you to notice and expect great things from them.
Just ask Mimi over at Atlas Heart about her new Tieks shoes: she hesitated to buy them at first because of the pricetage but has since gotten more than enough use of them to justify the price.
Of course, you can find a cheap pair of backpacking shoes for $30. If you just want something to cover your bare feet and nothing else, going with a budget pair of shoes for traveling might work for you… for a while.
Don’t be surprised when they start falling apart on you within a couple of weeks though.
I’ll end with this: if you spend the money on quality, high performing shoes for travel, you can assume that you will be reaping the associated benefits. Having the right pair that fit great and feel comfortable day after day is so damn crucial that I will repeat it again.
In my opinion, investing in a quality pair of backpacking shoes the first time around is always the way to go.
Bonus Tips for Using Your New Pair of Shoes
Here are a couple of extra words of advice for getting the most out of your traveling shoes!
- If your pair of hiking boots look a little beat-up, don’t throw them out immediately. Try fixing them yourself first or take them to a cobbler. I’ve seen shoe repairmen work wonders.
- Don’t wear boots to an American airport – it’s a nightmare getting those suckers on and off.
- Attach your boots to your backpack using a carabiner. If you have a small pair of traveling shoes, stick them in the water bottle pouch.
- Avoid submerging non-waterproof shoes in water because it can take hours for them to dry. Take them off before crossing deep rivers or streams.
- Socks are almost just as important as shoes! Get a good heavy pair if you’re trekking in colder climates and a light pair for hotter ones. If either has the ability to wick away moisture, great! If you only use sandals, we suggest traveling to Germany then.
- No matter what shoes you choose for travel, pack a pair of sandals with you as well. Just remember that they aren’t meant for every activity.
Well there you have it amigos. We have arrived at the final act of my best travel shoe review.
As you now know, finding the absolute best pair of shoes for traveling in an ocean of footwear is a challenge. The last thing you want is to end up with a shit pair of shoes for backpacking around God knows where!
I want your traveling shoes to be so damn comfortable and practical that you forget about them completely. That way you can focus on what’s really important: exploring new places, conquering new mountains, and make awesome memories along the way.
After reading this review, you are now in full possession of the absolute best, most versatile travel shoe options around. Which ever travel shoes you end up going with, you can purchase them with the confidence knowing that I have turned over every stone in search of only the best shoes for backpackers.
If you are still unsure about which traveling shoes to go with, I recommend going with my top picks for the overall best…
- For men, you can’t go wrong with the North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX shoes.
- For women, it’s the Salomon X Ultra 3 Low GTX shoes.
Don’t agree with my choices? Post your own favorite backpacking shoes in the comment section below and tell me why you love them!
Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a set of trekking poles, or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.”
Need More Inspiration?
- Best Hiking Boots for Traveling
- The Definitive Guide to Ultralight Backpacks
- Best Hiking Backpacks
- Best Waterproof Boots for Men
- Keen Targhee II Review
- Best Travel Sandals
- Best Bouldering Shoes
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Chris Lininger is a writer, photographer, and guide from California. He is an advocate for off-beat responsible travel and the preservation of the world’s wild places and spaces. Chris is also a founding member of Epic Backpacker Tours and leads expeditions to Pakistan throughout the year. He is currently riding out the pandemic in Bali. Follow his adventures on Instagram.