If you are reading Distant Francophile regularly, there is a better than good chance that:
a) You love to travel (especially to France); and
b) You’d prefer to travel stylishly.
So with those two points in mind, I thought we should start this year with a little series on the essentials that make it easier to travel in style.
I would never dream of visiting France (or any other country for that matter) without the items I’ll share over the next few weeks. No matter your age, shape or destination – or where you are in your personal style journey – these bits and pieces will help to you to elevate your travel style game. Regardless of whether you are heading away for a weekend or a month.
So let’s get started with my first stylish essential – comfortable shoes. Basic? Yes. A given? Absolutely. Mundane even? Perhaps. But incredibly important just the same.
Travel Stylishly – With Comfortable Shoes
As I’m sitting here in Melbourne writing, I am imagining the various responses to the concept of comfortable shoes for stylish travel. Many of you will be thinking that there is no such thing. That the two are mutually exclusive. That you can have comfortable or stylish but you cannot have both.
Now I won’t pretend that the quest for comfortable, stylish shoes for travelling is an easy one. But with some thought and research you can find shoes that look good and keep your feet from causing you grief. Let’s face it, there is nothing stylish about blistered, sore feet. And the time you spend on this will be well worth it – aching feet are high on the list of holiday joy and adventure killers.
Let’s Look At Comfortable First…
Of course, each of us will define comfort personally, but for our purposes, let’s agree that comfortable shoes:
- Allow you to walk for miles. However, it is not enough to achieve that goal for just one day. You need to be able to walk in them for days on end.
- They don’t rub, cause blisters or any other foot related ailments.
- You can stand in them at length. It is surprising how often you find yourself standing around while you are travelling. Queues, museums and galleries immediately spring to mind. And standing can be tougher on your feet than walking!
- They can handle a variety of terrains and conditions. From wet cobbles to hot concrete and across slippery tiled floors.
Make sure you consider the material the shoe is made from when looking for comfortable travel shoes. Often synthetic materials can feel very hot on the feet. And while I’m on the topic, it is always worth considering ventilation (laser cut holes, a peep toe) especially if travelling to a warm climate.
Make sure you consider the weight of your shoes too. Even moderately heavy shoes start to feel like concrete blocks after a few hours of walking.
Lastly, while brand new shoes always look best, make sure you break new shoes in with a few wears prior to travelling. I promise your feet will thank you for it.
And Next, Stylish…
It’s a well know style fact that shoes can make or break an outfit. And that fact holds true when you are travelling.
My Oxford Dictionary tells me that the definition of stylish is ‘fashionable or elegant’. Now, again personal preferences will prevail here (and if you love them and find them comfortable then wear them I say) but I’d suggest that the following styles would be considered fashionable for travellers at the moment.
- Boots, either tall or ankle.
- Ballet flats, a perennial favourite.
- Sneakers. Once upon a time, sneakers would never have been considered stylish footwear. But those days are long gone.
- Sandals, particularly if you are headed beachside or somewhere warm.
Regardless of the style you choose, look for options that suit your proportions, visually elongate the leg (almond or pointed toes for example) and that can do double duty with both casual and dressy outfits.
When it comes to colour, neutrals are always a safe option. However a coloured shoe can add a highlight to an otherwise classic travel wardrobe. Your best bet is to ensure that your shoe and clothing shades complement each other, remembering that sometimes black shoes are just too heavy for lighter coloured outfits.
Travel can be tough on shoes. From getting squashed in our luggage through to getting scuffed on the streets, there is lots that can stop your shoes from looking their best – and in turn lead to your outfits looking less than fabulous. Utilising light foam shoe trees or stuff shoes with socks or paper can help them keep their shape in your case. And shoe cleaning wipes are a must for travelling in style.
Let’s Talk Heel Heights
I know that many of us just feel better wearing heels. And I know many women who bluntly refuse to wear flats.
However, when you are travelling, often heels are neither practical or comfortable – despite the fact that they might look amazing. Equally though, flats are sometimes simply too flat to be comfortable and don’t provide enough support.
This is where you might like to consider a low block or stacked heel, or alternatively, a low wedge. Low enough to be practical but with enough of a heel to feel good, they can be good options.
And if you are concerned that flat(ter) shoes just aren’t dressy enough for dinners in nice restaurants and the like, you might like to consider pointed toe, metallic or patent flat options which can add glamour without height.
Brands To Consider When Looking For Stylish Comfortable Shoes
Arche – A French company that gets excellent reviews. They have a wide variety of styles available, including boots and ballet flats. They can be somewhat pricey, but I noticed a great many pairs discounted on-line. I recently bought myself some flat boots from Arche and I’m looking forward to trying them – and reviewing them for you (after I’ve given them a decent work-out).
Cole Haan – A number of styles in this particular brand employ the same technology as sneakers. Friends of mine highly recommend these shoes for both work and play.
Duo Boots – Here you’ll find both ankle and taller styles in a wide range of calf sizes. They also provide excellent advice for getting a great fit. And correct fit is super important in terms of comfort. My own knee-high Duo boots have worked for me in Paris and New York and everywhere in between and are versatile enough to take me from day to night.
Everyday Sneaker Brands – Like New Balance, Nike and Adidas. Make sure you choose a version with good support for walking, remember that sneakers are made for different activities these days.
K Jacques – Another French brand specialising in hand-made, very comfortable sandals. Available in a wide variety of styles.
Skechers – While I’ve not tried the ‘Go Walk’ range, Distant Francophile readers have called them out in the past as being especially comfy.
Tieks – Brightly coloured ballet flats. I have not experienced this brand myself, but again I’ve seen great reviews.
One Final Thought – Travel Stylishly But Light
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of a heavy suitcase. And shoes can add both weight and bulk. For this reason, I try not to travel with more than two pairs of shoes. (A few years back I might have tried to travel with just a single pair, but over time, I’ve come to learn that two pairs not only give your feet a break, but also protects against soaked or damaged shoes).
When you elect to limit the number of shoes you travel with, you have to choose carefully. I tend to decide which shoes I’m travelling with and build my travel wardrobe around them, particularly when I’m travelling during variable weather. For tips on packing shoes for Paris, make sure you check out this post.
Do you have any comfortable footwear tips that help you to travel stylishly? If so, I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir.
Please note – this is an unsolicited post and no compensation of any kind has been received from any of the brands named.
Photo Credit: Haute Stock