Best walking shoes

This item appears on page 44 of the May 2009 issue.

Here is the assignment we gave you a few months ago.

Write in about the walking shoes you have found to be the most comfortable. Give a description, including brand name, and tell what you like about them and in what ways they are ideal for travelers — plus any drawbacks. Perhaps you pack two pairs, for different situations. If possible, tell us where you found the shoes or where they can be purchased (include any available contact info) and the approximate price.

And while we’re at it, what about socks and stockings? What types are the most desirable and why, and where do you find them?

Below are responses received. If you have something to add, write to Best Walking Shoes, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail Include the address at which you receive ITN and, for last-minute questions, your phone number, please.

Bill Kizorek talking to soldiers who guard silverback gorilla families in Kahuzi-Biéga National Park, Dem. Rep. of Congo (spring 2007). Photo: Caroline Howser

I am a guide at Hearst Castle near San Simeon, California, where I work up to 10 hours a day, climb up and down 1,000 stairs a day and must wear black, polishable shoes. The first few years of vanity nearly did me in, then I made a visit to a San Louis Obispo shoe store with a “Help!” request.

I was shown lace-ups from SAS, or San Antonio Shoemakers (877/782-7463, I said I was too young to wear shoes like that. Ha! I put them on and have been wearing them ever since… eventually with the addition of orthotics, vanity be damned!

I often take an extra, dressier pair on trips, but it seems I never put them on.

(Women’s SAS shoes cost $99-$138 and men’s, $146-$164. SAS shoes are not sold online; inquire about store locations.)

Hollie Stotter

Cambria, CA

My wife and I enjoy international travel, especially to Europe, and walking is central to our pleasure. I am now 78, and about 15 years ago I began to experience a lot of pain when walking. It became severe enough to interfere with our travel activities.

One day I read a mention of a shoe said to be the best ever for travel. It was made by San Antonio Shoemakers. Though skeptical, I bought a pair and, to my astonishment, I could walk without pain. I was so pleased that I bought, believe it or not, five additional pairs as insurance against the manufacturer’s going out of business! I now wear them all the time, not just when traveling.

SAS shoes retail for about $120. Though they cannot be resoled, I have found the leather uppers and thick soles to be durable and long lasting.

The shoes are lightweight and well cushioned as well as ventilated. They come in lace-up and slip-on styles, the latter being especially practical in airport security lines. They have a moccasin-like appearance but can be worn in fairly formal settings.

Without them, my walking at home and abroad would be seriously curtailed.

Alvin G. Burstein

Mandeville, LA

Without question, the best walking shoes I have found over the many years I have traveled are SAS shoes. I purchased these some years ago in San Antonio.

I use the black suede lace-up style. Considering how well these shoes serve me on trips, having to take these off to go through airport security is a minor inconvenience.

The shoes are somewhat padded; therefore, they protect one’s feet from cobblestones, wet weather and cold. They are sturdily built, have rubber soles and are constructed with a roomy “toe box.” SAS shoes are recommended by orthopedic doctors, podiatrists and endocrinologists (for diabetic conditions).

These shoes are easy to clean if they are scuffed with dust or mud, and I have never had to mend or repair them.

The “building block” of my carry-on wardrobe is black (slacks, jeans and skirt). The black suede shoes suit me fine, and I don’t feel they look fuddy-duddy. On tours, I wear them with plain black cotton socks (from Wal-Mart).

For the times I need to have a more dressy shoe style — say, for a captain’s dinner — I also pack a pair of black leather flats from Nine West (800/999-1877, (Flats range from $69 to $150.)

Diane Matthews

Fredericksburg, TX

There’s no doubt about the best shoes for me: SAS Whisper oxfords. Providing good support and having a high toe box, they are NEVER uncomfortable. I have them in four colors.

Theresa Egan

Odenton, MD

At a clearance warehouse some years ago I purchased a pair of women’s slip-ons, Propét Walkers (800/877-6738, Since that time, I’ve been unable to find them there, so I order them online for their regular price of around $59.95.

The ones I prefer have black leather tops. They are dressy enough to continue wearing into the evening at restaurants, etc. (which was not true of the athletic shoes I once wore).

I belong to Volksport, a 10K walking club, and for these walks I use these shoes exclusively. They have climbed many hills and stairs in Iran, Mongolia, Silk Road countries, etc. They can be machine washed and last a really long time. Since they slip off and on, they are perfect for airports.

Sandy Crist

Chevy Chase, MD

I have been using Comfort-Lites™ Casual Walkers from Haband (800/742-2263, for more years than I can remember, and they are by far the most comfortable shoes that I have found. They look good enough to wear for dress, too, not to mention how easily they can be removed at airport security!

The current pair I’m using is over two years old and shows hardly any wear. I use them when not traveling, also. They retail for $39.99.

Slayden H. Harris

Saint Louis, MO

My best walking shoes are Rieker® Anti-Stress Walking Shoes (based in Lucerne, Switzerland;, at about $95, and also Josef Seibel, the European Comfort Shoe (888/777-4174,, at $123-$143.

These are not serious hiking shoes, but they do well on poor street surfaces. They look like what the locals are wearing and are truly an 8-hour shoe.

The catalogs Magellan’s (800/962-4943, and TravelSmith (800/950-1600, have them, and they’re also very easy to find in shoe stores in Europe.

Barbara Henderson

Lake Mary, FL

A trip my husband, Alan, and I were to make to China in 2008 was to include some rough terrain and long climbs in the mountains of Yunnan Province, so we knew we needed shoes with a good grip and absolute comfort. We both bought Receptor-line outdoor walking shoes made by ECCO Internet, Inc. (877/240-2365,

At Shoe Fitters at the mall, my husband bought one pair in black/brown and went back the week after to purchase the black/blue ($120-$130), saying he had never had such immediately comfortable shoes (and he was a runner for many years). I followed by buying a slightly different model for myself plus a more city-looking walking pair (each $100).

I had to look high and low for these shoes in the platinum shade I wanted and found them at Shoe Mania in New York (, where I received great service. They charged list price but no sales tax, and shipping was free. (Men’s ECCO shoes cost $150-$200 and women’s, $100-$140.)

We are extremely happy with our choices and recommend the ECCO brand heartily.

Micette Klaw

Rio Rancho, NM

I could walk “forever” in ECCO Track Shoes and not be tired. They cost about $150 a pair.

The socks I wear are SmartWool (888/879-9665, or wool socks from Wigwam Mills (Sheboygan, WI; 920/783-1000, www.wigwamcom). They are comfortable and allow water (sweat) to evaporate, so they don’t retain moisture.

Mims Aultman

Washington, DC

I have narrow feet and have a difficult time finding shoes that fit and are comfortable. In early 2008 I bought a pair of ECCO Performance Lhagba. Although they are not a narrow size, I can lace them tight and wear thick socks and my feet do not move around in them.

These have made four trips to Europe and walked over many a cobblestone. They have thick soles so that, after a day of walking, my feet aren’t crying, yet the shoe is not heavy. They also have Gore-Tex, so my feet stayed dry through a pouring, all-day rain in Rome.

On, the sale price is $100. The original price is $129.95. (The ECCO Performance Lhagba has been replaced with the RXP 1660, costing $85-$100.)

Pat Munroe

Charlotte, NC

I always had very narrow feet until after five pregnancies, which left my forefeet spread but not my heels. After many years of trying shoes, I found rykä (888/834-7952, shoes for women with wide forefeet and narrow heels. Now I don’t have to put some sort of inserts in the shoe heel so that my feet don’t slip.

I walk a lot when traveling, often on cobblestones in “old towns,” and my rykä walking shoes hold up well. I never end the day with sore feet or blisters.

I can buy them online from rykä for $69-$80 or online at a nice discount from Sierra Trading Post (800/713-4534,

Nona Tyler

Loveland, CO

I have a narrow foot, triple A, and was able to find a wonderful running shoe by New Balance (800/253-7463, Model 852 (the current model is 859, at $110) has an Abzorb cushion on the ball of the foot and something called “rollbar” in the arch.

These shoes are made of leather but with a mesh webbing across the instep. They’re very lightweight and dry off easily. The only drawback, as with any walking shoe, is that they are bulky to pack, so I always wear them onto the plane.

I found these for $89 in the FootSmart (800/870-7149, catalog. This is a wonderful resource for walking shoes, footcare products for travel and travel socks.

For visiting temples in Asia, I have yet to find a good walking shoe — in narrow sizes — to slip in and out of. Any suggestions?

Claudia Reed

Las Vegas, NV

For traveling, I wear a pair of loose-fitting loafers that can be slipped on and off easily and are nice enough to wear out to dinner.

These loafers do not have enough cushion or support for long walks, so I also pack a good pair of walking shoes. My favorite is the New Balance AL-1 Country Walking Shoe.

If rough surfaces or steep hills are expected, I take trail shoes for more support and traction. For this, I like the Vasque 7670 style (800/224-4453,, which is good for any terrain but is not as heavy or bulky as a boot.

Both types of walking shoes can be bought at REI (800/426-4840, or another outdoor supplier.

I don’t recommend mail order because fit is critical and sizes are not always consistent among models and makers. It is a good idea to walk a few laps around the store to test for comfort.

Andy Beall

Santa Ana, CA

Regarding walking shoes and socks, one should not assume that just because a brand is suitable for one person it will also be optimal for others. I learned this from a clerk at Adventure 16 (San Diego, CA; 619/283-2374,, a Southern California outdoor outfitter, while shopping for shoes for a trip.

The clerk, who had been to shoe-fitting school (no joke), took about nine measurements of my foot and said I had a foot best suited for shoes by Lowa (888/335-5692, He also showed me how my foot and leg connected with a very different shape than did his; this makes a big difference in determining which brands are best for a person.

Eventually, I bought two pairs of Lowa shoes and a pair of Vasques. At the time, two years ago, each pair cost between $75 and $100.

Each pair also had an insert, by Superfeet, which was warmed and then shaped to my feet at Adventure-16.

Regarding socks, I have one toe that tends to want to overlap with the next toe. The clerk at Adventure-16 suggested that I try the socks that are like gloves, in the sense that each toe has its own cover, saying they might stop the overlapping. I used the three pairs of shoes and the toe socks on my trip and they all have been fabulous choices.

In my opinion, my type of foot problems and toe alignment were also helped by Rolfing therapy (

Lyndelle Fairlie

San Diego, CA

The best shoe for walking anywhere is the Swedish-made tennis shoe Tretorn Nylite Canvas (New York, NY; 646/454-9680, It costs $50-$65 a pair, depending on the store. I get them on the Internet, mainly from

Zappos has free shipping, which makes it easier to return anything if it doesn’t fit right. Once you get your size correct, you can order others without worrying.

The only drawback to these “slipper feel” shoes is they come in white. I spray them with a waterproof spray which helps them keep their whiteness a little better. They are washable, but the ones with red do run.

I always have leftover tennis shoes from my tennis playing, so on trips I just wear the worn ones and then toss them in the wastebasket before my return flight.

The best socks to wear are Thorlos (888/846-7567,, which have extra padding on the bottom. With a choice of types, these socks run around $13 a pair.

Phyllis Mueller

San Jose, CA

Without a doubt, my Havana Joe’s (800/848-2774, are my best walking/travel shoes. I originally bought them at Nordstrom and have reordered them at after knowing my size.

They are ankle-high, laced “boot” type shoes — not pretty but gorgeously padded inside and sturdy. They’re handsome in a practical way and, with a matte finish, no polish is required. Regarding wear, they’re like iron.

When others are moaning about their aching feet, I am happy and endlessly comfortable in my sturdy Havana Joe’s, and I praise them to any and all who will listen. I wear them all winter for warmth and comfort every day as well as when I travel. As I recall, they cost under $200.

For summer weight, I bought leather huaraches online from Brand X Huaraches (Berkeley, CA; 510/658-9006, www.brandx for approximately $60. They stretch in heat and my feet stay cool.

Sally Worthing

Fair Oaks, CA

When traveling, I always take one pair or, preferably, two pairs of SAS Duo sandals. The buckles on these sandals allow me to adjust their width when my feet swell on airplanes. Also, they are extremely durable and lightweight and have padded rubber soles which cushion my feet from hard walking surfaces while keeping me safe on slippery paths.

While they are not super-dressy, I wear them for both daytime exploring and evening activities. These shoes, billed as “America’s comfort shoes,” come in regular, narrow and wide and are available in black, “natural” and white. The last pair I purchased cost $86, less any sale pricing.

In addition to my sandals, I always take a pair of comfortable sneakers with good tread for more challenging terrains and wet, cold weather. At this moment, I have a pair of Asics GT 2120 running shoes from ASICS America Corp. (800/678-9435, My criterion is that they must have good arch support, be comfortable and have good tread. These retail at $95. I shop for these shoes at Sports Authority or a similar store.

Wanda Bahde

Summerfield, FL

When sandals are the appropriate walking shoes, I am a huge fan of Clarks Sunbeat 2 (Somerset, UK; In the US, visit Not only are they comfortable when walking on cobblestones or any other surface, they are very durable. One of my three pairs is 10 years old and has been worn on many trips on three continents.

These sandals have three adjustable straps to tailor the fit to your foot, so they work well for those with narrow or wide feet. They come in several colors, and you can find them in many stores or online. They cost $64.

Elizabeth Bass

DeKalb, IL

After trying all sorts of walking shoes in many price ranges, the solution I found is simple, durable, moderately priced and suitable for urban walking and also for somewhat “nicer” wear (restaurants, theater, etc.). In their level “2” athletic shoe, just about anything in my size from Easy Spirit (888/327-9772, works for me.

A level “2” shoe is medium heavy and fine for long-distance walking. It is not as padded as their heavier level “3” shoe, which is better for jogging or running.

I select the plainest dark color I can find (usually black) that is suitable for walking during the day and to wear with a nice pants outfit in the evening.

Easy Spirit athletic shoes at this level generally cost under $60, and often I can find exactly what I want on sale for under $40. They are good about returns, so if I’m trying a new model I do it several weeks in advance of a trip.

These are my main footwear, and since my size (Ladies 10) can be hard to find overseas, I don’t put them in checked luggage. I’ve never had to repair them.

I then adapt and upgrade these by inserting my own soft Lynco Orthotics insoles. These are sold at many stores and websites and come in many styles for different needs. The model I use helps with a knee problem; my chiropractor helped me choose it. The insoles cost around $50 a pair but last a long time and can be easily slipped in and out of different shoes.

For warm weather, I may add my old fisherman’s sandals from Mephisto (Oak Park, IL; 708/624-0321,, which have been refurbished a few times by Mephisto. I can easily walk long distances in these, and they are fine for somewhat dressier wear as well. In Indonesia I waded through rice paddies in them and later that night wore them out to dinner — a little damp but looking all right! (Mephisto sandals run about $200-$400.)

If I’ll be spending a lot of time at a beach or pool, I’ll take “Hawaiian style” rubber sandals, but they’re a bit heavy.

And, oh, yes, SmartWool socks in a medium-light thickness are the best. They are absorbent and not at all “itchy” and are hand or machine washable. The best cotton socks, by far, are made by Gold Toe ( (Socks of both brands cost about $15 a pair.)

Joan Levin

Chicago, IL

For many years, I have worn Mephisto’s Match-style shoes in nubuck (a suede-like leather). The shoe is leather lined and the arch support insole is removable. These shoes, which now cost $350, also come in leather, but I find the nubuck shoe to be more comfortable.

Although Mephisto also offers dress shoes, which I wear at times when home, I wear the Match-style shoe throughout my foreign travels, finding them comfortable under all circumstances.

The shoes last for what seems to be forever. When the heel wore down, I had my local shoe repairman install a triangular replacement for about $20. After doing this once or twice, I sent the shoes in a postage-free envelope, available from Mephisto dealers, to a Mephisto-authorized repair shop. For $95, the repair included replacement of the arch support and laces, a cleaning and repair of the leather. The shoes were returned postage-free.

The shoes are available at Mephisto stores and at Nordstrom. However, in Sarrebourg, France, there is a large factory store that sells some models of the shoe for about half price.

Jack Samuels

Solana Beach, CA

I wear Earth shoes (877/372-2814,, with a negative heel, every day! I can walk for hours and my feet and legs never tire. These shoes are great for the back, causing one to stand much straighter.

Depending on the type of trip, I wear the Energetic style (athletic type, at $109) or the urban hiker called Cypress. I also take a dressy pair called Pirouette ($119).

Earth shoes are not as “negative” as they were in the ’70s, and they also come in vegan. Prices range from $70 to $130. They come in M and W widths (sorry, no Ns). The best place to buy Earth shoes is online at or or at The Walking Company (800/642-9265,

I also take a pair of Birkenstock sandals (Novato, CA; 415/884-3200,

I’m a solo traveler with only a carry-on bag, so I limit myself to two pairs of shoes.

As for socks, I usually buy them from REI. I buy only those with no toe seam. I also keep my feet dry. I learned my lesson on a trip to Ireland when the sock toe seams and perspiration caused blisters.

Reba Klockgether

Fullerton, CA

The best shoes I have found are called MBT Shoes, made by Swiss Masai ( They remind me of the old Earth shoes, but they are wonderful for your knees and long-distance walking. They sell for about $250 and can be found on the Internet under “MBT Shoes” and at many shoe stores.

James P. Burns

Greendale, WI

In my opinion, you cannot obtain real comfort while wearing tennis shoes with a coat and tie! Someone’s always looking at you and saying, “Who’s the dude with the sneakers?” Of course, white clumpy Nikes would be okay with, say, tennis shorts and a sweater, but I have even seen professional people at important gatherings wearing them. Ugh!

To look dressy and still be comfortable, I suggest you purchase a pair (or two) of cushiony Supremes by Softspots from the Söfft Shoe Company (800/347-9339, or I started wearing them several years ago and bought my fourth pair — brown — in March ’09 for $125 at The Cobblers (Hayward, CA; 510/582-7761).

Anyway, hie thee off to any good footwear shoppe and ask for ’em… in black or brown.

By the way, Spenco shoe liners are excellent.

Bill O’Connell

Castro Valley, CA

Not only have I found the ultimate world traveling shoe, I have gotten to the point where I now travel with only one pair of shoes: my million-mile KEEN Newport H2s (866/676-5336, No, I don’t have a shoe fetish. Yes, I DO love my KEENs!

Bill Kizorek, KEENs on feet and tripod in hand, on the footpath to the Treasury in Petra, Jordan, in spring 2008. Photo by Jessica Kizorek

Just to set the scene, I am a 3-million-mile flyer on American Airlines, traveling massive amounts of miles as a producer of documentary films for charity. For the last million miles, over the last three years, I have filmed in the muddy jungles of Congo and Rwanda, the cocoa fields of Ghana, the deserts of Jordan and the rice paddies of Indonesia. For every hour of every day my feet were encased in the same pair of green shoes, my KEEN Newport H2s.

These 95-dollar shoes have protected my feet from sprained ankles, stubbed toes (patented toe protection) and, incredibly, stinky feet. The shoes are imbedded with something called Aegis Microbe Shield. After a trip, I throw them into the washing machine and they still look brand new.

The soles are still in such good shape, I think I could wear them for another million miles. I love this one pair so much, I bought five other different-colored Newports.

I swear that KEEN shoes have hidden microscopic suction cups in the soles. I never slip in them, even on a wet marble cathedral floor. For me, a guy who specializes in falling off curbs, these shoes keep me upright when I am not paying attention.

There is one, little, chronic, annoying thing about these shoes: after I pull the drawstring closed, the laces slowly begin to shift over, getting longer on one side as I walk. Eventually, I just tied an extra knot on the lace and now it works fine. KEEN’s customer support has sent me replacement laces.

Also, KEEN’s socks are outrageously designed and made for serious travelers.

Bill Kizorek

Lisle, IL

KEEN shoes and HEAD socks (offices worldwide,; in the US, call 423/568-2101 in Niota, TN) are the best combination I’ve found.

One pair of shoes will make it easily through a 2-week trip. And the socks are cushy and usable in hot or cold climates. They dry a little slower than a thinner sock, but it’s worth it.

The KEEN shoes have a broad toe, which makes them incredibly comfortable, and the rocker heel is better on the legs. My shoes cost around $100 two years ago. They are available at better shoe stores.

Mark A. Varnau

Indianapolis, IN

I like KEENs. No, I LOVE KEENs! I bought my first pair in 2003 and still wear them. I have had two knee replacements and can fit my orthotics in them! They look like gladiator shoes, but they’re soooo comfortable. We were in Switzerland and walked all over. You know how you want to take off your shoes at the end of the day? Well, I never felt I needed to.

Since then, I’ve bought three more pairs in different colors and styles. I got one pair of sturdier, warmer, leather oxford-type on sale. My original ones are now used on rainy days, in muddy areas and where I will be getting dirty. All these shoes were purchased at our local REI for between $85 and $95 a pair.

I love my KEENs and have struck up conversations with folks on our travels who are also wearing KEENs. We are a loyal group.

Annie Beall

Santa Ana, CA

For me there is only one brand of walking shoe that I travel with: KEEN! I take two pairs along with me to switch between. I find them to be extremely comfortable, which is the major factor in choosing shoes, especially for travel. They run about $45-$95.

As travelers know, you are on your feet for extended hours walking or climbing and if your feet are happy, so are you.

In addition, we KEEN wearers have a sort of sorority. Case in point — when we were in Greece, I approached a fellow traveler and we began to discuss our KEENs. Well, we became good friends, and she and her husband have since traveled to other destinations with us.

Marcia Weinick

Boynton Beach, FL

In our experience, the “best walking shoes” still need a little help from socks. “Comfort” is very individualistic, but once you have found a pair of study, supportive, comfortable shoes, wear them with two pairs of socks.

The outer sock should be the type you would normally wear, and underneath that wear a thin liner sock. The liner sock eliminates any friction that might occur between your foot and the sock/shoe, contact which normally causes blisters.

After adopting this method, I have NEVER had blisters.

Linda Ott

Lake Elmo, MN