Best walking shoes

This item appears on page 41 of the December 2009 issue.

We printed readers’ letters about their favorite walking shoes (May ’09, pg. 44), which prompted a few more responses. Have another recommendation? 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 plus your phone number.

My husband, John, and I discovered Comfort Mocs ($29.95 plus shipping) through L.L. Bean (800/441-5713, several years ago when we ordered them for a winter trip to China.

We found them to be comfortable, lightweight, waterproof and surefooted, even when we were climbing up the Great Wall in several inches of ice and snow. We have worn them on many overseas trips since then for everything from city walks to light hiking. We also wear them around home.

We have always ordered the suede leather Mocs, but they are also available in smooth leather and canvas and in slides.

They do stretch out a little with wear, so I wear my new pair with light socks in warm weather and the older pair with heavier winter socks for cold weather. (We prefer mid- to heavy-weight wool Trekker Socks by Rohner from Sierra Trading Post for $9.50.)

Sandra Hicks

Tehachapi, CA

I cast my Best Walking Shoes vote for Keens (866/676-5336, I have worn Keens since 2000.

We like to hike in Hawaii to remote beaches, which often are accessed over lava rock. Because Keens have the toe guards and cradle the feet, we have never once lost footing or gotten scratched. We walked through the water without slipping.

On a 23-day trip to Southeast Asia in January-February ’09, I wore my Keens daily from 7 a.m. till 10 p.m. When my feet got cold, I added socks.

My husband started out wearing New Balance and got blisters in his toes and heels. He switched to his Keens Newports, with socks, and was fine from then on. He dumped the New Balance shoes in the hotel wastebasket and never looked back.

The hotels didn’t have a problem with Keens, even in the dining rooms. We dressed appropriately and they didn’t even blink at our feet.

I have a pair of Keens slip-on clogs that I wear when I want to be a little taller. I also walk my dog in them.

About socks, I wear only SmartWool (888/879-9665, these days. They have kept my feet comfortable, whether it is 4°F in Paris or 100° in Arizona.

Cotton gets hard like sandpaper when it is wet. It stretches as you walk, and if your feet sweat even a little, that extra fabric forms a fold that rubs and irritates the skin, forming a blister in that spot. But wool maintains its loft; even when wet, it remains soft and comfortable.

The SmartWool blend doesn’t stretch and is antimicrobial. The socks come in great colors and styles for both summer and winter.

Shea Moss

Los Gatos, CA

When we cruised to Alaska in 1995, I bought my first pair of Mephisto walking shoes at the suggestion of the manager of a shoe store. They’re still in great shape, and I love them dearly.

I’m glad to know Mephisto will resole them for $95 when they need it.

Kathy Wheale

Greenville, SC

Fifteen years ago (in 1994), when planning a 35-day trip to Turkey that would involve an exceptional amount of hiking and climbing, I decided to buy a new pair of shoes expressly for the trip. I had in mind a pair of Rockports, and I went to a store that had a Rockport logo painted on its window.

The salesman immediately brought out precisely what I had requested and I was prepared to buy them on the spot, then I began telling him about the trip. The guy was a super salesman and convinced me that the only shoe for me was the Remy model from Mephisto (708/524-0321,

He spoke very persuasively of the shoe’s design, durability, reparability and restorability. Half an hour later I walked out with the most expensive pair of shoes I had ever owned up until that point. I felt rather ridiculous. How had I let this “con man” talk me into spending $325 on a pair of Mephistos when I had gone in looking for a $35 pair of Rockports?!

I’m so glad I didn’t go back for a refund. Those Mephisto shoes made it possible for me to walk almost tirelessly all over Turkey, culminating with a trek to the top of awesome Nemrut Dag. Moreover, after 35 days of rugged and constant use, they still were as good as new.

They have since seen service in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Nepal, Portugal, Spain and 34 American states (with, even, a trip to Death Valley). During that interval, I’ve sent them in for refurbishing twice. When they are returned from that process, they still look as good as new and they’re still unsurpassed for hiking.

During that same interval, I bought another 11 pairs of Mephisto shoes (including two more pairs of Remys), and I’ve been extremely well satisfied with all of them. When I last looked for Remys, I was told that Mephisto no longer produces them but that their Match design is almost identical; I have not bought a pair of those yet.

I’m NOT a shoe freak, by any means, but, as far as I’m concerned, Mephisto blows away the competition.

Jim Hunt

Los Angeles, CA

I use two types of walking shoes, depending on the type and place of my trip. My favorite regular walking shoes are ProWalkers (aka World Tour Walking Shoe) by Rockport ( I like it because it comes in off-white and black and doesn’t stand out as much as the usual bulky, white athletic shoes. I use the off-white for spring and summer and switch to black in fall and winter. Some of them come in a waterproof finish — a nice addition for bad weather.

These don’t look like many walking shoes that are made for serious walking; they are quite bulky looking. Once when I could not find my size in a woman’s shoe, the salesperson suggested I try a man’s shoe in a comparable size, and I found that to be more comfortable since it has a wider toe area.

They are available at Rockport stores, some department stores, some outlet centers and online. I usually check the outlets, as they often have some kind of sale. Depending on the sale, the walking shoes run $60-$80.

Salomon ( made a great lightweight hiking shoe that I also found very comfortable. I have a pair of Contagrips that I bought in 2000 for a trip to Angkor Wat, where I knew I would need sure footing. They have a good tread and thick sole and are great for walking on uneven terrain and around archaeological sites. They keep my feet dry when walking in rain or in wet areas. They also have a pull-tab on the back of the heel to help in getting them on.

Although they no longer make that Contagrip model, I went to a local dealer this April and a salesperson showed me a Salomon all-sport trail shoe which is similar to mine but has a thicker sole that is good for cobblestones, etc. It cost about $100.

Salomons are available at REI and other outdoor stores. Those stores usually have very knowledgeable salespeople who can help people find what they need for particular activities. They know their stock and you get what you pay for.

My best advice for anyone is to buy what is comfortable when you try it on — don’t expect it to get better.

If you use inserts, try new shoes with them inserted so you know how it will feel. I have learned in my years of travel that comfort is more important than looks, and wearing heels on cobblestones is inviting a fall.

Well before you leave, wear the shoes. That way you know they are comfortable. If your feet hurt, you won’t enjoy the trip.

I don’t recommend buying shoes online unless you have tried wearing the same model before.

Always take an extra pair of walking shoes in case one gets wet and to allow them to have a day of rest!

Judy Burr

Kensington, MD