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Backup pair of shoes needed - must work on cobblestones

Looking for a backup pair of shoes to pack for our trip to Italy in April. My main travel shoes are Brooks Ghost. I need black or charcoal, good on cobblestones and can wear out to dinner with nice slacks. I need to be able to at least walk several blocks with them. Ideally would have narrow heels and wider toe box. Foot issues include PF (currently in remission), Achilles tendonitis (mild at the moment) and a bunion, so support is important. I have Skechers Joy, which are very comfy, but past experience proved that they will not work on cobblestones. I have Ecco Soft 7, but it is a blue suede. Just bought the same in black leather but are much too snug. Also have Soft 7 slip-on but again too snug to wear for any length of time. Looked at Vionics (which usually work well for me) but the Winny appears to have some quality issues. If the weather were warmer, I might just pack some of my sandals and call it a day, but it will be too early in the season for that.

Does anyone with foot issues have experience with Cariuma, Allbirds or Kuru?

Is there a shoe that can work on my finicky feet, or am I indeed searching for a unicorn?

Posted by
2 posts

I have friends who wear Allbirds. They report them as being comfortable, but not supportive enough for a full day of walking.

Posted by
7581 posts

Might help if we know you are male, female, or if you have a preference. Where you are located (country) may help as well.

Posted by
6342 posts

Allbirds definitely do not have enough support, and are tricky to get the size right.

I've worn SAS shoes for years, ever since I was teaching, standing for hours on concrete floors. There are a wide range of styles, from sandals through what I still call tennis shoes, to dressy. I've worn several styles, but my default shoe is a lace-up loafer https://www.sasshoes.com/womens-take-time-lace-up-loafer/1690.html Very comfortable, and they look great with slacks.

Last year I got this one https://www.sasshoes.com/womens-alpine-non-slip-lace-up-boot/2230.html?dwvar_2230_color=013 because I was concerned about the notoriously slick cobbles in Lisbon and Porto. I recommend it highly, but it may not work for you, the heel being wider than in the other styles I've worn.

Oh, and they're actually made in the USA, believe it or not.

Posted by
7347 posts

I’m heading to Italy in May, and I will be wearing my black Rose design Keen sandals. They are wonderful on cobblestones - even the huge ones with larger gaps at Mantova, etc.

I used to also bring a pair of ballet flats, but they were always so limited on how far I could walk to dinner and afterwards, especially on uneven areas. I decided it was more important to keep my feet in good shape, and with long pants, they’re still okay.

Let us know if you find the unicorn! ; )

Update: I just looked in my closet, and I have a pair of Larisa flats by Dansko that you might want to check. They weigh 18oz. and have excellent support and a sturdy sole. Make sure anything you bring doesn’t have a sole you can curve up between your hands.

I took a pair of Abeo sandals as my 2nd shoe for evenings once, but the sole is too slippery. Any rain can make the cobblestones a little slippery.

Posted by
7581 posts

My wife has bad Plantar Fasciitis, and feet problems in general. She has found only Hoka shoes work for her, and a pair of shoes lasts just under a year. Their styles tend to be more athletic looking, as running shoes are their core product. But they do make some all black and solid colored shoes. You might look and see if something appeals.

Posted by
325 posts

Avoid Allbirds. Absolutely no support. Actually caused problems for me. My Cariuma's are cute and not at all supportive, so I wouldn't go that route. I love my Ecco's. I only wear them when I travel internationally, so I can prolong wearing them. I've decided that having shoes to wear with slacks for a nicer dinner is no long a priority since I travel light. I'm sacrificing style for the comfort of my Hoka's which has been a difficult mind shift, but made my feet happy. I do have a nice pair of Dansko that have been great for travel, and look decent enough with slacks for a nice dinner. Mine are just a bit heavy for the suitcase, but they have all types of styles.

The Walking Co carries the Ros Hommerson brand which seems to have all sorts of styles and foot/heel widths. I've never tried them.

Posted by
6603 posts

Ideally would have narrow heels and wider toe box.

You're describing my Oboz shoes. I found them 2 years ago and have since bought 2 more pair. The ones I have are the Oboz Low Leather shoes, which are perfect for me and don't look like a regular gym shoe. I love them because they have a wider toe box, narrower heel, very good arch support (I have PF also in remission) and just great support in general. I just love them. https://obozfootwear.com/

They also have other shoes that you might like to look at. For example, the Jeannette, which is more of a town shoe but still very supportive. It's a bit lighter in weight that the Low Leather. They're made in Bozeman, MT (hence the name) and you can find them online at the Oboz website, but they also carry them at REI and other good shoe stores (I found them at Benders here in Duluth).

Posted by
28 posts

If your main pair of shoes are the Brooks Ghost, you might consider the Brooks Adrenaline GTS. Both my wife and I have worn these to Europe in 2022 and 2023. We each take 2 pair and alternate each day. We have worn them all day with no problems including on cobblestones. The Adrenaline GTS provides more support for your foot than the Ghost. The fit is very similar to the Ghost but with the additional support. The Adrenaline GTS 22 is currently on sale.

Posted by
108 posts

I'm a fan of Merrell. They have a number of lace up shoes with Vibram soles which are anti slip, and they are also fairly lightweight.

I think they are currently having a sale. If you like the look of an athletic shoe, check out the Antora. I have a narrow heel and prefer a wider toe box, and these work for me, although I don't have any issues with PF.

Posted by
370 posts

I love my two styles of Oboz which I got after forum recommendations (I think it was you, Mardee). IThe two pairs I have are dark colors--black and dark blue. I would wear either style with nice slacks unless I had a lot of dress up occasions that warranted a dressier pair.

I have PF (remission), narrow heels and a wider toe box. I took my waterproof Oboz low Sypes last fall to Scotland (as my only pair of shoes). They are pretty stiff but my feel feel supported and there is room in the toebox. They do have noticeable lug bottoms.
I had planned to take my waterproof Bozeman mids (I have 2 pair and often wear them in the house for support) on my May trip to alternate with the Sypes. I find them more comfortable than the Sypes. However, the outer sole has a very low tread, and I slipped on ice when I was in BC this past weekend. I don't expect ice in England in May, but I think we may encounter some slickness on wet ground.

When I tried the Jeannette last fall, I could not get the ankle laced tight enough for me. I had too much heel slippage. The woman at REI showed that there are different ways to lace the shoes to make them fit better, but I didn't try. I liked the looks of them.

So, I really second Mardee's recommendation to try Oboz for the heel/toe fit, even if not for this trip. BTW, I was so thrilled with my Sypes last fall that I wanted to get two other colors from the Zappos markdowns. Unfortunately, the toe box was too narrow on all three sizes that I tried (kept ordering a size up. An insulated pair of Bozeman's were also too slim--purchased from Amazon. My original pair of Sypes were purchased from REI. My used Bozemans were from REI, and my 2nd pair of Bozemans were from Oboz. I'm wondering if Zappos got all the ones that were cut a little shy.

I also highly recommend looking at a variety of SAS for your feet. Although I haven't tried them lately, I always found them to be very comfortable. It's all my mom wore (AAA heel). The lace up loafers do have a reviewer who slipped on ice.
I like the look of the boot, which I see has a slip resistent bottom. I will have to take a look at those in person.

Posted by
193 posts

I've had good luck with Ryka shoes which are very comfortable and fit my wide feet. They have good support and I've even worn them hiking on rocky terrain.

Posted by
8732 posts

Huge fan of Keens. After years of standing 12-13 hours on film and TV sets had plantar fasciitis. Then I discovered Keen sandals and shoes.

Plantar fasciitis abated with in a day of wearing my Keen Targhee laceups….

The same pair I’ve had and traveled with for over a decade. Laces are fine, so is the tread. Slipped in a Dr Scholls insole. That pair has been to Belfast, Dublin, Havana, NYC, SF, London and Paris.

Now own 8 pairs of Keens. Lace ups, slip ons and sandals. Not inexpensive but I’ve never gotten a blister nor has the old plantar fasciitis reared its ugly head. So, for me, worth the expense. I’m also known to average 5-6 miles walking when I travel. Firm believer it’s the best way to explore and experience a destination.

Posted by
1491 posts

Does anyone have a pair of Oofos?

I currently wear a pair of El Naturalista Vocano boots and pack a pair of Keen sandals. I like the ankle support of the boots and they are the shoe that I wear everyday. I am going to Japan and thinking of ditching the boots. I don't like tennis shoes.

Posted by
833 posts

I love my Brooks Ghost sneakers and are my go to for traveling. I also have done well with Keen shoes over the years. I see they have come out with a KNX black leather sneaker that you might want to look at. I have a pair of Allbirds but like others have mentioned, they feel comfy for a bit and then they don’t.

Posted by
74 posts

For the last few years, I have been wearing sketchers Citidrive arch fit sneakers . I have a narrow foot and need good arch support. The Skechers sneakers are fantastic. My first pair I bought at the last minute when my favorites fell apart, and they were perfect for three weeks of walking miles and needed no break n period. I also need shock absorption to protect my back for so much walking. For sandals. I always bring a pair of Dansko sandals called Sophie. It has a rolling sole with good shock absorption, strong arch support, and two wide adjustable straps across the forefoot and no heel strap. With a narrow heel, there’s always the risk of blisters. I’ve walked all over Spain France and Italy in those Danskos and bought a new pair this summer for my next trip.

Good luck. Happy feet happy trip!

Posted by
6 posts

I too usually only take sandals when I travel and hike in warm weather. I am a big fan of the multi-adjustable strap Teva sandals which I have worn on all my Mediterranean and RS trips to Europe. Last year I also took along a pair of my ABEO sandals which are very comfortable and supportive but when I got caught in a rainstorm in Florence the foot-bed became very slippery when wet causing my foot to slip around inside the sandal and I lost my balance, - so I would caution these for that reason. This year I am doing RS 14 day Best of England in April but am going an extra 16 days to do the Normandy beaches and then do day hikes on the Southeast and Southwest coast trails. In anticipation of cooler and probable wet slippery conditions, I bought Oboz Ousel Low B dry waterproof shoes and QU (or UQ) Cloudhorizon waterproof shoes. i found both through REI (which has a great return policy if for some reason they don't work out). Both are lace up shoes with good traction and quite light which is important as I am only taking a backpack this year. I have been alternating wearing these around for two weeks locally walking and hiking and have found them to be very comfortable and supportive of my high arches and appreciate the wide toe box. Hope this along with the other advice helps you to find just the right shoe for your needs. Happy Travels!

Posted by
106 posts

I have suffered from PF as well and I have several pairs of Ecco soft 7. They can or cannot be comfortable all day depending upon certain things. 1) if the laces are too tight by even a smidge, then ouch!! 2) - the socks I wear make a HUGE difference. 3) - Taking out the top insert of the footbed inserts (it comes with two iINSIDE of the shoe to get a custom fit) I have a narrow heal and normal width in the toe area and like to wiggle my toes; I take out the top insert. 4) The Suede are more comfortable than the leather as they stretch out to the shape of your foot and you get a better fit.

I have worn them several times in Europe, over cobblestones with zero problems. If you like them, then go for them...(I also have the blue suede) Good luck!!!

Posted by
700 posts

I recently purchased a pair of Dansko Paisley shoes. They have vibram soles, so I think they would do well on cobblestones, although I haven't tested them. They are also waterproof. I have a narrow heel and wider front foot. They might not dress up as much as you want, although mine are all black so they blend in pretty well.

Posted by
162 posts

For me it is all about support, comfort and safety with a bit of concern for fashion. If I trip or fall, I want my shoes to stay on! Like LIZin PA, I also will swap out my laces to dress up my sneakers. I have 2 Eccos-dark marine blue and dark brick red. I've worn Ecco's on 5 trips to Europe, on wet cobblestones and the hills of Lisbon. Like Leslie I have Ryka's but for pickleball and other gym activity, not travel. I must have a different model of Ryka because, unlike Leslie, I have narrow feet, so need a narrow heel but want some room in the toe box... my Ryka's give me both. LuckyGirl is so right... socks make the difference. Thick, medium, or a thin "no-show footie". When socks come out of the dryer they get placed with the pair of shoes that I wear them with, not in a sock drawer. My Vionics are my summer/warm climate "go-to" sandals both at home and for travel.

Posted by
8 posts

Liz and others - Thank you for the confirmation about the Allbirds. From checking out my daugher's pair, I thought they probably wouldn't be supportive enough.

Jane - Thank you for reminding me of SAS- while I haven't worn them in years, we do have a store about 20 min away so I will put those on my list to check out. And I am familiar with them being US made - SAS stands for San Antonio Shoes!

Jean - While I don't have the Keen Rose, I do have the Keen Whisper and they served me well walking around Cozumel when we took a cruise. My go-to sandals are Skechers Reggae, which are incredibly supportive, especially for Skechers. I stocked up and bought multiple pairs! I was able to walk easily on Roman cobblestones with them. But I'm not bringing them because I don't think the weather will be quite warm enough in late April. I will add the Dansko to my list to check out.

LIZinPA - While I'm looking for something a bit more for the city, I will definitely put this Asolo on my list to check out. I have an REI about 30 min away so I will give it a look. And the graphite would be a great color with my wardrobe, even with the laces!

KD - Thank you for the info about the Cariumas. I really haven't been able to find much about them. As far as Hokas, they're great shoes (my husband wears them) but they will be too big to pack as a secondary shoe. Maybe when I need to replace my Brooks I will check them out. I do wish the Eccos would work, but they are just too narrow to accommodate me. They definitely have a comfortable footbed.

Mardee - Thank you for your input. I had not heard of Oboz and I will definitely look into them. I am more interested in a town shoe but I will see what my local REI might have.

Marce - I really don't want to pack shoes as big as my Ghosts but if worse comes to worse, I suppose I could just order another pair in black and switch them out. With my big feet, they just take up too much room in my suitcase!

JKL - I haven't had much luck with Merrills in the past but I will check them out again.

CanAmCherie - Thank you for another Oboz recommendation. We are hoping to plan a trip to Ireland/Scotland/England another time and waterproof shoes are definitely on my list of things to get. And yes, I will check out SAS also.

Leslie - Rykas are great shoes! I wore them for years before switching to my Brooks Ghost.

Claudia - I will look at Keens again to see if they have something more like a city shoe. Thanks for the info!

Vandrabrud - I haven't tried Oofos but I see that my podiatrist carries them in his office. They are very lightweight and look very comfortable. But they are advertised as a "recovery" shoe, so I'm thinking those would be better to wear around the house after a long day on your feet.

margie - I will check out those KNX, thank you!

katy - I will check out our local Skechers store. I could walk for miles in my sandals, but others are not nearly as supportive.

sandyarnp I won't be packing sandals this trip but I will definitely check out the Oboz.

Lucky Girl - I so want the Ecco Soft 7 to work! I only found one insole in each shoe but I suppose I could try it out without the insole to see how it fits. I'd just be worried that it would cause problems down the road. I've loosened up the laces quite a bit. If I could get it a bit closer, I do have a shoe stretcher I could try. But it just feels too narrow the whole length.

Barbara N - I will look into the Dansko Paisley - thanks!

Thank you all for your help- I'll let you know if I find something that works!

Posted by
1467 posts

I highly recommend running shoes such as Asics and Mizuno. They provide the best cushioning. If you want, insert an orthotic for more arch support.

Posted by
2089 posts

I also have the Dansko Paisley, but in navy blue. I have not taken them to Europe yet, but they do great here in WA in the rain.

Posted by
1491 posts

UPDATE/REPORT

So, I decided to try the Oofos OOMG sport low shoe.
As someone mentioned they are extremely light. But I LOVE them, so far.
I wore them around the house yesterday and to work today. I was worried at first because it feels like there is a very squishy tennis ball under my arch (or my not arch in my flat feet). But I have walked on them all morning and they feel great.
I think I will be taking these and a pair of keen sandals with me to Japan. I love traveling in boots to protect my ankles, but they are a pain to take off and put back on.

I will come back and report again if they become tiresome after wearing and walking on them for long days.

Oh, one more thing, I read that they run small so I ordered a full size up from my usual size. 9.5 instead of 8.5.

Posted by
3 posts

This is a little late, but if you want a dressier shoe that packs small, check out Charleston Shoe Company. They are EXTREMELY bunion friendly, and machine washable. I actually had one sucked off my foot into mud, and they looked good as new after a trip through through the washing machine. I ran all over Italy (including a farm) in my Charleston Canons, and ended the day with less foot pain than when I wore my Sketchers tennis shoes.
Thanks to some ankle damage about 18 months ago, I'm bringing my 5.11 tactical boots that I wear to work (I'm a hospital nurse) with me to France in two weeks. Not the shoe style that you are looking for . . . but I'm going to have to check out SAS. I wore them years ago, but I don't live near an outlet anymore.

Posted by
8 posts

UPDATE Thanks to your suggestions, I have been out shopping and trying on lots of shoes. Here's what I found:

Dansko Paisley- They are waterproof and have a Vibram sole. They are sturdy and pretty comfortable but stiff. I'd have to wear thick socks with these, and they'll take up a lot of room. I'll reconsider these for our UK/Ireland trip.
Merrill Antora 3 - I couldn't get the size to work. One too big, the other too snug. I didn't care for the rocker feeling.
Merrill Moab 3 - pretty good; lots of structure around the ankle. I was afraid it would rub after a while.
Ryka Ecco knit - felt comfy but a bit weird. Stretchy knit accommodates the bunion. It was a bit snug at the toe. The arch support was good but ultimately the sole is not supportive enough.
Brooks Ghost Max - I tried these because they didn't have the Ghost 15 in my size. They were cushier than the Ghost 15 but the collar around the ankle was higher than the Ghost 15 and it was annoying.
SAS- Nothing I liked, and everything was over $200
Skechers- There were some potential options but they weren't in the store so I would have to order.

I looked at multiple stores and shoes and this is what I ended up with:
Born Mira in Black- https://www.dillards.com/p/born-mira-leather-platform-sneakers/517530225?singleProductResult=born+mira
it's a sneaker, very similar to the Ecco Soft 7, but the leather is much softer, and it has a bit of a platform. Lots of cushioning and the width is a bit wider in the toe box than the Ecco. So far it has been very comfortable, but I'd like to break it in a bit more at my bunion before my trip. I bought a size 9.5 which works well with my thin socks. I would likely need to size up to a 10 if I had to wear thick socks, but that might cause my heels to slip.

As a backup, I picked up some Brooks Ghost 15 in grey and in black. The grey will replace my current Ghost 14s and the black was if all else failed. Got a good price on them so I may keep the black ones in any case.

I so appreciate all your suggestions, and I will definitely look at the Charleston Shoe Company - those look like some great options for sandals and open toe shoes!

Posted by
6342 posts

Wow, jayepting, what a great report! How thoughtful of you to include what you liked and didn't like about each style.

Thank you!

Posted by
108 posts

So glad you found a shoe!
Coincidentally, a friend asked for a ride to her foot doc and I went with her last week. She is struggling with PF. The foot doc told her to wear Brooks shoes. He also told her to wear original Crocs when the Brooks came off, even in the shower, and never ever go barefoot. Crocs! I was so surprised that I mentioned it to another friend in passing. She works in healthcare and told me she struggled with PF for years. After seeing a good podiatrist, she now has 7 pair of Crocs and that is all she wears. Her PF has never come back.

Posted by
8 posts

JKL I’ve noticed in our travels that Crocs are very popular as house shoes worn down to breakfast in the hotels we’ve visited.

Posted by
260 posts

This is a great thread, thanks jayepting. I take a lot of bus tours in Europe, usually shoulder or off season, and my go-to walking shoes are a pair of black waterproof Clarks which they don’t make anymore. I’m on my second pair, I use them only for travel so hopefully they will last. I’m taking a river cruise in France this summer, Avignon to Lyon, and this thread got me thinking that I’d like something lighter, not black, as I’m planning to wear a lot of linen capris (I chose late June so I can see the lavender fields). So I went out today and tried the Ecco Soft7 in grey rose (too tight) and Born Mira in sea salt (heal slipped off) then I spied the Vionic Winny in gold leather. Perfect fit, felt great and the arch support was in the right place for my foot. And I loved the gold, it subtle and should be nice for France in the summer (they do also come in black). I had a pair of Vionic’s many years ago and they held up well so I decided to give them a try. I’ll start wearing them a few hours a day and see how they do. Happy travels!

Posted by
23 posts

On a Rick Steves tour in September 2022 three of us women had identical Brook Ghost shoes in blue and a fourth woman had them in black.

Posted by
416 posts

Hoka shoes are great if you need a wide toe box; I find they're shaped similarly to Brooks. Their Challenger trail shoe should give you good purchase on cobbly surfaces, and it's available in all black. Great support; perhaps a bit less cushioning than Brooks.

Posted by
10 posts

I have several foot issues as well. I can't even wear a pair of tennis shoes even though I have tried so many kinds. I found Alegria shoes years ago and love them. They were created for nurses originally. They made several types. The Mary Jane ones with the rocker sole are the most comfortable. Sometimes I stretch the spot where my bunion is before I wear them. I spray shoe stretch on them and use the bunion stretcher I bought on Amazon. I have about 30 pairs of Alegrias now. The only ones I don't like are the ones called Traq. None of those work for me. However, my sister loves those. Go to a good walking store and try some on. Then, try to find them online cheaper. Search for Alegria shoes and the first two sites have a sale area. It ay be too late for your trip, but you may find new shoes for life.

Posted by
707 posts

Late to the party here ... My second pair of travel shoes is usually much lighter than my primary shoes. I use the second pair to give my feet a break from my main walking shoes or to wear to dinner in the evenings. My most frequent choices are Naots (usually the Matai style) or Allbirds. Yes, I know that the Allbirds don't have any arch support, but that's okay since I generally don't wear them all day.

The heavily cushioned athletic shoes, such as Brooks or Hoka, tend to give me knee problems, and so I pretty much stick with my Merrell Jungle Mocs for everyday walking. My general rule is that anything that works for walking my dog will probably work for travel.

Posted by
162 posts

For those looking for a narrow shoe, lightweight, great support, grippy sole on wet cobblestones, and a bit of fashion... try the Munro Traveler. I wear them with slacks but also with a skirt or dress when a sneaker is too casual. My most comfortable shoes, even after 14 hours.

Posted by
8 posts

We're leaving in a couple days so I thought I’d give a quick update on the Born Mira. It’s been a very comfortable shoe-I’ve worn it for 8+ hours at a time and have walked our paved neighborhood path a couple times (3/4 mile each time). No problem at all with my bunion. My right heel slips a bit (it does that with most shoes) so I’m playing around with different sock thicknesses and I may add a cushion to the heel. But I think it’s going to do exactly what I need it to do so I will report back after I return!

Posted by
8 posts

Trip update: I wore the Born Mira in Florence, over cobblestones for about 7 hours and several miles. The shoes passed with flying colors! My feet were tired at the end of the day, of course, but no worse than with my Brooks Ghost.

I did add a slim heel pad on my right shoe to help with my narrow heel and that fixed any slipping issues. I can definitely recommend these shoes! .