Please sign in to post.

Comfortable all around shoes for 3 week European tour

I'll put in my two cents on a pair of comfortable shoes that I think I'll be using as a primary shoe for a multi week Italian tour in September.

I've been searching for reviews of comfortable walking shoes that don't look too dorky or scream "garish American tourist" and came across several rave reviews for the allbirds Wool Runners. Several of the reviews hyped them as THE most comfortable shoes ever and that you could even wear them sockless. After researching the company I decided to try a pair. I've had them since Saturday, and I am impressed. I've got narrow feet - AA - and am kind of hard to fit, but so far, so good. Right out of the box I put them on - sockless - and took the dogs out for a reasonably vigorous walk. No chafing, no rubbing, no blisters. Plus, they look far less dorky than many walkers. They aren't neon, they aren't emblazoned with brand logos, and to this relatively fashion challenged schlub, I think they compare favorably on style points. These might even be the shoes that I wear to a performance of La Traviata at La Fenice in Venice. I might even approach a certain level of bella figura while wearing these.

I have absolutely no connection to allbirds, in fact, I never had even heard of the company until about 2 weeks ago, but I'm thrilled to have another option for comfortable shoes. I'll keep the Travel Forum updated as I continue to test drive them. I've got a 12 day trip to Ottawa coming up and plan to take them as my primary shoe and see how they do.

Posted by
208 posts

Wow. I cannot believe I've never heard of them! LOL! I can't wait to hear your report -- especially if they get wet -- how quickly they dry. Also, do they have much arch support?

Thanks for sharing.
Cheers,
Vivian

Posted by
2779 posts

Do let us know. But I hope they won't be your only shoes on that tour, especially if you plan to wear them sockless. That is a recipe for blister disaster even if they are well broken in. Heat and humidity are a challenge to any closed shoes---so I prefer sandals unless itis color raining.

Posted by
1132 posts

I love the thick heel on these, gives so much cushion with each step with the padded sole recommended by my foot doctor. I can't get past how hot these look, the wool alone would overheat me and I get overheated as it is with all the walking. I agree with PP about taking more than one pair of shoes to give you foot a rest. I love a good sandal to mix it up.

Posted by
19170 posts

I don't usually give specific shoe recommendations, since shoe comfort is such an individual thing, but the On Cloudrunner is the shoe I used for two summer-long trips to Europe. My feet are medium width, and my arch is somewhat high. I used the shoes with Aetrex orthotics for additional arch support; I could tell the difference.

I've linked to DSW because it has a very good price. Unfortunately, this version of the shoe is more colorful than the plain black-and-white ones I had. Perhaps some additional Googling would turn up a source for the older version.

What I liked about the Cloudrunners:

  • Mostly mesh uppers, so lightweight and cool. (In fact, probably not ideal for cold-weather trips because of the ventilation.)

  • Quick drying. Just remove the orthotics overnight.

  • Very bouncy feel. As you can see from the picture, the sole is not solid. I think this was very helpful in eliminating foot and lower-back pain.

One negative: These are not ideal if you're going to be doing a lot of walking on rough ground. Those rubbery attachments on the sole can get ripped open if you do something too aggressive, like walking/stumbling/falling down a mountain (don't ask). In addition, contact with rocks and vegetation can damage the mesh. The shoes remained usable even with a bit of damage to the soles; it's just that I sometimes felt the shoes were catching on something. I got 7-1/2 months' use out of these; toward the end of that period, I sensed that the structure of the shoes was breaking down a bit.

This year's trip is 100% north of the Alps, so I'm taking waterproof shoes instead. It seems a necessary concession to the expected weather, but I am unhappy not to be able to use my new pair of Cloudrunners.

Posted by
55 posts

Vivan,
They are a fairly new company - I believe they began delivery of their shoes about 1 year ago - started by a former pro soccer player from New Zealand that was dissatisfied with the mountain of shoes he got from his sponsor, Nike. I've worn them quite a bit in the last five days and as someone who needs aggressive arch support I suspect I might find that less than ideal for me. Since I have such narrow feet, I routinely add insoles to all of my new shoes - unless they are specifically sized AA - and I did so for the allbirds, choosing an insole that had good arch support. My experience shouldn't be necessarily seen as a slight, because as I said, I do the same thing with nearly all of my other shoes. The allbirds do come with what seems to be a good insole - also made of wool. I did get the shoes wet with an unintentional spray from the hose and the water mostly beaded up on the surface. From the outside they appeared wet, however, my feet remained dry inside.

Sasha, I know that going sockless is a recipe for disaster, but since the reviews and the company's website touted wearing them that way, that's the first test I did with them. I didn't have even the slightest discomfort, and aside from sandals, I NEVER go sockless - EVER!. They are made of Merino wool which is very soft and the inner surface is even softer than the outside. For the sake of testing their claims I will have more sockless days just to see if it remains comfortable. As for heat, I live in the desert. I know heat. Humidity, not so much. However, I suspect that heat and humidity won't be an issue, given the wicking properties of wool. But since Merino wool is often the sock material of choice anyway, maybe going sockless in Merino wool shoes isn't such a dangerous idea.

Posted by
3833 posts

Enjoy your evening seeing La Traviata at La Fenice! I went last September. My hubby doesn't like opera, so I was in a box seat with a man from Australia who had a background in opera, and a woman & her adult son from Padova who were celebrating her birthday. Lovely evening!

I wore a black sleeveless dress with an open-weave black sweater, a nice-looking gold (fake) necklace & earrings, and black ballet flats. Most people were wearing something similar.

Posted by
2525 posts

Despite my complete lack of personal fashion sense, but observant of others while traveling, I am truly unsure what are "garish American tourist" shoes.

Posted by
4 posts

For every trip to Europe, I have bought myself a new pair of Gentle Souls Lily Moon shoes. They probably aren't great for narrow feet, but they have enough heel and padding that they can withstand miles and miles of walking on cobblestones, are frictionless and look kinda cute with a dress.

Posted by
55 posts

Bruce,
The garish American shoe would be neon and laden with corporate brand logos, that or possibly a giant clunky basketball shoe endorsed by a NBA player - also laden with corporate brand logos.

Posted by
2525 posts

Garish like the Chuck Taylor All Star shoes in various bright colors that I've seen worn by locals in Europe?

Posted by
55 posts

Chuck Taylors - no matter what color - are not the day glow neon to which I am referring. There is a world of difference between Chuck Taylors - a design from the 1920's - and the cartoonishly loud shoes sported by many Americans.

Posted by
2525 posts

"There is a world of difference between Chuck Taylors - a design from the 1920's - and the cartoonishly loud shoes sported by many Americans." Hmmm, well my observations on footwear during my last trip to Europe didn't produce the same result. Methinks far too many folks, often newbies to Europe, worry WAY TOO MUCH about clothing styles and attempting to look like a local when locals generally easily know otherwise and FAR TOO LITTLE about how to act. Just my two euro cents.

Posted by
219 posts

P&G - Thanks for the review. I had never heard of the company until I read your post. As a desert dweller myself, I am excited to check them out. I love the variety of information shared on these forums! I look forward to hearing how they work out for you on your next trip.

Posted by
55 posts

Bruce,
I have seen and can testify to the fashion consciousness of some Italians firsthand.

While spending 5 days in Varenna on Lake Como I encountered a young Italian couple that was watching and judging passersby and their choice of footwear. They were seated at a corner and would either nod their approval or shake their heads in disgust as people walked by. As I was approaching them I looked down at my shoes and realized that my frumpy Rockport walkers - as comfortable as they might be - were not going to pass muster. As I got to the corner, the young man looked down at my shoes and then met my gaze with a look that very clearly transcended any language barrier and telegraphed the message, "dude, did you have to wear your Nona's shoes?"

This trip I plan on sporting at least two pairs of footwear that project an aura of bella figura without sacrificing comfort. I'll let you be the target of opprobrium and scorn from that couple in Varenna. I plan to seek them out and get a hearty thumbs up and a well deserved "bravo!"

Posted by
158 posts

I ordered Allbirds Wool Runners to wear sockless. They gave me blisters on the back of my heels after a 20 minute walk.

Customer service said to try wearing them with socks to break them in first, but they still give me blisters after trying that for a while. The back of the shoe is a pretty hard molded piece, so I'm not sure how it's working so well for everyone else.

I'm bummed because I really like them otherwise.

Posted by
55 posts

Sarah,
Your experience is very different than mine. Right out of the box I wore for about four hours with no socks with not even the slightest hint of discomfort. In the several weeks I've had them I've worn them at least 40-50 hours sans socks, again without problem. Additionally, the Achilles heel portion of my pair isn't near as hard as you describe. I did recently see two other people wearing Allbirds and they loved them as well. I hope you just had a defective pair.

Posted by
50 posts

As an avid fan of boiled wool slippers (and wool clothes), these sound great! Thanks for the tip. For my RS tour to Croatia, I want a shoe that I can run in so these are off the list, but the loungers look very tempting. My husband and I are hiking Mont Blanc late summer and these look like they could be an excellent complement to my Scarpa hikers. I want something I can change into after a long day of walking that will be super comfortable, light, that's more than a slipper. These look very promising. Will report back if I jump. For those who think they'd be too hot just remember that wool is extremely breathable and does an excellent job with temperature regulation.

Posted by
62 posts

I have had my allbirds wool runners since last July. For Letizia, merino wool does not make you hot. It does wick away sweat though and your feet/shoes will not stink even without socks. While I have not worn them on long trips, I have worn them to college football games in September, October, November in middle Tennessee (95 degree weather to 40 degree) for walking up and down the hills in Knoxville, TN (campus is very hilly) for hours before games, climbed up and down 40 steps throughout these games, walking in Gatlinburg for a long weekend where the hills are not inconsiderable and these shoes are wonderful. I have even worn them in a light rain, but never in a downpour. I love my Allbirds wool runner (I have the gray). No sweat, no blisters. My only concern would be that they might not be good in drenching rain, but I have no worries about the heat. I also have narrow feet and usually wear N size shoe, but these are very comfortable.

Posted by
215 posts

After having my eye on a pair for the past few months, I ordered a pair of the wool runners. Can't wait to try them out! Does anyone know if they can be sprayed with Scotchguard to make them a little better in the rain?

Posted by
50 posts

"After having my eye on a pair for the past few months, I ordered a pair of the wool runners. Can't wait to try them out! Does anyone know if they can be sprayed with Scotchguard to make them a little better in the rain?"

Meg, let us know what you think! I haven't ever treated my wool slippers, I do walk in the rain in Seattle in them and haven't had a problem. It's not a torrent when I'm in them, but they seem to be fine when they dry out without treatment.

Posted by
1 posts

Just getting back from a 13 day southern Italy tour with 2 days extra in Rome on the front end and back end, can not say enough about our dansko lace up shoes (model style is paisley). These bad boys keep our ankle from rolling countless times! Two of us wore them, we have different needs. I'm curvy with bad knees and wide feet, my partner has narrow feet but with a bunion and her feet are super sensitive. Also, fashion wise woman can feel comfortable skipping sandles quite a few European woman wore sneakers with their dresses

Posted by
314 posts

I second this recommendation. I have two pairs of Allbirds: the Runners, and the new slide-on style. They're amazing shoes. The inside is softer than a sock. And they do have a removable wool insole, which you can replace with your own orthotic if need be (but you'd lose some of the wicking property of an all-wool shoe). They're just so soft, they conform gently to any foot. And the style is like an elegant running shoe. You would really not look out of place anywhere in Europe wearing a shoe like this.

I'm considering taking my slip-ons with me to Austria in July, even though it's supposed to be hot. If it's rainy at all, I'd rather have pure wool on my feet than any leather or canvas.

Posted by
2127 posts

Garish American tourists? What could be more garish and rude than passing judgement on people passing by and their footwear? Can't imagine why anyone would care what people like that would think of their shoes.

Posted by
314 posts

Well, I care what I look like. I want to have the opportunity to blend in, to not feel self-conscious, to be treated like a local and not get that eye-rolling tourist treatment.

Once (this was in Las Vegas, but at a hotel very popular with Asian guests, apparently) I was dining at this great restaurant and trying to choose a soup. There was a fermented fish soup that sounded amazing and I ordered it. The counter attendant shook his head at me and said, "No, you won't like. Try this." He pointed at a chicken soup which sounded pretty good. I figured the fish was some really gross thing like natto or something. That d@#n chicken soup had less flavor than a bowl of Campbells.

I do not want the chicken soup. I want the fish soup.

I dress accordingly and bluff my way through the rest. ;)

Posted by
55 posts

Carroll,
Read my response to Bruce above. The fashion conscious reputation of the French and the Italians has been well earned. I've seen it firsthand.

Posted by
2127 posts

P&G, That was the post I was responding to. If you enjoy looking fashionable, fine. Many French and Italians (not all) are fashionable and good for them. It's not important to me, but I can admire people who are able to pull together a great look day after day. What I can't admire are people like the couple you mention who pass judgement on people - publicallly no less - based on their shoes. That's rude and obnoxious and I can't understand why you would care what THEY think.

Posted by
55 posts

Carroll,
The bit about the couple, who were indeed real, was meant to be humorous. I found it humorous at the time and I thought maybe others might see the silliness in that little moment. Not sure why it upsets you. I was the one wearing Nona shoes and I laughed at it.

Posted by
2127 posts

My bad - totally missed the joke. It's always good to laugh!

Good luck with your shoe search. My only hope is if dorky shoes become fashionable. I can dream!

Posted by
337 posts

I bought a pair of Allbirds wool runners for our May 2017 Ireland trip after reading this thread. My 2 cents:

Soft, soft, soft!! They are like wearing slippers, but the soles are thick enough to stand up to cobblestone streets.

Water-resistant enough to stand up to light rain and wet grass. We were lucky enough to never get caught in a downpour in Ireland. They got a bit damp, but dried again very quickly, even while wearing them.

My big toes wore a hole in the inner lining pretty quickly, but after 2 months of daily wear, have not worn a hole in the shoe itself. The shoes do take on the shape of your feet (think of how a wool sweater shows bumps at the shoulders after it's been on a hanger for awhile). But not so much that they look bad.

I've gotten lots of complements on my shoes, both in Ireland and back home in the US.

They do have a very casual look. Not dressy enough for a fancy night out. Otherwise, I wore them everywhere, with everything.

Wool makes my skin itch, no matter how soft it is, so I wear them with no-show socks. No rubbing, no problems.

They do tend to feel warm in REALLY hot weather (90s), but they are breathable, so I think they would work well for sweaty feet. For me, the comfort when walking for miles is worth the bit of extra warmth. And you can loosen the laces a bit if it's really hot and/or your feet swell a bit.

Everyone's feet are different, so it's always trial and error. But I'm very happy with my Allbirds, and will wear them to Spain this fall.

Posted by
2 posts

I've been in Europe for 3 wks and I have been wearing Ecco sandals. Highly recommend! Comfortable, supportive & cute!! My daughter bought 2 pairs as well & has loved them! My husband also has a pair and has been very pleased as well! All 3 of us have plantar fasciitis and these shoes have been great!

Posted by
215 posts

I took a pair of Allbirds wool runners on my trip to Ireland, Rome, and London. I wore them every day in Ireland, and they were great. I usually wore them with thin Smartwool no show socks. I can wear them without socks, but they are more comfortable with socks if I am walking a lot. They got pretty wet during one day in Dublin, but my feet stayed dry, and the shoes dried within a few hours. I had planned to Scotchguard them before my trip, but never got around to it. I am really happy with these shoes so far, I just hope they hold up well.

Posted by
16866 posts

Nike is a worldwide fashion leader and their current range of day-glow neon color probably sells well on Paris' Champs-Elysee and Rome's Via del Corso. So I think that's the wrong example of how to lose style points.

I heard about allbirds recently from another happy customer and thought I'd be the first in the office - but a half-dozen people already had them! Very comfy from day one, but I haven't really road-tested mine.

Posted by
1 posts

Four weeks into a ten week European trip and I can confirm that allbirds are living up to all the claims. They survived and kept my feet blissfully happy in the rain and wind of Iceland and pounding up and down hills in 90 degrees in Lisbon. I've worn them everyday and threw them in the washer once and they held up so nicely. They are not hiking shoes - so if you plan to do any heavy hiking (as I did/am) bring something more substantial along.

Big bonus for how lightweight they are and the ability to wear with or without socks and not look totally awful with a skirt/dress.

Posted by
524 posts

Recently a Bluffworks Newsletter suggested alternatives to certain name brand/styles of shoes. Allbirds were suggested for causal walking shoe. I was intrigued, however I could not find many reviews for them. I was hesitant to order until reading this post. Thanks so much to each of you that have responded about your experience with these shoes.

Posted by
4 posts

I have wide very flat feet and wear orthotics or clogs all the time. I even have orthotic slippers. I have been looking for shoes other than my usually New Balance Tennis Shoes (from Minnesota and that is what we call them versus sneakers) to wear for a two-week trip to London and Paris in September. The UPS truck has been busy delivering shoes that I have tried. Allbird did not give enough support. I also tried Clark Cloudsteppers, but they also did not feel they gave enough support. I bought and am breaking in the Ecco Soft 7 in black from Nordstrom. They were not on sale during their Anniversary sale, although the men's version was. They fit great even though they are not techinically a "wide". I am tempted to throw my New Balances in my luggage just in case. As many of you with bad feet know that comfortable shoes can make or break a trip.

Posted by
524 posts

Ok, I took the plunge, based on what was mentioned here and on YouTube, and purchased a pair of Allbirds. They are the most comfortable pair of shoes I have ever worn. Straight out of the box they feel like a pair of house slippers, so soft and cuddly!! Put them on and walked the dogs for only 20 min. and no issues. I only wish they had a more robust sole, like a walking/hiking shoe. They will be going with me on my upcoming trip in Sept. Thank you, P and G!

Posted by
8397 posts

@zaban3, if you have ANY doubt about your new shoes I would take the NBs as well. You are right, miserable feet = miserable vacation.

It's too late for a Sept vaca but I have just ordered my 2nd pair of Altra Lone Peak for a trip the end of Sept. I wore them in April/May but have hiked all summer in them and they've gotten pretty dirty looking so I got new ones for the trip. They are pretty wide, accommodate my Correct Toes toe spacers and will accommodate orthotics.

Posted by
1287 posts

Two weeks to go and I'm ready to give up on my ECCOs. After wearing off and on for 3 months, I can only wear them for 6 hours. I love the dressier look of the shoes, leather toe cap on top of Gortex for stretch.
Today I'm wearing a new pair of Alegrias lace-ups. I love my other pair. My toes love these Hobbit shoes- -wide in the tie narrow in the heal. If I can break the new ones in in 2 weeks, I'll take both pairs.