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Is it really bad to wear trail sneakers in the city? (need shoes for epic backpacking trip)

Hi! I'm going on a long backpacking trip VERY SOON - and it'll be up to several months long, involving Spain, Portugal, England, Ireland, and France.

I only own 2 pairs of shoes, and neither are suitable for this journey. (1 pair of slippery soled winter heel boots and 1 pair of slippery soled Nike sneakers, i bought them in my unpractical shopping years.)

So I need to buy shoes and ideally will only have 1-2 pairs because I'm living out of my backpack indefinitely!

I understand conditions get wet and slippery out there
I also understand tourists stand out wearing sneakers and other "unfashionable" shoes
However,
I really just want to be comfortable, and have lightweight shoes that have good traction.

Is it really a big deal if I get something like the barefoot style Merrell trail sneakers for walking around all these fashionable places like Paris and Barcelona? Besides, what about when I want to hike?

I will be doing LOTS of city walking, and also some trail hiking - not rockclimbing, but I want a good shoe.

This has really been stressing me out so I would appreciate your help!
What shoe(s) type should I get?
And what about going out at night?
See, this is really stressing me!
Thank you!!

Posted by
1663 posts

If you'll be carrying your backpack a lot then trail running shoes are at the light end of the spectrum for the shoes you should wear most days most of the time -- consider low hiking shoes like New Balance. Weight and space are important considerations, so if your second pair is mostly for comfort, go for sport sandals, but if they are mostly for fashion, go for a lightweight leather dark-colored slip-on.

YMMV

Posted by
2525 posts

Are you trekking about mountains for long distances with a heavy pack on your back, or just carrying your pack, say from train stations to accommodations? I don’t care about coordinating footwear with dining and entertainment. and locals do not care either. Wear quality shoes or boots that are broken in and comfortable. Good trail running shoes or low cut boots and sandals are my choice.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you both!!

Just carrying the main pack from stations and accommodations

I too am not so concerned about the fashion aspect. Guess I was looking for moral support. LOL

The only places I guess I'm concerned would be somewhere like a museum, a nice restaurant, or "the opera"

I'll do a search for some slip ons or sport sandals as a back-up maybe

Posted by
6857 posts

Whatever you do, don't buy shoes online based on recommendations.
Not sure where you live but the best practice is to go to a shoe store at the mall, or DSW, wherever, and
to try shoes on as well as get advice in person.

Posted by
2987 posts

Whether it's a trail Runner or a walking shoe, get whichever fits you best. Either will likely work, providing they give your foot the cushioning and support that you need. Everyone's foot is different. Go to a store that has knowledgeable staff, can size and fit your feet properly, and offer a large selection.

Since you're backpacking, I'm assuming you'll be wearing pants or shorts exclusively, so a more casual shoe is fine. I opt for an all black shoe. That way they are unobtrusive when out at night in the city. No need to be self conscious about your shoes. You won't be the only tourist in the city wearng sneakers. Even the natives wear them.

I'd recommend that you take 2pairs of shoes with you- one to wear and one packed. Alternate them, to allow one pair a day to dry out thoroughly (imporant on rainy days) and also to give your feet a break.c

Posted by
3 posts

@Jazz Thank you, actually I can't get to the store but that is great advice!

@CJean Thank you, this is very helpful!! Ok!
I feel more confident already :)

thank you for being nice to me everyone, I am new here

Posted by
8429 posts

I've worn these Altra Trail shoes (or their predecessors) for the last 2 trips which included a few weeks each in Paris and London and some assorted other places. They are comfortable and my awful feet hold up well in them.

https://www.zappos.com/p/altra-footwear-lone-peak-3-neoshell-gray-purple/product/8737672/color/874?zlfid=191&ref=pd_sims_sp_1

There is no problem unless you are going to a high end restaurant.

I'll add that I am not able to buy shoes locally as no one carries this shoe brand OR my size. I order from Zappos - free shipping and free returns. If I'm not sure of my size I'll order 2 different sizes and send back what doesn't fit.

Posted by
1217 posts

Non-white neutral color lace up shoes and you'll blend right in with the locals wearing Eccos or Mephistos or similar-looking knock offs of those.

Posted by
8429 posts

I thought of something else...not sure if you are male or female. If female, you can pack a lightweight pair of ballet flats in case you do go to the opera.

Posted by
5701 posts

Look at Keen shoes.

I have over 8 pairs. Boots, hiking shoes, slip-ons, sandals and lace up. ALL comfortable, light weight for the most part especially to low cut hiking pairs.

My point is find a brand you like, spend the money (keens aren't cheap) and wear them in immediatley.

All mine are worn in. The hiking shoes and slip ons are my preferred Euro travel shoes. When there, I average 4-6 miles a day walking in and out of museums, thru parks, while in restaurants and theatres, etc. Good traction and comfort.

Don't stress about appearance. Break your shoe choices in and enjoy your trip.

Posted by
3558 posts

Okay, I'm going to give my usual advice about Abeos from the Walking Company, Ahnus and Tevas both from a variety of places. Most of the vendors of these brands have free shipping both directions, so you can buy, try and return at will.

These Abeos are my "evening" shoes. I have them in black and silver. They are very light at 16 oz for the pair. I also have 4 pairs of Abeo sandals, but I typically don't wear sandals on my trips to Europe. This brand has all kinds of good walking shoes.

I've found that I need ankle support for those long days of walking and standing on challenging surfaces. I've worn Ahnus similar to these for years and they work well for me. They are waterproof but not hot.

This year I'm planning to wear these Teva Delavina boots. They are also waterproof and very comfortable. I love the variety of ways they can be laced.

Teva now owns Ahnu. Both brands are available from many online vendors and both have many styles of good shoes for your purposes.

I've tried to be more fashionable, but it was a big mistake. Keep in mind that most of the fashionable people you see on the street anywhere are not traveling for several weeks or months, packing light or spending hours and miles on their feet as a tourist. I don't even own a skirt or dress and only wear long pants, so what I have on my size 9.5 - 10 feet is barely seen.

Posted by
4412 posts

I also understand tourists stand out wearing sneakers and other "unfashionable" shoes

Where did you get this information from?

I'm 42 and I still wear trainers and jeans pretty much wherever I go and I'm far from alone in that respect. Paris, Rome. Barcelona, London, Milan et al there are so many people wearing trainers (sneakers) that you will not look out of place or look like a tourist. The one thing that is likely to out you as a tourist will be your backpack.

Posted by
971 posts

Wear what you are comfortable in, especially since you will most likely be walking a lot. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as an actual fashion police:-) You are going to stand out as a tourist no matter what, just by the way you look and behave. Most locals can spot a tourist from a mile away and your shoes won’t make much difference in that regard. As long as you behave yourself, most people likely won’t Care about you.

Posted by
401 posts

Something I usually advise visitors from the U.S. when they come to France is to leave space in your bag for a pair of Mephisto shoes. They cost a lot less here than in the states.

As a test to see if that were still the case, I just ran a test on a pair of men's shoes (Mephisto Waino oxford). Nordstrom has them on sale in the U.S. currently -- marked down from $399 to $239.40 on www.nordstrom.com.

Mephisto (www.mephisto-shop.com) has the same model and color of the Waino oxford marked down from 175€ to 80€.

Converting to a common currency and rounding to the nearest dollar, that would be:

Nordstrom regular price: $399
Mephisto regular price: $217
If I were to buy that shoe from Nordstrom in the U.S., it would cost me 84 percent more than in France.

Nordstrom sale price: $239
Mephisto sale price: $99
At the sale price, the Nordstrom purchase would cost me 140 percent more than in France.

Now, I realize that Nordstrom is not exactly a discount retailer but Mephisto shoes are pretty high quality and one generally won't find them at a discount retailer. I happen to think they're worth it if you can afford it, and they're easier to afford in France than in the U.S.

Regarding shoes generally -- I would advise you to wear what's comfortable. While bright white "baskets" as they're called in France, aren't as common in France as they are in the U.S., comfortable shoes of all colors (including the occasional fluorescent green or fluorescent orange baskets) are very common.

I’m British and work for a media company in London. I wear trainers (sneakers) to work even with skirts or dresses, and if I’m wearing trousers I will always wear a pair of Merrell hybrid city/trail shoes.

When I travel - to Barcelona, Lisbon, Copenhagen (to name some recently visited “trendy” cities) - I tend to wear jeans and those same Merrells or even my hiking shoes.

No one bats an eye. I usually take a very light pair of flats for wearing around the hotel or out to a nice restaurant. But if I’m pounding pavements (streetwalks) or touring hard-on-the-feet art galleries then it’s comfort all the way.

Oh, I said no one bats an eye. Some old ladies in Lisbon looked askance at my pink Skechers worn with a dress, but since I’m self-evidently not Portuguese (far too tall & fair) who cares? I’m a tourist, I’m travelling. (Also they made a loud squeaking noise on the art gallery floor).

The thing that really does make Americans stand out is men wearing shorts in cities, baseball caps and those bright white sneakers. But on the other hand, there’s no disguising your Americanness (there really isn’t) so it doesn’t matter.

Posted by
6726 posts

I agree with CJean -- very important to take at least one change of shoes. Your feet really need a break - sometimes daily, sometimes after a few days - by getting to "breathe" in different shoes every once in a while.

I'd recommend that you take 2pairs of shoes with you- one to wear and one packed. Alternate them, to allow one pair a day to dry out thoroughly (important on rainy days) and also to give your feet a break.c

Posted by
2525 posts

The memo requiring two pairs of shoes and alternating use never made it to my in basket. A quality pair of trail running shoes (sneakers) or low cut boots, plus a pair of sandals to pad around late in the day are my choices. Also, rogue Europeans are sometimes spotted wearing baseball hats, shorts and white shoes.

Posted by
2916 posts

Wear what you are comfortable in, especially since you will most likely be walking a lot. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as an actual fashion police:-) You are going to stand out as a tourist no matter what, just by the way you look and behave.

The best advice. When I go to France I never bring "dress" shoes. Usually one pair of sneakers and one pair of walking shoes.

Posted by
1554 posts

Ditto suggestion for Keens - I have a pair of solid black Mary Jane style (they have excellent traction) and a pair of trail shoes (black/grey pattern) and neither are fashionable but they don't stick out either. I also take a pair of foldable black ballet flats. They work in a pinch for a "dressy" occasion (though they have NO support so I don't wear them for extended periods). I change into them on the airplane and use as slippers at the hotel to give my feet a break after a long day of walking. They're lightweight and flat for packing. There are many varieties and prices, here's an example.

And since you say you're going "VERY SOON" on this trip, you're not going to have a lot of time to break in your shoes. That's unfortunate, but pack for blisters (moleskin, bandaids, anti-blister stick).

Posted by
3175 posts

Wear whatever shoes bring you the most support and comfort for pavement walking. No one will be judging your footwear; they instead will have their eyes glued to their smartphones. No worries.

Posted by
3547 posts

For decades I have walked like this: One pair of New Balance sneakers (because they offer a choice of widths.) Black, with no visible trademark, so they are anonymous. I wear them on the airplane to Europe (because they sturdy, they are also heavy to pack), on the cobblestone streets, into restaurants. Nobody cares what your feet look like. You care what they feel like at the end of the day. Plus it is good to have some rain resistance. In my bag I add a very light shoe, a flimsy loafer or cloth slip-on, to wear for a change and when I am not walking very far.
I think this approach works for both men and women, at home too. Relax. Unless you happen to choose a very fancy place well above most people's budget, you will go unnoticed. Which is far less important than being comfortable, in all senses.

Posted by
4660 posts

Where do you live that you can't get to a shoe store? Just curious.

I'm going to put in a plug for SAS brand. There are very few brands I am loyal to, but I'm a devoted SAS fan. My feet are big (11 W). That's issue # 1. And without proper support, my hips, knees, and back get grumpy. SAS aren't cheap, but for me they're good value. They come in wide range of styles, some dressier than others. I have several pair that I wear for walking, but I don't hesitate to wear them to church or the ballet. (Not an opera fan.)

As a final inducement, SAS shoes are made in the good ol' US of A, in San Antonio. (Don't tell the Texans that they're still part of the USA. Some of them think they're still an independent country.)

I also am a proponent of taking two pair. Even when I take two pair of the same style, my feet appreciate the change.

Posted by
4412 posts

Also, rogue Europeans are sometimes spotted wearing baseball hats, shorts and white shoes.

I guess I've gone rogue although never a baseball cap...that's taking things a step too far.

Posted by
2525 posts

Just completed a poll, sample size two...Canadian friends....they too wear walking shorts, baseball caps and white shoes while traveling in Europe. Yikes.

Posted by
3 posts

I love merrell shoes. The jungle mocs are slip ons and look dressy enough for dinner, but actually have good tread for hiking. They are even waterproof, up to a point. I have gone thru at least six pairs over the years, but i still love them. About 80 bucks online. Happy hiking!

Posted by
2525 posts

Odd name given they are my shoes of choice in winter except when shoveling snow and snowshoeing... Merrell Jungle MoC.

Posted by
928 posts

Lots of good comments offered already. Just to add my mite: I have travelled recently with only 1) Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve hiking sandals - may be too chilly if you are going in Feb/March, but depends on location and 2) Keen Newport H2. I did town walking (including London) and light trail walking (Berner Oberland). Google the Blaze Sieve to read hikers' reviews.

I think the Merrell trail sneakers you mentioned would work overall, too, depending on how strenuous the hiking is. For spring, I am eying Merrell Trail Glove 4 Knit and Mesh. Their Lace-E Mesh looks good, too. And, as someone else mentioned, foldable ballet flats would come in handy. Yes, and keep an open eye in Europe in case you see something cute while there. To me, a wearable souvenir is always great.

Posted by
24 posts

Just to add my two cents, I wore my Chaco sandals all over Paris during one hot summer visit, as well as to all points on the Heart of France tour. Nobody cared and my feet were happy.

Posted by
5657 posts

Bottom line is why would you worry about what strangers think about your footwear. The starting and ending point of footwear is comfort. On walking tours I need comfortable boots with traction that keep my feet dry (if possible). Having hut shoes that can take you to the pub after a long day of backpacking are also useful. B&B host appreciate you leaving wet and muddy boots in the mud room and having comfortable dry shoes after a day out in the field is a must if not a luxury.

PS. Make sure the shoes/boots are "broken in" with the same socks used during the walkabout.