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"American" shoes?

In planning a trip to the UK and Paris next year, I've read several snide comments about Americans and their "sneakers". One person said "Buy a pair of good walking shoes and leave the sneakers at home." I have bad feet and would love to wear fashionable shoes on tour, but... Any tips on what this means and whether it's important?

Posted by
231 posts

Wear what's comfortable for you whether that's a walking shoe or a sneaker. You might want to avoid shoes that are blindingly white, but the most important thing shoe-wise is to be kind to your feet while you're on vacation. Buy them before the trip and break them in.

Posted by
83 posts

These days clothing fashions get replicated around the world very quickly so I would not read too much into it.

As someone in their 60's though, I do think that oldies like me need to accept that dressing like a young person is pretty ridiculous. 'Dressing as a young person' includes shoes, and a sports trainer worn by somebody of my age, walking around a city, does not look cool.

Posted by
16856 posts

Fashions keep changing both here and in Europe, and cross over quite a bit. "A good pair of walking shoes" is not necessarily a high-fashion choice. Hiking brands like Merrell make various "city hikers" that fit this category - a very supportive shoe, in a darker color that coordinates better with your wardrobe. European brands look similar but often cost more.

When I arrived in Paris last year, I spent my lunchtime at a pavement café noticing all the people who were wearing "travel clothes" (like a black & white print scarf that goes with everything) and sensible shoes. They weren't necessarily jeans/chinos/tennies, but they were clearly American. No matter. People will recognize you as tourist either from your wardrobe, or your lost expression, or when you start to speak.

To avoid being an easy target of pickpockets in crowded sports, see tips at http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/theft-scams.

Posted by
5654 posts

And these days trainers come in dayglow colours and multiple dayglow colours with sole colours anything but black or white! And if it's fluorescent, all the better for crossing streets at night.

Posted by
179 posts

Wear what is comfortable for YOU! You will no doubt do a LOT of walking here in London so you will need shoes that will support you on hard surfaces for a long period of time. This is a city of 8 million people - even if someone objected to your foot ware chances are you will never see them again!

Posted by
5627 posts

In days of yore, the plain white sneaker was, for some Europeans, a fashion faux pas. Much like wearing Levi's. That is no longer the case. In London, Paris, Istanbul, Vienna, etc. jeans are the norm for all ages. If sneakers are what keep your "dogs" happy then wear them. London and Paris are great cities to explore on foot so having shoes that are comfortable should be a priority. A decade ago when I found myself suffering from debilitating plantar fasciitis I discovered a shoe brand that helped alleviate the problem. Been loyal to the Keen brand of shoes ever since. Pricey, but for me, worth every penny. Lastly, it always good to take two pairs of shoes when traveling. Even though you think your shoes are worn in you'll discover that isn't always the case after spending hours in then them on cobblestone streets. Enjoy your trip planning.

Posted by
3 posts

I thank everyone for their kind, supportive, and very helpful insights! I'm so excited to explore new cultures...even with clunky shoes!

Posted by
4945 posts

Claudia's 2-shoe suggestion is good, too, because you can give 1 pair a day to dry out, if your feet tend to sweat a bit while you're walking and standing a lot each day. Brands of "street shoes" that offer good construction and support include Born, Ecco, and Clarks. Mephisto, from France are really good and really fashionable, but really expensive. You might find some in Paris that are much cheaper than what you can find in the USA.

Posted by
783 posts

I second Cyn's brand suggestions. I also notice that Puma is a popular brand in Europe although I don't like them very well.

Do not sacrifice comfort for fashion when it comes to a walking shoe. You will regret it the first day of your trip. And there are plenty of sort of stylish (or at least not blinding white and American looking) walking/althletic shoes.

Posted by
1010 posts

I have always taken good, supportive walking shoes that aren't black. Munro makes quality walking shoes. I have taken Velcro styled, dressier athletic typed shoes and Munro regular shoes. You can find them at Zappos.com. Zappos is the largest on-line footwear business. They offer instant money back and free postage, both directions. You can also find Munros on Nordstrom.com. They too offer free postage, both directions. Munro's are made in the U.S.

Posted by
5654 posts

We stopped at their Woodburn (Oregon) Outlets center a few years ago. The Adidis store seemed to be highly popular with shoppers speaking multiple tower of babel European languages. Shoes with three strips will give your footware a continental look. Just add a football jersey.

Posted by
7919 posts

I've worn my white New Balance sneakers on many trips throughout Europe, including Paris. I always laugh when I hear people say "No white Tennis Shoes". It is ridiculous. As others have said, no one cares what you wear on your feet. No one. I grew up in Paris and spend a lot of time there and I never feel the slightest bit out of place in my clean white tennies.

Posted by
338 posts

I'll be redundant to the earlier comments and also tell you to wear whatever you'd like. You're going to look like a tourist no matter what. As I told a friend of mine while traveling many years ago, I don't blend and you plain stick out. If you're anything like me you'll be carrying a camera bag or back pack, be in a tourist area, have kids in tow, have a somewhat confused look on a regular basis as you walk around, or have other mannerisms and actions that will give you away as someone "not from here". You might as well be comfortable. I will be leaving for Spain next week (whoo hoo!) and will be alternating between a pair of brown leather Abeos (not in any way fashionable but quite comfortable) and a pair of bright blue Brooks running shoes with bright green shoelaces.

Have fun!

Posted by
2156 posts

I loved Emma's list! I live close to San Francisco and must say she's got everyone pegged. I visited Tallinn last year and more often than not I was mistaken for an Italian, and my tour guide said most likely because of my dark hair and stylish clothing--if jeans, cute top or sweater and boots make me stylish, great! I am fond of a particular brand of funky footwear called Fluevog and at least one of my two pairs of shoes on a trip includes a unique, brightly colored (but absolutely, exquisitely comfortable) pair of them. They're always good for starting conversations and my feet are always happy.

Posted by
783 posts

I also remember going on a Mediterranean cruise that departed from Venice. There was a beautiful Italian man that dressed very nicely every day. And also wore bright red crocs. Every day. Even with suits. Anything goes.

Posted by
506 posts

After just returning from London, I saw a lot of Athletic shoes. I think they are very fashionable these days. And also Jeans every where. I think what ever you see at Nordstrom or Macy's is probably popular in Europe. We saw many workers walking home or to work in nice work clothes and Athletic shoes. I am surprised how casual the world is getting. The only thing that I think stands out are people that go to REI and buy camping clothes to wear in Europe.

Posted by
14 posts

White Shoes........White Hair = Q Tips in the USA.

Posted by
991 posts

Emma is spot on. Tho I'm not nearly as good as she is, it was a game I played with my travel partner. We could only pick out Americans, British and "neither", by their shoes.

Posted by
8293 posts

In Montreal some years ago my sister and I could always identify American tourists of the male persuasion by their white loafers and wide white belts. Now it is mostly by their baseball caps, at least on men of a certain age.

Posted by
991 posts

Norma, OMG I remember those days. I think my husband go rid of those shoes in 1992!!

Posted by
10344 posts

It is highly unlikely that anyone else will notice your shoes--only you and, possibly, your travel partner.
Just another reason to do what has been recommended above: wear whatever shoes you feel comfortable in and with.

Posted by
1780 posts

Here in LA we can spot the tourists because of tank tops and shorts on deathly pale bodies, often with bright patches of red sunburn. And dark socks and sandals. Yeah, you go boy.

As noted, fashion has pretty much standardized over the world in the past few years, esp. since we all watch the same shows and shop in the same stores. I've started noticing the people in the background in Rick's shows and it is indeed getting harder and harder to tell where he is by looking at them.

Posted by
1020 posts

Here are photos taken in London and Paris. Notice how people are interested in what others are wearing--not!
London
Paris

Posted by
853 posts

I found two brands years ago at Nordstrom's that fit me really well. My Munro's have been to Europe with me 5 times and i still love them. Nordstrom's has a great return policy. If you can't break them in or they start bothering you, just return them. I also found a Soft-Walk brand there that is great. They have an insole that looks like an egg crate mattress and gives a lot of cushion for walking on all of the cobblestones in Europe. Both of these shoes travel with me as well as getting worn at home. PS I always have them polished at the airport on the way out. The shoe shine people at DIA in Denver are very good.

Posted by
10344 posts

phred: The tourists you see in LA with deathly pale bodies are probably from Oregon or Washington (the western third of either of those states, I should know).

Posted by
136 posts

I just spent 2 weeks in Paris. People on the streets were dressed very casual, more so then a decade or 2 ago.
I wore my super comfortable, multicolored with bright laces Nike sneakers every day, occasionally changing into my old well worn white Adidas sneakers. I never felt out of place or stood out in a crowd. Nobody looked twice, if they ever noticed my shoes, they forgot about it a second later.
You could also try to prevent blisters and to protect your feet by smearing the bottom of your feet and toes with body glide; and always wear good socks. I don't get blisters anymore after starting to use this.

Posted by
31289 posts

@Emma,

Your list was most interesting and entertaining!

And obviously, dressed just like an American but with a subtle maple leaf badge on all lapels- Canadian!

Not all of us are loaded with Maple Leafs or Canadian flags on our luggage or clothing when travelling, although I have seen other Canadians in Europe who travel with every piece of luggage adorned with a Canadian flag. I prefer to take more of a "low key" approach, but could add flags if there was some reason to do so. The locals can usually tell where I'm from as soon as I start speaking, so there's no need for flags (although based just on speech, I'm mistaken for being American about 40% of the time, which I don't mind). I often have trouble differentiating between the Aussie and Kiwi accents.

Posted by
1063 posts

"T shirts with random images and ( occasionally offensive) slogans worn with 3/4 length trousers. Bald/shaven head- British man"

I would add to that..............Football team shirt, covered in tattoos, earrings in both ears and asking where the best curry or fish and chip places are, so they don't have to eat all that foreign muck. :-)

Posted by
82 posts

I'm warning all of Europe now. Ever since I had a bone spur in my foot a few years ago, I have worn Crocs. And they will be going on my trip. Yes, I realize it's neon sign for "I'm an American". But when I saw a picture of my punk idol Iggy Pop wearing Crocs, I figured if the Godfather of Punk can rock 'em, I can lose the shame!

Posted by
796 posts

I recommend a good pair of walking shoes instead of sneakers as they offer much better support and protection for your feet when doing a lot of walking. I never worry about fashionable shoes- just comfort and protection. I am diabetic and definitely look out for mt feet. Carry along sneakers or slippers for wearing in your hotel.

Posted by
3 posts

Hi, Terri! I want to thank you and everyone else for the kind and supportive tips. I feel like I have a whole new group of friends out there! Before we went to Italy, my Italian teacher scared me with the need for "blending in" to lessen the attraction for pickpockets and thieves. However, it was our British friends who were targeted on a train in Rome. I am still concerned, but am more concerned about wrecking my (diabetic, retired RN) feet. Thanks again!

Posted by
1780 posts

James you are sure right about SF weather, I avoided the Pier 39 shops and popped into one of the omnipresent Gaps to buy their cheapest sweatshirt.

Posted by
12473 posts

Mickey, you just wear whatever gets you through the day in comfort: no one is going to care one bit. Europeans don't wear for sightseeing themselves what you may see them going to work in: sore, tired feet is a universal problem among travelers of every nationality. And trust me, the locals are subjected to FAR more amusing and objectionable forms of attire than a humble pair of trainers!

Great advice to bring more than one pair, though, and both pairs should be well broken in. Socks of synthetic blends reduce the possibility of blisters, and having some moleskin along (the hiker's best friend that works off the trail as well) is a good idea. You could also look into socks which are made for people with diabetes as they may provide some extra comfort. Medipeds comes to mind? As a former nurse, you may already know about those.

Anyway, take care of those feet and have a great time in Paris and the UK!

Posted by
2619 posts

Wear what is comfortable on your feet. Have a look here at some shoes that are not your typical tourist shoes, yet are good walking shoes. They're New Balance. http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/77445?feat=512623-CL2&page=men-s-new-balance-959-country-walking-shoes&attrValue_0=Brown&productId=1281608

Also these, which seem to be what Rick Steves is wearing in most of his programs: http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/32935?feat=77445-ppxs&dds=y

These shoes all have a look that can be worn with casual pants or dressy pants for dinner in the evening. I have assumed since your name is Mickey, that you may be male. However, if you are female, the same website, above, L.L. Bean, has the same chocolate brown walking shoes for women. And no, they're not clunky, they're cool looking, I think. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
7919 posts

"I recommend a good pair of walking shoes instead of sneakers as they offer much better support and protection for your feet when doing a lot of walking."

My New Balance tennis shoes give me the most support and are best for me for a lot of walking than any shoe I have ever worn.

Everyone's feet are different. Absolutes are not helpful.

Posted by
2619 posts

I am another person who wears New Balance tennis shoes almost constantly. They were originally recommended to me years ago by my podiatrist. They give me the best support of any shoe I've ever owned, and no more foot problems. When you are standing on your feet all day at museums, or walking all over cobblestone streets sightseeing in Europe, you will be glad you have them.

Posted by
1976 posts

I'm one of those people who are much more concerned with comfort than fashion when I travel. I bring 2 pairs of tennis shoes - New Balance and Pumas - and alternate them per day because my feet sweat.

When my sister and I were in Paris 2 years ago, several times she was mistaken for a Parisian by Parisians because of what she wore: brightly colored sneakers, skinny jeans, blazers, and fedoras. This kind of outfit was popular in the U.S. at the time and also in Paris, which we didn't know. She was very flattered that locals assumed she was local too! I, on the other hand, am not anywhere near trendy enough to be mistaken for a local in any big city, including those in my own country!

Listen to everyone else here and wear what's comfortable. No one else must deal with your issues except you, so do what you need to do, have fun, and don't worry about what other people think.

Posted by
5654 posts

You will fit in if you wear "trainers" in place of "tennis shoes".

Posted by
7919 posts

Sarah, loved your story about your sister...

Even in my White New Balance tennis shoes Parisians always think I'm Parisian too... because I speak French... with a Parisian accent. So what you wear on your feet does not "mark" you in any way... other things might, but not your shoes.

Posted by
7919 posts

Iggy Stooge, Lots of Europeans wear Crocs. It does not mark you as "American". I went into a store in Bruges, Belgium that sells only Crocs... in every style and color you can imagine.

Posted by
506 posts

It doesn't matter what we wear, all we have to do is open our mouth and they know we are Americans.

Posted by
40 posts

I have just recently returned from a European trip and observed the shoes of choice for the young crowd is high top basketball shoes with neon color laces.! My personal shoes of choice as those that are comfortable! For me that is Reebok and New Balance. I travel with a pair in black which can cover daytime and evening. As others have posted...wearing a "fashionable" shoe matters not if your feet are killing you! My thoughts are: I'll never see those people again so who cares!