I am trying to decide between waterproof medium hikers or more of a standard tennis walking shoe which has served well and are not as hot. I am also wondering how to not look like a frumpy American tourist (I am a 45 year old seasoned solo woman traveler who just happens to be traveling super light with only a smallish to medium pack). Also, I'll be traveling primarily in France and Italy and wonder how I can reconcile these fashion conscious societies with my need for sturdy footwear. Also, any suggestions for very light, compact dressier shoes for when I am not on the road?
Sally, unless you want to pack and walk in trendy spiked heels, I wouldn't worry too much about trying to blend in with the 'fashion conscious societies'. It amazes me what I see even elderly European wearing to walk on cobblestones. Personally, my concern about not spraining or breaking anything exceeds my concern about fitting in. I wear black New Balance walking shoes and they are my only traveling shoes. I've worn them with nice pants to the opera in Paris, multiple concerts/ballets, and nice restaurants. No one has objected, and as long as they let me in, I don't really care what they might be thinking. My only other footwear is a pair of cheapo flip flops for showers. Were I to travel in really hot weather, I'd probably add hiking sandals (mine are Chacos) for variety. When I'm not traveling, I've found the Ecco produces shoes that look fine for work or going out, yet are comfortably enough to walk a mile or two at lunchtime.
Wear your most comfortable shoes, what ever they are. I promise, no one is looking at your feet. Once you see the shoe stores over here, then you will know. The whole world wears the same darn shoes. For dressy occasions, try a pair of simple ballet shoes. They are flat, don't take up much room and fit with a skirt, dress, or jeans. You might even think about getting them while you are here, and then they are a souvenir too.
This shoe thing is an issue for me, too. I have large (9-10) feet and some delightful foot and ankle problems. I'm not a fan of closed in shoes and prefer sandals, but I sometimes I just have to wear them. The brands I have settled on for comfort are Klogs (for clogs and Mary Janes), Orthaheel (for sandals), Salomon (for hiking style boots) and Saucony (for sneakers). I like all these because of the flat and stable soles on wet and rounded cobblestones. Zappos has all these brands and their Item Information includes the weight for one shoe. As for France and Italy, you will see lots of French and Italian tourists and young people in the kinds of sneakers we are told not to wear. They would love some of the brightly colored Saucony sneakers, and the open-heeled Mary Janes and sandalas from Klogs and Orthaheel would be just fine. They might chuckle at any hiking boots outside of the Alps, especially on an older woman. Voice of an experience in Paris, here.
For your dressier shoes, these Mephisto Mary Janes should fit right in in France, since Mephisto is a French company: http://www.sierratradingpost.com/mephisto-filona-mary-jane-shoes-leather-for-women~p~5498k/?filterString=Mephisto~b~13374%2Fshoes~d~4%2F&colorFamily=01 they are expensive but worth it, and the Sierra Trading Post price of $159 (instead of $245 retail) can be further reduced with the additional 20% off they are offering now.
Crocs makes some cute and comfy sandals. Also try SAS - they do not have many styles but what they do have is an incredibly comfortable shoe!
Might not be Euro-fashion, but I don't think you can go wrong with a pair of black Mary Jane style Keens (see http://www.zappos.com/keen-toyah-mj-black). They might be a bit clunky, but I hiked the entire Cinque Terre trail in a similar style and my feet were comfy and they felt sturdy for the task. Plus I wore them with skirts and they were plenty dressy for where I went. I always opt for comfort and stability over fashion, though I recently discovered http://ladylighttravel.com/ that has some great packing lists that give you an idea how to coordinate outfits and shoes for business, travel, and pleasure trips in a small sized bag. The site links to another site (http://theviviennefiles.blogspot.com/) that has even more ideas for wardrobe (arranged in a particularly eye-candy sort of way).
Awhile back on Trip Advisor Paris forum someone posted pictures of people on the streets. They might have been from New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. You'll see people in all kinds of dress. So wear what clothes and shoes you are comfortable in. Honestly, nobody really cares what others wear.
I admit that I like to bring 2 pairs of shoes, even when travelling light. I usually bring one pair of walking/hiking shoes (season dependent) and a pair of dressy ballet flats. The key to ballet flats is having an appropriate skirt length. skirts/dresses at the knee still look good and are culturally acceptble. It gets harder to stay away from frumpy with longer skirts and flats. At that point, a bit of a heel looks better. If you are travelling in the summer a nice pair of sandles will do both jobs well.
I have some Naot sandals( called "Paris") that I can wear all day long( really ) , and if you are going to be in some places, like Italy, its so darn hot you will likely really appriciate having some sandals. They look good with skirts etc ( which I like wearing in hot weather) and pants, and they are comfy. I would likely just take your regular runners, unless you plan alot of hiking in mountains. I did a few days in Switzerland and managed some basic hikes in my regular runners, but if you are doing more then that you would have to keep that in mind.
I bought Ecco sandals last year and love them. They aren't fashionable but they look better than the hiking sandals I used to have. They also look nice with a skirt and I can walk in them for hours and hours. Naot/Teva never fit me - they are styled for C-width, I need B; it's a shame since they're made here. I would take comfy sandals and closed shoes. With 3 months, you are going to have a variety of weather.
There are so many posts on shoes and so few on socks. I highly recommend also considering what socks you will be wearing. I am a huge fan of socks specifically designed for walking or running. Avoid cotton. Go for something made out of wool or synthetics that won't hold moisture and won't rub. And consider the height of the sock, I usually find that something well above my shoe is more comfortable, as opposed to those "no show" or "low profile" types. My favorite socks are by Drymax. They are very expensive, but I think they are worth it. Additionally, an anti-chaffing stick is worth it's weight in gold. Band-aid brand makes one called Blister Block. BodyGlide is another brand. Both of these products are far superior to a jar of petroleum jelly which inevitably gets everywhere.
Sally my husband and I did a month rail trip through Europe last year and are doing it again this year. I purchased these shoes through REI (also on Zappos) and never had an issue! They were the best investment we made for our trip! My feet never hurt even after walking miles every day! Merrell Moab Waterproof Hiking Shoes - Women's http://www.rei.com/product/810830/merrell-moab-waterproof-hiking-shoes-womens
hi, this is jmho. but i say to heck with what they think about your style. Its not that im trying to say they are snobs, but for one, you are on vacation and if youre hoofing it, your feet are PRIORITY #1 and #2. w/o your hooves in good condition, youre not going ANYWHERE!. I looked for several months for shoes before i went and purchased some Keens and Tevas. The Keens were great for me and the Tevas were too, but i found out the Tevas are slippery on wet/damp cobblestones. Spend some time in whatever you choose to take and make sure that that time is on CONCRETE or HARD STONE since there is alot of that overthere. If you have any streets lined with cobblestone, walk on those too. now back to Paris and fashion. While i was hoofing around lovely Paris and walking all over the place to see what i came there to see, i was COMFORTABLE doing it. I also notice at some of the fountains and hanging out places some of the tourist had their shoes off and rubbing thier feet or dipping them in the fountians. Just an fyi, i was snubbed in one of the tubes by a Parisian woman who was well dressed with gloves and such. she eyed me from top to bottom and then whispered something to her friend and she did the same. Iac, she just rolled her eyes while i was cracking up while this was happening since i figured my "fashion or lack of it" was what of interest. I was wearing my keens, jeans, jacket and my western shirt. was i dressed to the 9s, heck no. Was i comfortable, hell yes. If you want to take an extra pair of shoes for "going out" then i would add a warddrobe to that, but if youre "packing" it, you will figure out real fast what is "important" to you vs whats not since you WILL feel every wasted ounce of weight in that pack by the end of your trip. pack well and happy trails.
After trying all kinds of shoes, I cound Easy Spirit flats were great for everything, even walking through ruins on hilltops. For real hiking you would probably want something with more support.
If I do recall from my shoe selling days, you can get Tevas with a spider rubber, I think it was called, which is supposed to be very grippy...but of course was twice the price of the regular sandals. Lots of people loved their tevas...Keens as well were very popular with travellers. I always wear my Blundstones, not 'hiking' boots but for my purposes, comfy, water resistant (never had a leak) and looked great with jeans and khakis, and take a dressy pair of Naot sandals (can't tell you how many of those I own...hazards of selling shoes...lol), but we never did the backpack thing. I'm more concerned with MY comfort then what a few snobby Parisians might think (that being said, I wouldn't be caught dead in white sneakers, or anything ripped, or jogging/pajama pants, but then again, I never dress like that here either!)...besides, you may be surrounded mostly by other 'frumpy' North American toursits anyways! (They're called tourist traps for a reason :) ) Nothing worse then hot, sore blistered feet - break anything new in before you go. I was suprised by how many people would come buy new shoes and say they were going away in the next few days, no break in time at all - I rem people coming in buying Birkenstocks and going away the next day - Birks are something you need to gradually adjust too unless you've owned a pair - like a few hours a day for the first few weeks...I'm sure those peeps were having feet and legs that really protested.
For the "light compact dressier shoe".....Toms.