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Italy: proper vs practical adult footwear?

Early March will be my first trip to Italy, and I hope to travel light without checked bags, which means choosing one pair of shoes: comfortable, but smooth-soled, leather shoes, or even more comfortable and versatile rain-proof gray cross-trainers. This is an economy trip that would not include formal cultural or dining events, but.. would anything other than leather footwear be an aesthetic error that would somehow diminish one's personal experience or success interacting with Italians on daily logistical matters?

This comment from the Etiquette section is quite firm: "it's not sensible shoes that are not in fashion in Europe, it's that ugly sneakers make you stick out everywhere." (Somewhat like a response in the topic about asking for water in a restaurant: it's tacky).

On the other hand, the local folks anywhere aren't subjecting themselves to consecutive long days of curiosity on foot, in unpredictable weather, exploring sights, streets, trails.

Posted by
13 posts

Enjoyed your replies! I'm not buying any new footwear; it's just that my current brown leather Rockports are not vibram or waterproof, and I've never used them out&about all day, w/luggage, etc to seriously test (my narrow) heel fit. Whatever. Not a deal-breaker, unless (gray cordura/black rubber) guaranteed dry feet and non-slip on wet cobbles trump appearance.

A factor: I don't yet know the footwear choice of the other person traveling, but if there are situations where someone needs to serve as 'mule' ..that would likely be me :-)

Posted by
390 posts

Above all, wear what you find comfortable. If that's a pair of Nike's, then by all means, wear Nike's. I think it's ridiculous to go buy a brand new pair of usually ugly "comfy" leather walking shoes or whatever just so I "blend in" for a vacation. In Italy I wore sandals (including flip-flops!) in the cities, and when hiking CT I wore trainers. My friend from Milan also wore trainers(gasp!)

I don't normally wear running shoes at home (outside of the gym), and when I travel I normally take a pair or two of boots or flats, but if I know I'll be hiking or biking, I take my running shoes.

People aren't going to look down on you or avoid interacting with you because of your shoes. I don't understand why people go to so much trouble trying to not look like a tourist - you are a tourist. And people in Italy get that. So seriously, don't worry about it. How you act towards the locals will affect your travel experience far more than what's on your feet.

Posted by
127 posts

i was in Rome, Florence, Naples for 2 weeks; i had what works for me HERE in colorado mountians...comfortable sneaker/ day 3, my feelt, legs, lower back were KILLING me..i bought a pair of leathr sandels from an outdoor vendor, took 10 steps and was like "AAhhhhhhhh"..don't ask me why, but they work GREAT on the stairs, steps, and cobblestones...[umm...didn't early romans wear sandels?]
as far as "fasion " goes: i heard it all:avoid "T" shirts, sneakers, etc. the Italians i saw were as diverse as anyplace here; anything goes, tourist or not.
the bonus: plan on buying there, lighten luggage. and you have a GREAT souviner back home..

Posted by
1449 posts

Duane, I've gone with a pair of leather Rockport shoes that are waterproof and have a Vibram sole so they are great for lite hiking. People also wear cross-trainer shoes, its up to you. However I personally felt more comfortable going into restaurants dressed a little better.

Posted by
7737 posts

Get good walking shoes in either brown or black and you'll fit right in. They can be a combination of canvas and leather. It's the white tennis shoes that really stick out when you're going to a nice restaurant in the evening. Especially if you're wearing shorts (a no-no, if you ask me.)

Posted by
712 posts

Wear what you like and feel comfortable in. No one is going to write in some fashion magazine what Duane wore on his trip. Confort is the most important thing and that you "feet" like the shoe. My husband always wear his broken in Rockports. I think it is kids and people who worry about what others think that feel they need to make a "Fashion" statement. Be yourself and enjoy your trip and keep your feet "happy", so you are happy. I alway take a sandal in the summer and a good walking shoe. My husband takes sneakers and his brown Rockport walking shoes. I think it is always good to have a back up pair with you in case something happens to one.

Posted by
934 posts

The other day I saw four German tourists in a local McDonalds.I talked to them briefly and believe it or not I have no idea what they had on their feet and I dont Eruopeans care either.

Posted by
12172 posts

My current travel shoes are a basic pair of leather lace up dockers. They are water proof and have lug soles. Italy isn't nearly as wet as say Amsterdam or London, so you may get along fine with out water proof. Lug soles help when you get off streets but don't want to pack hiking boots.

These shoes get me through a pretty good spectrum of activities - walking/hiking to dinner/theater.

I pack a very light second pair of shoes. In the summer I have a pair of leather, waterproof Keen sandals that are great for casual wear or beach and are sturdy enough to walk around town or hike. In the winter, including March, I pack a pair of trail runners that are a darker neutral color. They work for trail hiking or site-seeing but I wear the others for dinner or evening activities.

I have a narrower range of options on the road vs. home. Considering I have only one carry-on, I haven't yet felt embarassingly out of place.

Bright colors or stark white are the shoes that stick out.

Posted by
479 posts

Duane, function is FAR more important than form. You're going to be walking 5-15 miles/day and not even realizing it. And trying to spend a day walking around Minneapolis or St. Paul still doesn't do it justice. Your feet MUST be comfortable at all costs!

Posted by
1449 posts

Duane, early March (assuming you mean this year) is coming up quick. Whatever you bring, be sure you've tested them at home to be sure you'll be comfortable being on your feet all day in them; if you buy new shoes, get them broken in before your trip.

I'm a fan of waterproof shoes; you are likely to hit periods of rain, esp. in March. See for a weather guide to various parts of Italy. Walking around with wet feet is not fun!

I'd also recommend ditching the cotton socks and buying some socks made out of synthetic material. You can get them at travel stores or even some neutral colors at sporting-goods stores. These dry overnite so you can wash them in the sink like a good RS traveler, also they don't get clammy when wet like cotton does. In fact I wouldn't bring cotton anything; jeans, shirts, etc.

Posted by
3112 posts

With all the walking you'll do in Europe, it's super important to invest in a good pair of comfortable shoes. Your feet will thank you a thousand times over. I sprung for a pair of black Mephisto and am glad I did. They work well for everthing from hiking to daytime casual to dinner casual. I use a waterproofing spray on them before each trip. Other people prefer Ecco, Merrill or other good brands. Think there's also a separate topic under graffiti wall on favorite shoes.