How Many Shoes?

I'm heading to Central Europe (Vienna, Budapest, Croatian coast, Venice, Munich and Salzburg) in September. I'm trying to figure out how many pairs of shoes to bring so I can start shopping and breaking any new shoes in. I'll probably wear a dress, skirt or leggings every day. So far I'm thinking of bringing:

• 1 pair of flip flops
• 1 pair of flats (Toms or ballet flats)
• 1 pair of nicer sandals

Is 3 pairs too much? We're backpacking so space is limited and I have to carry everything I pack! I really want to avoid wearing sneakers or any type of athletic looking shoe. I want to be comfortable but still look stylish. We probably won't do any hiking, I'm more concerned with walking on cobblestones and walking for long distances. Any advice? What do you look for in a good, stylish walking shoe?

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
8045 posts

Don't tell Rick, but I have brought three pairs of shoes on more than one occasion. Each of them should be as comfortable as possible for walking and standing all day. Even my "evening" shoes are a rubber-soled comfort slip-on, but in silver. Never having been partial to flip-flops, I love my waterproof Teva sandals for walking, swimming, and standing around museums.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
2798 posts

What to look for depends on your age, the amount of weight your feet have to carry, and the state of your feet and ankles. Flip flops are good for relaxing after sightseeing. Now, can your flats and sandals take you through hours of standing and walking every day? You may want to stick a pair of Vans or Converse in your pack for some variety. I'd cut down on clothes but take care of my feet.

Posted by stan
Kansas City
730 posts

bguay, I am male, so can't comment on the fashion. But I see from your other post that you have a long trip planned with a lot of destinations. That means you will be walking miles, every day, and backpacking with a lot of weight on your back. To me, that screams walking shoes more sturdy than you are proposing. Shoes provide protection as well as support - think stubbing your toe on those cobblestones. Try wearing your flats or sandals at home, every day all day for two weeks, walking 4-5 miles everyday with a loaded backpack and see how your feet feel. If you are lucky, great. If not, there are plenty of non-athletic looking walking shoes that will work.

Posted by bguay
Calgary, Alberta
24 posts

Some good points everyone, thanks. Does anyone have experience wearing Toms in Europe?

Posted by Meg
Seattle, WA, United States
27 posts

Hi there,
Shhh don't tell Rick, but last time I brought 4 pairs (in a 20 pound pack, no less!). Lightweight running shoes for hiking, a pair of simple flip flops, Tevas, and canvas Toms. I loved having Toms with me and plan to take them again this summer. Keep in mind that your feet might swell in the heat/with exercise so take a roomy pair. The ones I brought last time fit great at home but felt a half size too small with all the heat and walking. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
1366 posts

"Flip flops" are handy if your hotel has sauna facilities. With respect to shoes, support and comfort are more important than style and looks. Pick function and comfort over style.

Yes, expect cobbles, steps and rough unevern pathes in places. You may need to run to make connections. Will your ballet flats protect your feet while carring a backpack? Will they keep your feet dry when it rains and puddles collect on cobbled plazas? That said, if your stylish sandals pack flat and are low in weight and bulk, why not. After all, you are on vacation.

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
757 posts

You will be on your feet and walking a lot every day. Last trip my pedometer tracked 120 miles in 13 days. Lot's of cobblestones. Make sure at least 1 pair of shoes will be kind to your feed.

Posted by Diane
Ottawa
1192 posts

I always pack a pair of flip flops. They become my hotel room slippers, as well as my pool shoes.

For the same places and timing as your trip, I'd also be packing a pair of Keen sandals and a sturdy pair of walking shoes (ones that provide both support and cushioning).

Weird tip: for finding a good walking shoe that isn't necessarily a pair of runners, look for shoes marketed to nurses. Some of these come in beige. Beige has served me well as a travel shoe colour - it goes with everything.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5643 posts

Like Diane, I bring flip flops to wear like slippers in the hotel room. I use a $2.50 pair from Old Navy that weigh next to nothing. If I have to ditch them before flying home, it's no big deal. I wear a pair and bring a pair of comfortable shoes, or if traveling in warm weather I substitute a pair of sandals for one pair of shoes.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
1354 posts

I'm not sure when you will be in these locations in September, but it may not be as warm or as dry as you expect based on the footwear you plan to take. Back in the dark ages when I backpacked through Europe, I wore and took shoes that were up to the task of all the terrain and walking/hiking issues others have already listed as well as handling the balance and support requirements of carrying the pack on my back. I started my trip in September and never regretted having them.

I recommend researching the weather averages for the locations you plan to be walking around, keeping in mind that the times you are there, the weather could be better or worse than the averages. If you are prepared with a couple of good options, you can adjust at the time you are packing based on actual weather predictions for those places.

I'm not sure what you mean by "athletic" shoes, but I'm not big on things that look like running or exercise shoes either and I hate white soles on anything. I find hiking shoes with good support and some special insoles much better. There are many that are lightweight, breathable and water resistant or waterproof. Paired with the right kind of socks, they can keep you comfortably on your feet all day. You might look at this Gore-Tex website for some options http://www.gore-tex.com/products/women/footwear/. Most are athletic looking, but not all. REI and other stores that cater to outdoor enthusiasts also have good, often lightweight, selections for this purpose.

I'm also one of the 3-pair crowd and flip-flops are my 3rd pair for all the reasons others have stated. For a trip to Greece, and after trying them on in a different color at REI, I recently bought some of these Ahnu
Montara hiking boots http://www.ahnu.com/women-performance/montara-boot-nubuck/AF2128.html?dwvarAF2128color=ASAU#start=25&cgid=women-view-all. They are a dream on my feet, very supportive and I feel very stable in them. I have worn them here in hot AZ with socks and they are even comfortable in this hot, dry climate.

For the evening or after a long day walking around somewhat challenging terrain, I also got these Ahnu Karma flats http://www.ahnu.com/women-yoga/karma/AF2287.html?dwvarAF2287color=RDCL#start=4&cgid=women-yoga in a dark blue leather. Whether I take them on some more enclosed flats will depend on weather predictions for the places I'm going when it gets closer to the time we leave. I have some great sandals but chose these for their lack of toe-stubbing possibilities.

Both of these shoes get good reviews on Amazon, Zappos, Shoes.com, REI, i.e. all the usual online suspects.

Finally, you are likely to be amazed at the number of women wearing fashionable boots in all the locations you are going. On our trips to Europe, boots on women seem to be season-less. Boots I wouldn't think of wearing in the heat down here are commonplace in some of the hot locations we have visited.

Posted by Lynn
Portland, Oregon
4 posts

I'd skip the flip flops, except for use as slippers in your room. Walking on cobblestones is very tiring on the feet and flip flops offer no support. You can find a good walking shoe that isn't athletic. Style may have to give a bit for comfort. Comfort is key. From my personal experience, I'd opt for a walking shoe that I could wear socks with. Three pairs is not too much, but my three pairs would be walking shoes, a good walking sandal and then something like the Toms or ballet flats for a "dressier" look or for days that wouldn't include much walking. It looks like your trip is at least 2 weeks - you need comfort and support for all that cobblestone walking. I can't emphasis how different it's walking on cobblestones instead of smooth, even sidewalks.

Posted by Leigh
Missouri
418 posts

In some of your destinations in September, you might want something warmer than flip flops or sandals. I would definitely take one pair of shoes that will provide good support for walking. I always think I walk a lot at home, but I then I go on vacation in Europe, and I take public transportation or walk everywhere. That always ends up being a LOT of walking and I realize how important it is to have shoes with good support. I would probably take a pair of sandals and a pair of walking shoes.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2099 posts

I wear sandals almost every day here in Hawaii but I also take a good pair with me to Europe every year. I also take a light weight pair of fold up slippers for hotel rooms or beach, and a good pair of sturdy Clarks AirMovers that are of a vintage of Made in England. I always wear my Clarks when I fly - good to fly in leather. So I don't have shoes that take up much room in my 21" roller bag from RS. My wife does very similar but she does not travel "stylish" anymore but she is more considered with comfort and practically.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7877 posts

I'd suggest flats you know you are comfortable walking in (think cobblestones) all day. Support and cushion to protect your feet can make or break your vacation.

After the heavy lifting shoe. I think you can get by with a pair of sandals. A simple black sandal can dress up or down, you can wear them with a black skirt and nice top to a theater or fancy dinner, then wear them with a swimsuit to the beach.

Posted by Kristen
Chicago
592 posts

Bguay- I don't think Toms are supportive enough for long distances on European cobblestones. Plus my feet get sweaty after a full day of walking. In that situation, I like being able to wear socks. There are more stylish walking/athletic shoe options in a lot of brands now-Converse (someone mentioned them), Merrell, and Ecco are some of my favorites.

If you bring a "comfortable enough" shoe that you chose for style over comfort, you will regret it within 24 hours. I did to this myself several years ago ad after a couple of days, I would have traded my "cute shoes" for the ugliest pair of shoes in the world as long as they gave me some relief. Luckily, I found a local athletic shoe store having a sale!

I think you could bring the 3 shoes you were planning and wear a pair of athletic shoes on the plane. The shoes you are talking about don't take up too much room.

Posted by Robyn
Greenbank, Wa, USA
12 posts

I have found after various trips to Europe- regardless of the timeframe-- 1 pair of tennis shoes ( I happen to like Merrell). 1 pair of nice comfy good looking sandals ( which i orderd off Amazon after reading on the RS Forum Ecco - black-dressy yet comfy) - and 1 flip flops- works every time****

Posted by Sharon
Atlanta
2726 posts

I've slipped and fallen on wet cobblestone pavement when wearing Tom's. I'd suggest something more supportive for distance walking. You have some great suggestions here--I'm partial to Keen's--Newport sandals and depending on the season, lace-up flats. Not very fashionable but comfortable.

Posted by Rachel
Washington
130 posts

I'd be more concerned about quality and comfort than quantity. I usually take three....pair of running shoes, pair of Skechers bikers type, and either day hikers or black flats or sandals (depending on climate and whether I plan to be in town or in the mountains.) If you have room to toss in a pair of flip-flops, sure, but as extra not as a main pair.

Ditto what others have said about hard surfaces or slick, potentially slippery surfaces (marble floors). September could be cool and rainy. Also, no one mentioned this, but flip-flopping in and out of churches and palaces--that just seems really casual. Have never worn Toms but looking at them they look like they'd have poor arch support. Be yourself, be comfortable with your choice, but also realize that your feet will take a lot of pounding walking thru Europe! Have a good trip!

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10505 posts

I know some people on this website care about looking stylish more than others. So... here's the only comment I have ever heard my German neighbors or Belgian family ever make on the footwear of American tourists: "Why do so many Americans walk around all day in flip flops"? Impractical to wear and unstylish for walking around in Europe, but perhaps useful if your hotel has a sauna or pool... but then again, most hotels in Europe that would have these facilties often provide you with a pair of pool slippers anyway.

Posted by Mira
Midwest
339 posts

I've worn toms and ballet flats throughout numerous cities and find them very comfortable. We are talking about 5-10 miles/day of city and town walking, with no problems. I wouldn't go hiking in rugged terrain, though. I felt that I looked reasonably stylish, and was completely comfortable. I'd say wear them and go on a long (several mile) walk around your city/on paved park trails to make sure they feel OK for a distance. I also have a pair of lightweight Keen's for if I need a little more support. Light trail walking, that kind of thing.
http://www.keenfootwear.com/us/en/product/shoes/women/casual/sienna%20mj%20canvas

I'm not a fan of flip flops (not comfortable for lots of walking, don't look stylish, Europeans don't wear them outside of resort areas all that often). However, if you're spending lots of time on the beach or coast they may make sense. I usually bring 2 shoes - some combination of ankle boots (cooler weather), ballet flats, toms, and the above mentioned keens. I pick which 2 depending on the weather and itinerary.

Posted by Ellen
Centennial, CO, USA
1500 posts

I think you are taking what you want to take, and you have permission to do so. I just finished packing for my trip to Italy, and I have 3 pairs of shoes. One pair of Van's for the plane trip over, and for cooler days. 2 pairs of Chaco sandals --one has a strap and has been on every European trip with me for 15 years, and a second pair of "flip-flop" Chaco sandals for days that I just wander around a town that has no hills to climb, and also to use in my hotel room.

Wear what you like. I don't run out and buy special shoes for Europe. I have good shoes in my closet that work at home, why wouldn't they work on vacation? Sandals do not take up much space, they can be squeezed in on the ends of your luggage, or laid flat on the bottom or top of clothing. Take them all!

Posted by Anna
Seattle, WA, United States
723 posts

3 pairs is not too much, especially since the shoes you're describing are small and flat. I hope you're planning to use the flip flops solely for hotel room (or shower, if you're using a shared bathroom) or maybe the beach. They will murder your feet if you walk around for 8-10 hours a day on cobblestones. They're also not terribly stylish - I would personally equate them with sweatpants as far as things I wouldn't wear in public.

Ballet flats would probably be better than Toms, since you can dress them up or down. Try to wear them for while walking around/being on your feet for a long stretch of time, to make sure they're a good fit. One of the pairs of shoes I brought on my last trip had been just fine when I wore them to work or just running errands, but after the first 8-hour day of walking, those shoes gave me terrible blisters. It took me another few days and many BandAids to acclimate.

Also, I'm not sure how the weather is in September, but I was in Budapest in very early October, and even though it was sunny, it wasn't exactly sandal temperatures, especially in the evening. I'd bring at least one pair of booties or oxfords in case the weather's on the chilly side.

Posted by Diana
Michigan, United States
319 posts

Does the third pair count if its on your feet on the plane? LOL I'm packing two and wearing one. I don't think 3 pairs is too many for a two week trip. I like to have options and if my feet start to hurt in one pair, I'll have two more to use!

Posted by June
Edmonton, Alberta
381 posts

For Europe, I do try and keep it to bring one and wear one. Though I am a shoe lover, I love the freedom of packing light. I do take a 20 inch roll aboard and a largish personal size carry on. I do check my rolling bag when returning, I have the RS expanding bag which I love!

I wear a pair of Ecco Biom lace up runners. I wear them with leggings too and with pants. I have worn them with a skort too. For Europe, I bring a pair of Birkenstock sandals. I love them as slippers in the room and use them as sandals. And since I am in Europe, I have worn them out in public with thick Merino wool socks!!! Smartwool socks are great. It was a challenge to only bring along one pair of sandals, but it has worked for me on several trips. The Birkenstock sandals took up very little room, it was easy to pack just one pair in the suitcase.

On a recent cruise, I packed 2 sandals, one dressier Naot which was metallic colored and Keens, and wore the Ecco Biom lace up on the plane. That worked too. I did go carryon for that trip, and did stay in 4 places, but had mainly beachy type of clothing, but needed long pants too.

I suggest finding a large reputable shoe store and plenty of patience. Only buy what is right. Stick with brands that fit you well, I have been burned by that before. Where you are going, there may be cool evenings or it may be very hot. I agree with other posters that Toms may not work; they lack support for hours you will spend walking and potential cobblestone sidewalks.

Have a great trip.

Posted by Sarah
United States
218 posts

I know that your post was two weeks ago, but I felt the need to chime in.
Yes to completely waterproof flipflops. They may make a scary germy shower bearable.
As you are backpacking with someone, I'm going out on a limb and guess it's your partner. If s/he is planning this trip with you, the need to minimize should not be an issue.
Toms are adorable, and are fine for 3 hours on an excellent sidewalk in dry weather. They also are the international symbol of "I care". However, if you care about your feet, you need a pair of shoes with support. If the athletic shoes are in style (not white), you will look great.
Tieks don't offer tons of support, but in ballet flat world they are soooooo packable and durable. Very expensive. You can do better price wise. Just don't get a cute flat with elastic in the heel of the shoe. Unless you like pain. And blood.
You have chosen very packable shoes so far. I have to urge you to get something to protect and support your feet - your main mode of transportation. you can wear them on the plane and tie them onto your backpack.