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Women on the Road

Women's Walking Shoes: What it Takes to Travel in Comfort

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Women's walking shoes - possibly the most important item in your travel wardrobe. Take the wrong pair and your trip may be ruined.

Not only are they vital, but they are usually the bulkiest thing you're taking.

If your trip involves a lot of city walking, your choice of travel shoes can make or break your trip. (I'm not talking about hiking boots or hiking sandals here but city shoes.)

I'm a shoe lover and I've tried pretty much every walking shoe there is. Here's my list, and below it I've made suggestions on what to look for in the perfect walking shoe.

The Skechers Sport Women's Empire Fashion Sneaker is probably my favourite. Slip on - great for visiting mosques and temples. Dirty? Just throw them in the washing machine - and oh so light. But the top wears through after a while; no matter, I get a new pair because they're that comfortable.
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The Naturalizer Women's Intrigue Slip-On Loafer is soft and comfy for walking in town, but best when I have busy meetings and need to wear business clothes - and see the sights in-between. This is exclusively for city wear though - it won't do for a country stroll. Or if your feet are extra-wide.
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My Rockport Women's Cycle Motion Web Mary Jane Flats are cute, light and just good all-round playful shoes. Again, slip-on makes them ideal for travel to countries requiring extensive shoe removal. The sizing can be a bit erratic so check carefully.
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The Clarks Women's Desert Boot is an acquired taste and not for everyone. I find them great for tromping around rural areas when not much hiking is involved or for casual city wear. They keep my feet cool even in high heat but I wouldn't wear them when it's humid. They're comfortable - but only once you've broken them in properly!
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The Vibram Furoshiki Walking-Yoga-Fitness Shoe is probably the weirdest shoe I've ever worn. It wraps around my foot and attaches with velcro. It feels like a 'no-shoe' - like walking barefoot but with a sole (and I love walking barefoot). For short outdoor walks only, but I had to mention them because they're so original.
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How to choose the perfect walking shoe

I've listed my favourite city walking shoes - but why did I choose them, and why do I like each of these pairs? It's because they fulfilled some (or all) these requirements.

General comfort
That goes without saying. Travel and sightseeing means you'll be on your feet a lot longer than you're probably used to so your shoes need to be that comfortable.

Specific bits and pieces
Sometimes a shoe is perfectly comfortable - except for a little seam or thread. If you have sensitive skin, the slightest rub could be a dealbreaker.

Your shoe's material is a factor. Soft leather feels wonderful but may be hot in summer when compared to some of the newer breathing fibers. You may also prefer to avoid animal products or conversely, you may wish to wear only what nature made.

The inside of your shoe is as important as the outside. It should breathe easily and not make your foot sweat.

Arch support
This may not be an issue for you but if it is, some of the simpler flats won't do at all and you'll need stronger support.

If you care about style, some shoes will drop out of the race immediately, while others will grab you by the imagination - forget things like comfort!

You don't want your shoes to die after a few intensive wears so make sure the memory foam doesn't flatten or the sides yaw once you've put them through their paces.

Well, yes, but shoes are one extravagant purchase for which I don't even look at the price. If they fit well, are durable and attractive, I'll give in.

Do you need to work while you're away? If so, consider taking a pair of shoes that can do double duty (unless luggage is no obstacle). And here's a bit of an unorthodox suggestion: how about a pair of nursing shoes? They're sturdy, comfortable, and designed to keep you on your feet all day. Just saying.

Depending on where you're walking, the thickness of your sole will make a difference. If you're walking on cobblestones you'll need something far thicker than if you're walking through a Hong Kong mall. The treads are also important. A flat tread could be more slippery, depending on the ground's surface.

It hit home last month in Kyrgyzstan - each time I went into a home I had to take my shoes off, sometimes a dozen or more times a day. Imagine doing that with laces! In some countries slip-ons or loafers are the only way to go.

The lighter they are, the easier they'll be to pack. That said, ultra-light shoes may be too flimsy for the wear and tear of a full day's sightseeing.

Easy to clean
Your shoes will get dirty and you'll need to be able to clean them - certain materials are easier to clean than others. If walking through mud or dust is part of your plan, think about how you'll brush or wash your shoes afterwards.

Time of year
Do check the weather before you decide which shoes to take! You won't want to wear those leather flats in the middle of the monsoon season and in winter, you'll be looking for something more sturdy, like hiking boots.

These shoes are recommended for tourism in well-kept cities, but if you're headed somewhere with plenty of debris in the street, uneven sidewalks or muddy side streets, again, you'll need something sturdier.

The one piece of advice I can provide about city or walking shoes is this: if you find the perfect pair, run and buy another. Models change and you may not get another chance!

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