How To Travel Stylishly – The Essentials – Part One

Travel Stylishly

If you are reading Distant Francophile regularly, there is a better than good chance that:

a) You love to travel (especially to France); and

b) You’d prefer to travel stylishly.

So with those two points in mind, I thought we should start this year with a little series on the essentials that make it easier to travel in style.

I would never dream of visiting France (or any other country for that matter) without the items I’ll share over the next few weeks. No matter your age, shape or destination – or where you are in your personal style journey – these bits and pieces will help to you to elevate your travel style game. Regardless of whether you are heading away for a weekend or a month.

So let’s get started with my first stylish essential – comfortable shoes. Basic? Yes. A given? Absolutely. Mundane even? Perhaps. But incredibly important just the same.

Travel Stylishly – With Comfortable Shoes

As I’m sitting here in Melbourne writing, I am imagining the various responses to the concept of comfortable shoes for stylish travel. Many of you will be thinking that there is no such thing. That the two are mutually exclusive. That you can have comfortable or stylish but you cannot have both.

Now I won’t pretend that the quest for comfortable, stylish shoes for travelling is an easy one. But with some thought and research you can find shoes that look good and keep your feet from causing you grief. Let’s face it, there is nothing stylish about blistered, sore feet. And the time you spend on this will be well worth it – aching feet are high on the list of holiday joy and adventure killers.

Let’s Look At Comfortable First…

Of course, each of us will define comfort personally, but for our purposes, let’s agree that comfortable shoes:

  1. Allow you to walk for miles. However, it is not enough to achieve that goal for just one day. You need to be able to walk in them for days on end.
  2. They don’t rub, cause blisters or any other foot related ailments.
  3. You can stand in them at length. It is surprising how often you find yourself standing around while you are travelling. Queues, museums and galleries immediately spring to mind. And standing can be tougher on your feet than walking!
  4. They can handle a variety of terrains and conditions. From wet cobbles to hot concrete and across slippery tiled floors.

Make sure you consider the material the shoe is made from when looking for comfortable travel shoes. Often synthetic materials can feel very hot on the feet. And while I’m on the topic, it is always worth considering ventilation (laser cut holes, a peep toe) especially if travelling to a warm climate.

Make sure you consider the weight of your shoes too. Even moderately heavy shoes start to feel like concrete blocks after a few hours of walking.

Lastly, while brand new shoes always look best, make sure you break new shoes in with a few wears prior to travelling. I promise your feet will thank you for it.

And Next, Stylish…

It’s a well know style fact that shoes can make or break an outfit. And that fact holds true when you are travelling.

My Oxford Dictionary tells me that the definition of stylish is ‘fashionable or elegant’. Now, again personal preferences will prevail here (and if you love them and find them comfortable then wear them I say) but I’d suggest that the following styles would be considered fashionable for travellers at the moment.

  1. Boots, either tall or ankle.
  2. Ballet flats, a perennial favourite.
  3. Sneakers. Once upon a time, sneakers would never have been considered stylish footwear. But those days are long gone.
  4. Sandals, particularly if you are headed beachside or somewhere warm.

Regardless of the style you choose, look for options that suit your proportions, visually elongate the leg (almond or pointed toes for example) and that can do double duty with both casual and dressy outfits.

When it comes to colour, neutrals are always a safe option. However a coloured shoe can add a highlight to an otherwise classic travel wardrobe. Your best bet is to ensure that your shoe and clothing shades complement each other, remembering that sometimes black shoes are just too heavy for lighter coloured outfits.

Travel can be tough on shoes. From getting squashed in our luggage through to getting scuffed on the streets, there is lots that can stop your shoes from looking their best – and in turn lead to your outfits looking less than fabulous. Utilising light foam shoe trees or stuff shoes with socks or paper can help them keep their shape in your case. And shoe cleaning wipes are a must for travelling in style.

Let’s Talk Heel Heights

I know that many of us just feel better wearing heels. And I know many women who bluntly refuse to wear flats.

However, when you are travelling, often heels are neither practical or comfortable – despite the fact that they might look amazing. Equally though, flats are sometimes simply too flat to be comfortable and don’t provide enough support.

This is where you might like to consider a low block or stacked heel, or alternatively, a low wedge. Low enough to be practical but with enough of a heel to feel good, they can be good options.

And if you are concerned that flat(ter) shoes just aren’t dressy enough for dinners in nice restaurants and the like, you might like to consider pointed toe, metallic or patent flat options which can add glamour without height.

Brands To Consider When Looking For Stylish Comfortable Shoes

Arche – A French company that gets excellent reviews. They have a wide variety of styles available, including boots and ballet flats. They can be somewhat pricey, but I noticed a great many pairs discounted on-line. I recently bought myself some flat boots from Arche and I’m looking forward to trying them – and reviewing them for you (after I’ve given them a decent work-out).

Cole Haan – A number of styles in this particular brand employ the same technology as sneakers. Friends of mine highly recommend these shoes for both work and play.

Duo Boots – Here you’ll find both ankle and taller styles in a wide range of calf sizes. They also provide excellent advice for getting a great fit. And correct fit is super important in terms of comfort. My own knee-high Duo boots have worked for me in Paris and New York and everywhere in between and are versatile enough to take me from day to night.

Everyday Sneaker Brands – Like New Balance, Nike and Adidas. Make sure you choose a version with good support for walking, remember that sneakers are made for different activities these days.

K Jacques – Another French brand specialising in hand-made, very comfortable sandals. Available in a wide variety of styles.

Skechers – While I’ve not tried the ‘Go Walk’ range, Distant Francophile readers have called them out in the past as being especially comfy.

Tieks – Brightly coloured ballet flats. I have not experienced this brand myself, but again I’ve seen great reviews.

One Final Thought – Travel Stylishly But Light

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of a heavy suitcase. And shoes can add both weight and bulk. For this reason, I try not to travel with more than two pairs of shoes. (A few years back I might have tried to travel with just a single pair, but over time, I’ve come to learn that two pairs not only give your feet a break, but also protects against soaked or damaged shoes).

When you elect to limit the number of shoes you travel with, you have to choose carefully. I tend to decide which shoes I’m travelling with and build my travel wardrobe around them, particularly when I’m travelling during variable weather. For tips on packing shoes for Paris, make sure you check out this post.

Do you have any comfortable footwear tips that help you to travel stylishly? If so, I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

And until next time – au revoir.


Please note – this is an unsolicited post and no compensation of any kind has been received from any of the brands named.


Photo Credit: Haute Stock

About Janelle

I believe that everyone can bring French elegance and inspiration to their life, no matter where they happen to live in the world. They only need to learn a secret or two to be on their way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll have access to the secrets that allow you to bring the best of the French lifestyle into your everyday life. I’m talking about things like style advice, recipes and book reviews. And you’ll also receive regular doses of French inspiration, as well as travel and packing tips galore.

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13 thoughts on “How To Travel Stylishly – The Essentials – Part One

  • Veronica

    For colder months I swear by my Stuart Weitzman motorcycle boots. They look good with jeans and hip with a dress and tights. I bring a dressier pair of shoes for social events when I wont be walking as far. On our recent trip to Paris I carried a pretty tote and changed into my beautiful shoes then checked the tote with my coat.
    Spring/Summer it’s my Superga sneakers that are great with pants/shorts/skirts. They come in a variety of fun colors.

    • Janelle Post author

      Thanks so much for the great tips Veronica. Superga sneakers are another brand that get lots of good feedback. And while I’ve only tried Stuart Weitzman heels, they were very comfortable!

  • Alisa

    Janelle, thank you for addressing this bane of all women travelers!
    One thing I always pack is a pair or two of thin shoe innersoles to add some cushioning, especially to ballerinas which rarely provide enough. It is something that I take into consideration when I buy shoes: will a thin inner sole work? The added advantage is that when my feet inevitably swell at the end of a long day, I can remove them for a better fit.
    I sometimes take a pair of the amazing somewhat thicker gel innersoles with me when shopping for travel shoes to choose the size that will fit with them, depending on the style of the shoes.
    And I would never travel in the summer without my (hear me out!) Birkenstocks – but not just any Birkenstocks! Search for the lighter looking ones with a cute ankle strap – I wear them regularly in Paris and have received many compliments.

    • Janelle Post author

      Thanks so much Alisa. I’ve never had any luck with gel innersoles…I think I made the mistake of choosing the most cushiony innersoles I could find, and then discovering that they didn’t work with any of my shoes. I did, however, love a pair of leather innersoles that I picked up for next to nothing at BHV in Paris…they certainly helped make all the shoes I slipped them into a bit more comfy. I have to say that I’m almost convinced on the Birkenstocks…if they are the right style. No-one could argue about their comfort and a friend of mine wore a pair to a party recently, and they really didn’t look out of place…I must take another look.

      • Alisa

        Janelle, the Birkenstock style ‘Yara’ is the one I always wear. Very cute with dresses or jeans or just about anything.
        I wish that those wonderful leather innersoles were available in the US – they are everywhere in Paris, even at monoprix and lower priced shoe stores. They make such a difference and really fit in every shoe.

    • Janelle Post author

      Hi Joanne, thank you for adding your thoughts to the conversation. I’ve seen recommendations for Thierry Rabotin shoes before…and it sounds like the return on the investment that you made has been worthwhile. I’ll be interested to see how I go with the Arche shoes, and I must check out your Naot recommendation.

    • Janelle Post author

      Hey Jean-Marie. I don’t think you are the only man reading DF…but you are one of very few. Having said that, I’m sure the women who make up the majority of the DF readers want any male travelling companions they may have to be comfortable too. During our recent trip to NYC, Scott went on the hunt for more comfortable shoes….whether he writes the post or I do, I think we’ll definitely be able to come up with something. Stay tuned!!

  • Garden Goddess

    You may also want to consider how easy the shoes are able to slip on or off. If you will be going through security trying to unlash and lash-up sneakers/any shoe might be an issue for you. I’d also consider if the shoes would work in an emergency situation, like running or careening down an airplane slide. You don’t want your shoes to fall off and be barefoot with rocks, glass shards or snow. I was wearing some backless sneakers and twisted my foot on a curb/asphalt interface. I wrenched my back so badly that had I been on vacation it certainly would have ruined it (after 2 weeks I could barely stand for even 5 minutes!). Remember, you may well be walking on uneven surfaces, and often be looking up and out admiring the view, so you don’t want a shoe that can be causing you problems. Best wishes!

    • Janelle Post author

      Thank you Garden Goddess – you make some excellent tips here. Choosing the right footwear is so important for airport security. And I’m so sorry to hear about your back. Thinking about where you will be walking is essential not only for comfort but to ensure you don’t get injured. Thanks again.

  • Jo

    I would add a third criteria to your comfortable and stylish – able to be worn in more than one situation. It’s pointless packing shoes that only go with one outfit or that you would only wear in the evenings or on the beach. I personally find it easiest to choose my shoes first when packing then make sure all the garments I pack go with my shoes. I pack less and half more to wear

    • Janelle Post author

      I agree with absolutely everything in your comment Jo. I also plan my packing around my shoes…there is nothing worse than packing anything you don’t wear. And if an item can’t do double duty then it probably doesn’t deserve its space in my luggage. Of course, in my case, all these packing lessons were learned the hard way…..