What is the best shoe for traveling with only one pair?

by | May 16, 2017 | Gear, Travel Buyer Guides | 3 comments

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Shoes have always been a troublesome item for travelers. They're heavy, bulky, and don't pack nice. Carrying multiple pairs of shoes around is the enemy of packing light. But at the same time, there's a legitimate need for multiple pairs of shoes.

If I wasn't traveling, I'd have a different shoe for hiking, running/exercising, casual outings, nights out, and formal affairs. But, I am traveling, and I'm not going to pack five pairs of shoes anytime soon!

I wish I could travel with just one pair of shoes that work for all occasions.

My mission has always been to find footwear that is lightweight, multipurpose, and stylish. A shoe that's versatile enough to wear in the day while walking, running, or hiking, and classy enough to wear at night to a restaurant or bar with some long pants.

If it sounds too good to be true, it's because it is. There isn't one shoe that will satisfy all of your needs. But I've done my best to find the closest contenders. As a current one-shoe-traveler, I'll start the list with the shoe that I've been wearing for the past few years. Then I'm going to showcase recommendations from travelers and nomads across the web.

Paul's Top Pick for Traveling with Only One Pair of Shoes

New Balance Trail Running Series are great if you're looking to travel with just one shoe.

New Balance Men's MT410V4 Trail-Running Shoe

For the past few years, I've sported the New Balance Trail Running Series. I always get the black/silver style because they blend well with the rest of my clothes. I'd be happier if they were also waterproof and the “N” was smaller or non-existent, but I'm already asking a lot out of a shoe. I've been wearing these shoes for 4 years now. They don't work in every scenario, for example, I've had to rent formal dress shoes for a night. But to be fair, I had to rent the suit too!

As far as everyday shoes go, the New Balance Trail Running Series have been a winner for me. They can handle the crazy amount of walking I do (often 5+ kilometers in a day), are light enough to exercise and jog in, and they've got enough traction for hikes. Where I feel they lack is in style. The shoe really makes the man and I would prefer a classier shoe for evenings out. I rationalize that the darker color scheme blends in well, but in reality I know that I'm still wearing what looks like sneakers. And for that reason, I perused the web in search of what other one-shoe-travelers are wearing to see if I could find a classier shoe that still met my criteria for function.

What shoes are other one-shoe-travelers wearing?

The Merrell Trail Glove 3 Minimal Trail Running Shoe is a great versatile shoe for minimalist travelers.

Merrell Men's Trail Glove 3 Minimal Trail Running Shoe

First on the list is the Merrell Men's Trail Glove 3 Minimal Trail Running Shoe. Like the New Balance, these are also trail running shoes which means they'll have more grip than a typical walking or running shoe. These Merrell's are slightly lighter weight than the New Balances, however despite their weight, reviews indicate that they can withstand the test of time and kilometers. They are black and not too flashy, which is an important factor for me. My only pair of shoes aren't going to be bright orange because I'm not looking to use them at night as reflectors.

ASICS make a versatile trail running shoe that travelers can wear for most occassions

ASICS Men's GEL Venture 5 Trail Running Shoe

Next I've got the ASICS Men's GEL Venture 5 Trail Running Shoe. I've actually worn these once when I couldn't find my New Balances but desperately needed a new pair, and for all intensive purposes I could go either way between the ASICS and the New Balances. They're both great trail running shoes and have a similar dark color scheme. I actually prefer the look of the ASICS shoe because it doesn't have a giant “N” across the side, but I keep buying New Balances because I'm stuck in my ways.

Salomon makes a versatile shoe for travelers that's multipurpose and easy on the eyes.

Salomon Men's X Ultra 2 GTX Hiking Shoe

One more great option for a lightweight all terrain hiking shoe is the Salomon Men's X Ultra 2 GTX Hiking Shoe made from a mixture of leather and synthentic material. And guess what… they're waterproof! If you're working with a single shoe for all your needs, being waterproof is definitely a plus. Aside from that, based on the reviews, people seem to love these for work, hiking, and as their every day walking shoes. And I think they look pretty good, albeit still like sneakers.

ECCO makes a classy looking versatile show for travelers that look less like a sneaker

ECCO Men's Biom Fjuel Terrain Oxford

If you're looking for something a little less sneaker looking, I bring to you the ECCO Men's Biom Fjuel Terrain Oxford, which go perfect with a pair of jeans or khakis for a night out. These leather shoes are light and comfortable to walk, jog, or exercise, and dressy enough to keep you looking sharp. Unfortunately, they are not waterproof and therefore may not be ideal for hiking. A few people mentioned in the reviews that they look better on than they do in the picture which is good to hear.

KEEN makes a classy looking shoe that you can also exercise in

KEEN Men's Austin Shoe

A second option for a less sneakery looking shoe is the KEEN Men's Austin Shoe. Functionally, they're highly regarded as walking shoes. Style-wise, like the ECCOs above, they go well with khakis or jeans for a night out (at least better than the terrain shoes mentioned earlier). KEEN believes in living the “hybrid life” and this is one of their highest regarded multi-purpose shoes. Customers who reviewed the shoe bragged about their comfort and longevity, some who have worn them for years, although probably not every day like us.

Arcteryx makes a waterproof shoe for hiking running and day walks

Arc'teryx Men's Acrux FL GTX Approach Shoes

Next I've got another waterproof option with the Arc'teryx Men's Acrux FL GTX Approach Shoes. Style-wise I'd be happier if this shoe did not have the red tongue going down the center, but as we're discovering there's usually a trade-off between style and function. The interior liner is separate, which provides an adaptive fit, and the shoe is designed with minimal seams and adhesive to secure the membrane, which helps keep it waterproof. Personally, I don't love the look of these shoes, but each to their own.

Colombia offers a waterproof hiking shoe that looks good enough to wear on a nigh out

Columbia Men's Peakfreak Venture Waterproof Hiking Shoe

And last but definitely not least, we've got the Columbia Men's Peakfreak Venture Waterproof Hiking Shoe, because what's a list of shoes without a pair from Columbia? Made from waterproof suede, these shoes are designed for any type of terrain, and in my opinion, look nice enough to wear on an evening out. They aren't the best for running, but are instead geared towards walking and hiking. Personally I think they've got a more stylish look than the other shoes mentioned above, which is why I decided to add these to the list.

What shoes do you travel with?

As you see, I tend to lean towards shoes that offer more function over style. Frankly that's because I'd rather trade a night out at a fancy venue for an early start on a hike the next morning. But each to their own and perhaps you'd prefer a shoe with a touch more style. Or maybe you've quit on the dream of finding a single perfect shoe and you travel with multiple pairs. Drop me a comment below and let me know what shoe (or shoes) you travel with.

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Best Shoe For Travel with Only One Pair


  1. Dave Anders Lim

    great choices. I’ve been using black NMD’s for a year now and it’s starting to tear. also not a fan of the white sole which doesn’t fit with more formal wear. would be great if you included some price range in these kind of reviews

    • Paul @ Travel is Life

      Thanks Dave – I’ll consider putting a price range in the future. All the ones I featured this time were in the <$100 range, and the prices change so often based on new models coming out and sales, so I left off the prices this time. Thanks for checking out my site.

  2. Rolando E. Romblon

    Very good choices. I travelled with the Columbia peakfreak venture, and I had no problems in Bhutan and Nepal. I am looking Into the salomon xultra.
    Thanks. Nice pick.


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Paul @ Travel is Life

Paul @ Travel is Life

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