Deciding which shoes to pack for a trip can be stressful. Each pair you choose has to earn its keep in terms of versatility and comfort (suitcase real estate is valuable!). And the shoes you actually wear for travel? They need to be winners: great for walking miles within the airport (then later around some beautiful locale) and breathable so they don’t make your feet sweat on the plane. Even better if they can pair with a summer dress for casual outings when you reach your destination.
Having made the wrong choice time and again, we asked someone who knows how to pack light and right — flight attendant Gemma Brazier, who’s logged more than 20 years in the biz — for travel-shoe advice.
“When I travel, it’s essential for me to have a versatile pair of sneakers that I can mix and match with various outfits and that are also super comfortable when I’m out exploring,” says Brazier, who has traveled to Brazil, Kenya, China, Australia, and beyond. She pointed us to a pair of sleek cushioned leather sneakers by Veja: “I love these Veja Esplar Sneakers because they look so stylish and go with everything.”
$130 at Veja
The Esplar sneakers are made from top-quality leather (from Uruguay) with suede details and a rubber sole. Cushioned inside, they feel great on the foot. They’re coated with water-repellant oils to protect against light rain. Available in 17 options (white or black base, various colors on the heel and logo), so you can find something that goes with your wardrobe.
“Packing light can often be a challenge,” Brazier acknowledges, indicating the value of items that do double and triple duty. “These are perfect to wear with dresses or jeans.”
The Esplar comes in a men’s version too, with two color options available on Amazon, along with select options for women.
The brand is radically transparent about its production process, revealing its costs for raw materials, and sharing info on workplace standards in its Brazilian-based factories.
$130 at Amazon
Several colors, including white, are sold at Saks Fifth Avenue and are a hit with reviewers:
“Completely in love with my Veja Esplar sneakers in the deep teal/green color,” reports one happy customer. “I do always wear them with low cut socks and leave the top row of holes unlaced. Doing those 2 things made them very comfortable from the first wear. The insole is high quality but I was glad to be able to easily remove them and add in my own inserts that fit to my high arches — perfect fit! I just wore them walking multiple days on a vacation and was comfortable the entire trip.”
Another says: “I bought these sneakers for a trip to New York and was pleasantly surprised at their comfort and durability, walking miles across the city. They even held up in the rain. They looked cute with jeans or sun dresses. My only suggestion is to size down.”
$130 at Saks Fifth Avenue
If you’re looking for a sportier shoe, the Veja Rio Branco Hexamesh Sneakers offer lots of traction and a retro color palette. There are five color options sold on Amazon. Says one customer: “I was happy to find that they look just as good in-person, and on my feet, as they do in the pictures! I’m definitely glad that I took the advice of other reviewers and ordered one size larger (11) than I normally wear (10)! I think that this also accommodated for my slightly wide feet. I’ve spent two days on my feet, doing a moderate amount of walking, wearing these shoes and I have no complaints about comfort.”
$140 at Amazon