Our Favorite Comfortable Travel Shoes

Author: Kyle McCarthy

Tags : Business Travel, Couples, Multigen, Shopping, Teens

Comfort shoes, like personal hotspots and kale chips, are the new travel essential, no matter what your age. You don't have to have traveled farther than your first job -- maybe as a shop clerk, ice cream scooper, or an after-school sports counselor -- to learn that well-fitted, supportive shoes make a big difference.

Parents lugging babies in backpacks, boomers, and active elders find them even more important, especially when traveling.

Watch parents in Keens (colorful street styles evolved from rubber watershoes), Merrell's (bulky walkers evolved from snow shoes) and Crocs (big plastic pull-ons that can slip in the rain) on any theme park line; often with kids whose shoes match. Shoppers in Clark's (leather walking shoes derived from business shoes), or the always-comfy but often style-free Easy Spirit, Aerosoles and Birkenstocks are ubiquitous, too. 

Many travel writers I know like the well-cushioned Pikolinos from Spain for their soft, supple leather and artistic design (often incorporating stitching, grommets and other Spanish gaucho trim.) As a self-described Road Warrior Fitness Fashionista traveler, I've also tried Arche slip-ons from France, Josef Siebel loafers from Germany and Beautifeel heels from Israel, each a luxury comfort brand whose shoes are as elegant as they are great for your feet. But, expensive.

Waldlaufer: Well Priced Foot Comfort with Style

At last, we have a middle ground. I've just been introduced to Waldlaufer (pronounced valt-loy-fer) by Lugina-Schuhfabrik GmbH, a German company founded in 1960 to make "forest walking" shoes. Their comfortable, healthy shoes are priced from $155 per pair, with ankle boots beginning at $185. Waldlaufer has teamed with shoeru Holden Nagelberg to bring well-made, very lightweight shoes to the North American market.

We spoke with Holden at a recent press event hosted by Bromley PR in New York about Waldlaufers, which are visually quieter yet sturdier than many of their European competitors.

Waldlaufers incorporate water-resistant and waterproofed leathers that are polished, smooth like Nubuck, and shiny like patent. The finely made leather uppers come in earth tones, rust, deep reds, browns and blacks. They don't come in a variety of widths either.

Holden told me Waldlaufer styles could not be ordered online. "Waldlaufer uses multiple lasts, so some shoes will be a good fit for one customer, and some for another," he explained. "We want our customers to interact with their shoes in person to guarantee that perfect fit."

Tough Enough for Rain, Garden Tours, Meetings

Traveling with kids but wouldn't be caught dead on Milan's Via Montenapoleone in your Nikes? Striding the Red Carpet at Cannes with your latest film? The thick textured soles of all Waldlaufers are ideal for gripping wet cobblestone, yet their slim profile "tractor" bottoms give the sleek impression of a traditional business or dress shoe, so they can do double duty.

Expertly formed, removable innersole footbeds and flexing soles are labeled "Dynamic" in the lace-up walking shoes designed for heavy walkers -- the pair I was given to sample.

They arrived the day before a week's trip to Indiana and wow! They were super comfortable during the day of zoo and museum-going and sturdy for my airport schlep. I liked the slight rocker feel of the curved sole, which added a bit of lift-off to every step. I credit them with keeping me energized enough to take public transportation rather than an Uber back to the hotel after a full day of  touring.

Shoes Designed for All Travelers, All Needs

Innersoles in all Waldlaufers are replaceable (retail shops carry them), making them ideal for orthotics wearers or for those who need a refresh after sporting them bare-legged in the July heat of Tokyo.

Shoe models like Cici, a stylish penny loafer with patent leather trim (easy to clean with Windex), also compress so that you can pack more pairs into your suitcase.

Another travel bonus:  Many Waldlaufers have a fiberglass last that helps speed your way through airport security portals.

I asked my contacts about sizes and widths so I could share this great find. Womens shoes begin at size 5 and mens shoes at size 8, which is small enough to cover some tweens and teens. They are all one width with narrowed heels. "Each shoe is designed with a particular foot in mind," Holden reminded me, explaining that rather than make different widths for each model, the shoe shop salesperson will show you models that will be most comfortable for your special feet.

I'm sold. Waldlaufers are available in most comfort shoe stores, like Harry's Shoes, Tip Top and Orva in New York. Check their Waldlaufer website for a complete list of U.S. retailers, then let the journey begin.

Note! This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.