So you’re planning your epic vacation, and you need to figure out what’s going in your bag. Whether you’re packing a huge suitcase for a week at the beach, or trying to condense three months’ worth of essentials into a backpack to trek across multiple countries, your footwear will be one of your most essential considerations as you pack.
Good shoes for traveling need to look cute and feel great, but they also need to serve multiple wardrobe functions and take up as little space as possible in your bag. Here are the three main types of shoes that should accompany you on each and every journey.
1. Sturdy Walking Shoes
Don’t cringe! The days when “sturdy walking shoes” meant “ugly sneakers” are thankfully long behind us. These days, there are plenty of fashion-forward options that are just as fashionable as they are comfortable and will have you walking around quaint downtown areas or trekking among ancient ruins in perfect (and blister-free) style.
A cute Mary Jane style are perfect for days spent sightseeing and can do double duty for going out at night.
→ Buy the Camper Right Nina Mary-Jane Flat, $130.00 - $145.00, at zappos.com; shipping and returns are free.
If you’re anticipating any kind of rain or bad weather while you’re traveling, you should invest in a good pair of waterproof ankle boots.
→ Buy the Hunter Original Chelsea Boot, $135.00, at zappos.com; shipping and returns are free.
If you’re planning on hardcore hiking, get proper boots that are rugged and stylish, like Timberlands. These bad boys can take you up a mountain and down, and still look fabulous when you return to the nearest city.
→ Buy the Timberland Leather Euro Hiker Boots, $110.00, at timberland.com.
Sandals are another essential shoe when traveling. The type of sandal you need will depend at least somewhat on what kind of travel you’re doing. If you’re hanging out predominantly at the beach, you’ll probably want a flip-flop style that can handle getting wet and sandy without being worse for wear.
→ Buy the Havaianas Slim Flip-Flop Sandal, $26.00, at shopbop.com; shipping and returns are free.
If your travels are going to involve more terrain than simply beaches and boardwalks, you’ll probably want a slightly sturdier sandal. Birkenstocks are the obvious choice for sandals that can go everywhere, and they come in cute styles that are just as at home in chic capital cities as they are on forest paths.
→ Buy the Birkenstock Arizona SFB Super Grip Sandals, $160.00, at shopbop.com; shipping and returns are free.
You might also try a braided gladiator sandal for sexy, go-anywhere appeal.
3. Dressy Flats
Finally, no travel shoe wardrobe is complete without a pair of dressy flats for nights at the opera or nice dinners out. Flats pack much more easily than heels, and they have a distinct advantage in that you’ll never have to worry about a heel breaking off when it gets caught in the cracks of one of those charming cobblestone streets.
Your best bet is a black ballet flat—it goes with everything, and is a cinch to pack. If you have a bit more room in your suitcase, you can get a shoe with a little bit of structure.
→ Buy the Tieks Matte Black Ballet Flats, $175.00, at tieks.com; shipping and returns are free.
If space is more of a concern and you need something that you don’t have to worry about in the slightest, pick a shoe with a flexible sole.
→ Buy the Yosi Samra Foldable Ballet Flats, $89.00 - $120.00, at yosisamra.com; shipping is free on orders of $125+.
With a pair of shoes from each of these three categories, you’ll be pretty much set for whatever happens on your adventures around the world. From sandy shore to rugged peak, deserted desert to city center, you’ll have the footwear to take you exactly where you want to go.
Editor's Note: This post orginally appeared on June 10, 2013; it has since been updated.
Meg Gillette is a writer and shoe fanatic who works for a footwear company called DNA Footwear. She happily stocks her closet with many shoes mentioned in this post, including comfortable sandals and sturdy walking shoes.