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Athletic shoes to pack

running shoes

Whether you call them tennis shoes, sneakers, trainers, or by another name, you probably own a pair (or more) at home. And when I’m preparing for my next international trip, I always include a pair of athletic shoes on my packing list. In fact, sometimes it is the only pair of shoes I bring.

>> Read more about choosing the right shoes for your RTW trip


Although they may not be the most fashionable, I can’t imagine traveling without a pair of athletic shoes. Even if I didn’t have lower back and neck problems, I know that taking care of my feet is important to the health of my body. This is especially true when I’m traveling, as I often rely on walking as my primary mode of transportation. It’s not always desirable – or even possible – to take a day off of traveling if our feet, shins, or other areas ache due to shoes that lack in support.

If you plan on hours of walking on your next adventure, or perhaps keeping up your fitness routine on the road, you may wish to add a pair of athletic shoes to your packing list. If your travels will include hiking, instead explore purchasing a pair of hiking shoes/boots, which can look similar to other athletic shoes, or invest in a pair of higher-cut hiking boots.

Before your next trip:

  • Visit your local shoe stores and speak with a staff member who is well trained in sizing and fitting athletic shoes. Everyone who works at my local running store is trained to assess customers’ needs and select the shoe that is best for the individual.
  • Spend time walking (or even jogging) in the store to make sure your new pair fits well before you leave.
  • Ask staff if you may need shoe inserts to support your heels, arches, or other areas of your feet.

>> Buy walking shoes on Amazon for your trip

Runners, Walkers, and Cross-trainers

Walk into your local shoe store, and you’re bound to see countless athletic shoes designed for a variety of activities. How can you choose the right athletic shoe for you when there are so many to choose from? Why are running shoes good for running and how do they differ from walking shoes or cross-trainers?

If you’re a runner and plan on maintaining your running routine during your travels, invest in a quality pair of running shoes. As running is an activity requiring forward but no lateral movements and high impact on the body, the soles and support from toe to heel are designed different from other types of athletic shoes.

Like running shoes, walking shoes are designed with priority on forward movement, but they differ in where they provide the most support and in the thickness of the sole. The impact on your feet and body differ between the two activities and we tend to place our feet on the ground in a different pattern. Though most people I know tend to gravitate toward cross-trainers or running shoes, a walking shoe may be your best fit if you plan on your own two feet being your primary mode of transportation AND exercise.

Perhaps you plan to live in one location for a few months or longer. If you anticipate joining a group sport or local gym to meet new people and make friends, consider purchasing a great-fitting pair of cross-trainers. These will provide you with support for both forward and lateral movements, like you may need for basketball or a group exercise class. Cross-trainers may also be appropriate for trail walks.

>> Learn about packable exercise equipment you can take with you on the road

running shoes

Which shoe is best for you?

Consider your destination and how likely you are to engage in a variety of activities. Visit local shoe stores, especially those with a focus on sports and physical activity. At specialty shoe stores, staff members are often well-trained and can help you select the right shoe for your types of activities and foot shape. Remember to ask the shoe experts how often they recommend replacing your shoe based on the level of activity you anticipate on the road and how much you plan to use it once home!

When I left the USA for Australia, I packed my Saucony running shoes. After a year and a half of activity, I had worn a couple of holes into the sides and recently traded them in for a pair of Asics runners, which I will take with me to London this week.

What type of athletic shoe have you packed on your travels?

Written by Heather

Heather Rudd Palmer is a 30-something with a love for travel, food, and healthy living. After short trips to Europe in her 20s, Heather left her job at 30 to live, work, and travel in Australia for a year. She visited every state and territory, embarked on two road trips, worked at an organic food store, and ate her way through Sydney. She's now a career counselor for university students. You can find Heather at There's No Place Like Oz and Healthy Life Heather.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Christine says

    I actually only wear Vibrams now (those weird toe shoes) and I love them for travel because they work for everything, from hiking to walking to actual sports and working out AND they’re super flat and easy to pack. Only downside: they smell! Luckily can be fixed by soaking overnight in denture or retainer cleaners.

  2. Heather says

    Thanks for mentioning those, Chirstine! I thought about including them here but only know a couple of people that own them and decided that might be a separate post 🙂 Maybe a “one little thing” post for HPL — talk to Brooke if you’re interested 🙂

  3. darbi says

    I take Merrell Pure Gloves! They are similar to the Vibrams but without the weird toe part. Same concept though. I love them and wear the walking around town and even at the gym on the treadmill. Great shoes.


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