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This guest post on Toms as a terrible travel shoe is brought to you by Melissa Shearer who wanted to share her thoughts on the subject. This post was originally posted in 2012 but has been updated in 2020.
Sometimes you just have to play devil’s advocate.
While I do agree that Toms are extremely comfortable, so-ugly-they’re-cute, and the money spent on them does support a good cause, I can’t help but disagree with Caroline’s post about why they make great TRAVEL shoes.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore my Toms – I have three pairs of them – two that are living in a closet somewhere in my parents’ house on the other side of the world, and the one pair I brought with me traveling. You see, I too, once thought they’d make a great travel shoe – that was until I started traveling with them on my feet.
The following points are reasons why I believe Toms actually make TERRIBLE traveling shoes.
1. They Stink!
No, literally, they stink. Toms are meant to be worn barefoot, but if you make the mistake like I did with my first pair and don’t buy insoles to put in them, within a week or two (and even sooner if you’re walking in the rain) they become so smelly that everyone will be well aware of you entering a room.
When I found myself with a perfectly good pair of shoes- minus the odor – I went back to the store where I bought them and asked if they could be thrown in the washing machine. NOPE. Apparently the dye can run, and the glue that is used has disintegrated in washing machines.
I was advised that I should have bought a washable terrycloth insole, which could then be hand-washed every few days. Seems like a lot of effort for the average backpacker.
- Perhaps some hidden, no show socks will do the trick.
2. Durability Rating – ZERO.
My traveling Toms have long since been reduced to puttering-around-the-yard or biking-to-the-corner-store shoes. I wore them into the ground. I don’t think I’ve ever worn through a pair of shoes to the point of having holes in the toes AND heels at the same time.
I wasn’t even doing anything crazy with them on – simply walking around, exploring Sydney. These shoes are not at all durable.
3. Only Affordable in North America
At $50 a pair in North America, I found them to be somewhat reasonably priced, especially considering
they donate a pair to children who are without. (2020 Update – They have changed their giving model to give away $1 for every $3 they make)
When I wore through my traveling pair in Sydney a few weeks into my yearlong round the world trip, I went Toms-hunting and found that they retail for about $80AUD!
Now, I totally understand that they are an imported item and that they are bound to be a bit more expensive. And exchange rates vary. But I could not justify that $30 jump in price!
Good cause and comfort or not, there was no way in hell I would be buying them on foreign soil.
4. Get a Grip
Toms, by design, do not have extraordinary grip. In fact, they have little-to-no tread on the bottom – which in most circumstances is perfectly fine.
However, I found that in Sydney (sorry I keep referring to my time there) when it rained, the sidewalks would become hazardous! If it weren’t for my 15 years of figure skating training, I’m sure I would have ended up on my butt – most likely in the biggest puddle known to man.
On smooth surfaces (such as rained-upon Sydney sidewalks, or freshly waxed floors) Toms can become dangerous footwear – and the older and more worn in they are, the less tread they will have, thus making walking on such surfaces risky business.
- See why another traveler thinks Native Shoes are good alternatives to Toms.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I am not denying that Toms are super comfortable. I thoroughly enjoyed wearing them on my flights, and still enjoy wearing them despite the holes through the toes and heels – I simply believe it is unrealistic to think that they are good shoes to travel in.
Besides, I’m much more of a Havaianas kinda girl!
- Still interested in a pair of TOMS for casual travel and home life? Purchase them here.
About the author: Melissa Shearer was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. She was bitten by the travel bug at a young age, thanks to annual family vacations to Disney World. Since then she has been to nearly twenty countries and is currently on a round-the-world adventure. As a 20-something with a penchant for adventure, Melissa doesn’t shy away from anything – she’s skydived, bungee jumped, and gone on culinary conquests – eating random delicacies from around the world including kangaroo, jellyfish and crickets. Melissa shares her adventures and love of travel over at The Mellyboo Project where she hopes to infect others with the travel bug.
Caroline Eubanks says
Some good points, Melissa! I think it just depends on what kind of trip you will be taking. I always use them as airport shoes because of the ease to slip on and off, but of course wouldn’t try to wear them hiking.
Melissa- The Mellyboo Project says
I agree that they make fabulous airport shoes. 😛
I work at Journey’s (a shoe store). We sell Tom’s. While I can’t really talk about durability too much. You should never wear Tom’s or any close-toed shoe for that matter without socks. Feet sweat. It’s where our body releases heat. Invest in some no show socks. I know that I used to do the same with my converse and flats. Wearing the socks we sell (as I don’t know of another place that has socks as nice as Journey’s – matter of opinion) has truly made a difference. They have dry-fit technology (keeps them warmer in the winter/cooler in the summer), they also don’t show that you’re wearing socks, and as to why I haven’t found anything as wonderful as these… they have a silicone/rubbery patch on the back to rest on your Achilles tendon/heel. It helps the sock stay on your feet which avoids the hassle of them falling under your feet every 10 minutes.
My suggestion for traveling shoes are DC Villians or Sperry’s. They are some of the most comfortable shoes we have at our store. They are more durable and once broken in, fit your feet like a glove. Sorry if it sounds like I am selling you stuff, but these are my suggestions from the feedback I have received about the shoes.
Hey Cassi, Thanks for the tips. Would love to check out the shoes you suggest at some point. Always after a great travel shoe!
This is too funny! I had actually seriously considered buying a pair for my upcoming travels, after reading the last (positive) Tom’s post. But after doing some research, and dinking around on the Tom’s website, I decided they were a tad too pricey; didn’t seem all that comfy,or like they’d hold up well!
Ahhh! Still on the search for the perfect travel shoes!
Melissa- The Mellyboo Project says
Lindsay, they are EXTREMELY comfy shoes. Unfortunately for what you pay for, you don’t seem to get much durability. But they are comfy.
What type of traveling are you going to be doing?
I have found that Nordstrom Rack sells Tom’s and they are more reasonable since you’re not paying full price! Check them out!
Hmmm, those look like a pair of slip on shoes I got at the drug store awhile back ago. I bought the drugstore ones for around the house shoes. You can’t beat a buck.
I love what Tom’s does but I haven’t bought any of their shoes yet. Thanks for the info this is good to know.
Melissa- The Mellyboo Project says
Yeah I remember when I first saw them I thought they looked like cheap little crappy shoes. But they really are quite comfortable.
And you got a pair of shoes for a dollar?! Where can I get me a pair?! Sign me up!
I have been debating buying Toms for awhile now and loved reading the original post and this rebuttal. Both were definitely enlightening and helpful. I’ve actually just bought my first pair but I got them on super sale for only $27 at a local sporting goods store.
My favorite pair of travel shoes are Merrell Barefoot Train Pure Gloves.
They are lightweight, pack down to nothing, and are super comfortable! Like Toms, they can get a bit smelly after a long day of wearing them but air out easily overnight. Merrell has a couple of other options like the Barefoot Life Wonder Gloves that are also super comfortable. Either of these can easily be dressed up or down. I wear my Pure Gloves in solid black to the office all of the time and nobody has ever looked twice at them.
I second the recommendation for Merrell’s barefoot shoes if you want something that is comfy without socks but doesn’t have all the drawbacks of the Tom’s. The Merrells have serious tread, odor protection, and the fabric-based ones can be machine-washed.
If you’re traveling light I don’t see how you can have a pair of shoes that’s just for wearing in the airport.
Hilary Billings says
Absolutely agree with this. They also have no arch support or shock absorption. Ended up rolling my ankle in Sydney after wearing a pair of Toms all day and wasn’t able to walk for weeks! Silly shoes…
I agree that some of them need more tread. That is a drawback, but I also don’t wear them in the rain because the are just canvas. I have Bob’s (no Tom’s sold here) and I took all the labels off with a seam ripper (I think that was a comment on the other post about too many labels). I also throw mine in the washer (done it three times) and no problems there.
Sara G. says
After blowing through three pairs of classic Toms in the past two and a half years, I agree with every point made in this post. I have loved every pair, but the smell and the wear have pushed me away a bit. That is until my parents insisted on bringing me back to the Tom’s team by sending me a pair of Tom’s sherpa-lined Botas. I think what makes the difference is that I wear socks with them and they also have real soles, so they’ve shown to be much more durable than my classics. I wouldn’t recommend for warmer weather, but they are ideal for touring around in the fall and cool parts of spring.
I am still addicted to clothing with a cause, so I don’t think I’ll be booting TOMS anytime soon!
Good to hear about the Botas — being able to wear sucks definitely helps with the smell.
I’ve had the same pair of TOMS for 3 years, they have been through Israel, Mexico, most of the USA, and Belize. I’ve washed them quite a few times and they have always turned out alright. Also I never wear socks with mine and they never smell. (Believe me I was a ballerina I know all about smelly feet and what happens when you wear shoes with no socks) However I have a few friends who had the same problems you had with theirs. I also totally agree about the lack of traction they have. I am wondering though, my pair happen to be a little girls pair (I wear a US8/AU6.5 but I have very narrow feet so I have a girls US size 4.5) and maybe that is what makes them more durable. Either that or I just got very lucky!
I have 4 pairs of Toms and LOVE them. The only problem I have had travelling in mine is that once they get wet they tend to stay that way, especially in a humid climate. And then the dampness makes them smell worse – normally I don’t mind how they smell.
Obviously they aren’t for hiking or anything but when you’re just exploring a city, they’re amazing. They’re some comfortable – you can walk around all day without your feet hurting.
I bring my Toms with me everywhere I go.
Sketchers GoWalk and BOBS and Rocket Dog flats. Durable, comfortable and affordable. Maybe BOBS are Toms knockoffs, but they have lasted much longer and served me much better than my Toms.
I haven’t heard of BOBS. Would you be interested in writing a review about those… or your Rocket Dog flats?
I agree about the BOBS I have a pair with the memory foam insoles and they are comfy as hell. way more than the TOMS i have tried on and rejected over and over. I like to wear the invisible socks with mine though. I did a long walk (easy terrain) without socks and got heel blisters so socks all the time for me now
-While I have not had a problem with my TOMS smelling (I have had 4 pairs over the past few years and love them!), I do have a problem with them getting dirty and stained. My TOMS have gone through the washing machine and all knight stain removing soaks multiple times. The washing doesn’t seem to harm the shoe in my experience.
-As for the no socks thing, I like the lace up TOMS because they still look cute with socks.
-Even though some places recommend you get the shoes a size smaller than your normal size so they stretch, I found that this made them wear out MUCH faster. I get my normal shoe size.
i just got my 7th pair of toms. i find them the most comfortable shoe for me. i agree with Melissa. My first pair were olive classics and i had them for about 2 years. Last year i took them on a volunteer trip to Tanzania, afterwards when i got home, i washed them in the washing machine they faded a little but that didn’t bother me. I threw them out because they still smelled. comfort wise they weren’t a problem but they do wear out real fast, well the classics do anyways, my other ones haven’t.
Great two articles – I enjoyed reading both of them, especially as I was considering buying a pair of Toms in NYC last June.
I actually found a pair of Airwalks to be extremely comfy – I bought them from a cheap shoe shop in San Francisco, after finding that I didn’t want to take another step in my ballet flats. They’re basically a cheap knock off version of Toms, but I’m so glad I found them, because I was spending the next 14 days travelling on a tour around the West. They were extremely comfortable, durable and easy to wash – no fading at all when I put them in the washing machine – although I did put them in a wash bag first because they were so dirty.
The only problem was I found that the stink if I didn’t have nude socks on was atrocious, but that comes with everything I guess! And being cheap, since I’ve been wearing them back in Aus I find that they’re starting to wear and fray a little bit.
I’m still tempted to buy a pair of Toms when I’m back in NYC at the end of the year – I’m doing a few tours around South America, and want some comfortable footwear that’s not going to be sandals or hiking shoes the entire time!
Chanel | Cultural Xplorer says
I am actually on the Tom’s site now and wanted to do some research before buying. Glad I came across this post as I would actually need to use them for traveling. Thanks for this honest post 🙂
If you put dryer sheets inside your toms and walk in them they will smell good for a long time
You know I go back and fourth to love or hate Toms . You know it’s the kind of trip you want them for if their worth it or not . I love slip on shoes . I’ve had a pair for a few years and they are my main shoe I wear so when I was packing for a mission trip to Jamaica I took them . I took them and my older nikes. I wore my Toms all week . And we were high up in the mountains the roads were rocky . I think more the reason they worked for myself they we’re broken in my feet have done long walks in them before . The canvas I love because I get blisters easy . Only place I hate useing them is the beach lets just say the Jamaica beach sand went home to the States with me .
Toms are great shoes-but also have no support if you don’t add anything type of insert. I love mine and wear them all the time, and they actually held up after wearing them around Italy for a month. But man, my feet were aching every day. They’re super comfortable, just not necessarily for being on your feet all day. My new go-to shoe is a sneaker from Sperry. I wish I could remember what it was called, but it looks just like a sneaker with the laces taken out. They are extremely comfortable and pretty durable, too! I wore them to do everything short of climbing a mountain around Morocco, Spain, and France. And I wear them for work at home! They’re more comfortable than my nice tennis shoes.
Jenna Haversham says
I own several pairs of TOMS (bit of a fanatic) and I tell everyone I know about them. I still have my original pair that have logged thousands of walking miles with me – everywhere from Texas to Greece. I adore them. While I do have to agree with the stinky factor – TOMS after a rainy walk are no joke – it’s easy enough to toss them in a pillow case and put them through the washer. They come out fresh and new every time. It’s funny, even though most people say that TOMS get more slippery as they wear in, I’ve found the opposite… my “old reds” are ten times more grippy and comfortable than the new guys. Holes and all. 😉
Vicki Duncan says
I googled Tom’s because I wanted to know if anyone has hurt themselves really bad by falling with them on. . . WELL, I DID!!
I fell down my deck steps when i hit the first step. I have lived in my house for 13 years and I have gone up and down these steps thousands of times. It was not wet and I bit the dust. I am lucky I didn’t break my neck. I have huge hematomas all over my body and this has been a healing process. I got my Tom’s out and looked at the soles and they are as smooth as a baby’s behind.
Needless to say, I will not wear them again or purchase another pair. They should have some kind of sole on there. . no grip whatsoever. . . dangerous!!
Toms shoes caused me to fall and break my metatarsal bone on my left foot last year when my only child was 4 WEEKS OLD. It’s the sole, there is no traction, even worse there seems to be a layer of fabric on the outsole. I slipped while walking down my porch stairs, thank God my mother was holding the baby. I still have pain from the break after 1-1/2 years. Every person I see wearing the flat Toms shoes hears this story, I am so anti-Toms. They are unsafe, period.
I personally find Toms to be quite durable for Canvas shoes, I’ve been regularly wearing mine for more than three years and they are still in a very decent shape. Definitely agree with the odor issue though! They smell quite awful.
I did judge all the above just by the look of Tom’s.
I am a fan of Bob’s by skechers. Much more comfortable and I have been doing alot of traveling with them. Durable, washable and come in different colors and textures.
I concur with the author of this post. I have two pairs of Tom’s, one of which is just as worn as this author’s pair and in just the exact same places. So if that’s happening to two different strangers’ footwear half a world apart, it isn’t we who are walking wrong in them, it is planned obsolescence in the design.
I concur on the durability, and I concur on the lack of tread. I cannot speak to the smell issue because I’m not a believer in naked feet in shoes that cannot be put in the washing machine, so have always worn socks with my Tom’s which led to a lack of foot odor issues.
And I will add that for travel shoes, I wear Tieks. All of the slip on/off comfort, a more attractive appearance, and holy Vibram sole for grip Batman. You still have to wear socks with them like with Tom’s, so that part is a neutral wash, but everything else is a positive. Of course, they cost 5x the cost of a pair of Tom’s so there’s that. But my Tieks still don’t have any holes in them.
Love my Tieks!
Outfit Finder says
Great post! Informative and well written. I do agree with you, Toms tend to smell bad so fast! Yikes!
Concerning the durability, I’ve had my current pair for three years and had them on my feet during most of a trip I did all around the world, and while they definitely took a beating overall I feel like they aged pretty well considering the price and type of shoes. But I have to agree that they stink and I definitely avoid taking them off in public, although it’s probably different if you wear socks with them (I don’t).
Sounds accurate. I personally never owned Toms but my best friend and her boyfriend do, they once both took them off as we were having drinks at my place and the odor was just intoxicating. Never felt like getting a pair after that lol
As much as I love my TOMS they do tend to acquire a sour stench after being worn sockless on a couple of hot days. We put some odor eaters in ours and handwash them once in a while, it helps with the smell, but there’s no magical recipe and they still make our feet stink. However I feel like they actually are pretty good for traveling, as they don’t take much space in your suitcase and are very comfortable for walking. They are of course not suitable for hiking but are a great option for exploring a city in my opinion. Because of the odor issue they may not be a great choice if you’re staying in a dorm of course.
Agreed! I automatically know my feet are going to stink whenever I wear my Toms!
“No, literally, they stink. Toms are meant to be worn barefoot, but if you make the mistake like I did with my first pair and don’t buy insoles to put in them, within a week or two (and even sooner if you’re walking in the rain) they become so smelly that everyone will be well aware of you entering a room.”
I own two pairs of Toms (some red ones and a black pair like yours) and I love them, but I have to agree with you on that. I already have stinky feet and wearing Toms without socks on a regular basis definitely brings the stench to another level. I found that sprinkling foot powder in them in the morning and letting them air out at night helped a little, even though it won’t make the odor disappear, just lowers it a good amount (people just wrinkle their nose when I take them off instead of passing out on the floor, haha). Now as I said I have stinky feet so other people may find it easier to keep their Toms smelling fresh.
However I’ve had my Toms for about two years and frequently had them on my feet while traveling, and they don’t have any holes in them yet. They probably improved the quality of the shoes over time (too bad they didn’t find a magical solution to keep them odor-free!).
Toms do make your feet stink. I personally never owned a pair of Toms but a lot of my friends (guys and girls alike) wear them and they always complain about getting smelly feet! It smells so bad I can’t sit too close to them when they take their Toms off! Ewww! For this reason I never felt like buying some even though they look cute and defend a good cause. Too bad they give such a strong foot odor.
Janis in Toronto says
I own several pairs of Tom’s and Bob’s. Neither brand is a durable every day “sidewalk” type shoe. I wear them in the house as house shoes; they offer good support for that purpose.
Mine stink too, however my feet will stink up any type of shoes I wear barefoot, be it flats, loafers, Vans or tennis shoes such as chucks and Bensimon, so I wouldn’t blame it on TOMS specifically. They also don’t smell as long as you wear no-show socks with them, I just personally prefer the feeling of wearing mine barefoot so I just accept having stinky feet, but if that’s a concern for you there are ways to keep your TOMS odor-free.
I find that they actually last pretty long for that type of shoes (mine usually survive 2/3 years of regular wear) and never noticed them being that slippery. I do like traveling with them but they are for certain types of usage only, great for going to the beach, exploring the neighborhood or getting a drink, not so much for a long day of running errands or going on a hike.
Toms are notorious for the aroma they quickly acquire when worn without socks. My boyfriend and I both wear them a lot and while none of us usually has any foot odor issue, our first pair started to smell really bad after a few weeks of regular wear. To avoid stinky feet we now sprinkle foot powders in the shoes every morning and insert some odor eaters at night, it definitely helps a lot with the smell. They won’t be 100% odor free in any circumstances and after a long, hot summer day of wearing them barefoot I definitely wouldn’t stick my nose in them but in most situations it does the job and we can take them off without being embarrassed and fearing a “what’s that smell? ” type of question. No-show socks are another option to decrease the smell but I find my Toms more comfortable when worn barefoot plus the socks tend to slip off your foot regularly which is quite annoying.
My daughter’s stink too, she has a pair of red Toms that she likes wearing without socks and that do look very cute but gosh, they REEK! Whenever she gets home from university I have to spray the shoes with feebreeze and throw them in the washing machine as they stink to high heaven. The whole room instantly knows it when she takes them off! None of her ballet flats smell that bad and she also wears them without socks so there must be something with Toms that make feet smell (maybe the canvas fabric that absorbs sweat and builds up odor?) She always marvels about how comfortable and convenient they are but if stinky feet are the price to pay for that I’ll personally pass!
Gail Kefentse says
I have bought 2 pairs of the same Tom’s espadrille . I wore each pair once for 20 minutes . First pair strap came unglued, they were a bit tight ( though they needed to be broken in), so I had a cobbler extend the strap and re attach the strap. While walking out of the shoe shop , testing took make sure the strap wouldn’t come apart again , the shoe separated from the wedge . Thought it was the cobblers fault , so I bought another pair. Wore them to a store got out my car, walked into the store , handed UPS a package , walked to the car and the shoe came apart from the wedge again . So irritated, although smart looking , with a clean design , want to cry for the money lost and time spend on these stupid shoes
As far as I’m concerned TOMS are amazing travel shoes, I discovered them years ago and they are still my go to shoes for summer. As they don’t weight anything and don’t take much space you can very easily squeeze them in your luggage, they’re very easy to slip on and off which make them perfect to go to the beach, and unlike sandals they cover your feet while offering a lighter alternative to sneakers. I literally can’t imagine spending one summer without a pair. The durability has never really been an issue for me as by the time summer ends they are usually so stinky that I’m happy to throw them in the garbage and buy a new pair as soon as fall comes.
I found this article by accident and Im surprised by your claims. I find Toms
To be perfect travel shoes especially when travelling to hot countries like maldives and on Long flights because they are extremely comfortable, light yet you are not cold in cool spaces because they are closed. Of course you cannot wear fabric shoes when it’s raining dogs and cats. I have a pair of toms that I have been wearing for the past 4 years, my feet never stank, I have washed them in a washing machine for god knows how many times (be careful to keep the washing temperature not above 30C otherwise they will shrink) and they are none of the torn pair like yours. The only think I’m upset about is that the company started to use some kind of canvas material which is though and rough. My first toms were light pink kinda cotton? and they were the most comfortable of all toms I got later in my life.