The choice of the perfect pair of travel shoes depends on the traveler, of course. Most veteran travelers want shoes that are comfortable, protective, and that provide sufficient support so they can forget about rather than be reminded of their feet.
Given airline baggage restrictions, travelers are increasingly thinking light - even when it comes down to their shoes. And with onerous TSA screening procedures, travelers want footwear they can easily take off and on.
What constitutes the perfect travel shoe? There is no definitive answer. On travel guru Rick Steve's website, a long, interesting thread has two pages of posts of reader nominees for best walking shoes. The bottom line: None of them agree; the choice is very personal.
The almost inarguable case for flip-flops as travel shoes
Travel experts suggest packing no more than two additional pairs of shoes for most trips because of the excessive weight and bulk they add to a suitcase. Whenever I travel, my flip-flops are one of them.
One version or another of these relatively inexpensive thong-like shoes has been around since the Egyptians. Havaianas, one of the more popular brands, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. A recent AP article dubbed the shoes "social equalizers" because they are worn so ubiquitously in Brazil, across all social and economic classes.
Understandably, most podiatrists and orthopedists aren't fond of flip-flops. Overuse of flimsy shoes like these can lead to stubbed toes, stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and back pain. Yet, when used in moderation and not as a primary walking shoe, there are a number of reasons why you may want to throw an extra pair in your bag.
Here are five of them:
1) If you are staying in any hotel room, flip-flops can be the barrier between your feet and a dirty carpet, or your feet and a slippery tile floor.
2) If you are touring a city, your feet are likely to tire at the end of the day. In fact, you may find yourself with foot blisters or other irritations. Changing into a pair of flip-flops can give your feet a chance to breathe and recover.
3) If you're on a cruise, you're likely to be in and out of your cabin for meals, walks, lectures and so-forth. It's convenient to take a pair of rubber-soled flip-flops along for walking the interior passageways or wave-splashed decks.
4) If sun and surf are on your itinerary, washable flip-flops are easy to wear and clean after they have been in contact with sand or water. They may even help you avoid getting Athlete's foot (tinea pedis), a contagious fungus infection often contacted on wet surfaces like pools or showers.
5) Flip-flops give women another ultra-light fashion option, wedged or flat, for day; or more glittery, jeweled, or metallic styles for evening. And, of course, you'll want to have a pair along if you feeling like splurging on a pedicure at a hotel or spa.