What shoes to wear in Europe?

I’ve given you some of my thoughts on what shoes you should wear when travelling, and what shoes to travel with in the summer time. But I noticed from the search results that bring some of you here, that there are questions on what shoes you should wear when travelling Europe as well. So here are some of my suggestions.

The complexity of travelling around Western Europe is that you have to balance the following

a) Expect to walk around a lot. Most of the cities are in the balance of not being big enough to justify cabbing, but not being small enough that you can easily walk end to end. So you end up mostly walking, taking public transportation, and walking again.

b) You may need to also deal with bicycles to get around. Long helmed by the Dutch, the cycling ‘trend’ is starting to pick up all over Europe as well, with public bicycles now available for rent in Paris, London and pockets of Germany as well. I would always prefer cycling over public transportation. It’s friendlier to the environment, you can go pretty much anywhere you want, and it’s the perfect vacation exercise as well.

c) Cobblestones. Now this is what is quite unique about Europe as well. Given its history and preservation, you will find cobblestones in most European cities you go too. On flat ground it may not be that bad, but put in a bit of a slope and you could easily accidentally slip and tumble over. I remember walking around Granada, Spain with my giant backpack on my back and a pair of ballet flats on my feet. Even though I though flats would be easy to navigate around Europe, I could feel myself slip and slide along the smooth cobblestones.

d) Striking weather changes. I like to make jokes about how London is gray and gloomy nine months out of the year, but at least that would make for pretty consistent footwear. It’s in places like Netherlands though where the weather can change in the blink of an eye, and next thing you know it’ll be raining, adding to the slip and slide of the street.

So, what are the good options to deal with these challenges? I would pretty much recommend

Keeping low but sticky

Ballet flats may not be the easiest pair to walk with on these streets. Most flats comes with a smooth sole making it likely that you would slip and fall. The lack of arch support on some of these shoes may also cause pain if you’ve been on your feet the whole day. If you do go flat out low, consider looking for a sole that would give you a bit of traction.

Having just a bit of heel

Want to still dress up? High heels are not going to cut it, but slim cut wedges are going to cause a similar predicament. Low chunky heels could be a good alternative for you. The wedge in between may help give you some traction as it grips against the edge of cobblestones.


In the cold it goes without saying that you really should wear either galoshes, or a good pair of waterproof boots. In the spring and summer though, I would recommend open toe sandals or flip-flops so that in case you do end up getting a bit of a splash.