The Best Shoes For Backpacking Europe

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by Maggie Turansky


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One of the most stressful parts of planning a backpacking Europe trip might be figuring out what to pack. While you may have your clothing and other miscellaneous items sorted, it can be difficult to determine what are the best shoes for backpacking Europe to bring. This guide will help you decide what shoes you’ll need and which ones you can leave at home!

Want a quick answer? My choice for the best walking shoes is the Ecco Soft 7 (Women’s) & Ecco Byway Tred (Men’s). For hiking shoes, my choice is the Merrell Moab (Women’s) or Merrell Moab (Men’s).

Shoes for Backpacking Europe Comparison

ShoesDescriptionPrices
Merrell Moab Womens
Merrell Women's Moab 3 Hiking Shoe, Smoke, 6.5
BEST HIKING SHOES
Type: Hiking
Sex: Female
Material: Suede Leather & Mesh
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Merrell Moab Mens
Merrell Moab 3 Waterproof Hiking Shoe, Granite, 10
BEST HIKING SHOES
Type: Hiking
Sex: Male
Material: Suede Leather & Mesh
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Merrell Siren Edge
Merrell womens Siren Sport 3 Hiking Shoe, Black/Blackberry, 5.5 US
ALTERNATIVE HIKING SHOES
Type: Hiking
Sex: Female
Material: Mesh
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Ecco Soft 7
ECCO Women's Soft 7 Sneaker, Warm Grey Nubuck, 8-8.5
BEST WALKING SHOES
Type: Walking
Sex: Female
Material: Leather
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Ecco Byway Tred
ECCO Men's Byway Tred Gore-TEX Sneaker, Black Oil Nubuck, 13-13.5
BEST WALKING SHOES
Type: Walking
Sex: Male
Material: Leather
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Adidas Gazelle
Adidas Originals Men's Gazelle Lace-up Sneaker,Black/White/Gold Met.,9.5 M US
ALTERNATIVE WALKING SHOES
Type: Walking
Sex: Unisex
Material: Textile
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Birkenstock Arizona
Birkenstock Unisex Arizona Sandal,Stone Birkibuc,40 M EU
BEST SANDALS
Type: Sandal
Sex: Unisex
Material: Suede
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Vionic Wave
Vionic Unisex Wave Toe Post Sandal, 9 B(M) US Women / 8 D(M) US Men, (Chocolate)
ALTERNATIVE SANDALS
Type: Sandal
Sex: Unisex
Material: Mesh
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How many pairs should you bring?

One of the biggest backpacking Europe tips I could give is to make sure to pack light. It will make you so much more comfortable and happy if you’re not lugging around a 20-kilo bag on your back.

The problem when it comes to shoes is that, well, shoes are heavy and bulky and take up a lot of space. Especially if you’re only travelling with a 40 – 50-litre backpack, which is what I would recommend.

A common thing I’ve seen when I’ve travelled through Europe is that people tend to bring far more shoes than they would ever need or use. I’m here to tell you not to do this. Which is why I would say that the absolute maximum number of shoes you should bring with you to Europe is four.

Generally speaking, there are only two types of shoes that you absolutely need when backpacking Europe and that’s a daily pair of walking shoes and a pair of rubber flip-flops (necessary for beach days and dirty hostel showers).

However, if you’re travelling in the summer, you’re most likely going to want to bring some walking sandals. Also, if you plan to do a fair bit of hiking while in Europe (and you should!) you’re also going to want a pair of hiking shoes.

Four different pairs of shoes will be enough to get you through any scenario and it will help you avoid adding unnecessary weight to your backpack.

best shoes for backpacking europe
You’ll need sturdy shoes for hiking in Europe!

Things To Consider for Choosing Shoes

If you’re only going to bring a MAXIMUM of four pairs of shoes, you need to make sure that they all have a certain amount of both utility and durability.

It is likely that you are going to be doing a lot of walking while in Europe, and you want shoes that will be able to keep your feet happy and will stand up to some wear and tear.

Another thing to consider when you’re looking for shoes is their ability to blend into the surrounding area. Nothing screams “tourist” more than walking around wearing white running shoes.

While wearing these kinds of shoes might seem like a good idea, because they are comfortable and durable, they will inevitably make you look like a target. Europeans pretty much only wear runners if they are, go figure, going running.

The best thing to keep in mind is to find the perfect mix of utility and style. Fortunately, there are a number of fantastic options available.

Best Hiking Shoes For Backpacking Europe

If you’re planning on hiking while in Europe or venturing out of an urban environment at all, the shoes that you’d normally wear while wandering throughout the city aren’t going to be appropriate.

The problem is that most traditional hiking boots are quite bulky and heavy and take up a lot of space. Often, this makes it really impractical to take them with you on your Eurotrip because you may not even use them enough to justify bringing them.

Merrell Moab Women’s / Moab Men’s – Best Choice

If you’re looking for a quality hiking shoe that will last you for years on end, then Merrell is the brand for you. They obviously offer multiple options for hiking boots, however, I would suggest opting for a hiking shoe for backpacking Europe.

A great choice would be the Merrell Moab Men’s shoe (also available on REI here or available on Zappos here) or the Moab Women’s shoes (also available on REI here or available on Zappos here) which comes very highly reviewed.

Going for a hiking shoe is generally a better option when travelling through Europe rather than a traditional hiking boot as they are typically a lot less bulky and take up less space in your bag.

This is the case for the Moab, but it also doesn’t sacrifice comfort and durability and you can just as easily hike for a couple of hours or a couple of days in these shoes.

Merrell Women's Moab 3 Hiking Shoe, Smoke, 6.5

Merrell Siren Edge – Alternative Choice

A great women’s alternative to the unisex Moab is the Siren Edge shoe (also available on REI here or available on Zappos here), which also comes highly reviewed and shares all of the same benefits of the Moab.

Merrell womens Siren Sport 3 Hiking Shoe, Black/Blackberry, 5.5 US

Best Walking Shoes For Backpacking Europe

The first pair of shoes you need to bring with you are a solid pair of walking shoes.

These are likely going to be the shoes that you wear almost every day, so you want to look for something that stylish but also is comfortable and has good arch support.

It’s also always a good idea to go for a darker colour. If you’re wearing these shoes nearly every day for weeks on end, they’re bound to get a bit dirty so a darker pair of shoes is a great way to keep them looking good.

Ecco Soft 7 / Byway Tred – Best Choice

If I were to choose the absolute best everyday walking shoes for Europe, Ecco brand shoes would win in a heartbeat. These Danish-designed shoes expertly combine style, function, and comfort into some of the best shoes available on the market.

Michael and I both travel with Ecco shoes and have since upgraded from the Adidas that we used to wear as they look nicer (while still being casual) and have much better arch support for withstanding long days traipsing around European cities.

The women’s Soft 7 shoes (also available on Zappos here) come in a range of colours and are made from soft leather that takes little to no breaking-in, which is amazing if you wait a little too long to buy your shoes.

Despite being made of leather, they are also lightweight and breathable meaning that your feet won’t feel hot and trapped on warm days.

ECCO Women's Soft 7 Sneaker, Warm Grey Nubuck, 9-9.5

The men’s Byway Tred sneakers are also a great, stylish design for men looking for a shoe that they can wear to a nice restaurant or bar while still being casual enough to wear with a relaxed pair of jeans or chinos.

They also have great arch support, a nice lightweight design, and come in a range of colours to suit any man’s personality.

ECCO Men's Byway Tred Gore-TEX Sneaker, Black Oil Nubuck, 13-13.5

Adidas Gazelle – Alternative Choice

Adidas Gazelle (also available on Zappos here) are a great option for backpacking Europe. They’re extremely well made, currently quite trendy, and they’re incredibly comfortable.

Michael and I both have a pair of Adidas Gazelle trainers (they come in both a men’s version and a women’s version) and are extremely happy with them.

I have had one pair for nearly five years and they are still holding up almost as well as when I first got them and this is with almost daily wear and tear.

I’ve worn them while backpacking through Europe and they are very comfortable and are great to wear for long periods of time. Any Adidas sneaker, but particularly the Gazelle, is a great choice for an everyday walking shoe.

Adidas Unisex Low-Top Trainers Gymnastics Shoes, Blue Navy Conavy White Goldmt, 10.5 US Men

Best Sandals For Backpacking Europe

I’ll start out with saying that if you plan on travelling to Europe outside of the months of May – September, then don’t even consider bringing a pair of sandals. The weather is not going to be warm enough to wear them.

However, if you do plan on travelling during these months, then a good and sturdy pair of walking sandals might be the shoes you wear the most while in Europe. Here are my top recommendations:

Birkenstock Arizona – Best Choice

I really think that Birkenstocks are some of the best sandals for Europe, bar none. I personally have been travelling with the same pair of Birkenstock Arizonas (also available on REI here or available on Zappos here) for a few years and I love them more than ever.

They have amazing arch support and might well be the most comfortable shoes on the market. I can walk around all day in them and my feet will not even be a little bit sore.

What is also great is that they come in a number of different colours and are a unisex style, so they are appropriate for both men and women! They’re also quite trendy in Europe right now, so you won’t look out of style while wearing them!

Birkenstock Unisex Arizona Sandal,Stone Birkibuc,40 M EU

Orthopaedic Flip-Flops – Alternative Choice

If you prefer a more traditional-looking flip-flop as opposed to the Birkenstocks I mentioned above, then I would recommend you bring a pair of orthopaedic flip-flops along with you.

Definitely opt for some sort of flip-flop that has decent arch support, like these unisex versions from Vionic (also available on Zappos here).

While you should always bring a pair of basic rubber flip-flops with you for beach days or hostel showers (I like Havianas!), you absolutely shouldn’t be wearing these as your daily shoes. It is terrible for both your feet and your back and you will be miserable throughout most of your trip.

Vionic Unisex Wave Toe Post Sandal, 8 B(M) US Women / 7 D(M) US Men, (Black)

Finding the best shoes for backpacking Europe can be a difficult task. However, there are a number of great options available that will hopefully ensure you are comfortable exploring on your European adventure!

What shoes are you planning to take to Europe? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie

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