A struggle story concerning your travel blogger and her search for waterproof walking shoes

The only time I wish I were a man is in public bathrooms and shoe stores.  While I recognize that I don’t have the anatomy to use a urinal, I am beyond frustrated with shoe stores and their lack of practical options for women.  Let’s say you’re a dude, and you need some decent walking shoes.  Here are a few of your choices:

shoesformen

And let’s say you’re a lady, a certain type of lady who travels to Europe with an 18 pound backpack full of picnic foods, often in extreme weather.  Here is your selection of walking shoes:

shoesforladies

It’s like a Beckett play whenever we go in a shoe store—HOB ambles over to the men’s area, selects a pair of Merrell walking shoes (one of dozens of viable options), tries them on, they fit and he buys them.  Meanwhile, I throw myself frantically in the path of the nearest sales associate begging “PLEASE! DO YOU HAVE ANY WATERPROOF WALKING SHOES FOR WOMEN?”  Invariably the answer is no, but how about these cute rain boots with ladybugs on them?

This week though, a miracle happened, the store did have one pair of women’s waterproof walking shoes.  Okay, so it wasn’t much of a miracle.  These were less of a shoe and more like a foam-and-Gortex floating cruise ship.  My feet looked like they were stuck inside huge maxi pads—uncomfortable, ill-fitting maxi pads.  Shoe store strikeout number 481.

Decent walking shoes are critical for travel.  You need to be able to walk all day on cobblestones, muddy pathways and up steep hills with a backpack.  Walking shoes are an investment—this is no time to be cheap.

I have found great walking shoes.  A long time ago I discovered a style of Ecco and Merrell oxfords that are not only excellent walking shoes, but are rather attractive.  For years I’ve bought these same shoes used from Ebay for about $15 a pair and got along well enough.  The problem is now these shoes are more than a decade old, so even if I buy them in good shape, they’ve been sitting in someone else’s closet for ten years and they are starting to fall apart.  Crucially, they are not even a little bit waterproof (and yeah I’ve tried all the waterproofing potions on the market).

After our last trip to Europe–you know, that trip where we followed the Camino de Compostela Pilgrim’s trail and it rained/snowed every single day–I vowed that this time I would get serious, I would find the waterproof walking shoes of my dreams.  And I did it: in fact I bought two pair.  As it turns out there’s a store called REI that carries shoes for women that are actually practical, and wait for it now: waterproof.  Waterproof and expensive.  The shoes felt great.  I wore them on some short walks and then some longer walks.  The shoes still felt great, but my knees revolted.  I gave up after my knees swelled up so much I had to sit around for a week with my feet elevated like a gouty-legged aristocrat in a Hogarth painting.  That cool store called REI?  They let you return shoes you’ve walked around in for six weeks, no questioned asked.

I leave for a walking-intensive trip soon and I’m back to square one: still no waterproof shoes.  Though I realize this is what we call a first world problem, it’s still a problem so I need your advice.  What kind of waterproof walking shoes work for your travels?  And where did you buy them?

shoes

Guess who’s the one with the wet toes?

 

 

 

 

 

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37 comments

  1. Great post! Well done.

    💜
    Emory
    helloscarlettblog.com

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  2. Fun post to read, however, I can not relate at all. Having worn off multiple pairs of hiking shoes I never had trouble finding good ones. Well okay, sometimes “waterproof” doesn’t really mean waterproof, but that goes for men’s shoes as it does for women’s.

    For my trip to South-East Asia in summer I wanted to find a decent pair of hiking shoes for the tropics; they shouldn’t be water resistant, because your feet can get uncomfortable sweaty in the heat. Besides, the leather proper hiking shoes always seem to detoriate when you take them to warm, humid climates (even though they never cringed at cold weather). After searching for a long time I found a nice pair of canvas hiking shoes, that I am very excited to try this summer.

    Anyways, to get back to your problem with the proper hiking shoes. I live in Europe, so maybe… instead of buying your shoes at home it would be an option to buy them here? There’s plenty of choice!

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    1. Thank you, ambitiouswanderer. Yeah, those hiking shoes I got from REI are great and well made, so maybe I just have hard to fit feet. Maybe I will look into shoes when I get to Europe. I hate shopping but the exchange rate is so much better for Americans right now.

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  3. I love Danskos. They are expensive, but have a variety of different types of very comfortable walking shoes. The clogs are great for walking in cities because they really absorb the impact of walking on cement. These are my current favorites, waterproof and better for more rural environments: http://dansko.com/Womens/Footwear/View%20All/Celeste/Brown%20Milled%20Nubuck/

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    1. Thank you for the recommendation mrothwarren. Of course I walk in Chicago everyday, so I could use shoes that are good on cement too.

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  4. As I started reading I was going to recommend REI, but then half way into your post you had connected with them. (We have a Canadian equivalent, Mountain Equipment Coop/MEC) Is there an REI store in Chicago? Go try on every pair they have, take home several and return the ones that don’t work. But if ‘good’ shoes are giving you knee problems, maybe you should see an orthotist and get to the bottom (!) of it.

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    1. Yes, there’s an REI in Chicago and it’s fabulous. I tried on about ten pair of shoes, and then started getting really cranky so I fled. You’re right, I probably should see an foot specialist (and your pun is noted and much appreciated). I always kinda of figured I have weird feet from walking barefoot most of the first five years of my life.

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  5. I need to buy my first pair of hiking shoes so I’m glad I’m aware of these issues

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    1. Hi Lucia. Where will you be hiking?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nowhere specific, it’s just that when I go camping I feel silly with my converse haha it would also be cool to hike more often on Bogota’s mountains

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  6. Seems to me my husband’s shoes are never that waterproof either. For serious summer or fall walking, I bring pre-tested jogging shoes in black or gray–not bright colors or white. They don’t stand out , and if they get wet they at least dry quickly. For winter, my very favorite is the Merrell Chill slide with sheepskin lining. I walk for days and days in them. The smooth leather ones stay dry–I do spray them with water repellant spray. Anyway the fur lining is really comfy and keeps my toes from getting wet. For real winter, I wear them with fake-fur leg warmers up to the knee. They look like boots but I can take off the leg warmers in overheated museums. Happy trails!

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    1. You had me at fake-fur leg warmers!

      I’ve never worn a slide shoe before–thanks for the recommendation Claudia.

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      1. It’s not a total slide. Just enough of the heel extends up off the sole to keep your foot from sliding all
        over. The leg warmers go right down over the heel so it really looks like you are wearing boots. This getup would not work for slogging through seriously deep snow but it works really well for hiking around on sidewalks in cold wet weather.

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  7. Go and try on the small mens sizes and see if one fits properly. It’s much simpler than trying to find a woman’s pair of shoes. My cousin does this and found that it worked well, the shoes were a good fit and she even saved some money because the mens shoes were better made and lasted longer. Maybe not a perfect solution but worth a try.

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    1. I can’t believe I never thought of this before–thanks Aquila. I hope the stores have men’s shoes small enough to fit me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And just one more thing about the Merrell Chill Slide: they work great with pants and long underwear, plus maybe wool socks. I also like to wear skirts with warm tights. This is where the leg warmers, preferably nice fake fur, makes a cute but surprising warm outfit, good for cities.

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      2. My cousin usually wears a woman’s 8 1/2 and buys a men’s size 7 with a good comfortable fit. Check online there might be a size conversion chart or something. Even shoes for older boys would probably do, go and try on till you find a good fit. Glad it helped

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you again for the great tips Claudia. I do try to look cute when I’m staying warm. : )

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  9. Awesome post! I have a pair of walking shoes, but I always go for airy choice when I can! —> https://einsteinsbarbershop.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/img_2605.jpg

    Although the range seems ok here in Aus (although by no means gender balanced).

    Kind regards,

    Tony

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    1. Thank you einsteinsbarber. I can see you come from a hot country–no way I could walk around in flip flops here!

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  10. Yes ! a good pair of waterproof shoes for travel is very important and is the necessary, I feel I do not bother to buy Gotex, as long as the good-looking style, waterproof and breathable, this is how I feel. 🙂
    Have a nice day!

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    1. Of course, since you are a runner you know about good shoes Meihsiu. I hope you have a nice day too!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. i like your Blog

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you rjmman. I commend your exceptionally good taste! ; )

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  13. i agree about the range of walking shoes available to men. My range is narrowed further by cranky feet, which won’t put up with 80% of the shoes that in theory should fit. Merrell’s tend to have a wide toe, which helps, but from one pair to the next I can’t count on any particular brand working. Manufacturers change styles, I guess, thinking it’ll keep us interested. Instead, it keeps me annoyed.

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    1. Merrell’s fit me perfectly 10 years ago. Now they’ve rebuilt the shoe in a way that makes me rock when I walk.

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  14. I’ve never been hiking in Europe, but when we went to Italy a few years ago in January and then to Iceland/England/France in the fall, I wore Uggs (similar to this pair: http://www.uggaustralia.com/women-boots/simmens/1005269.html?dwvar_1005269_color=BLK#start=7&cgid=women-cold-weather-boots). They’re not for hiking, but they were great for walking around cobblestones and pavement in the rain and slush. I put Dr. Scholl’s inserts in and they were about as comfortable as could be, considering we were on our feet for 8+ hours a day.

    I seriously feel you on the shoe struggle – men have it so much easier when it comes to footwear! Good luck in the search!

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    1. Thanks for your feedback Erin. Now inserts–that’s a whole other subject that confuses me. I want to try them, but I don;t know where to begin…..

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  15. I live in the UK and there is generally a reasonable selection of women’s boots of an equal standard to the men’s, although perhaps a little less to choose from and, so it seems, less likely to be on special offer! My problem is that whilst I have narrow ankles, the toe part of my foot is broad so boots often rub. I have recently found a solution in buying small sized men’s boots and was particularly lucky to come across a hardly worn pair in a local charity shop for £10 (usually selling for more than £200), must have been fate!

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    1. Amazing–that’s what I call a thrift score!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Well, I’m late to the party, but being a native Mainer, I tend to think LL Bean. Have you checked their women’s hikers? http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/507000?page=womens-hiking-boots Their return policy is pretty amazing: return at any time, no matter how old or worn.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you Cheryl. No, I haven’t checked out the LL Bean hikers, but now I know that I could return them I certainly will. Several of them in the link you posted are actually pretty cute!

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  18. Good shoes make or break a trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Truth!

      What are your favorite shoes for travel, theepowerofgood?

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      1. I’m an Australian living in Sai Gon so I live most of my life in thongs/flip flops. I know that they are the least appropriate in terms safety and coverage but I take a lot of cues from the people around me. For real travel I’m in whatever closed shoes that that I’ve broken in – hiking or running shoes usually.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. I have to wear closed shoes since I’m super clumsy and I’d be smashing my toes all the time otherwise.

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