What exactly is 'stout footwear'?
December 9, 2008 4:29 AM   Subscribe

Help me choose the perfect boots for wandering around foreign cities...

Having finally got to a point of relative financial equilibrium, the wife and I will be in the position for the first time to take some trips over the next couple of years. Most of our travel, at least initially, is likely to be in Europe, both Western and Eastern, with possible excursions to the Eastern Med and possibly North Africa too. In the past, I've gone between Teva sandals, skate shoes and heavy leather hiking boots, but they all have serious downsides depending on conditions (sandals suck if it's wet and cold, skate shoes get waterlogged easily, hiking boots are sweaty in the heat).

I'd like recommendations for good all-purpose shoes/boots suitable for walking around in dust, rain, wet and anything else your average European city can throw at you.

If possible, I'm looking for reasonably stylish ones that could go just as well with some jeans or khakis as they could with shorts, and that could, if given a quick rub-down with a cloth, get through the door at clubs or restaurants.

I've been looking at Docs, cos they look quite comfortable. Something like these maybe.

Any thoughts?
posted by Happy Dave to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd choose ankle-boot type footwear too, even though they're not ideal on hot summer days. Docs, in my experience, are plenty stout & sturdy enough, although I've heard it said that their quality is not what it used to be. It's been a while since I owned a pair, but I recall I always needed quite a protracted (and painful) period of breaking them in before they were really comfortable: but that may just be me & my weird-shaped feet.

These days, I swear by my pair of Crockett & Jones Coniston boots, but they're several times the price of the Docs.
posted by misteraitch at 4:53 AM on December 9, 2008

Thanks Misteraitch - one possibly cromulent fact - I live in the UK, though I'm in the US and Canada often enough to possibly pick something up over there, if it was particularly amazing.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:32 AM on December 9, 2008

Don't get full-leather hikers. Get a mid-cut hiking boot with a breathable liner. And consider wool socks; when I was doing construction, they made my feet much happier in the heat. (don't get the inch-thick socks, just temp-appropriate. But wool. Man, the stuff is magic.)
posted by notsnot at 5:33 AM on December 9, 2008

Check out some Red Wing boots. They're much nicer than Docs and shouldn't cost that much more.
posted by prozach1576 at 5:48 AM on December 9, 2008

I love Blunnies as walking boots. My current pair is entering its eighth year and heading towards its second resoling.
posted by mendel at 5:54 AM on December 9, 2008

Excellent suggestions, all, and one more I'd like to throw into the mix: Keen Footwear. One pair of Keens got my guy friend through his European travels not long ago. And I swear by them for my weekends here in Southern California, during which I can find myself in the city, the mountains, the desert, and on the beach all in a single day - Keens can handle it all!
posted by chez shoes at 6:44 AM on December 9, 2008

I wore Salomon XA Pro 3D XCR (Gore-Tex) shoes for my wet days on a recent European walking/drinking trip, because I'm a classy American that wears trainers on vacation. They make traditional-looking boots, but I have to say I've been happy with all my Salomon footwear so far. One big advantage is their quick-lace system, which is great for sleeper trains and other situations where speed and silence is key. :)

For hiking I use Lowa boots, but that's total overkill for traveling.

Seconding the wool - I basically wore the same wool pullover the whole time for a top layer as needed (with a wool scarf) and it was 100% non-smelly and in great shape when I got back.
posted by kcm at 6:59 AM on December 9, 2008

The Austins by Keen.
posted by nitsuj at 8:06 AM on December 9, 2008

I am a girl, but I bought a pair of Campers and wore them walking around Europe for about 9 months. I found them really comfortable (although they took a little while to break in) and although they're expensive, they actually look better now than they did new (after a quick trip to a Portuguese street shoe shiner) and the soles are barely worn. They're definitely city shoes though, not so much for hiking round the mountains. Actually I love mine so much I'm a bit of a Camper evangelist...hence this response. They have lots of nice man styles that would be appropriate for almost everything. I'm thinking of the 'Peu' style (sorry, their website is annoying so i can't link to them) but actually looking at their website there's lots of nice options. They definitely have a few shops in London too so you could go and try some on.
posted by Emilyisnow at 8:18 AM on December 9, 2008

Not exactly what you asked, but I had totally inappropriate shoes (light weight Tevas) for my last trip to Iceland. Had I not had proper socks, I'd never have been able to manage.

The socks were light hiking Thurlos. I got them at REI (US). They were awesome, and nearly completely made up for the wrong shoes.
posted by QIbHom at 8:42 AM on December 9, 2008

Seconding Blundstone. The classic in particular.
posted by lunaazul at 12:15 PM on December 9, 2008

Seconding Keen. I only take two pairs of shoes on holidays now - a pair of Keen laceup leather shoes and a pair of Keen sandals. Served me very well all over Europe, China, etc in Summer or Winter. Many models can be washed, which is handy if you trod in something not so nice.
posted by wingless_angel at 3:04 PM on December 9, 2008

Thanks for the answers folks. The Keens look like a good bet (although I am partial to all of these, especially the Redwings, Blunnies and the rather dashing looking Coniston's). I'm having trouble finding a UK retailer for Keens though, anyone know a good one (preferably in or near London)?

I've marked a number of Best Answers, because these are all good and I'll be following them all up.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:48 AM on December 10, 2008

I've taken Keens on two around-the-world trips, they are awesome. In fact, I'm still wearing them now even after wearing them traveling (walking a lot, hiking etc.) almost every day on a 14-month trip. They've held up well and are very comfortable. Campers are nice too and a bit more stylish.

I usually get my Keens online, but in the US fitness/hiking/camping-type stores like REI are usually the place to find them. So try specialty outdoors stores in your area.
posted by Bunglegirl at 9:21 AM on December 10, 2008

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