When you travel, you want to pack smart. If you travel for longer periods of time, and over a variety of terrains, in different climates and even seasons, you need to pack even smarter. One of the hardest part of packing for longer trips, in this case, for an imaginary trip around the world, is selecting the correct footwear. This is especially interesting challenge to think just now, as it is the middle of winter in Finland, and it’s hard not to notice how much is required of the footwear when the weather changes, sometimes very suddenly. And the travel adds in even more variables.
When travelling longer periods of time, you want to cut down your luggage weight, for both, comfort and budget. A couple of extra kilograms can be the deal breaker after few weeks, even days, and the airline fares nowadays make it tempting to keep the luggage to a minimum.
That’s why you should usually end up packing a definite maximum of three pairs of shoes. One pair for the streets and travel, one for the bit more formal occasions, and one for the sports (and when travelling for example a year, you maybe should be wearing those trainers more often than your patent leather oxfords – just saying). Alternate your street and sport pairs for freshness, while travelling or wandering around the locations.
Also, if you select your “street” pair correctly, it’ll take just fine to most of those evenings out, and if you need something truly formal, it is usually the best idea to just rent those. This is what we call the RIT technique – Rent It There. (thanks Tim Ferris for the BIT – Buy It There technique)
To come to the point, the question we asked ourselves on this Foundry 12 was “What would be the one pair of shoes you’d take on a trip around the world?” We know, this is contrary to our 3-pairs rule, but we wanted to push our curators a bit farther, and as you can see, they did quite well, we think.
Oh, and we added some travel and packing tip links in the end. Check them out!
Best of both worlds
Janne Lax is the founder of the shoe brand Saint Vacant and a maker of bespoke shoes and boots. His bespoke shoes are made in Finland, and the Saint Vacant ready-to-wear line is manufactured in Portugal. The Saint Vacant shoes are known for their versatile design and small details normally found only in bespoke shoes.
“For around the world trip, and even for bit shorter trips, I would definitely take two pairs of shoes. When one pair is in use, the other can rest and dry. It’s also not a bad idea to pack light shoetrees (or at least paper), small shoe care set (crease and rag) and shoe bags. And plenty of socks. These will make the shoes last better and the use more comfortable.
My own perfect travel combo always consists of an elegant and sturdy pair of shoes, and another pair of lighter sneakers that breath well. Flights and longer walks in dry weather can be accomplished with sneakers, the meetings and nights out can be met with the more representative pair.”
The dress-up options:
“Keeping the wintertime in mind, I have chosen shoes with high ankle. Laced ankle boots will prevent blisters, since there are no seams at angles and it’s easy to tighten the boots to fit your feet snugly.”
Berwick 1707 Goodyear Welted, Mod.242, Saddlecalf d.brown
“You cannot beat welted shoes! These boots feature a stiff and sturdy sole with rubber half sole that gives a good grip and makes them weatherproof. Style is also uncompromised. Decorations are minimal to maintain casual look that serves well for a variety of occasions. However, shoes of this type need to be worn in for some months before the trip to avoid the first mile related complications on the road.
Spanish Berwick is one of my personal favourites for many reasons: The brand has a long heritage, materials are of great quality and the prices are very reasonable compared for example to British brands. I have also noticed that, at least for some models, my Spanish colleagues have fixed one of the few handicaps of Goodyear shoes – the unbalanced heel (when ball of the foot is against the ground the balance is in the front of the heal leaving end of it in the air).”
Produced by Berwick
Saint Vacant, Kilroy, Matte & Greasy Black
“I have noticed that shoes with stiff and pretty hard sole are the best for my feet. They go well for rugged terrain and if they are soft from inside (a good pair of insoles helps) my feet gets rest too. The advantages of these boots compared to Berwicks are an outsole that is just a bit more flexible, removable supported insoles, and softening around the angle. In the design I have paid attention to instant use convenience. The creased leather top is easy to take care of and small scrapes and bruises can be healed with a piece of cloth and colourless shoe cream.”
Price 239 € (from Saint Vacant)
Nike Air Max Lunar 90 Suit&Tie
“Light, breath well and dry fast – not to forget proper shock protection and firm heel. For some people, Nike’s Free Run might do the thing but personally I prefer something bit firmer.”
“Also, the more the colour, the better. Or like this pair that imitates a gentleman’s pocket square. And at least for now the style code allows that colorful and sporty shoes can be combined with more conservative gentleman’s garments, so these might be surprisingly versatile on your trip, taking you from tracks to tea rooms.”
Price around 170 € (from Nike Store)
Style that survives
Mikko Sorvala is a cobbler, a visualist, shop keeper, motorcyclist and an enthusiast of all things rugged. He keeps a well established clothing and apparel store Pinkomo in Helsinki Finland. He’s choices combine style and functionality with comfort and durability.
Red Wing 9013 Beckman
“The boot formerly known as The Gentleman Traveller, do I need to say more? These stylish boots are suitable for that Annapurna hike as well as for the mandatory Manhattan cocktail party. The boot has no inner lining, so it’ll breath well even in warmer climates, and will form to your feet nicely. Though it might take a while, so be sure to wear them in well in advance. The sole is thick and durable enough to last the whole trip around the globe – unless you’re walking the whole way. Then you might need a resole.”
Price 319 € (from Pinkomo)
French Foreign legion Ranger boots
“These are the budget version of the Red Wings. You also need a bit of luck to find a pair in mint condition, and in your size. Once in a while you can find these in army surplus and second hand stores (try Varusteleka if you’re in Finland), so keep your eyes open. The quality is superb and usually they are well stored, so even the 40 year old pair I had was never worn.
The sole pattern is rugged, so it’ll work even in rocky ground. These are also resoleable. If the top starps are too much for your style, they are easy to cut away. This will also make the height more moderate.”
Prices for used ones range from 20 € to 200 €
Jalas m05 “maihari”
“The younger Finns usually know these boots better than they’d like, from the armed forces – mandatory service, you know. Ugly as hell, but comfortably elastic boot for even hard core outdooring. The leg is also upholstered. After the one trip, the boots can be discarded. They can’t be resoled, and the lining is probably trashed.”
Price 159 – 199 € (from Varusteleka)
A trip is worth travelling in style
Ville Raivio is a freelance men’s style writer, who got fed up with the subpar knowledge of men’s style and fashion in Finland. He founded a style blog Keikari.com in 2008, and has since become the voice and face of men’s style knowledge in Finland. We’ve also heard rumours that you can enjoy he’s writing in book format in the near future.
“These three pair are my choice to around the world trip. In my opinion you need three pairs to have all situations and happenings covered. Chukkas take you over any terrain, in loafers you strut along with light and airy steps, and oxfords are perfect companion for the best outfit in your suitcase.”
Brown made-to-measure chukkas by Saint Crispin’s
“Suede leather top is the spongiest material for shoes. So it’s perfect for both hot and cold climates of countries that might be included in the route of world around traveller. I would also choose leather lining with color that pleases the eye of the owner each time he pulls these shoes on or off. Welt should be undyed, plain natural, with white stitching as a light detail. Round last is traditional for chukkas. The outsole of raw rubber has a good grip both for sand and city streets, in dry and wet seasons alike.”
Made-to-measure by Saint Crispin’s
Made-to-measure court shoes by László Vassil
“Top leather of blue calf skin since a bit more unusual color goes well for court shoes. Again the welt is plain with white stich. Outsole of oak-tannaged leather – double layer in the top, single in the middle, to combine durability and delicate lightness. The last is neat and round because the more traditional loafer point is bit too chubby.”
Made-to-measure by Vass Shoes
Black Oxfords by G&G
“Here the factory has decided the details, but not for the worse. With these shoes on you can go to even very formal occasions, and if you wear colorful socks or shoelaces they take you with style to any cocktail party or other after 6pm get-together around the world.”
Price around 1200 € (from Gaziano Girling)
Feels good, wears good
Reima Rönnholm is co-founder of Foundry Helsinki. His childhood dream was to become a photo journalist or war reporter who travels all unsettled corners around the world – and he still hasn’t recovered from the fever to roam.
“I love sun and for many of my travels I have spent the most of time in flip-flops. Once you start to wear them, walking even long distances in them gets quite nice and natural. And those who have been to Australia know that they can serve you for many dressing needs too – at least there (showing your toes outside beach feels strange in most of the other places).
However, if I would need to pack only one pair of trustworthy shoes to take me around the world I wouldn’t even think of choosing flip-flops. I would think of something that would serve me in all the weathers, trough all the terrains and would make me feel ‘Me’ in all occasions and with all the people I meet. So here are the three considerable options from my wardrobe.”
Motor lace-up boots
“Motor boots are made in Japan by Leather Arts and Crafts Moto, founded by Hideo Motoike in 1971. I have owned these particular boots only for less than a year. But since the very first moment I got to look, touch and feel them in real life, I had the feeling that these boots would take a man around the world – and not only once, but as long as he desires to keep roaming. They felt like there were made just for that purpose.
Their Chromexcel leather is in as natural stage as possible and has a charm in unique feeling and beautiful aging process. Already after only just few months these boots have been starting to gain nice patina from just random motorcycling, hiking and working outdoors. This uneven aging gives them a soul, making them more personal to you and showing a track record in small marks – almost like a diary from the trails of your adventures.
Every time I pull these shoes on, they remind me about their super-sturdy construction and materials with such durable feel I have never seen in any other boot. They are pretty robust but at the terms of style still totally timeless. With jeans they look good even in nightlife – and I wouldn’t say that about other adventure or hiking boots.
Wearing them makes you feel kind of timeless and strong too. You start thinking that man who designed and made these boots really wanted to do a showcase about perfection. As I walk in them I get a feeling that there is not place where I wouldn’t survive in these shoes. They almost call you to take you to places where not even the Camel Boots have gone before. And they probably last longer than me.
A choice for world around trip full of outdoor adventures – either on foot, motorbike, horse or other classic transportation method of your choice.”
Price around 500 € (from motostyle.jp)
Vans Sk8-Hi Canvas Shoes
“When you are travelling, the one thing that feels really good about sneakers is the lightness. If you need to get all your belongings and run, it’s easy. If you need to wear your shoes for 48 hours without taking them of, your feet won’t suffocate. And when you arrive to the beach, you can just kick them off.
The Sk8-Hi was introduced in 1978 as “Style 38,” and it took skateboard shoe functionality to the next level, above the ankle. I’m not a skateboarder but I bought my Vans 8 years ago when I was searching a good all-around shoe for a backpacking trip in Africa. I wanted something that felt durable, would provide little support for hiking but was still pretty light.
Based on my experience, the practicality and durability of these shoes is hugely based on two things. The inner leather lining for heels, and the thick rubber sole. These just the particular places where cheap sneakers break. (and in case you haven’t noticed, it’s become harder to find leather lined sneakers nowadays)
Style of course is always a personal issue, and for me the biggest and maybe only downside with these sneakers is the looks. Because in terms of what pleases my eye, there are two other “light” classics that would have made to my around the world wardrobe instead of Vans: Converse Chuck Taylor All Starts or Clarks Dessert Boots.
Chuck Taylors are even lighter; look great with everything and even better when they are worn out. However, they can’t take rain or cold late autumn tarmac, and they hardly last for one summer if you wear them a lot. Thin sole breaks and lets the water in and the inside lining around your heel is thin fabric that soon has a hole from where the plastic bracing comes out, usually in small pieces.
Desert Boots are maybe even more versatile and timeless in terms of style, and super comfortable to walk, but their major problem in my experience is that in wet days you end up getting your socks wet a lot sooner than other leather boots.
So despite the looks that are not 100% me, the Vans made to this list because they have actually been my choice for many many times in a situation when I have left to travel with only one pair. They have taken me hiking to Kilimanjaro and Kebnekaise, to beaches of Central America and around Europe couple of times. I call them my rain boots, because I often wear them when it’s wet. The strong canvas blocks small rain surprisingly well and thick soles help you over puddles where many other sneakers fail.
After 8 years they are still in one piece – and during that time at least three pairs of Converses have taken the same mileage and totally fallen apart.
A choice for a chill out around the world route, not stretching too far from the equator.”
Price 99 € (often on sale for around 60 €)
Alden 403 – “Indy Boot”
“Alden 403 is a Chromexcel leather boot by the Alden Shoe Company originally created in the 1930’s as a work boot. The nickname of the shoe comes from Indiana Jones films, where they were the choice of Harrison Ford for his movie character (the color of 405 models was slightly different compared to 403).
These are the only leather boots that have felt just the perfect fit to my feet from the first second walking out of the shop. It’s said that usually shoes in this category of build and quality need a long time wearing in, but the Indy Boots never caused me a single abrasion. However, they are actually very heavy-duty boots and also heavy to carry in hand due to their sturdy construction and the ribbed, tempered steel shanks that run inside the heel and arch of the boot.
These classis work boots have almost always been my choice for city holidays and travels where I feel I need to dress up a little. They are pretty versatile in terms and style and are most certainly not afraid of getting out off the tarmac (see Raiders of the Lost Ark for reference). They were actually my only winter shoes in Finland for 4 years before destiny helped me to acquire Motos. I used to wear Indy Boots even in skiing holidays – and the ice might the only surface where the neoprene cork-filled sole not at it’s best. However, with good maintenance and warm socks they survive pretty much any weather.
Compared to wanderer/worker-style Motors, in these boots you will blend in nicely with all cocktail and pool parties that you will get invited into as you travel along in you world around trip. So Indy Boots make a perfect choice if your trail is not so rugged – and you don’t want to look like a globetrotter, lumberjack or a hobo who only has one pair of shoes. Good enough for Indiana, good enough for any true gentleman’s adventure boots.”
Price around 500 € (615 € from Browns London)
Travel tips: Want to become a better packer and a traveller?
Smart packing is everything from choosing the right luggage, selecting the right, light and easy to wash and pack clothes, and learning to pack them well. If you want to go wild with the optimisation, check out the Tim Ferriss’s “How to travel the world with 10 pounds or less” Remember, packing smart is one thing.
Packing smart and maintaining your style requires talent and practise, and though I like Tim’s travel tips, I’d turn to some other sources for selecting the most versatile attire for around the world trip. That is, if you are going to do some dining and finer parties.
Tim’s travel tips:
Tim has some good tips on how to pack your luggage and what to pack. See it here ›
Some general travel tips and rules. Some contradictory to your normal habits. See it here ›
For business travellers, some tips on how to avoid luggage with travel cache. See it here ›