Updated on January 3, 2024
Intro – been walking Italian streets since 2003 as a solo traveler, guide, and now a mamma of three. I’ve walked from north to south:
- on the cobblestone streets of Rome
- on strade bianche (white roads) in the Tuscany countryside
- up and down the stairs in Positano
- through the streets of archaeological sites like Pompeii
- inside the Vatican Museums
- on paths inside the Boboli Gardens
- between the towns of the Cinque Terre
- and everywhere in between!
If you’re here – great! You know how important shoes are for a vacation. I’ll walk you through:
- The type of terrain to expect in Italy
- How to choose shoes for your particular trip to Italy (weather, location, activities, etc)
- Important shoe characteristics when choosing shoes for Italy (breathability, arch support, etc)
- The main types of shoes you should bring to Italy, with examples
- General tips for buying shoes for your Italy trip
- Where you can buy shoes in Italy, and which shoes Italians wear on vacation
Why listen to me? Besides my years of guiding travelers around Italy, I’ve also helped readers of the New York Times, Travel and Leisure, SELF, NY Magazine, and Woman’s Day choose the best shoes for a comfortable vacation.
Important: This isn’t a one-size-fits-all guide. We all have different Italian vacations planned, types of feet, style preferences, and budgets. I hope that you’ll pick up some good tips from this article that will help you find the best shoes for Italy for you.
Good To Know: When I include a link, it may be a women’s or men’s version of the shoe, so make sure you’re purchasing the one you want. I often buy a men’s version of a shoe because I like a wide toe box.
Andiamo – let’s go!
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If you just want someone to tell you what to do, here’s my general advice (but I still recommend reading the rest of the article):
Wear comfortable shoes. Comfort 1st, fashion 2nd. And don’t worry about trying to ‘blend in’ or dress ‘like an Italian.’ Italians can tell you’re not Italian, and they’re fine with that. You’ll see Italians in all sorts of shoes that aren’t appropriate for traveling – and many of these men and women are only walking in them for an hour so, or sitting at a desk all day, or just wearing them out for dinner with friends. Wear your comfy shoes!
Bring 2 pairs of shoes (in some cases, 3). The exact types of shoes will depend on things like your feet, where you’re heading in Italy, the time of year you’re traveling, and your chosen activities.
- Example 1: You’re traveling for 3 weeks the summer in Italy and visiting Venice, Florence, and Rome – exploring cities, museums, and monuments – on your feet all day long. Bring 1 pair of breathable sneakers like the New Balance 574v2 and 1 pair of comfortable sandals like the Birkenstock Arizona.
- Example 2: You’re spending 10 days in Puglia in September dividing your time between relaxing at the beach and visiting the small, whitewashed villages. Bring 1 pair of comfortable sneakers like the Veja Campo and 1 pair of beach shoes like the Birkenstock Gizeh EVA.
- Example 3: You’re spending a week October in the Dolomites hiking and eating in Michelin-starred restaurants. Bring 1 pair of hiking shoes or boots like the Merrell Moab 2 Vent and one pair of dressy-but-comfy shoes like ballet flats (women) or casual dress shoes (men).
Avoid shoes made of light-colored suede, shoes with smooth/slippery soles, shoes you haven’t worn in, sandals that are close to the ground with no front lip, shoes that you will only wear once on the trip.
My Go-To Shoes for Italy Travel are sneakers from New Balance and sandals from Birkenstock. If I’m attending a special event like a wedding, I pack comfortable, flat dressy sandals or ballet flats that take up little space so I don’t feel bad if I only wear them for the wedding.
Shoe Brands I Love for Italy Travel (and that I’ve seen others happily wear) include:
- New Balance
- Hoka One One
- Cole Haan
My Picks for the Best Shoes for Italy for Women
|New Balance 990v6
|Weather-proof the suede if possible; breathable, cushioned, and supportive
|Many more ‘trendy’ styles available; avoid light color suede; I like the soft footbed; pay attention to narrow vs regular footbed
|Hoka One One Bondi
|Dark colors best because they’re tough to keep clean
|Vegan option; surface wipes clean
|Naturalizer Flexy Flat
|Surface wipes clean; grippy sole; padding on upper heel area; cushioned and supportive
|Allbirds Tree Flyer 2
|Breathable, natural materials; grippy sole; lightweight
|Merrell Moab 2 Vent
|Vibram sole; breathable upper; good for summer hiking and city walks; for winter choose a waterproof version
|Blundstone Chelsea Boot
|Also versions with small heel or taller shaft; dependable, comfortable; popular in Italy
My Picks for the Best Shoes for Italy for Men
|New Balance 990v6
|Weather-proof the suede if possible; breathable, cushioned, and supportive; the 997H is a more budget-friendly alternative
|Avoid light color suede; I like the soft footbed; pay attention to narrow vs regular footbed
|Hoka One One Bondi
|Breathable; lightweight; tough to keep clean
|Vegan option; surface wipes clean
|Ecco MX Gore-Tex
|Waterproof; high-top; grippy sole
|Salomon X Ultra Pioneer
|Grippy sole; breathable upper; good for hiking and city walks; waterproof
|Blundstone Chelsea Boot
|Dependable, comfortable; popular in Italy
|Clarks Grand Crosscourt II
|Easy to clean surface; work for nicer restaurants and daytime wear; rubber sole
Walking Around Italy – What to Expect
If you’re coming from a suburb where you drive everywhere and mainly walk from your car to the grocery store or the front of the school to pick up your kids, your feet may be in for a shock – you’ll be walking a lot in Italy.
Cities here are set up for walking, you’ll explore archaeological sites and museums on foot, and you’ll want to participate in the passeggiata in the evening before or after dinner.
On your trip to Italy may walk on:
- Cobblestones – You can’t really avoid them in Italy!
- Gravel or Dirt – Roads or paths
- Steps – Unavoidable in places like the Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast, but you also may climb steps to your hotel room, in museums, or in cities and towns
- Slippery Surfaces
- Uneven Ground – Including streets with narrow, non-existent, or uneven sidewalks
- Places Without Handrails
- Wet Streets – Especially if you’re traveling in a rainy season
You’ll need shoes that work well in all of these situations. But there are more things you’ll need to take into account:
What to Think About When Buying Shoes for Italy
How Many Pairs of Shoes to Bring
Bring more than one pair of shoes to Italy.
Your feet will be in shoes and walking a lot in Italy, and they’ll need a little variety.
If one pair gets wet, you’ll need another pair while they’re drying.
You may want to bring a sporty pair and a ‘dressier’ pair.
If you’re visiting when it’s warm, you may want to bring sandals.
Time of Year
You already know you won’t need sandals in December or a warm boot in July. But have you checked to make sure your sneakers are water resistant if you’re visiting in a period that gets a lot of rain? And that your shoes will keep your feet warm during the cooler months? Are your sneakers for your July trip breathable or will you be sweating in them every day? Read more about visiting Italy in January – February – March – April – May – June – July – August – September – October – November – December.
Helpful Tip: While not exactly a shoe, you may want to bring a pair of slippers or warm socks if you’re traveling in a cold season. They’re handy in chilly hotel rooms in the evening.
Location(s) in Italy
Rome & Cities – Traction and support are extra important for walking on cobblestones, uneven streets. Sandals with a front lip (like Birkenstocks) help keep your feet a little cleaner and keep you from stubbing your toes.
Dolomites – Evenings can be cool even in the summer, so I prefer ballet flats to sandals as a ‘dressier shoe.’ But, the entire region is casual and you’ll also be fine going to dinner in casual clothing and sneakers or hiking boots.
Cinque Terre – You’ll need a supportive shoe with good traction for the hikes. If you’ll be spending time in the sea, you may also want to bring beach-friendly sandals like EVA Birkenstocks.
Amalfi Coast – There’s definitely more of a glam vibe here, so I understand wanting to have a dressier shoe for the evenings or even strolling around in the day. While I wear my Birkenstocks here, you could also look at sandals from Clarks or Geox – both comfort-focused but with ‘trendier’ options.
Sicily – I prefer comfy sneakers or Birkenstocks, making sure they are a darker color or can be easily wiped because I always end up with dirty shoes here (from cities and archaeological sites.
Length of Trip
I always bring two pairs of shoes so I can give my feet some variety and I have a ‘backup’ if something happens to one pair (gets wet, gets damaged, etc). I do know some travelers who pack only one pair if they’re visiting for one week or less.
Activities on Trip
You’ll need to have activity appropriate shoes. Will you be hiking, cycling, or spending your days walking through museums and walking in cities? Will you spend most of your time at the beach and then take taxis to restaurants for dinner? Will you spend half of your trip exploring archaeological sites with dirt paths?
Your Feet – Conditions and History
This often gets overlooked when others make recommendations. You need to remember pick the best shoes for your feet (and you may already own the right shoes, or just need to get a new pair for your trip – that you’ll break-in, of course).
Do you have bunions, wide feet, plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, diabetes, corns, sweaty feet, orthotics? Keep all of these in mind when you’re choosing your shoes.
Are you going to a wedding or anniversary celebration? Will you need business apparel for any part of your trip?
Terrain in Italy
Don’t picture the perfect sidewalks and flat roads in your hometown when you’re thinking about which shoes to bring to Italy. Imagine walking on cobblestones, on uneven terrain, in dirty streets, through puddles in rainy seasons, on gravel trails and roads, up and down steps, on slippery surfaces, and sometimes without the help of handrails.
Your Personal Style
It’s important to recognize your style and to choose your Italy travel shoes based on that. Don’t worry about trying to ‘blend in’ or ‘not look like a tourist.’ The Italians can pick you out as non-Italian without even looking at your feet.
Characteristics to Look for When Choosing Your Shoes for Italy
Breathability – If you have sweaty feet and will be touring Sicily in the summer, choose sneakers with netting or perforated leather. Many brands (like New Balance) use season-appropriate material on the uppers of their sneakers.
Flexibility – Have you ever tried walking on the cobblestone streets of Rome in hard leather or patent leather shoes with hard soles? It’s not fun. Don’t try it. Instead, look for flexible shoes that move with your foot.
Stability – You want a flexible shoe, but your foot also needs to feel supported. That’s one reason I always wear Birkenstock sandals – they are very supportive, which is helpful when you’re on your feet all day.
Quality – You want to spend your time marveling at David in Florence, enjoying your vaporetto ride in Venice, and walking through Ostuni in Puglia, not trying to find someone to fix your shoe, or shopping for a new pair of shoes in Italian (and praying those new shoes don’t give you blisters). Choose quality shoes, preferably brands that you’ve worn before.
Traction – There are a ton of smooth stone surfaces in Italy (think of all of the people that have walked down that road in Rome or up those steps in Positano). Don’t expect traction strips or anti-slip tape on streets or in museums in Italy. Just make sure your shoes have good tread.
Lightweight – If possible, choose a lightweight shoe.
Material that can wipe clean – When the marinara sauce inevitably falls onto your shoes, it’s nice if you can just wipe it off. If you bring shoes with suede or netting uppers, make sure they’re a darker color. If you want to wear white shoes, choose sneakers like these Clarks or these Adidas.
Types of Shoes to Bring to Italy
The two main types of shoes I recommend bringing to Italy include a walking shoe (can be either a casual sneaker or an athletic shoe) and another shoe – a pair of sandals (if you’re visiting in the summer) or a warm, weatherproof shoe (if you’re visiting in the winter).
If you’re visiting in the spring or autumn, you’ll need to look at the weather in your destination.
Helpful Tip: I wear compression socks on my flights and after a long day of walking. I have pairs from Physix and Compressport. Always speak with your doctor before wearing compression socks.
Walking Shoes for Italy
Walking shoes don’t have to be ‘walking shoes,’ as in shoes designed for walking. I prefer to have my Italy ‘walking shoes’ be either sneakers or athletic shoes. I’ve worn and recommend New Balance (especially 991s), Autry sneakers, Adidas Stan Smiths, Saucony Jazz, Adidas athletic sneakers, and Clarks.
Sneakers for Italy
My go-to brands for sneakers (along with a recommendation for each one) are:
New Balance – I’ve used New Balance sneakers in Italy for over two decades, and my husband is a fan too. They’re well-made, dependable, cushioned, and supportive. You can buy classics (‘dad’ walking shoes) or their more fashionable sneakers.
We tend to stick to the 990 or 991 but I am eyeing the new 9060 in the brown & cream version for 2024. New Balance lifestyle sneakers are popular with Italians too.
Try: New Balance 327 or 574v2 or 990v6
Adidas – You’ll see locals and visitors in classic Adidas lifestyle sneakers like the Stan Smith.
Try: Adidas Stan Smith
Clarks – Many of the styles are breathable, lightweight, cushioned and supportive. Avoid the knit or suede shoes in light colors because they’re tough to keep clean. I found the shoes with the classic Clark’s crepe sole to be too heavy – the weight may bother you when you’re on your feet all day.
Try: Clarks Un Maui Lace Up Sneaker or the Clarks Hollyhock Sneaker
Autry – These are kind of like Adidas Stan Smiths, but they’re a bit wider in the toe box and the shoe is heavier. They’re super comfortable and cushioned and I wear them for all-day touring.
Try: Autry Medalist (I have this exact pair but I’m eyeing the all-white calf-skin version)
Good To Know: Autry is based in Milan, so you can find the sneakers all over Italy (if you want to bring a pair home with you).
Sporty Shoes for Italy
My go-to brands for sneakers are New Balance, Hoka One One, and Adidas.
New Balance: If you want a more sporty sneaker than the 990s or 574s, look into the Fresh Foam line from New Balance.
Try: New Balance Fresh Foam 1080
Hoka One One: You’ll see visitors and Italians in these, and I often pick them if we’ll be out all day. I have a black pair that I even wear in the winter – the sole height means water from puddles won’t seep into my shoe. I have a navy blue pair that doesn’t go with as many outfits, so I usually wear them with sporty outfits (for hiking, cycling on bike paths, etc).
Try: Hoka One One Bondi 8
Adidas: If you want to bring a sporty sneaker, look into Adidas Ultraboost athletic shoes. They’ll give you some bounce in your step as you… climb steps in Italy! I have worn these in the past, as well as Nike’s version, the React Flyknit.
Try: Adidas Ultraboost
Sandals for Italy
While you may want to bring a delicate, strappy sandal, I recommend bringing a sandal that’s sturdy and has a lip in the front.
Everyday Sandals – I’m a huge fan of Birkenstocks. They’re my go-to sandal for walking around in Italy. I usually get a 2-strap model like the Arizona, but I’ve tried and liked other Birkenstock sandals.
If you’re not a Birkenstock fan, you could also try these Sofft sandals, these sandals from Born, or these Clarks sandals. These Clarks sandals are an excellent option if you don’t want to buy a leather sandal (but please get the black as the lighter colors will stain easily).
Water-Friendly Sandals – If you’ll be spending time at the beach, you may want to bring a flip flop or something with more structure, like Keens, Tevas, Chacos or Birkenstock EVAs.
Helpful Tip: Avoid shoes with closed toes if you’ll be walking a lot in gravel or dirt. It’s a pain to stop often to pick things out of your shoes (don’t bring Keens to Tuscany walks in vineyards).
Cold Weather Shoes for Italy
Avoid ballet flats or shoes that don’t cover your entire foot – you won’t want to have chilly and/or wet feet while you’re walking around.
Helpful Tip: Do you have a shoe you love but it has a smooth/slippery sole? Have a Vibram sole added to the bottom – it’s a game changer!
Tips for Choosing and Using Your Shoes for Italy
- Make sure you wear your shoes before you visit.
- Comfort is more important than fashion. Don’t worry about looking like a local, because the locals know you aren’t local!
- Stick with shoe brands and styles you already wear and love. What do you wear if you’ll be out walking around all day at home – a running shoe? Bring those shoes to Italy!
- See our list about of important characteristics and make sure your choices check off all the boxes. You’ll want to spend your time focusing on Italy’s beauty, not your feet!
- Buy from stores with good return policies, in case the shoes don’t fit well. I like Amazon for shoes I already know work well for me. I also like REI for trying shoes on and for its satisfaction guarantee.
- Test your socks with your shoes. Make sure your socks aren’t too thick or too thin, and that they’re made of a material that works well for your feet.
- Bring your favorite blister repair or buy Compeed from the pharmacy here.
- Bring anything you normally use with your shoes, like orthodics or your favorite foot powder.
- You can use a baby wipe to clean shoes with smooth surfaces (like leather or rubber).
- If your shoes do get wet, you can remove the insoles and dry them near (not on) the radiator in your room. You can also stuff them with crumpled up newspaper or dry them with cold air from your hairdryer.
Where to Purchase Shoes in Italy
Even with preparation, you may need to buy a pair of shoes in Italy. For example, if your shoe breaks, or you decide to go on a day hike (but you only have Stan Smiths and sandals with you).
If you’re in a city, you can ask for a negozio di scarpe.
Scarpe di ginnastica – Athletic shoes
Sneakers – Lifestyle sneakers
Sandali – Sandals
Stivali – Boots
Suola – Sole
Soletta – Cushioning
Impermeabile – Waterproof
You can find shoes in Italy at a shopping mall (centro commerciale), in standalone shops like GEOX, and in multipurpose shops like OVS (kind of like Target for clothing).
If you’re looking to purchase Italian shoes, you’ll find Italian designers for sale in shops. Some of the most famous Italian shoe brands include Tod’s, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Golden Goose, Superga, GEOX, and Nero Giardini. But there are so many! Most Italian fashion brands (like Giorgio Armani, Dolce e Gabbana, etc) also make shoes.
What Type of Shoes Do Italians Wear?
This is a common question I get, but I want to reiterate that you don’t need to dress like an Italian.
Remember, you may see Italians wearing certain shoes but they could just be in them for a couple of hours. Or maybe they sit at a desk most of the day. Or they hop in a taxi to get to dinner in stilettos.
Italians wear a lot of lifestyle sneakers (male and female), while women often wear delicate sandals and boots and heels, and men often wear leather shoes (low and hi-top).
FAQs about Shoes to Pack for Italy
Just like for adults, comfort is key! Along with a comfortable shoe, I also recommend shoes that don’t need to be tied, shoes that have good tread, and shoes that can easily be wiped clean. Read our tips for choosing Kids Shoes for Italy.
No, you should choose what works best for you. For example, I have a dear friend who wears heels with a large heel (not stilletos) and walks in them all day long in Florence and never has problems. I also know of a traveler who spent a few weeks in the summer in Italy with one pair of Chaco sandals. That being said, most visitors to Italy will appreciate having some sort of sneaker, whether it’s an athletic type like Hoka One One running shoes or more fashion-forward like Adidas Stan Smith sneakers or Veja sneakers.
Remember, it’s important to wear what you’re comfortable in. ‘Athletic’ sandals aren’t very popular with Italians in non-athletic situations, but you’ll find Italians sometimes wear the more ‘trendy’ models of the shoes.
Yes, I think the best walking shoes for Italy are sneakers, whether you choose a lifestyle model or an athletic style.
If you grew up like I did, you called athletic sneakers tennis shoes – any sneaker you used to play sports. If that’s you, then yes, they’re the same thing. Otherwise, a tennis shoe is a shoe designed for playing tennis.
I find that Birkenstocks go with many dresses, but you can also bring something more delicate. Try Clarks, Sofft, Born, or Stuart Weitzman. You may need to add a layer of Vibram to the sole so they’re not slippery.