Ask Us: What Are the Best Shoes for the Parks?
We’re starting a new occasional feature here on the blog where we take a question from our readers and have our writers, blog staff, and other TouringPlans people weigh in with their opinions to help improve your experience with the parks.
Today’s question is:
What shoes do you wear when you’re visiting the parks?
I have bad feet. Really bad. My wife and children like to say that I have “baby feet” because I will get blisters so fast that they break the sound barrier. Over time I’ve realized that some of my problem was that I was wearing bad shoes. Now, when I’m walking a lot, I exclusively wear performance running shoes. I tend to gravitate toward Nike because I really like their Free line for walking due to the wide toe box and lightness. Watching sale prices I can usually nab a pair for under $60. Of course, I still wear two pairs of socks and tape my toes, but that’s probably a story for a different time.
My favorite shoes are the Sketchers yoga foam Meditation — Studio Kicks. I love them because they are still flip flops, so you don’t have to worry about the Florida rainstorm ruining your shoes, the yoga foam is extremely cushy, and they have a heel to them, giving you support, so your feet don’t get as tired walking all day.
I started off way back in the day wearing ugly old-school Crocs, because they worked great when they got wet and were light enough that my feet weren’t sore. When it got colder, of when I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be spending all day in the parks with the possibility of wet shoes, I switched to Sketchers GO Walk because they are lightweight and have good cushioning. Recently, I’ve switched my summer shoes to Keens — specifically, Keen Whisper. They are relatively lightweight, easily adjustable to avoid rubbing and blisters, and they dry out pretty quick from getting wet. Only down side? They leave very funny tan lines on my feet. Seriously, it looks like I have zebra print feet.
One of my favorite parody articles recently was “Aging Punk Loses Battle With Comfortable Clothes” and I remember the good ole days of the Bad Shoe blog, which documented bad footwear in the parks. In the past I’ve worn Sperrys (bad idea for anyone staying with you), Onitsuka Tigers, and adidas Sambas. Now I wear cloud foam adidas (all white) if I’m going stylish or Brooks Ghost running shoes otherwise.
In some instances the simplest, easiest answer is the best one . . . and this is definitely one of those instances. For a day or a week of walking around Walt Disney World I always go with my most comfortable walking sneaker. In my case, a New Balance (with a custom-made orthotic insole because of my heavy treading ball-of-foot and the fact that I’m thirty-three going on sixty-four years old). I once tried to switch things up and went with my favorite and most comfortable Crocs, but even they were no match for a night at Disney Springs, let alone a full day of park touring. Go with your most comfortable and most well-constructed sneaker. Don’t overthink it!
When it comes to footwear at Disney, comfort is the first, second, and third thing I care about, because you walk a lot more than you might realize. At home, I tend to be a leather sandals guy, but at Disney, I wear the most comfortable running shoes in my collection. Right now, that’s a pair of Nike LunarEpic Flyknit 2s. They are lightweight, have a significant amount of cushion, and are highly breathable, making them a good option for logging 8-12 miles a day walking around the parks. As an aside, however, whenever possible I try to have at least two pair of running shoes with me on a trip. Even the most comfortable of shoes are still in constant contact with your feet, and having different shoes so you can alternate makes it less likely that you’ll develop hot spots or blisters. Right now, my alternates are New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v7s—another high-cushion shoe designed for distance running.
The answer is “the ones you usually walk around in that match what you’re wearing and are weather-appropriate.”
After one (or maybe a dozen) too many unintentional slip-and-slides across slick surfaces when wearing my flip-flops in the rain, I stick with my Asics running shoes. They come with the added perk of not having to worry about face-planting when someone accidentally steps on the heel of a flip-flop anymore, and they allow me to set the walking speed on my customized TouringPlans to ‘fast’. (Bring it on, optimizer!) I bring two pairs on most trips. That way I can swap them back and forth if they get wet or cause blisters. Crocs flip-flops or Chaco sandals still make an appearance for the pool or water park, and I’ll usually wear those on the way to fancy dinners. Then I can just change into heels at the restaurant and throw my sandals in a bag. When you’re on your feet most of the day, there’s no shame in going with comfort over style!
My absolute favorite park shoes are Crocs flip-flops. They’re not quite as hilariously hideous (sorry Crocs lovers) as regular Crocs, but just as comfortable! Plus if they get wet, which happens frequently in Florida, they can dry within a few minutes. I can wear them for days with no blisters.
That’s out take on shoes for the parks. What type of footwear keeps you fun and fancy (and blister) free?
Got a question you want us to weigh in on? Let us know in the comments.
20 thoughts on “Ask Us: What Are the Best Shoes for the Parks?”
Skechers GoWalks for me! And an extra pair of socks in my pocket.
Crocs Swiftwater mesh flats. I love them so much I wear them at Disney World, any time I travel for work because they’re awesome in airports and on planes, and any time I know I’m going to be standing a lot.
I discovered them because they sell the men’s version (or did) in Animal Kingdom over by Kali River Rapids. I went home and tracked down the women’s version and gave them a try on my next trip. SO nice. Dry quickly, aren’t a flip flop because you don’t always want a flip flop, and super comfortable (like all Crocs are.)
My wife swears by her sanuk yoga slings, and she can keep and extra pair in her bag. I usually wear my NB sneakers or these oddball sandals i picked up from my dive shop, kinda like normal ones but the straps are made of neoprene, super comfy. Too bad they stopped making them, when I found that out, I bought out the other 2 pairs in my size.
As Laurel says above, it’s best to wear what you usually wear. I usually wear Keen sandals, but alternate these with a pair of Columbia running-shoe-like shoes. Due to back problems, all my wife can wear are Vionics. Since she is a beach girl, she normally wears the flip-flop versions, especially at Disney (the same shoes she wears even in winter here in the mountains lol). I’d guess she’s probably walked several hundred miles at Disney over the last 5 years with nary a foot problem.
But what about Derek?!?
Whatever you do, do NOT wear a brand new pair of shoes. Break in a pair, and walk in them enough that you are sure you are not going to develop blisters or even hot spots. Proper socks are also important, so test those out with the shoes you are planning to wear. Remember, sliding friction against skin is the enemy.
Also, bring at least 2 pair of tested shoes so that you can rotate them out daily. This especially important if you get them wet. Do not walk around in wet shoes. That can cause a whole different issue with your feet.
With that said, I’ve done well with Asics Gel running shoes.
Brooks Glycerin. When I wear these, I can still cleanly climb stairs at the end of the day. With an arthritic knee.
Beyond shoes, there are some ways to prevent blisters that are easier than tape. I’ve had good luck with Gold Bond Friction Defense Stick and Band Aid Friction Block Stick, and with Hike Goo cream.
Birkenstocks. I prefer the soft footbed, but found these really perfect 3/4 sole Petals at Target that convert any Birkenstock to a soft footbed. For rain, since rain will destroy your $100+ Birkenstocks, I recently discovered plastic Birkenstocks. They are indestructible and cheap. That said, they do not provide adequate support for my awesomely high arches. They are extremely light-weight and fit in my backpack with my nylon poncho making me ready for the afternoon deluge!
I’ve used a bit of KT tape on a hot spot in an emergency. It was at Frankfurt (Germany) airport, and I wore through the leather lining in my dressy leather clogs. Changing planes arriving from Newark and departing to Bangalore in Frankfurt is similar to running a 5k. Oh, wait, it is running a 5k. The difference is you have luggage.
I am a lover of Chacos. I usually bring two pair and one pairs of Asics running shoes. I change shoes during breaks and/or daily. They have never caused me problems.
The key is to pick shoes that fit. Not just length and width but in the arch and toes. This is different for everyone. The shoes that work for my spouse do not work for me. I advise try as many shoes as possible.
No, the idea is not to try as many shoes as possible. The idea is to wear the shoes you normally wear.
I found that if I wore sneakers or sandals, no matter how well they fit, there was always some slight movement of the foot against the shoe. After a long day of walking and sweating in the parks, that slight movement would produce a blister.
Now, I love wearing Vibram Fivefingers while in the park. They admittedly look silly, but they fit right up against the foot and move with the foot. My style is the Bikila EVO, and cute polyester toe-socks. I can walk around all day and feel fine. Even if they get wet, they dry really quickly.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to get socks for these shoes. If not, they get really stinky and feel gross when they get wet.
Worn these for a few years now and I can’t imagine wearing anything else.
I’m all about comfy sneakers, cushy socks and awesome shoe inserts! And moleskin!
If you get blisters, a must-have bring is moleskin. Costs a couple of bucks at Wal-Mart, Target, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, CVS. Cut into small pieces and thrown into your bag! If you know you’re prone to blisters at a certain spot, go ahead and put on the moleskin. Stops friction and buffers between shoe and foot/toe.
Also, put moleskin directly onto bare skin. Won’t hurt ya!
Usually bring two pairs to rotate: Asics running shoes and Nike free’s. Moleskin is a must for those in your party that don’t take advice and wear new or uncomfortable shoes.
Dansko is my preference – I wear the clogs at work when I am on my feet for sometimes more than 12 hours. The sneakers are my go to for walking at Disney and they even have dress shoes for those times you want your feet to look pretty – these are wedges, sandals, etc that you can wear all day and your feet don’t hurt. Since this brand doesn’t come in kid’s sizes we usually get the kids Sketchers memory foam sneakers. For blisters and hot spots – hydrocolloid is the way to go – they come in many forms – compeed, blister gels, duoderms, etc. the key is when you apply them warm them up on your skin and they can stay on for up to 3 days.
I did great with my crocs sandals. They are the only sandals that I can wear for extensive walking that don’t cause my knees to hurt at the end of the day. They are quick drying so. I worries about getting caught in a rain storm. Best $37 I’ve ever spent!
I swear by my trusty Sperry flip flops. But then again, I live only in them outside of work – so they are perfectly broken in and handle 10-13 mile days with ease. The one time I wore my Nike Frees to WDW, my feet felt constricted and swollen from shoe use the entire trip.
I don’t recommend flip flops for everyone, but it works for me.
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