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These are the three shoes every working nomad needs for the digital nomad lifestyle!
I have a confession to make…I’m a digital nomad and I love shoes!
When it comes to traveling the world, packing efficiently and light is how I travel. I’ve had airlines with strict 35lb weight limits so I need to be conscious of what I pack when taking those flights.
I carry enough supplies to last me 6 months and only carry the necessities but I wasn’t always this efficient with shoes. I used to travel with 4-5 pairs of shoes but roughly realized how much space they took up and how little I wore the non-essential ones.
Over the years, I’ve learned I only need three shoes to get me through the digital nomad lifestyle, and depending on your personal interest and travels, you could even bring this down to one or two pairs of shoes!
Depending on your personal interests and activities, you may decide to pack running shoes, rock climbing shoes, heels, etc. but I’ve found for myself, hiking boots, sandals and sneakers are what I need.
How did I narrow down to these shoes?
- I like to hike. I hike around the world and carry hiking shoes, hiking clothing (socks, jacket, winter hat, baseball cap, fleece, leggings) and a backpack with me at all times.
- I spend a lot of time by water and in warm climates. I’m also a scuba diver. I need sandals for this aspect of my travels and life. I recently tried just wearing hiking boots when I’m by the water but ended up fracturing my arm after cold-plunging in Montenegro. I learned the hard way to always have sandals in my luggage!
- Sneakers are great for everyday life and errands. They’re comfortable and get you from point A to B. They also look cute and have made a comeback over the years for both work and casual wear! If you decide to travel with only one pair of shoes, I recommend going with sneakers!
What shoes do I wear and recommend?
1. Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Ws
These hiking boots for women were love at first sight for me! They’re multipurpose and can be used in a variety of weather and landscapes. I use them both as winter hiking boots as well as walking boots.
I love these hiking shoes so much that I even bought them for my mom and sister (but in different colors!). They don’t give me blisters and have served me well hiking around the world – from volcanoes in Guatemala to snow covered peaks in Georgia!
Since I’m a nomad, I strategically chose a neutral boot color for myself. The exact color I went with was Stone and I purchased them at Paragon Sports in New York City. They go with everything in my wardrobe and the neutral color allows dirt and dust to blend in. They’re also easy to clean. After each hike, I wipe them down and make sure they’re clean too before packing. They’re also great for packing! You’re able to stuff whatever you choose inside the shoe to save space in your bag.
They’ve also lasted me for years! I bought them in 2020 and they still work as if they’re brand new today! I went with this boot because of the reviews I read online. I was looking for the best hiking boots for women and this boot kept reappearing! I don’t see myself needing to replace them anytime soon – definitely a solid investment piece!
2. Birkenstock Arizona Sandals
I fell in love with Arizona Birkenstock sandals in the summer of 2015. I was working as a freelance Jr. Art Director at Ann Taylor in New York City, and I kept seeing so many fashionable colleagues and people on the street wearing the shoes I soon became obsessed with – white Arizona Birkenstocks! These shoes were everything to me and became my go-to shoe to wear around the city. They were perfect in the sun and rain, and never left my feet!
When I was first becoming a digital nomad, I wore a sandal that was cute but not as durable as Birkenstock shoes. I went through them way too fast and knew they weren’t sustainable or suited for being a digital nomad. I then did a little self-reflection and remembered how happy Birkenstocks made me! It’s important to not lose yourself as a digital nomad and going back to Birkenstock sandals helped me feel more like me!
My go-to digital nomad sandal and recommendation now are a pair of classic Arizona Birkenstocks in black! Why black instead of my beloved white ones?
- The black gives me a longer runway. They hide the dirt effectively and look brand new longer!
- The black makes this shoe easier to pair as a digital nomad. They can be dressed up or worn casually. They’re great to wear at the beach or walking around town. I’ve even worn them to two weddings! I love these shoes so much that I even bought a pair for my husband!
These sandals are so comfortable and I don’t get blisters. If my feet need a break from my sneakers or hiking boots, I put these on! They’re durable and can last you for years! Since I primarily just wear three pairs of shoes year round, I do probably go through them faster than the average person but these Birkenstock sandals for women have lasted me 2.5 years and are still going strong!
3. Vans Old Skool Shoe
I’ve spent the past three years trying to identify the ultimate sneaker to wear while traveling. While living in New York City, I fell in love with white Superga’s! They were the perfect sneakers for me and I actually went through 3 pairs. After becoming nomadic, the all white Superga unfortunately got dirty way too fast due to the diverse landscapes I was visiting.
I then went back to the drawing board to find the ultimate athletic shoe for traveling. I browsed online and thought about my youth (maybe this happens after you turn 30!) and remembered how durable and functional Vans are. In high school and college, I LOVED Vans and went through three pairs.
While trying to pinpoint the ultimate nomad athletic shoe, I thought it would be wise to go in the opposite direction of my favorite all-white Superga and went with a cool black pair of the Vans Authentic Shoe.
I loved this shoe but it unfortunately only lasted me 1 year. The black was great at hiding dirt but I fell into the same issue I had with previous versions of this shoe – I don’t know if it’s because of the way I walk, my foot’s anatomy or the shoe itself – but I always develop a hole in the top of the shoe. The shoe I’m wearing isn’t too small for me and a larger size would be way too big – so I don’t know why this always happens to me?
After encountering this after 1 year, my hunt was back on! I still wanted to stick with Vans due to comfort and aesthetics and began exploring other styles. I came across the style Old Skool and discovered they had it in a neutral! I still love a good classic white shoe (thank you Superga) but this neutral shoe seemed like a good compromise! It could hide dirt and dust by blending into the color and still look super cute! The color I went with is Turtledove/True White.
I’ve been wearing this shoe for 1 year now and it doesn’t show any signs of needing to be replaced, and I haven’t developed a hole in this style! I try to be eco-conscious and only replace items when they need to be replaced. Excited to continue wearing this shoe!
I’ve discovered hiking boots, Birkenstocks and Vans are the three ultimate shoes every digital nomad needs but what about for special occasions or the holidays?
I love celebrating and getting dressed for any occasion! A few years ago, I would buy or thrift the ultimate celebratory outfit for each occasion! Nowadays, I look into my existing wardrobe and fall in love with pieces I already own! Not seeing your clothes for months at a time gives you a new appreciation and love for them!
As a digital nomad, you need to plan your outfits WAY in advance including your shoes! An extra pair of shoes do take up more space in your luggage but for me, it’s worth it to feel beautiful and aligned with the event I’m attending! I usually make it a point to spend the holiday season with family and friends so I always pack cute small black chelsea boots with me! The one I’ve been wearing the past three years is actually one I bought and wore when I lived in NYC!
I love a classic black ankle boot and discovered the brand Franco Sarto just designs the best shoe for my foot! It’s like Cinderella’s slipper each time I try one of their shoes on. I bought their Happily Booties back in November 2019 and they lasted me all the way until 2023! I wore them all around New York City until the global pandemic in 2020 and then wore them for the holiday seasons and winters the following years. This shoe was small enough to fit in my bag and gave me the ability to “dress the part” for the holidays! It was perfect in the snow and cold weather of Germany and the United States. Unfortunately, in 2023, this shoe now has a large hole in the heel and lets in water but it lasted me for such a long time and was a great shoe!
I love adding a bonus black boot to my wardrobe because it goes with everything I wear! It can be dressed up or down and helps you feel a bit more put together for those special occasions!
Pro tip: When traveling with a bonus shoe, I only have it in my bag for at most half the year but prefer a shorter amount of time if I can! Packing light and strategically is crucial for the digital nomad lifestyle.
Becoming a digital nomad is a learning process! You won’t know what shoes you personally need until you venture out and discover for yourself. If you begin the journey with hiking boots, sandals and sneakers this could help you discover what shoes you personally need (and maybe it’s just these three too)!
For my personal discovery, it took me putting myself in different environments and fracturing my arm (by cold-plunging in Montenegro wearing hiking boots and not sandals) to learn what shoes I need at all times and how to not make the same mistakes twice!
Hiking boots, sandals and sneakers are the three pairs of shoes I need at all times as a digital nomad. I don’t stay in one part of the world or in the same type of landscapes year round so I need to be prepared for many climates and locations at all times. I also still want to be me and do hobbies I enjoy while figuring out how to make this new lifestyle work for me! Being able to hike, walk around town and enjoy the beach are three variables that come up time and time again for me and make me happy – and traveling with hiking shoes, sandals and sneakers answers this!
By taking the leap, and digital nomading you’ll be able to distill what’s most important to have in your bags and appreciate what you do travel with! Let me know in the comments what shoes you travel with and if you have any recommendations for me!
Btw, my husband also travels with the same three categories of shoes – hiking boots for men, Birkenstock sandals for men, and sneakers for men! The only slight difference is that his sneakers are a combination of running and casual shoes! For him, it’s less about style and more about functionality.