The Best Lightweight + Packable Exercise Shoes for Travel

Stacey Ebert

Exercise is synonymous with a healthy lifestyle, and most of us want to continue that healthy lifestyle on the road. We carry running shoes, travel yoga mats, search for local classes to get our sweat on, and choose our accommodations based on workout equipment and proximity to natural trails. Packing the ‘right’ footwear doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll have to give up precious room in our travel backpack for the bulky, heavy and one-purpose only exercise shoes.

Those hefty shoes of the past are no match for the running shoes of today. Top athletic companies and casual shoe companies, alike, have upped their games. There are so many options for lightweight running shoes, or second pair of travel shoes, that precious space in your carry on backpack is now well looked after. 

So, what should you look for in a pair of packable running shoes?

Choosing Packable Travel Running Shoes

I’m 4’11 with tiny feet. I’m always looking for the smallest size and asking if a company carries kids’ sizes. While these may not be your critical shoe shopping questions, every pair of feet is different and we all have our “issues” in choosing shoes. 

Some questions to ask in considering what makes a great travel exercise shoe:

  • Are these packable?
  • Will they take up too much room in my bag?
  • Do I need them to be collapsible?
  • Are these lightweight enough so my carry on luggage still meets the weight allowance?
  • Will these work for all of my travel exercise needs?
  • Do these work as a secondary pair of shoes for all my travel needs?
  • Is the value of this purchase worth the price?

Things to Look for in Travel Running Shoes

Like most things in life, there’s no one right answer for everyone. Your perfect shoes might be different than the ones in your best friend’s carry on. It’s not only the choice between black and purple, laces or none, barefoot or fully lined sole – there’s more to these decisions than meets the eye.

Travel Friendly

What makes a shoe travel friendly? That depends. Weight is certainly an issue. As is versatility. Consider where your adventures are likely to take you. Are you the traveler looking for that second pair of shoes to cover all bases? Do you have specific footwear needs? Are you wearing these on your journey or packing them in your luggage? Your version of ‘travel-friendly’ might be different than mine – consider your needs and travel lifestyle before clicking ‘purchase’.

Packability 

Packability is important. Fitting everything into one carry on backpack is, of course, the best possible answer. Can you give your back a break and not add heaps of extra weight with an additional pair of shoes? Can you manage to keep everything inside that bag instead of hooking shoes, swinging, onto the outside of the bag with a carabiner? 

When choosing packable exercise shoes look for:

    • Shoes that are lightweight (shoot for less than 10 ounces)
    • A flexible midsole
    • A semi-collapsible upper section
    • Collapsible or flexible heel structure
    • Think mesh for the most compact options

Performance

What do you expect from your exercise shoes? Are they comfortable? Can you walk all day in them? Do they fit your needs of wide or narrow, toe-box size, and blister free? Are you looking to run marathons, grab coffee with a friend, spend the day exploring the sights of a new city or all of the above? Consider your travel realities before you invest in new kicks.

Durability

 Are you hard on your footwear? Consider the life you lead, how long you’re hoping these shoes will last and the care you provide your trusty trainers. Price and durability can often go hand in hand – keep in mind your actions, habits, comfort needs and how you pack before you buy that fabulous footwear.

Options: Running, Walking & Exercise Shoes

The first question is what kind of traveler are you? For myself, I prefer comfortable shoes that enable me to walk a path, hit the elliptical, and tour the city all without changing my kicks. Typical cross-trainers that come in kids’ sizes and don’t break my budget are good for me. The shoe needs of my friend Anthony Rodale, ‘an ultra runner, 2 time Marathon des Sables finisher’ and one of the many active minds behind Fitwild.com, are definitely on a much different scale. While he was in France recently, he told me he had, “2 pair of Hokas that met his needs of lightweight and multifunctional.” Wherever you fall on the shoe needs scale – they’re out there.

Packable Running Shoes Under $120

Hoka One Challenger

One of Wirecutter’s top choices for trail running and designed by a company that keeps weight in mind, this Hoka shoe isn’t as packable as some others, but its full cushion design keeps feet and toes happy along the journey. With protection on both the outside and inside, it provides breathability and stability that runners crave. Protect your feet, stay flexible and head out on the trails. Wear this one on the plane. Pack the other pair.

Reebok Havasu Sneaker ($90) 

Seamless neoprene construction 

Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed ($100)

Lightweight easy travel

Hoka One One Hupana ($115)

Lightweight mesh, folds up

Reebok RealFlex Speed ($115)

Breathable & ideal for distance runners

Reebok ZQuick Running Shoe ($60-$90) 

Includes Nanoweb construction 

Topo Athletic Tribute Running Shoe($89) 

Packs flat, feather-light 

Topo’s ST-2 Running Shoe ($89-$99)

Collapses flat 

Reebok OSR Harmony Racer ($45-$100)

Ultra lightweight (only 6 ounces) 

Packable Running Shoes $120 and Above

Nike Free RN 2018 Flyknit ($119-219)

The lightest in this line of Nike options, this shoe’s innovative design moves with your every step. Key for travelers is the packability- with its mesh upper, shove it into your bag, grab your gear and get out there! This shoe has great breathability and significant ability to contract and expand with your entire foot as it hits the pavement or the trails. Lightweight construction and attention to detail that Nike is known for makes this choice one to add to your exercise pack.

Adidas Ultraboost X Limited-Edition ($200)

Foldable, lightweight, running friendly

Nike Metcon 3 DSX Training Shoe ($160)

Knit upper collapses, fits firm against top of feet

Salomon’s S-Lab Sense 5 Ultra ($200)

Lightweight, easy packability, elastic cords for laces

Puma Fierce Evoknit ($47-$148)

Packable, lightweight, slip on

APL Techloom Pro Running Shoe ($140-$160)

Lightweight fabric design and construction

Nike Free 4.0 FlyKnit ($89-$250)

Breathable, flexible, fits like a sock

Moc3 RunAmoc Active Shoes ($130)

Barefoot running experience – 2mm soles (made in Oregon), slip on, roll up into a ball

Barefoot Exercise Shoes 

For those looking for an au natural experience, join the barefoot club. Whether you’re a five-finger fan or prefer skin close to the trail, there’s a model somewhere out there for you.

Vivobarefoot  ($160)

With no heel or support, these soles are shaped to your foot, allowing the nerve endings in our feet to feel the road beneath us. Keen on that feedback from the senses, these ‘non-shoe’ options are designed for true barefoot enthusiasts.

Vivobarefoot Motus  are multifunctional, lightweight running shoes with extra protection for both road and trail running. 

Xero Shoes

Designed by an ‘All-American sprinter and All-American gymnast’ husband and wife duo, the company’s attitude is to ‘live life feet first.’ Designed for all elements and a natural lifestyle – their products have a feet-friendly attitude embedded in every sole.

Xero shoes barefoot inspired sports sandals – Z trek ($65) comfortable, lightweight, easily accessible on the trails and on the road, feet feel free. 

Xero Shoes TerraFlex Trail Running Hiking Shoe ($104) extra support with seamless design, mesh on top and an overlay of synthetic material gives runners trail stability and that freeform feel.  

Travel Friendly Walking, Running, Hiking and Exercise Shoes

TL; DR

In footwear as in life, you’ve got plenty of options. Colors, sizing, versatility, and durability all factor into each and every purchase. Whether you’re an ultramarathoner, avid runner, or exercise conscious traveler – there are shoes out there that fit your feet and your budget.

  • Consider your footwear needs
  • Reaffirm your travel style
  • Do your research
  • Know your budget
  • Always aim for happy feet

Want more like this?

Get weekly gear reviews, travel hacks, and packing tips sent straight to your inbox. As an added bonus, we’ll send you a carry on packing list right away.