If you're on a shoestring budget while traveling, you're most likely traveling with just your carry-on luggage. Why? Because you save hundreds of dollars on baggage fees and get to travel light - and if you're not, you absolutely should!

Traveling carry-on means that you're only taking essentials. Shoes play a massive role here. With this minimalist travel style, the best thing to do is limit all items - shoes are one of these items.

Having 1 pair of shoes that work with almost anything is the best way to tackle this problem. This way you're not taking up precious space in your bag with extra shoes.

The best shoes for backpackers & minimalist travelers are shoes that are; all black in color, breathable (not water proof), and are training/running style shoes. Nike running shoes like Zoom Winflo, Tanjun, or Revolution tick all these boxes.

Amazon Links Below:

Winflo 5: https://amzn.to/3bkI8tM
Tanjun: https://amzn.to/2S5YnDn
Revolution: https://amzn.to/2ShJ6y4

  • All black means you can dress them up, dress them down, easily get into higher end clubs, and wear them casually. They also don't show dirt and are easier to clean.
  • Breathable mesh means they don't smell, can be washed, and are very comfortable which is a huge plus as you'll be walking a lot.
  • Running shoes mean be default they're great at handling a lot of use, the soles can take a beating, and you can use them on almost any occasion besides heavy hiking.

But it doesn't have to be Nike. There are plenty of other brands that tick all these boxes as well, from Adidas to Under Armour. But I still recommend Nike when it comes down to it, from experience.

How do they hold up after a year?

I used the All Black Nike Zoom Winflo 5's for my most recent year of backpacking, here's the honest review. And let me tell you, they took a beating.

  • I walked on glass littered beaches.
  • Took 10's of thousands of steps a day.
  • Went running.
  • Trained in the gym.
  • Did multiple hikes, one of which was 96 mile 6 day hike.
  • Danced in clubs.
  • Kicked balls.
  • Soaked in mud.
  • Swam with them and used them for protection from sharp rocks.
  • Wore them every day.

Here's what they look like after 1 year of heavy, and I mean heavy use.

Rips in the mesh, worn down grip, torn collars, and loose threads. Yes I did take them through a beating, yet they've survived almost fully intact.

This is the best I could have hoped for over the year of use, and don't get me wrong, there are most definitely more durable shoes. If you were to get a pair of good boots for instance, you could travel 10 years with them and barely have any wear and tear. But the goal here is different.

You can't exercise in boots, you can't run in them, they aren't breathable (though they are water proof), they get hot, and aren't light. The cons outweigh the pros for the lightweight backpacker.

The Cons

As much as I'm in love with all the great points above, the cons do exist as well. There is no perfect travel shoe.

  • If you're in colder climates, aka. snow - the breath-ability lets in the cold - so you need to keep that it mind. Wet feet in snow is bad.
    My recommendation here is to tie up these shoes to your backpack rather than putting them inside if you need to use another pair of shoes for a short period in that type of climate - this way it doesn't take up space.
  • The mesh is what makes it comfortable, but it's the first thing to deteriorate - Some people may opt for less breath-ability, and comfort, for a more solid outer material.
    Absolutely respect that decision - just make sure it's still a running shoe so you get the best of both worlds.
  • The sole, although durable, won't stand heavy hiking - you may need a pair of dedicated hiking boots if you're planning on doing a lot of hiking.
    That being said, I went on 20+ hikes of various difficulty with these shoes and it was fine.

The Conclusion

Everything considered - I'll be re-upping on the Winflo's for the next trip. They are absolutely the best shoe for traveling light, they work in almost every scenario, and I've got nothing but positive things to say from an objective stand point.

I'll either get them again or try out a cheaper pair of the newer model Tanjuns to see how they fair for the next backpacking trip. Amazon link below if you're looking for a new pair.

Nike Zoom Winflo 5: https://amzn.to/3bkI8tM

Note: The 6's are the new model, they're also great.


Let us know if you have any recommendations you think are better, and you best bet we'll give them a try.

Happy Backpacking! 😎

Sah