I recently traveled home to California from Savannah, with a short layover in Chicago. Since my mother taught me at a very young age that People Watching can provide you with almost limitless entertainment, I took this opportunity to scan the general populace. There were businesswomen, there were families, there were mullets, and there were elderly couples being whisked along the terminal on the back of small golf carts.

Inevitably, since I am a podiatrist, my gaze shifted downward and I started Shoe Watching. The shoes I saw seemed to fit into a finite number of categories.

My unofficial findings:

High HeelsWhy? For goodness sake, why would you travel in six-inch stilettos, or pumps that you stop and adjust every few steps? Most of the women wearing high heels (boots, wedges, pumps, high heel sandals) had terribly abnormal gaits, and none of them looked happy. Not a single smile on any of their faces. Obviously, from a professional perspective, these type of shoes are not recommended while traveling. What if you end up having to run to catch your connecting flight (as I did)? I can’t sprint in heels while dragging a rolling suitcase and juggling a too-heavy purse on one shoulder! And lastly: why would you risk blisters or a sprained ankle before you’ve even reached your vacation or business destination?

Business ShoesUnderstandable. Women and men in suits–on their way to or coming back from professional meetings or events–will likely be in their matching professional shoes. I just look forward to the day that women’s professional shoes are not required to be unsupportive ballet flats or sandals, or some form of heel or pump. No professional, required attire should be capable of harming your health. I have much more to say on this topic, but I’ll leave it for another post.

TOMS, Converse-types, and Other Unsuppportive FlatsI understand the desire to buy shoes that benefit others who cannot afford them; the TOMS brand and others like it do wonderful work. But you’re doing your feet no favors by wearing them. Granted, most of the travelers sporting this particular kind of shoe are the young, healthy, socially-conscious-yet-fashion-conscious teens and twenty-somethings who generally do not have foot problems yet. Wear them while you can, kids. Your arches may not let you once you hit thirty. Again, not my professional recommendation for the airport section of your travels.

Athletic ShoesAhhh. Here we go. Need to run to catch a connecting flight? Can do. Standing for a half hour waiting to board your flight? Not fun, but it’s a more comfortable thirty minutes when you’re wearing Asics instead of wearing platform Chinese Laundry pumps. Your arches are supported, your heel is stabilized, you’re not putting undue pressure on the ball of your foot, you’re not having to grip with your toes to keep them on. You’re already worrying about whether you remembered to lock the front door; you don’t need to have your feet hurting on top of all the other stresses inherent in traveling.

Plus? Athletic shoes are generally the shoes that will take up the most room in your suitcase. Wear them on the plane, and save some space to bring home souvenirs!

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