Baby its cold outside… What shoes to wear for cold weather travel?

by Paris B on · 38 comments

in Discussions,Food & Lifestyle,Shoes,Tips,Travel

winter shoes Baby its cold outside... What shoes to wear for cold weather travel?

I got a very interesting question from reader Irene in her comment on one of my posts about what footwear I’d wear when I travel during colder or winter months, and I need to walk a lot. It was so interesting, I thought it merited a post all of its very own! (See why you should ask questions? You may help someone else and you give me blog ideas! Win! icon biggrin Baby its cold outside... What shoes to wear for cold weather travel? )

Anyway, I thought I’d quickly share the shoes I wear when I travel, most of which I’ve realised have been with me for quite a while. I walk a lot when I’m on holiday for some strange reason. I don’t walk very much here in Malaysia haha! I’m a lazy bum icon razz Baby its cold outside... What shoes to wear for cold weather travel? But I’ve worked out after quite a lot of trial and error that these are the shoes I feel more comfortable to travel in when its cold. I usually look for certain key traits in my travel footwear, not necessarily brands.

I don’t profess to know it all, of course, since I do come from a tropical country and this isn’t meant for those of you who are planning to travel to the cold outposts of Siberia or even to places that are covered deep in snow or where the weather drops into the negatives. I’ve never done that and I’d imagine you’d need something much hardier. If you do live somewhere which gets cold, I’d love to hear your suggestions. Never a better way to learn than from a local! icon smile Baby its cold outside... What shoes to wear for cold weather travel?

Wear shoes with rubber soles

I’ve found that shoes with rubber soles have better grip on the ground. Leather soles are a recipe for disaster if you are headed somewhere where it can be cold and wet and you can find yourself slipping. Its actually more tiring trying to keep yourself from slipping than to just walk confidently. So, I look for rubber soled shoes.

I have 2 pairs of ankle boots with thick rubber soles that do the job very well. One is a no name pair that’s worn to death but still going strong. The other is the funny yellow pair you see above which is by Clarks. It was on sale and not very expensive (about RM200 or under) and its been with me for years and years. Looks like a pair of Timberland hiking boots without the weight icon wink Baby its cold outside... What shoes to wear for cold weather travel? Its clunky and not very elegant but its useful and hardy.

I recently got a pair of Geox leather sneaker type shoes from a discount outlet for under RM100 (bargain!) and I test drove it during my recent holiday to a country with cold weather and slippery cobblestones and it performed well, but I think sneakers don’t quite do the job if you have to walk a lot on uneven surfaces – I’ll explain below.

Wear leather shoes

This is a personal preference. I personally find that a good pair of leather shoes or boots keeps out the cold better than fabric. Leather is able to cut out the biting wind that can freeze our little toesies, and I also find that my feet don’t get as wet in snow and slush and rain, as they do in sneakers. With the latter, you might as well not be wearing any shoes. So I’d invest in a good pair of leather boots with a flat rubber sole. Personally I think Clarks makes affordable and good shoes and they sometimes go on sale or you may be able to get them online for much cheaper. They aren’t always the most fashionable, but they keep your feet warm and comfortable which is most important.

winter shoes3 Baby its cold outside... What shoes to wear for cold weather travel?

On left, I’m wearing my faithful Clarks suede flat boots up on Petrin Hill, Prague and on right my sneakers in Prague city. It was Spring but still very chilly with temperatures in the early teens for some parts of the day. 

Wear boots – any kind!

I learned this through trial and error. If I know I’m going to a country/city where I know its going to be cold and I will have to do a lot of walking, I wear boots. A good pair of leather boots firstly, keeps your legs warmer. See point No. 2 above. Secondly, boots will protect your ankle as you walk so you don’t risk twisting your ankle as you navigate cobblestoned streets that you may be unfamiliar with. This is especially so when they are wet and slick.

Whilst my sneakers worked for running around, I found more than once, that my ankle would turn if I wasn’t careful. When I wore my boots, it happened less and if it did, my ankle was more protected. Doesn’t have to be high boots, even ankle boots protect your legs better than you realise.

Invest in a pair of high boots if you can

This is a luxury but there is more to it than mere fashion. I had been hankering after a pair of high boots for the longest time and I finally picked up a pair in Hong Kong. It was an impulsive purchase but I have been surprised at how comfortable they are and importantly, how much more comfortable my legs feel! It’s logical really. More of your leg is protected by the boots from the wind and cold so you feel more comfortable. They do have a bit of a heel so I do find I have to take a break from walking every now and then. But what a great way to stop for tea and coffee as I go along eh? icon wink Baby its cold outside... What shoes to wear for cold weather travel?

winter shoes2 Baby its cold outside... What shoes to wear for cold weather travel?

I picked up my 2nd pair at a Clarks outlet store for about £25 (yes, I shop for bargains all the time!) and although it isn’t the most fashionable pair around, they are flat and very comfortable for walking. The inside is padded and lined so my legs feel much warmer and more comfortable. I’ve walked in both of these for what seems like hours! On one day when I was caught unawares in Prague and walked out in my sneakers into 6°C temperatures, I ran back and switched back into my boots and immediately felt more comfortable.

Don’t wear PVC anything

This is my personal view but PVC which is essentially plastic, does nothing to protect your feet. They do look very fashionable and the material is usually lighter so you may feel that its easier or more comfortable to walk in. But they don’t last and don’t do jack when its cold and your toes feel like they want to drop off. I’ve tried it and I highly do not recommend it. Just get a pair of good sturdy leather boots. You can often find them on sale even locally, if you wait for off season deals, and get it then.

Do you have some advice for cold weather footwear? What shoes do you wear when you travel or live in countries which get Spring, Autumn and Winter?

Autumn is my favourite season to visit a temperate country because the weather is usually most comfortable then without being too hot or cold, I get to wear my swanky boots without looking like I’m a try-hard, my winter/cold weather clothes get an airing and its not too cold for this tropical gal icon wink Baby its cold outside... What shoes to wear for cold weather travel? Share a shoe tip for cold weather travellers!

Paris B

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[ 38 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

Sze Ling July 7, 2013 at 8:42 am

Sneakers! :P I’m not the most fashionable person in the world, but a very practical one. Nothing beats sneakers for long walks and cold weather.

Next to sneakers, I have Clarks’ Nice Melody ankle boots. That would be my second choice. It’s cute and comfortable to walk in.

Bottom line: wear something that won’t kill your feet. You don’t want to be limping in pain in a foreign country when you’re suppose to enjoy the trip. ;)

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Paris B July 10, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Ooh the Clarks Nice Melody boots look so nice! But is it comfortable considering it’s a wedge heel? But you’re absolutely right. Its so important to wear something comfortable. Its nice to want to dress up for the cold in stiletto boots and all, but its just not practical unless you’re in a car all day isn’t it? And where’s the fun in that when you’re travelling and seeing a new place? :D

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Sze Ling July 10, 2013 at 11:05 pm

It’s surprisingly comfortable! I’m not a heels person, to be honest. I prefer flats any day, even if it means not looking fashionable. The Nice Melody has a slight platform at the front, so I think that’s what keeping it comfortable.

I can’t imagine walking in Disney World with heels. :D Utter respect for all the ladies who can do that.

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Paris B July 14, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Ugh! Did you know you won’t be allowed to ride certain rides at Disney if you wear heels? Or even if you wear flipflops! A good reason to wear proper shoes when going to Disney ;)

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Tine July 7, 2013 at 8:45 am

Great tips, PB! I’ll be travelling to countries in August and September that ranges from tropical weather to very cold to cool to slightly warm. It’s going to be a challenge deciding on what to bring and wear! Anyway for footwear, I’m thinking of my ankle boots (light and comfy) and my Converse. Would that work, ya think?

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Paris B July 10, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Now that would most certainly be a challenge, especially with luggage weight restrictions! But what fun it’ll be! :D I think your shoe choices will work. The weather should be dry enough in Autumn. Don’t forget your flipflops for when you’re back here in the tropics! ;)

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Efrain July 7, 2013 at 9:14 am

You’ve forgotten to talk about UGG boots (or any boot of this style) I know that in Malaysia they’re unusable but when you’re in a cold country they save your feet. Even the ones made of fabric are really warm (like the ones I have), I used them when we had 0º to 5º C in the morning and I didn’t feel the cold.

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Paris B July 10, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Good call, Efrain. I don’t own a pair so I don’t know how practical they are for the cold and the wet. I’ve been told its lovely and comfortable to keep out cold but doesn’t perform so well when it’s wet. Is that true? I have been hankering after a pair for years though. Its madness :P

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Efrain July 15, 2013 at 5:29 am

I didn’t get the notification for this comment >.<

Since the winter in Mexico in commonly dry I don't have a very good opinion of how they perform in wet, but the sole is slippery in wet floor, so I think they aren't very good in a wet and cold weather, however a solution can be put anti-slip accessories in the soles.

I you can, try ones that are made with fabric they are far cheaper and wear well. Obviously they aren't UGG, mine were from Wal-Mart.

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Andrea August 9, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Hi!
I’m studying in Canberra, Aussie at the moment and I can say that it’s much colder here in-land compared to Sydney or Melbourne. Uggs work really well in keeping out the cold but it’s not a good choice when it’s raining. It becomes really slippery! :)

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Paris B August 9, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Ooh thanks for the warning, Andrea! I read that UGGs are mostly meant for indoors and that they aren’t meant to be worn outside! haha…

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Isabel July 7, 2013 at 9:44 am

I agree with all the tips. Leather boots without heels are the one and only kind of footwear I wear to colder countries. My sturdy Camel Active boots have been faithfully accompanying me on trips for the past 7 years!

I like my boots to be ankle high with laces. Those are great for support but a real pain in the arse when removing and putting them on especially at airports. I also ensure that I wear thick socks with some arch support. I got mine from Soxworld and they have a thick band of extra compression around the arch of the foot. It makes a lot of difference when you’ve been walking 7-8 hours nonstop.

I’d like to be more fashionable and wear some of those “swanky” long boots but I’m concerned that during their “rest” period in this hot and humid country, they start to get mouldy. Do you take them out to clean periodically? Those boots need to look nice and shiny while the kind of boots I wear are the-more-weathered-the-better sort :P

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Paris B July 10, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Haha Oh dear, wearing boots of any kind at airport customs is pure HELL! You’re guaranteed to hold up the queue :P My recommendation is to be sure you are wearing proper socks, not embarrassingly holey ones LOL! Happened to me once. My tights had a hole in the toe but I thought it was fine since I was wearing my boots. WRONG! Had to take them off at the airport and my poor toe was peeking out for everyone to see :P

To be honest, I was worried about the leather going mouldy or cracking while in storage here too but so far, the boots I have have been holding up! *touch wood* I’ve had them for about 3-4 years now and they’re still doing great. I keep meaning to air them and clean them but I haven’t done so :P

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Isabel July 14, 2013 at 9:34 am

You’re so right about holey socks. That happened to me once too LOL! And once is more than enough!

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BlushandBarbells July 7, 2013 at 11:55 am

I wear Clarks ankle boots too – but I wear them hot or cold.

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Paris B July 10, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I’d melt if I tried to wear them here in our heat haha! I used to try to be swanky and all back in the day but gosh, unless you are in an airconditioned building all day long, my poor feet feel suffocated!

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Kay July 7, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Hello Paris B! This is the first time I am leaving comments but I have actually been following your blog for quite a while now. Thank you for writing and sharing as your contents are really informative and useful. I enjoy your writing style as well.

I am a Malaysian but currently residing in Shanghai. Thus this topic holds close to my heart. I struggled to find shoes that could work here when I first arrived two autumns ago. Paris was right to point out that back in Malaysia, we hardly walk long distance. It was due to various reasons such as the weather, personal safety, convenience etc. But here in Shanghai, I do aplenty of walking. If you wear proper footwear, walking is really a joy here. I arrived with a pair of sturdy Caterpillar sneakers and a pair of M&S thigh-high flat suede boots. Both have thick rubber soles. Did they work? Coupled with 5 ringgit woolen socks I bought from Daiso, the two pairs did protect my feet from the cold and were comfortable for me to walk in for hours. However, those two did not work that well in the rain. Bummer.

When I wore my sneakers, the rain and water from water puddles would sneaked in and made my socks wet. Wet socks are bad during cold weather if you get what I mean. When I wore my suede boots, water did not get in but then the boots were hard to dry after that. It called for extra care. But when it rain consecutively, I got desperate and ordered a pair of thigh-high flat PVC leather boots from Taobao (China online shopping mecca). The boots cost about 35 Malaysian ringgit after conversion. It is from a brand that I have never heard of, called ‘Decree’. It was my first purchase on Taobao and I was testing the system out but it turned out it was the best purchase I made so far. The boots were well-made and light and looked quite stylish. It actually goes with everything I have. It has thick rubber soles and the PVC leather seemed to work against the cold and the rain. I was expecting the PVC to disintegrate or something (used to owned a PVC pair that disintegrated!) but then this pair of boots served me through 2 winters and different countries in between and they are still going strong. I literally live in this one pair of boots from late autumn to early spring. Maybe PVC leather is a different kind of material. I find that they are easy to clean and care for as well.

So do look out for a pair of stylish PVC leather boots with thick rubber soles. They are way cheaper than real leather and work like magic against cold, rain, uneven terrain, rough places. Even if they don’t last forever, it would not cost a dent in your wallet to replace them. The 5 ringgit woolen socks from Daiso works as well. I find them very comfortable and do what they are supposed to do.

The locals and some expats here actually wear rain boots during cold rainy weather. Not the yellow construction workers boots we normally see back home but nice, stylish/colorful ones. I have yet to try those. Maybe someone can share their experience on the rain boots. I was told it is very common for people to own at least a pair of rain boots in four seasons countries.

There, hope my experience helps!

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Paris B July 10, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Hi Kay, I love you for sharing such helpful tips and in your very first comment too! Well done! :D You’re right, I have had PVC shoes and they are usually really crap but I’ll have to take your word for the fact that they keep out the wet because I don’t have first hand experience of it. Thanks for shooting down that misconception :D Shanghai is such a busy city! Food isn’t bad though – I quite enjoyed that when I was there :D

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Mrs Top Monkey July 7, 2013 at 5:19 pm

I live in rural Scotland. Boots of all kinds rule here. If you’re doing urban walking, leather boots with grippy soles are best. If you’re doing country, I can reco waterproof hiking boots. Wellies are not recommended as they’re not very warm and don’t grip well, plus they’re not comfy for long walks. When you buy boots, try them on with the socks you intend to wear them with. Otherwise you’ll find you can’t wear your boots with the fluffy socks you bought later.

If you are visiting, I know boots can be a big cost esp leather ones. If you’re not fussy, you can try eBay for preloved boots in good condition. Or if you’re headed to UK, you can try outlet stores like TK Maxx or charity shops. There’s always chains like Primark or the supermarket own brand shoe lines if you’re just looking for boots to wear over a holiday.

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Paris B July 10, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Excellent tips! For country walking, definitely have to go with sturdy hiking boots. I can’t imagine fancy leather boots working out on the windy heather covered hills! Damn! Read too much Enid Blyton – not a fact is it? :P Good tips too on where to find some cheap “holiday boots” :D

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Sofia July 7, 2013 at 6:25 pm

I love high boots for cold weather. I find their warm and so stylish.

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Paris B July 10, 2013 at 4:15 pm

You’re spot on about it being stylish! I love how it looks and I just had to get a pair even though its a silly idea when living in the tropics haha!

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Sunny July 7, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Leather boots for the win! With the local weather, boots are REALLY good investment! There are a lot of cobblestone roads in Belgium which kill the soles fast, but I get mine repaired every year. I don’t like PVC mostly because it could smell bad fast, and it’s just not as durable in my experience.

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Paris B July 10, 2013 at 4:22 pm

I have the same experience as you with regards PVC shoes too! I’m sure there are some really nice fashionable boots in Taiwan – many people I know buy them up while holidaying there! Makes me want to visit just to check out the shopping! Haha!

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LeGeeque July 8, 2013 at 6:57 am

Wellies! Rain boots! Gum boots! Gummies! If it’s going to be wet and cold, I cannot recommend Hunters enough. I have 2 pairs and both bought on sale. They ALWAYS get me compliments from random strangers. Wear them with wool socks – they’re fantastic against the wet. They don’t go with office wear (dress/blazer) but if I do commute, I’d wear a thick coat with these boots and change to smart pumps when I’m at work. They come in a variety of colours and there’s bound to be something for someone. I have red ones for more subdued work days and black with funky gold “hardware” for Fridays.

If it’s dry and crispy cold, then, nothing beats leather boots. I always get them resoled before I wear them :)

For those who are wearing dresses, I find wearing socks, then tights then boots really help with the cold. In fact, on extra cold days, I’d wear socks, tights, wool pants and boots. Get tights that are about 60denier and above to get some warmth.

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Paris B July 10, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Thanks to you, I recognised people wearing Hunter boots while in Prague haha! Well, as opposed to asking “Eh, why are they wearing Phua Chu Kang boots out ah?” :P I have heard they are very comfy and importantly keep feet dry since they are wellies after all. I’m sort of glad we don’t get winter here or I’d be really broke… and yet, I sort of wish we had winter here so I can dress up! HAHA! Oh and good tip about tights! I always get at least 80 denier and have gone up to 100 denier which allows me to wear the shortest of skirts in winter! :D

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Irene July 8, 2013 at 10:46 am

Paris!! Thank you so much for this post!! Your reply was already really helpful and this post caps it off so perfectly! I started hunting and when I saw a pair of ankle boots on sale in Clarks I grabbed them immediately (I was apprehensive about spending RM400++ on a pair of leather boots, but with the discount they were about RM 270 which is good enough in my books). But they’re not rubber soled though, so I will bring them to shoe shop and get that sorted. The boots are ankle height but not laced up so it doesn’t hug the ankle, so I will get those supportive socks like another reader commented above (thanks for that too fellow reader :D ).

Thank you again! Maybe you can do a separate post on how to dress warm but remain stylish and not look like a ham yok chong during cold seasons traveling? :P Love your blog!

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LeGeeque July 8, 2013 at 11:16 am

Sorry to burst your bubble, ham yok chong is like the thing in winter ;) One way to avoid it will be puffy Michelin man-like jackets. They’re waterproof and would be warm if lined with goose and down feathers but they are bulky! I would suggest a wool coat (double breasted is very chic and timeless) with at least 60% wool content. Wool scarf (you can go 100%), cardigan/sweaters all in wool and a wool hat (also 100% if you can). Oh, gloves too!

I think the key is to layering so you can peel off when it’s warm indoors.

Sorry for piping in, PB! ><

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Paris B July 10, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Please feel free to jump in any time anywhere! :D

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Paris B July 10, 2013 at 4:38 pm

I’m happy you found this helpful, Irene! :D I thought it was a great idea for a post because we could all learn a little something from those who are already living where its cold as I know many readers are :D I’m so pleased you got yourself a nice pair of boots! And for a pretty good price too! Yes, its quite easy to get non slip soles put on and they’ll last you a while and help your shoes last longer too! I used to be diligent about it for all my shoes… but not anymore. I really should :P As for dressing, can you believe I have a post in drafts for at least 5 years on this topic but haven’t done anything about it? HAHA! I will try to get it done but I cannot promise. What I can tell you (as Legeeque has also said) is you cannot avoid looking like a ham yok chong :P Its the best way to stay alive haha! ;)

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June July 8, 2013 at 8:57 pm

From personal experience :

Track shoes/sneakers – wind blows right through to freeze your toes off, if the rain doesn’t get in, get your socks wet, and cause your toes to freeze off.
Leather ankle boots with slight block heel – very stylish, easy to slip on and off at the airports, easy to match pants/jeans when traveling, but not able to withstand all-day walking. Also, if you’re not wearing it frequently (if you live in the tropics and only travel to wintery conditions once in a while), the leather linings start cracking and peeling off. Very unattractive when slipping shoes off at airport…
Knee-high PVC/fabric boots with rubber-soled bottoms, no heels – perfect. Survived freezing temperatures in Stockholm. Not sure if leather would have been warmer, but any coverage beats no coverage… Flat is the way to go if one has to walk a lot. If you have thick calves like I have, you should really try the shoes on with the pants you intend to tuck them into…

Back in the day, when I used to live in England (and when it was fashionable), I lived in my Doc Marts. Heavy as hell, but once you get used to the weight, the rubber soles grip well, the leather keeps moisture out reasonably well, and you can walk for miles in them.

One tip if you walk around in a city environment and it’s snowing, clean your shoes immediately once you come indoors, if it has touched the snow. In places where they salt the pavement (to de-ice?), the salt will stain your shoes and it would be almost impossible to remove the stain once it sets.

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Paris B July 10, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Lovely! Thanks so much for sharing your experience, June! I loved how you broke down the different types of shoes and how they performed for you. I always wanted a pair of Doc Martens as a student but they were a little out of budget. Now I wish I’d gotten a pair because they’re just as expensive now if not more so! :P

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SharonC July 10, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I have the same Geox sneakers but the black part of the shoes – yours seem like suede-ish but mine is the same model with shiny black parts. I love this pair of sneakers but after 2 days of wearing, my feet hurts a little as I have wide feet. Altho props to the soles… great for cobblestone walking and it keeps the feet warm (for me anyways).

I also have another pair of Adidas ankle top sneakers which I bought from Tokyo (at their Gotemba Factory Outlet) for about RM120.. what a bargain! It has faux fur walls inside the sneakers. The soles are thick rubber soles but of course it does get wet if it rains.

I usually wear the Adidas one when it’s not raining and Geox when it does as this surprising didn’t even get wet. Weird, I know…..

I have no heart of throwing away the Geox eventhough it kind of hurts my feet (after 2 days) as it costs me about RM250 after discount when I got it back in 2011 in Italy. My Vincci flats’ soles came off after just 1 day walking around!!!

Been looking around Aldo for heels during their sales but they just never have my size. Will have to get a pair of Ugg boots soon when my sister flies to Aus!

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Paris B July 10, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Shoe twins! :D My feet don’t hurt, thankfully and it was a little fitted when I got it so I can’t wear very thick socks either. But they are really good for long walking aren’t they? :) I’ve been eyeing a pair of UGG boots forever! Can’t justify that one though. I don’t travel in cold enough temperatures either :( So, yes, I’m jealous! :P I can’t wear Aldo heels at all. I find their base too hard and too high. I’ve gotten bunions and calluses from wearing poor fitting shoes over the years so now the moment it starts feeling just even a mite uncomfortable I don’t get it. Guess my feet are just really picky!

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Ting July 17, 2013 at 11:31 am

Waterproof shoes!!!! When it rains and it’s cold, it’s extremely uncomfortable if your socks are wet and you have to be out the whole day. Just typing these send chills to my toes… eeeek!!!

Whatever style you choose, make sure it’s waterproof! :)

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Paris B July 18, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Absolutely right about waterproof shoes! Thick leather does do the job I find. When I was a student, I had a pair of lovely leather hiking boots… that wasn’t waterproof. Stupidest pair of shoes ever :P

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Ting July 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm

hahahaha! It will be even heavier then!!!

I was lucky. I went to UK with Timberland waterproof hiking boots, and they were leather. A bit heavy to walk around but I appreciated them endlessly. Rain, shower, snow, sludge. No problemo! :D

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Paris B July 19, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I have always, always wanted a pair of Timberland boots. Crazy right? One of those things I’ve always wanted and it’d be ridiculous to get them and wear them here. Boo!

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