(This list has been updated for 2018)
Being a frequent business traveler can take a toll on your health. When your week is packed with red-eye flights, multiple destinations, and long days, it can be hard to squeeze in time for exercise.
When you’re short on time, running is the best solution. You can get 30 minutes of an intense workout without access to a gym. Lace up your running shoes, and you’re good to go.
But as most travel – whether for business or leisure – involves airplanes and airports, you need to optimize your packing. Because if you don’t, it might mean the difference between having a checked-in bag and not having one. A single checked-in bag attracts a fee of $20 or more, so the best way to travel is without one.
Ok, you might have an Airline status card and do not have to pay for extra baggage. But then, who wants to waste time dropping bags at the counter or waiting for the carousel to spit up your luggage when you land?
Frequent travelers can attest that traveling without a check-in bag is such a liberating experience.
So let’s say you need to pack for a single overnight bag, and space is at a premium. Running shoes tend to occupy quite a bit of room, so how does one make the best of the situation?
The easiest way to carry a running shoe is to simply wear them. But while this works for holiday travelers, your corporate overlords might frown upon such a casual attire. Or maybe you just want to look dapper with your wingtips or high heels.
Every traveler has to follow standard packing best practices, such as rolling your apparel instead of stacking them; or stuffing the insides of your shoes with smaller items or undergarments. Also, bags with a softer shell (textile) accommodate more items for the same size than bags with a rigid shell.
But if you play your running shoe card right, not only will you free up space inside the bag, but make it lighter too.
So which running shoes are the best for traveling? You can scroll down straight to the list, but we considered the following criteria for selection.
Follow these golden rules, and you can also explore options outside the limited assortment presented in this guide.
The running shoe has to be lightweight.
There’s a Spanish proverb which goes something like this: “On a long journey, even a straw proves heavy.”
While this was written well before the age of air-travel, but regardless, a lighter shoe means more weight off your shoulders. So all the shoes on the list weight less than 290 grams/10 ounces for the median size.
The midsole should be flexible.
Ever wonder how professional contortionists fit into an unimaginably cramped space? Besides proper technique, the artists manage it by being extremely flexible.
Apply the same analogy to running shoes. A flexible build allows the shoe to access space previously unavailable, as the midsole better adapts to its confinement. A chunky midsole equipped with moon-foam or switch-blade technology isn’t going to cut it, sadly.
At the very least, the upper should be semi-collapsible.
You don’t want a stiff upper which hogs all the space. Just like the flexible midsole, you need an upper which flattens to make room for the rest of your essentials.
A collapsible heel counter design is preferable; the second-best option is to have a heel with a thin and flexible counter.
Avoid running shoes with thick midsoles
This one’s a no-brainer for saving space. Thick midsoles equate to more room occupied by the shoe. So while we don’t recommend ultra-flat midsoles, it shouldn’t be too thick either.
As a general rule, the thickness should be somewhere between a regular trainer and a racing flat.
And last but not the least, the shoe should be cushioned and supportive
Often, many of us travelers mix gym workouts with running. So the running shoe should be supportive for weight training and calisthenics while being cushioned enough for road or treadmill running.
Some go for the full-minimal approach in their choice of a travel shoe. While that is great for saving space, the lack of cushioning might not suit everyone.
Now let’s get into the thick of things; here’s our top pick of shoes. Nike takes most of the spots, which makes sense given the availability of Nike Free and other derivatives with a similar flexi-sole concept.
1) Nike Free RN 2018 Flyknit
A fully collapsible upper? Check. A flexible midsole? Check. Super lightweight? Check. Good for treadmills, roads, and everything in between? Check.
That’s all you need a travel-friendly shoe to be, really. The Free RN 2018 Flyknit is Solereview’s top shoe pick in this category.
Weight: 198 grams/ 7 ounces, 8 mm heel offset, available in a single width.
2) Nike Free RN 2018
The updated Nike Free RN gets a supportive upper along with the same flexible midsole which powers the Flyknit version.
This shoe is great for short road runs, gym workouts, and casual everyday use.
Weight: 238 grams/ 8.4 ounces, 8 mm heel offset, available in a single width.
3) Nike Flex 2017 RN
The Flex RN series is an extension of the Free platform at a relatively affordable price-point. Its generously grooved foam midsole makes the ride cushioned and flexible.
The Flex 2017 RN’s seamless upper takes inspiration from the Nike Free. The breathable, engineered-mesh upper uses no-sew layers and Flywire lacing to create comfortable interiors. Like its Free cousins, the Flex RN has a collapsible heel counter for easy packing.
Weight: 221 grams/ 7.8 ounces, 7 mm offset, available in a single width.
04) Reebok OSR Harmony Racer
At a mere 6-ounces for a half pair of US 9, the Harmony Racer scores as a travel-friendly running shoe. Regardless of the low weight, the Harmony Racer has enough cushioning for the treadmill or 10K road runs.
The lightweight and breathable upper is collapsible, and the Harmony’s retail price makes it excellent value for money.
Weight: 170 grams/ 6 ounces, 6 mm offset, available in a single width.
5) Saucony Liteform Miles
The Liteform’s seamless upper has a semi-collapsible heel counter which makes it luggage friendly. The foam midsole and the memory foam insole combine to produce a cushioned ride.
And true to its name, the Liteform weighs a lightweight 9-ounces.
Weight: 255 grams/ 9 ounces, 4 mm offset, available in a single width.
6) Asics Dynaflyte 2
The Asics Dynaflyte 2 doesn’t have a collapsible upper or a flexible midsole. But it’s a lightweight trainer capable of short road runs and gym workouts. In other words, this is a running shoe suitable for business travel.
Weight: 252 grams/ 8.9 ounces, 8 mm offset, available in single width.
7) New Balance Fresh Foam Zante V4
Lightweight yet cushioned trainers like the Zante V4 are travel-friendly. Its low-profile design doesn’t contribute much to the luggage volume and weight. The cushioned midsole also makes the Zante versatile. Be it treadmill or road runs of up to a half marathon, the Zante V4 is good for it.
It’s got an internal bootie which holds the tongue in place. When combined with fixed position lacing, it translates into an easy on-and-off experience during long trips.
Weight: 244 grams/ 8.6 ounces, 6 mm offset, available in multiple widths.
8) New Balance Fresh Foam Veniz
The Veniz has all the properties of the Zante, but without the inner sleeve. It’s also cheaper than the Zante, if you’re looking for a travel-friendly, affordable, and lightweight running shoe, the Veniz it is.
Weight: 227 grams/ 8.0 ounces, 6 mm offset, available in multiple widths.
9) On Cloud
The On Cloud is a lightweight, do-it-all running shoe with a comfortable upper. Its elasticated, cord-based lacing is great for frequent airport transits.
The foam midsole has a colony of the trademark hollow chambers, making the On Cloud great for runs of short to medium distances.
Weight: 230 grams/ 8.1 ounces, 6 mm offset, available in a single width.