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As a fairly frequent flyer and amateur travel photographer, I’ve had to get packing down to a science. I may not always pack lightly, but I’m usually able to get exactly what I need to fit into one bag — depending on the length and type of the trip, sometimes I’ll bring an extra bag for camera gear, too.
The one thing that continues to vex me when I pack is shoes. In theory, I like to bring just a single pair of shoes for every trip — which I wear in transit — but this is easier said than done. I usually want comfortable, walking-around sneakers — my go-to is Allbirds Wool Runners— but sometimes I need something more supportive ( these Merrell trail-to-street shoes do the trick).
An issue I run into is when I have meetings on a trip. While I may not need full dress shoes, I don’t usually want to wear sneakers — but I still need something appropriate with jeans or chinos, which are comfortable enough to get me through the day if there’s a lot of walking involved. Usually I give up and sacrifice precious suitcase room to a pair of dress shoes.
Recently, though, I found the perfect solution: the Nisolo Travel Derby shoe.
The Travel Derby is a stylish and adaptable shoe that can look equally fitting with a pair of jeans, khakis, or a modern-cut suit. Built around a sole made from XL Extralight — a unique shoe material engineered to be lightweight and flexible, yet supportive and comfortable — the suede uppers are designed to fold down, or essentially collapse, when you aren’t wearing them.
This makes for a comfortable, light shoe that’s comfortable and stylish enough to wear for a busy day of walking and meetings, and can fold down to a flat, inch-thick slab of rubber and suede to fit in any spare corner of a bag.
Insider Picks’ VP of Commerce, Breton Fischetti — another frequent traveler — and I both spent a few weeks wearing the Travel Derby shoes to see if a packable shoe could really be substantial enough. The answer is: yes.
Read on for both of our thoughts.
“Having an easily packable, work-appropriate shoe was hugely helpful.”
Nisolo has been on my radar for a while since I’ve seen the company’s Instagram ads a few times. I like their look and was excited to try their travel shoe.
My principal issue with traveling, especially for work, is that the shoes I need for meetings take up the most space in a bag, but I don’t want to wear them trekking through the airport. Having an easily packable, work-appropriate shoe was hugely helpful. It’s low profile, comfortable, and great because it doesn’t draw attention to itself. I can happily cruise around the airport in sneakers without having to sacrifice precious carry-on space for quick work trips.
$128 is a bit of a steep price to pay for a nice-to-have shoe, but it’s well made, high quality, and adaptable; and it is made at Nisolo’s ethical factory in Peru, so for me, I still feel it presents a really solid value for the price. — Breton Fischetti, VP of Insider Picks
“I found that they actually offer plenty of support.”
When I first saw the shoes, both online and in person, I was worried that they wouldn’t be supportive enough. I love soft, flexible shoes like Allbirds for office days or walking around the city, but those have more padding, structure, and arch support than the Nisolos seemed to offer at a quick glance.
However, when I actually wore them I found that they actually offer plenty of support. Sure, I wouldn’t want to wear them hiking in the woods, but for a day of standing, heading into meetings, walking, and exploring, they’re perfect when I tie them nice and snug.
I really can’t overstate how packable they are. They fold down almost instantly, and I can stuff them in any corner of a full roller bag or put them at the bottom of my carry-on backpack.
I treated them with some stain and weather-resistant spray, and while they aren’t waterproof, they compare well to any other similar shoe. They’ve also held up well so far, which makes me feel better about the $128 pricetag.
I got my usual size, and found that they fit true — they might have been a tad snug, but they molded to my foot almost right away. — David Slotnick, senior reporter