8 Smarter Tips For Packing Shoes For Travel

Planning for travel can be both a thrilling and overwhelming experience, especially when it comes to packing.

One challenge many travelers face is finding the most space-saving and efficient way to pack shoes for their trip. I mean, they’re so bulky — how do you do it right?? Unlike clothing that can be rolled, folded, or shaped however you want in your bag, shoes require a little more planning.

If you’re not the type to toss everything into a suitcase with no rhyme or reason at the very last minute, you’re in the right place! This article will guide you through the process of packing shoes for travel with practical tips and tricks.

Shoes come in all different shapes, sizes, and weights, so you’re going to have to put some effort into thinking through your packing strategy! Pack them wrong and you’re wasting precious space — pack them right and you’ll be on your way to being a smarter traveler!

Are you trying to travel lightly and in need of a new suitcase? Pair these bite-sized actionable tips on how to pack shoes for travel with my other post on the best carry-on travel bags for any type of traveler!

This post may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running/pumping out useful and free content. Thanks a lot!

Packing Shoes For Travel: 8 Essential Tips For Packing Smarter

As you prepare for your travel adventures, it’s important to first consider the types of shoes you’ll need based on your destination and activities. This will help you to determine the number of pairs to bring along so you can come up with a packing strategy! And avoid overpacking.

While you may feel inclined to bring different shoes for every outfit you plan on wearing, I’d recommend you reel it back a bit and prioritize shoes that are stylish, comfortable, and versatile, as consolidating all these features into a few shoes will save you not only luggage space but also potential discomfort (from lugging all your gear around) during your travels.

Next, consider the packing method that works best with your luggage and the shoes you’ll be bringing. Utilizing space-saving techniques like the soles-to-the-sides approach or packing your shoes inside shoe bags can make a significant impact in keeping your luggage organized and ensuring your shoes stay in good condition throughout your trip.

With the below tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to properly packing shoes for your next adventure!

Gather a list of all the shoes you plan on bringing

Before you actually get to packing, think through the following:

  • Where is your destination? What type of shoes do you need for this destination?
  • What activities will you be doing? Is there a need for adventure shoes (water shoes, hiking boots, etc.)? Will you be running, exercising, or working out?
  • Are there any special events which you need special shoes for?
  • How long will you be gone?

Having the answers to these questions will help you take stock of how many shoes you’ll actually need to bring. Not just what you ‘feel like bringing’. A rule of thumb is to stick to three pairs or fewer for any trip.

Pro Tip: I myself try to stick to 3 pairs of shoes at a maximum. BUT, if one pair of shoes that I need is a thin pair of flip-flops, sandals, or slippers (that will hardly take up any room at all), I will sometimes let myself get away with four pairs!

Wear your bulkiest, heaviest shoes on travel days

Blundstones - Travel Shoes
If I pack my Blundstone boots, you’ll always find these on my feet during travel days!

If you are going to have bulky shoes like hiking boots, rain boots, autumn-style boots, or trail running shoes on your trip, wear them on travel days. What that means is when everything is all packed up, these shoes are on your feet and NOT in your suitcase.

Not only will it save space in your luggage, but it will also make it less heavy. You can then pack lighter/smaller shoes like sandals, flip-flops, or dress shoes in your suitcase or backpack. This way, you can travel light and efficiently.

Trust me, if you like traveling by duffel or backpack, you’re going to really benefit from this one.

Below are a couple of examples of what to do when you have 3 pairs of shoes you’re debating between packing. Try to always wear your bulkiest shoes on travel days and pack your less bulky ones.

Use shoe bags so your clothes don’t get contaminated

Use shoe bags - Packing Shoes For Travel Tips

Your shoes touch all kinds of nastiness on the ground. Dog pee, human throw-up, used gum, you name it — your shoe’s probably encountered it. Just because they don’t “look” dirty doesn’t mean there aren’t microbes or germs on them!

If you prioritize good hygiene, you should keep your shoes separate from your clothes to avoid any dirt, smell, or any other cross-contamination. Invest in some shoe bags or even plastic grocery bags for this!

Place your shoes inside the bags, then pack the bags in your suitcase. This technique will keep your clothes clean and fresh throughout your trip.

And if you’re going to take the step of packing your shoes in shoe bags, then I have to recommend you get a set of compression packing cubes for the rest of your stuff too (if you don’t already own them).

Packing cubes are amazing at creating space in your luggage that you never thought you had. No matter how you want to organize your clothes— by day, by outfit, by type—these will be the most useful thing you have in your packing artillery.

Gone are the days when you need to dig through your entire suitcase for that one thing you’re looking for — because you’ll know exactly where it’s at.

Pro Tip: If you’re open to spending a bit more on something even more high quality, I personally use the Monos Travel Compressible Packing Cubes — these have been my go-to packing cubes for a few years now and I love them. Since they’re thick and built so well, I don’t see a need to replace them for at least a decade (or more)!

Stuff shoes to efficiently use up space

To optimize all the space possible and maintain the shape of your shoes, stuff your shoes with small items like socks, underwear, scarves, hats, sunglasses, gloves, pajamas, or accessories. Even t-shirts that I don’t mind getting wrinkled or workout clothes that’ll fit will go in there sometimes when I’m packing!

This will not only help you maximize the space in your suitcase but also protect your shoes from becoming squished or misshapen during the journey.

Pro Tip: If you’re traveling with a more expensive pair of shoes and don’t want to stuff them with smaller clothing items, use lightweight shoe trees to help them maintain their shape.

Pack shoes in the right order inside your suitcase

Once you know exactly how many pairs of shoes you plan on bringing, it’s time to actually pack them!

When packing shoes for travel, always place the bulkiest ones at the bottom of your suitcase. You want to make sure you have room for them, first and foremost. By packing them first, you’ll be able to clearly see how much space they take up, as well as what remaining space you have left for the rest of your things.

Your smaller, less bulky shoes can go in shortly after that. The thinnest shoes like flats, flip-flops, and sandals can go on top or on the sides because of how they’re easiest to slide into random slots.

Just think of packing shoes among your clothes like a game of Tetris!

Pro Tip: Try to remove your shoes from your suitcase as soon as you arrive at your destination. You’ll have more room to access other things within your bag, and if your shoes happen to be at the bottom of your luggage, you can minimize the time that they’re smushed in there!

Position your shoes in the most space-saving way

Okay so how should you position your shoes when you actually start putting things into your suitcase? I typically like to pack everything either soles-to-the-sides (separated from one another, soles against the wall of the suitcase) or head-to-toe (shoes facing each other, head to toe)

Here are some ideal positions for common types of shoes:

  • Boots: Separated from each other with the bottom of the shoes against the edge of the suitcase.
  • Heels: Top of shoes facing each other, head to toe.
  • Sneakers: Top of shoes facing each other, head to toe.
  • Flip flops, sandals, flats: Bottoms of shoes touching (dirty sides touching).

Don’t overpack on the number of shoes

Don't Overpack Shoes - How To Shoes For Travel
Three pairs of shoes in a carry-on take up a lot of room!

As I’ve said before, traveling with too many shoes can take up valuable space in your luggage and add unnecessary weight. Aim to travel with no more than three pairs of shoes: one casual pair (running shoes, workout shoes, sandals, etc.), one dressier pair (dress shoes, heels, flats), and one pair of comfortable walking shoes.

If it’s summer, substitute one type of shoe in exchange for sandals/flip-flops. If your trip calls for hiking boots or rain boots, can you substitute something out to keep to the 3-pair limit? Do your best!

By limiting the number of shoes you bring, you can travel lighter and have enough room for clothing, accessories, and other essentials.

Ran out of luggage room? Pack any extra shoes in a backpack or carry-on

If you have run out of space in your main luggage, consider packing any extra shoes in your backpack or carry-on bag. Be sure to use shoe bags or plastic bags to separate them from your belongings. The last thing you want is a shoe print on your camera or laptop!

Remember that shoes are heavy, so only pack the essential pairs to keep your load light.

Alternatively, you can take a step back and re-evaluate the number of shoes you’re trying to bring. Can you leave one at home instead of trying to bring all of them? Fewer shoes = less weight and more room to pack other things home like gifts and souvenirs!

Choosing the Right Travel Shoes

Versatile Footwear / Walking Shoes

When selecting travel shoes, versatility is key. Opt for stylish shoes that are great for walking that can be easily dressed up or down, so they pair well with various outfits. Look for shoes with good support and cushioning as you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking while on your journey.

Getting something you think is cute and versatile can mean skipping on extra (sometimes unnecessary) shoes like heels, flats, or boots!

Sandals, Heels, and Flats

For warmer destinations, you’ll probably want to pack sandals. Comfortable walking sandals will serve you well for daytime activities, while a stylish pair of flip-flops is perfect for the beach. It’s a good idea to also have a pair of dressier sandals or heels for evenings out and special occasions.

But can you combine the three occasions into one shoe? I can! For me, it’s the Birkenstock Mayari Sandal or the ECCO Flowt Strap Sandal! If you can find a shoe that does this for you, you’ll be able to save so much luggage space already.

When it comes to flats, the ones by Allbirds have become a popular choice for their comfort and breathable design. These shoes can be dressed up or down, and they’re suitable for long walking days.

Leather Shoes

Leather shoes are both stylish and practical for travel. They are known for their durability, comfort, and timeless design. If you’re planning on dressier events or visiting more upscale locations, a pair of leather shoes will elevate your outfits while still providing necessary support and comfort.

Pro Tip: This is why I love my ECCO Soft 7’s! The are leather shoes, supportive walking shoes, and stylish shoes all wrapped up in one! I can’t travel without these things anymore.

Footwear TypeOccasionExample
Walking ShoesSightseeing, city strollingECCO Soft 7
SandalsBeach, casual daysBirkenstock Mayari
Heels / Dressy FlatsSpecial events, dinnersAllbirds Tree Breezers

Hiking Shoes and Boots

For nature lovers, backpackers, and adventure seekers, hiking shoes and boots are a must. Depending on your destination and activities, you may need light hiking shoes or more heavy-duty backpacking boots. Either way, be sure to wear these on your travel days instead of trying to pack these in your suitcase.

And remember to properly break them in before your trip to avoid discomfort and problems like blisters!

Packing Shoes For Travel: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to save space in your luggage when packing shoes?

To save space when packing shoes, start by limiting the number of pairs you bring. Consider the activities you’ll be doing and pack accordingly.

Next, choose lightweight and versatile shoes that can work for multiple occasions.

Place your shoes at the bottom of your luggage, with soles facing away from each other in a head-to-toe. Fill the gaps between shoes with smaller items such as socks or underwear for maximum space optimization.

What is the best way to pack heels and boots?

When packing heels or boots, protect them from scuffs by wrapping them in soft materials like cloth, socks, or a shoe bag. For longer boots, you can fold them gently so they take up less space.

Place these types of shoes on the bottom of your suitcase with the heel or bulky part facing the suitcase’s edge to maximize space utilization.

Should you use shoe bags for your shoes when packing?

Using shoe bags when packing is highly recommended. In fact, I never place a bare shoe directly in my suitcase. I’m not a fan of soiled clothes or even a soiled suitcase!

Shoe bags help protect your shoes from getting scratched or dirty while keeping your clothing clean from the dirt and germs found on shoes.

Should you mix your shoes and clothes together?

If you utilize shoe bags (or even those free grocery store produce bags) you can most definitely mix shoes with clothes strategically to use up all the space you’ve got in your luggage.

Once your shoes are in place, look for gaps between the shoes to store smaller items like PJs, toiletries, hats/gloves, socks, underwear, or tights.

The key to selecting the right travel shoes is to prioritize comfort, versatility, and appropriateness for your destination and planned activities.

By packing the right shoes, and packing them well in your suitcase, you’ll ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip.

And if you’re looking for the perfect travel shoes, I’ve got you! Here’s a roundup of all my favorite travel shoes perfect for prolonged walking and city exploration.

Looking for more travel gear and travel packing tips? You may want to check out these posts while you’re at it!

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