Packing for a trip can be stressful, and knowing how to pack shoes for travel is usually the biggest challenge when it comes to packing hacks.
Shoes can take up valuable space and add quite a bit of weight to your luggage – especially when it comes to men’s shoes or winter packing.
Shoes were always our biggest dilemma when we traveled full time.
However, with some smart packing techniques, you can maximize space and minimize the weight of your bag while ensuring your shoes and clothes remain in great shape.
Let’s look at some packing hacks to show you how to pack shoes in a suitcase.
Key Tips for Packing Shoes for Travel
- Wear bulky, heavy shoes on travel days to save space in your suitcase.
- Use shoe bags to keep shoes protected and organized.
- Clean shoes before packing to prevent dirt and odor.
- Store shoes in a separate compartment from other items in a suitcase.
- Consider investing in compact and lightweight travel shoes.
- Stuff shoes with tissue paper or other items to prevent shoes from being squished.
- Pack bulky shoes first and separate them for maximum space.
- Position shoes strategically to optimize space
- Consider distributing shoes between carry-on and checked bags.
- Utilize small spaces in a suitcase for slim shoes like flip-flops or sandals.
- Pack shoes in other items like hats or purses
- In unstructured duffel bags, lay shoes on the bottom or pack them last at the top if they are delicate.
- Evaluate how many shoes are necessary for the trip and use packing hacks to save space in the suitcase.
Tips For Packing Shoes for Travel
How Many Pairs of Shoes Should You Take?
First things first – Prioritize what you need.
I understand – different travel activities require a variety of shoes. However, carrying too many shoes adds unwanted weight to your luggage and takes up a lot of space.
Sadly for us shoe lovers, it is important to prioritize. (Ladies, you can find tips for the best footwear for travel in our Women’s Travel Essentials edition).
Before packing, carefully consider the activities you might be doing on your trip and plan your footwear accordingly.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of versatile shoes that can be worn in multiple settings, e.g., stylish and comfortable sneakers that work for sightseeing and casual dinners.
My rule of thumb for ladies to cover most travel situations – a good pair of sneakers, sandals, and comfortable flats are usually enough for your travel footwear wardrobe.
Gents, a pair of sneakers and a sandal or slip-on for summer. Winter travel may require boots if sneakers are not adequate.
Let us help you choose the best pair of sneakers for travel – sneakers that are versatile, stylish, comfortable, and practical.
Clean Your Shoes Before Packing Them
It might sound obvious, but starting with clean shoes makes sense. You can use a multitude of cleaning methods, from simple shoe sanitizer sprays to portable travel UV light sanitizer (which is also good for hotel rooms, especially pillows).
Consider placing shoe fresheners or even a fragrant tea bag inside shoes or shoe bags to keep them fresh.
Use Shoe Bags to Keep Shoes Separate from your Clothing
Shoe bags are a great idea for keeping shoes separate from your other belongings and preventing shoes from getting scuffed.
The other logic behind shoe bags is keeping them all in one place and limiting the suitcase real estate your shoes need.
Some shoe bags can hold up to 3 pairs of shoes so you can pack them in one corner and around them.
A plastic bag will do if you don’t want to use dedicated shoe bags. Shower caps are also very good as a last-minute solution.
The Best Way to Pack Shoes to Save Space in A Suitcase
Wear Bulky and Heavy Shoes on Travel Days
Save space in your suitcase and lighten your load by wearing the bulkiest shoes on your travel day. This obviously will not apply to ski or climbing boots – unless they are extremely comfortable.
Your bulkiest shoes will typically be boots or sneakers, which can be the most comfortable for lugging luggage through an airport.
Distribute Shoes Between Checked and Carry on Luggage
A lot of people ask – Are shoes allowed in carry-on luggage? The answer is yes. You may want to distribute shoes between your checked and carry-on luggage if traveling with many pairs of shoes.
Doing this offers many benefits:
- You won’t overpack your checked luggage and break the weight limits, saving fees.
- If your checked luggage is lost, you’ll have a spare pair of shoes.
- If flying between extreme climates, you’ll have a change of shoes suitable for the climate when you arrive.
See our best picks for wheeled underseat luggage. I’ve managed to pack for five days in with these bags in winter – shoes included. We’ve also rounded up the best luggage trackers to help you manage lost luggage issues.
Stuff Shoes to Maintain Their Shape and Save Space
If you’re worried about how to pack your shoes without squishing them, stuff them.
When you pack shoes, stuff them with tissue paper, underwear, or socks to maintain their shape.
This technique works well for leather and suede shoes, which can get damaged if stored incorrectly. Once they are stuffed, they are best packed on their side and carefully pack other items around them to support them.
Stuffing shoes with socks or underwear can help them maintain their shape and save you some space.
Position Shoes Strategically to Optimize Space
Position your shoes strategically in your suitcase to optimize space—for example, pack shoes around the corners and edges of your suitcase. You can also place shoes between packing cubes or other items in the gaps created by shoes.
I like to use the indentations at the bottom of the bag on either side of the telescopic handle ridges. Shoes nestle nicely into the space creating a flat surface.
Pack Bulky Shoes First and Separate Them for Maximum Space
When packing shoes, start with the bulky shoes placing them in the bottom of the bag. This allows you to see instantly how much space they will take up.
Pack Flat Shoes Last, or Use Pockets
Flat shoes like flip flops or sandals can go in last as they will lay flat on top or slip in the sides to fill gaps. Utilize those small spaces.
Better still, utilize side pockets to slip flat shoes in. This will keep them separate from your clothes and not take up precious case space.
How to Pack Boots in a Suitcase
Depending on the size and shape of the boots or bulky shoes, you may want to place them in separate corners or ends of the bag. This leaves larger spaces between them for packing other items. Bulky shoes or boots placed side by side is not always the best use of space.
Depending on the shape of the shoes, placing them in a corner might be the best use of space.
How to Pack High Heels in a Suitcase
Depending on the shape of the shoe, top to toe on their side is usually the best configuration for heels in a suitcase.
Again, depending on the shape, you may want to place them with the soles facing (good for stilettos) or with the tops facing and heels facing outwards. Any gaps can be filled with other items.
How to Pack Sneakers in a Suitcase
Sneakers are easy to pack because they are lightweight and can be squashed without fear of damage.
I usually find the best way is with the soles facing out, top to toe, and pushed to the side.
You can also place the heels flat against the side of the case and pack around them.
As I mentioned, sneakers are a great shoe for filling the gap in the bottom of the case next to the telescopic handle.
How to Pack Shoes in a Duffel Bag
If you’re traveling with a duffel bag, likely, you’re not traveling for long and only have minimal pairs of shoes.
Most good travel duffel bags will have a zippered shoe pocket at the end. If not, pack your shoes flat on the bottom of the bag. This helps support the bottom of the bag.
Depending on the size and shape of the bag and shoes, you could simply lay them flat, sole down along the length of the bag. Or face to face, top to toe, across one end of the bag.
If the duffel bag is unstructured and your shoes are delicate, pack them last. Lay them on the top to keep them from getting damaged.
How to Pack Shoes in a Backpack
Similar to a duffel bag, a backpack will often have external pockets you could utilize for your shoes.
If not, I prefer to place them face to face, top to toe, and lie them at the base of the pack. It gives the bag stability and keeps them secure at the bottom.
How to Pack Shoes in a Garment Bag
Most decent travel garment bags will have a shoe pocket at the bottom, so there is no worry about your shoes ruining your delicate garments.
Some fantastic garment bags for travel double as carry-on luggage with a dedicated shoe compartment and more.
Packing shoes for travel doesn’t need to be difficult. With some thought, helpful packing hacks, and even thoughtful packing accessories, you can up your packing game and not arrive in a mess.