Editor, Packsmith & On Your Terms
For most people, shoes are the hardest item to pack. They take up a lot of space, and shoes are too specialized to bring just one pair, even for short trips.
Most people travel with at least two pairs: one for walking and casual wear, and one nicer pair for going out. If you’re traveling in summer, you might add sandals. If you’re a workout junkie, you might add a pair of exercise shoes.
What Shoes to Pack
The key to packing light, where shoes are concerned, is to choose shoes that are flexible and do double duty. Can your exercise shoes also be your walking shoes? Can your business shoes also be your “going out” shoes? With careful planning, you should be able to limit yourself to TWO pairs of shoes for any trip.
If you’re taking two pairs of shoes on your trip, you’ll wear one pair on the plane and pack the other pair. Which pair do you wear? The bigger, heavier pair. That way you keep your bag lighter and have more room for other items. If you’re packing carry on only, this is especially important.
For leisure trips, start with a pair of comfortable walking shoes. You’ll be wearing these shoes most of the day. Make sure they won’t hurt your feet.
Your second pair of shoes should be packable. They should be light and flat to minimize the amount of space they take up in your luggage.
Packable shoes include:
- Boat shoes
- Low rise walking or running shoes
SUAVS are perfectly packable, particularly the Zilker and Barton shoes.
Always pack your lightest pair of shoes. Packing heavy dress shoes or boots of any kind is not recommended. Think about your shoe choices and plan your outfits with footwear flexibility in mind.
Where to Pack Shoes
Don’t stuff your shoes into your bag on top of your clothes at the last minute.
Even lightweight shoes are heavier than most of your clothes.
If you’re packing in a travel backpack, to balance the weight in your bag, pack your shoes in the vertical middle of your bag, as close to your back as possible. Packing your shoes close to your back will keep your bag’s center of gravity near your body. Your pack will feel like an extension of you, not like an unbalanced weight swinging around you.
To ensure your shoes are in the right spot, pack your shoes first. Then pack your clothes around them. Many travelers pack in the exact opposite order. Starting with your shoes first will result in a better, more efficient pack.
Place them in a plastic or cloth bag to keep the street dust off of your clean clothes. A shower cap also works well over the bottom of your shoes.
If you’re packing in the Setout Duffle, you're in luck, because there is a built in shoe compartment that is specially designed to keep your shoes separate from your clothes and is perfectly placed in the bottom of the bag for balance.
When you’re not using the shoe compartment, it lays down flat and you can use the space on top of it for other things.
How to Pack Shoes?
Your bag is empty and awaiting your shoes. Now what?
Before packing your shoes, stuff them. Don’t waste the space inside of your shoes. That’s valuable real estate. Ball up socks, roll up a belt, or pack anything else that’s soft and can conform to the space, like a t-shirt or underwear.
Next, interlock your shoes as shown to the right. The right shoe’s toe should be touching the left shoe’s opening and vice versa. Arranging your shoes like this will make them one solid rectangle for packing. Place them inside a plastic or cloth bag to keep everything else clean. Now you can easily pack around the shoes.
You could also pack your shoes with the soles flush against each other, but this shape is harder to pack around.
If you’re carrying flip flops or sandals, pack them along the edge of your backpack for structure. Otherwise, pack sandals in your backpack’s exterior pockets or affix them to the straps.