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Packing Shoes

Day 15: Smart Tips for Packing Shoes and Boots


Packing Hacks is a 31-part series devoted to helping you become an expert packer! Each installment offers advice on how to get organized, pack smarter, save on bag fees, and eliminate packing stress. New to Packing Hacks? Start at the beginning.

Now that you are up to speed on how to dress your body when you travel, it’s time to discuss what to put on your feet.

Shoes and boots are perhaps some of the heaviest, bulkiest items you’ll bring on your travels. Accordingly, it’s important to choose lightweight travel shoes—and to pack them well. Foldable or light shoes are a great investment even for those who don’t travel often. Minimalist sneakers are ideal for toting to the gym, and foldable flats are excellent for throwing in a purse as “emergency shoes” for when heels get too painful. Here is our favorite foldable, featherweight footwear, plus tips for packing it perfectly.

You’ll learn:

The best shoe brands that are light and easy to pack

How to pack your shoes in a way that maximizes suitcase space

How to keep your packed shoes from contaminating the rest of your belongings

Our Favorite Packable Shoes

Hunter Tours: The original Hunter Tour boots are a classic, stylish rain or snow boot option for women that are specially designed for easy packing. The boots are made of foldable natural rubber material, and they squish up nice and small for easy packing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the Hunter Tour style is available for men. But men could order two sizes up and try ’em out regardless. (It’s a very gender-neutral style.) During winter, wear your Hunters with thick boot socks for extra insulation.

Foldable Ballet Shoes: For women, foldable flats are at the top of the packable-shoes list. Flat-folding styles come in almost every color and in versions that are appropriate for virtually every budget. At $30 a pair, CitySlips are a good choice at the economical end of the scale. The pricier Tieks might last a bit longer, though. (I’ve tested both, and Tieks are certainly sturdier than CitySlips.)  

Keds: With a cushioned insole and a squishy, flexible fabric upper, comfortable Keds sneakers are a perfectly packable option. You can squash them down to a nearly flat shape. We especially like Keds Crashback shoes, which have a collapsible back panel that allows the shoe to be worn two ways: as a traditional sneaker or as a mule. Keds are available for men and women, and they’re pretty affordable too. (Many styles sell for $50 or less.)

Minimalist Shoes: There’s not much of a market for packable shoes for gentlemen. We know of no foldable flats intended for the rugged, outdoorsy male. The solution: Try a minimalist shoe. Minimalist footwear, usually designed to approximate barefoot walking or running, is always extremely lightweight and sometimes even foldable. Men or women can take advantage of the Spartan design when traveling light. Minimalist shoes aren’t just for runners: We’ve seen hiking boots and even waterproof shoes in minimalist designs. For example, Feelmax makes waterproof hiking boots that are so thin and flexible you can ball them up with your hands.

Tips for Packing Your Shoes

Wear Them: We always suggest wearing your bulkiest, heaviest shoes on the plane—that is, as long as they’ll be comfortable enough during long hours in transit. And although we love the idea of wearing slip-on shoes through the airport security line, it’s best to sport those heavy hiking shoes or knee-high boots instead of packing ’em if your primary goal is a lightweight bag. Just make sure to fully untie your kicks while waiting in line.

Fill Them: When packing shoes, stuff them with socks, underwear, jewelry, chargers, adapters, makeup, and other smaller items. Don’t let that empty space inside of your packed footwear go to waste. Every nook and cranny counts!

Pack Them: The TSA recommends placing shoes at the top of checked luggage for easy searching. Still, you may want to place heavier items like hiking boots at the bottom of your bag if you’re not flying or checking any luggage. Arrange bigger, bulkier items—especially shoes—in a layer at the base of your gear. Then, fill out top layers with lighter things.

Keep Them Clean: The shoes you’ll be mixing with your clothes and other belongings inside your bag will, eventually, get dirty. This is especially true if you’re headed on an outdoorsy hiking or biking adventure or to a place where your feet will get wet and muddy. Bring a plastic bag to store muddy shoes. You can also use a shower cap: Snap it over the soles of your shoes to protect the rest of your belongings from street dirt. Beware when rinsing or washing shoes prior to packing them: Moist shoes tucked inside an airless plastic bag will start to smell rather quickly. Give your shoes enough time to dry before packing them.

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