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While it may seem practical to limit your shoe options when traveling, the reality is that many destinations require multiple types of footwear. Think of Paris in the fall: you’ll need heels for the evening, comfortable sneakers for walking, and if it’s raining, waterproof boots. And that’s keeping it to the bare minimum without considering shoes for specific outfits (you may need a nude pump and a black pump, for instance).
With an array of heel spikes and hard wearing soles to account for, smart packing solutions are essential. “Packing shoes (and everything for that matter) in packing cubes is recommended to help with the organization within your suitcase,” explains Joanna Brumberger, a professional organizer and founder of An Edited Space. They’re also a foolproof way to avoid disaster – for example, to prevent a stiletto from piercing through a chiffon blouse, workout shoe scents from spreading throughout your clothes, or scratched leather from zippers.
Even if you’re short on space, it’s always worth using a cover of some sort. “I absolutely recommend dust bags, which is why we include them with every pair of M.Gemi shoes,” advises Maria Gangemi, founder of popular Italian shoe brand, M.Gemi.
Whether you’re embarking on a short getaway or a longer trip abroad, consider the below tips and products to make packing shoes a whole lot easier.
Tips for Packing Shoes for Travel
Pack your shoes first
“Pack shoes first at the bottom of a suitcase, and then pack everything else around them and on top.” advises Brumberger. And remember that in addition to placing them in your suitcase first when it’s lying flat, you’ll also want to ensure that they’re on the side closest to the wheels so that they will stay in place when it’s vertical. Shoes are generally the largest and heaviest items you’ll be packing (besides your toiletry bag), so once they’re accounted for, you’ll have a better idea of what else you can comfortably fit in.
Fill your shoes with smaller items like socks and underwear
“I definitely recommend stuffing smaller items like socks and underwear into shoes,” explains Brumberger. “This helps shoes maintain their shape and helps to make the most of your space in the suitcase.” Gangemi has some sound advice, too: “For closed-toe shoes, use the tissue paper that they are packed in to stuff the toes. And always pack pairs from heel to toe with the bottoms facing outward – this is the ultimate space-saver.”
Clean your shoes before packing them
“If shoes are considerably dirty, you should clean them before they go into the suitcase or packing cube,” advises Brumberger. This can be done easily with a wet wipe, a cloth with soap and hot water, or with any fabric-specific cleaners (i.e., suede spray or leather cleaner). And once you arrive, unpack and allow everything to air out. “I always unpack as soon as I arrive at my destination and take everything out, including shoes,” explains Brumberger.
Best Products for Packing Shoes for Travel
Best Shoe Case Overall
Away The Shoe Cube
Away is a trusted brand for sleek, ergonomic travel essentials, and The Shoe Cube has become a favorite for seasoned jetsetters. It’s made from a sturdy, water-resistant nylon with a collapsible divider that prevents shoes from rubbing together (therefore, it’s ideal for shoes with embellishments or delicate fabric).
Depending on your shoe size, a small case can fit up to three pairs of sandals, and once you arrive at your destination, it can be collapsed and stored flat to maximize space. It’s available in a small and a large size, which can fit up to a women’s size 11 and a men’s 9.5. Other useful features include an interior mesh pocket, which can be used for storing accessories (socks, heel pads, shoehorns, etc.) and a top handle for easy transportation. Because the case is firmer and it has a flexible divider, it’s a great option for packing heels.
Price at time of publish: $25 for small; $35 for large
Best for Sneakers
Calpak Compakt Shoe Bag Set of 2
Available in a variety of artistic prints and classic colorways, these best-selling Calpak shoe bags are loved by travelers. They’re ultra-light, and made from a water-resistant ripstop nylon that is machine washable – which is especially convenient if you’re using them to hold workout sneakers and socks. These are perfect for carrying commuter shoes or for holding workout sneakers in a tote (and those worn-in soles are definitely not something that you want touching other things in your bag).
Another useful feature is the interior mesh pocket where you can keep socks or even another pair of flat shoes.
Price at time of publish: $35
Best for Boots
Paravel Packing Cube Quad
Sustainable travel brand Paravel has a stylish collection of luggage and accessories that are useful for frequent flyers, including the packing cube quad. It contains three different size options: two small, one medium, and one large rectangular cube, which is spacious enough to hold knee-high boots without having to fold them over and crease the leather.
These can be personalized with embroidered initials, and another smart feature is the “view window” which allows you to see what’s inside without having to open the zip.
Price at time of publish: $65
Best Soft Packing Cube Set
Mark & Graham Cabana Stripe 6 Piece Packing Cube Set
Appropriate for children and adults alike, this candy-striped packing cube set from Mark & Graham is designed to maximize space and keep everything in a logical order. It has one shoe bag, one laundry bag, and cubes in extra-large, large, and two in small.
Given they’re made from a soft fabric rather than a hard case, they can easily compress into your suitcase, allowing you to fit more in. A wide range of personalization options are available, too, from classic fonts to flamingos and palm trees.
Price at time of publish: $79
Best Luxury Packing Cubes
Louis Vuitton Packing Cube
Louis Vuitton was built on the art of travel, so it’s fitting that the maison has mastered the perfect packing cube. As you would expect, it’s made from the finest materials, with the classic LV monogram, a cowhide leather trim, and gold hardware. It has a wide opening with no dividers, and while it fits multiple types of shoes, it’s not specific to any particular item (you could fill it with half clothes or accessories, if you chose). Plus, it will double as elegant wardrobe décor when you return – serving as somewhere special to keep sentimental items.
Price at time of publish: $650
Best Shoe Pouch
Stoney Clover Lane Shoe Pouch
Known for their candy-colored backpacks and duffels, Stoney Clover Lane’s spacious packing pouch is perfect for shoes. It’s made from durable nylon with a lined interior, gold zips, and it can be customized with the brand’s signature varsity patch letters and a variety of emojis that can be sewn on. The soft rectangular-shaped case has a top handle so it can be easily carried, too.
Price at time of publish: $98
Most Versatile Packing Cubes
State Bags Packing Cube Set
This bright, versatile packing set contains large and small cubes with top handles for easy transportation. They have an expandable zip-around closure and a wide opening which can hold shoes as well as any other items you may want an additional layer of protection around – including things like clothing, accessories, or electronics. They’re made from a durable nylon fabric that can be easily spot cleaned.
Price at time of publish: $45
Best Shoe Bags
Tumi Set of 2 Travel Shoe Bags
These shoe bags from Tumi are so durable, they’re likely to be the only ones you’ll ever need. The fabric is thick enough to withstand spiky heels and protect shoes from any scuffs, and they’re also flexible and lightweight. They are designed to fit one men’s shoe or two women’s shoes in each bag.
Price at time of publish: $75
Best Multi-compartment Case
Hezelf Shoe Storage Case
Appropriate for heels, sneakers, and flats, this multi-shoe case is an affordable product that will keep your shoes organized. It has three different compartments: one deep interior compartment, perfect for sneakers or heels; a mesh inner layer for flats; and a half-net outer layer, which is also suitable for flats or sandals.
The fabric is waterproof and it has a useful back pocket to slide onto your carry-on suitcase handle – useful if you’d prefer to keep shoes separated from your clothes.
Price at time of publish: $20
Best Shoe Cleaner
Jason Markk Shoe Cleaning Essentials Kit
This premium affordable shoe cleaner is suitable for a wide range of fabrics, including suede, leather, canvas, and nubuck. It comes equipped with a shoe cleaning brush with soft bristles that effectively remove stubborn stains – especially useful for keeping white sneakers looking fresh. The cleaning solution itself is only 4 ounces, but it goes a long way, and can clean up to 100 pairs of shoes.
Price at time of publish: $18
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you pack shoes in your carry-on?
“Yes! It’s best to carry on your shoes [to] ensure they’re packed properly without being squished,” explains Gangemi. “I always pack The Sacca Donna in my carry-on to slip into and look put-together since it requires so little space.” It’s also wise to wear your biggest and heaviest shoes on the plane, as Brumberger recommends. “I like to wear bulky shoes like sneakers on the flight, so it takes up less space in the suitcase.”
How many shoes should I pack for a trip?
“As many as you can fit!” says Gangemi. “Joking (partially!), because we handcraft all of our shoes to be incredibly lightweight for exactly this reason. It really depends on where you’re going but I definitely recommend at least one “walking” shoe, a dressy shoe, and something in between. It’s so important that your footwear is versatile while traveling and can work with many different outfits,” she says.
“For everywhere, I recommend our classic driver, The Felize, and The Palestra – a lightweight, minimal sneaker. Both styles are great for hours on your feet while still looking polished and put together. I love The Esatto classic stiletto or The Lustro block heel for a city because they’re both incredibly comfortable while still giving you that fabulous height that you’ll want for a night on the town. For a beach destination, The Matilde is my go-to for its easy, slip-on design that also just looks chic with everything. For cooler months or destinations, I love The Cristina heeled bootie for being so versatile (you can dress it up or down) and I can walk in them endlessly,” explains Gangemi.
Should I pack shoes in a box or bag?
It all depends on how much space you have. If you’re traveling with a large, checked suitcase and a carry-on, then a box or packing cube of some sort is a better way to ensure that everything is fully protected and compartmentalized. But if you’re only taking a carry-on suitcase, most packing cubes will occupy a good portion of your space, so it may be wiser to opt for a shoe bag instead.
Why Trust Travel + Leisure
Travel + Leisure contributors are shopping, fashion, and lifestyle experts who draw on personal experience and market recommendations to curate the best products for shoppers. This article was written by Amy Louise Bailey who has a decade-plus career in the fashion and luxury lifestyle industry, and for this article, she spoke with professional organizer and founder of An Edited Space, Joanna Brumberger. She also spoke with Italian shoe designer and founder of M.Gemi, Maria Gangemi to include perspectives from a shoe industry expert.
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