When you’re short on packing space, shoes are your worst enemies. They’re the most inefficient items to pack because they’re dirty, bulky and heavy. Don’t worry though, because I’ll show you how to pack shoes in a suitcase for traveling efficiently and smoothly. (If you pack smart, you can save some money on check-in fees!)
Ready to dig in? Here’s the best way to pack shoes.
Table of Contents
Soles to the sides
This technique is useful for packing at least two shoe pairs. You’ll get easy access to your shoes and have enough space left for other items. However, for this technique your suitcase should be packed full, so your shoes don’t move.
- Lay your suitcase on the ground fully open.
- Clean up your shoes from dirt and freshen them up with an air-freshener.
- Squeeze small items like socks, underwear, and belts inside your shoes.
- Wrap each shoe in wrapping paper or inside a bag to protect other items.
- Start packing with your shoes, placing them with the sole touching any side of the main compartment.
- Continue with the rest, by placing each shoe separately.
- Now you’re left with the middle part open, where you should pack all of your other items. Make sure to pack your case full, so that your shoes stay fixed at the sides.
Also, if you’re in the need for a new suitcase, I recommend Travelpro, because of their intense durability. I’ve actually made a cool little Travelpro luggage review if you’re interested.
This technique is useful for storing many pairs of shoes. The trick is to store heaviest items (your shoes) at the bottom of your case, reducing the chance that your luggage could tip over. Also, you’ll get easy access to your shoes, and the suitcase doesn’t have to be stored full.
- Lay your luggage open on the floor.
- Clean your shoes from dirt and freshen them up.
- Socks and belts can be stored inside your shoes to save some space.
- Now wrap your shoes in wrapping paper or grocery bags, by wrapping them in pairs. Make sure to pack each pair heel to toe, with the soles facing opposite directions. (Similar to storage in shoe boxes)
- Place your pairs at the bottom of your suitcase, with one of the soles facing the bottom wall.
- Next, continue with your other pairs, making sure to fill the bottom part completely, so you’re left with the top part empty for all of the other items.
- If there’s some space left between shoe pairs, you can squeeze in some t-shirts, socks, and underwear in the gaps.
Packing them in your zippered compartments
This technique works only if you pack no more than two pairs of shoes. Ideally, a pair of sneakers and flip-flops. Furthermore, this technique offers the smoothest access to your shoes.
- Start by placing your luggage open on the floor.
- Clean up your shoes.
- Store socks, belts, and underwear in your shoes.
- Wrap each shoe in a plastic bag to avoid making a mess.
- Now place your shoes in the zippered compartments of your case.
- If all of your pairs don’t fit. Store the shoes that you will be using the most in the zippered compartment. Other pairs can be stored in the main compartment.
- Fill the rest of the zippered compartment with smaller items that you need easy access to.
Speaking of intelligent packing options, I’ve made a list of 9 tech-friendly carry-ons with a laptop compartment. I really do believe that the luggage industry is starting to shift towards tech-advancements and smart packing options. We should be seeing some cool innovations in the following years!
How to pack shoes in a backpack
First of all, wear your bulkiest shoes while boarding to save some space. You can store the rest of your pairs in your backpack. Generally, you shouldn’t be taking more than two pairs of shoes if you’re using a backpack, as you’re pretty limited on space. Anyway, here’s how to pack shoes in a backpack:
- Clean up your shoes before packing them.
- Store rolled socks and underwear inside your shoes.
- Put your shoes in a bag to protect other items. Make sure to store each pair in a separate bag, packing them heel to toe with soles facing opposite directions. Also, try to suck out some air of the plastic bag and tie it for convenient packing.
- Your shoes should be stored in the center of your backpack, as they’re pretty heavy and will result in a better-balanced backpack (That’s better for your back). You can read more about why this center placement matters in this blog post by Tortuga backpacks.
- Fill the bottom 10 inches with clothes or other items that you won’t need easy access to.
- Next, store your shoes in the middle part of your backpack.
- Fill the top part with items that you need easy access to.
How to pack shoes in a duffel bag
Some airlines have recently introduced fees for using the overhead compartments. Yes, even for a carry-on! Although only a few airlines do this, this fee could quickly spread.
So how can you avoid it? Use a duffle bag that you can store under the seat, instead of a regular carry-on.
However, using a single duffle bag for your whole trip can be a challenge. You really should pack smart and think twice about what you’re taking when using a duffle. Most commonly, the most space can be saved by taking fewer pairs of shoes. If you’re packing your shoes in the duffle, you’re most likely not staying for a long time anyway, so try not to pack more than one pair of shoes. (Wear the other pair)
First of all, start by cleaning up your shoes and packing them in a plastic bag or a tote bag. Make sure to store them heel to toe (Similar to the placement tat’s in shoe boxes), to save up some space. Start, by placing your shoes at the bottom of the duffle. Next, continue by packing the heaviest and largest items next to your shoes. Lastly, store the things that you need easy access to at the top.
Here’s a more detailed packing guide for duffles.
Tips on saving space when packing shoes
If you’re tight on space, these tips might save you from pulling your hair out. Some I’ve gathered over the years and some I’ve read on other forums and guides.
- Always wear your bulkiest shoes while boarding the airplane.
- Smaller items should be stored in your shoes. (Also, between the gaps of your shoe pairs). Personally, I always store my socks, underwear, and belts inside my shoes.
- Keep the soles of your shoes facing the walls of your suitcase. Not only does this save space, but later you get easier access to your shoes as well.
- Try to place your shoes near the bottom of the case because they’re heavy and will result in a more-balanced suitcase. (Which makes it less likely to tip)
- When storing your shoes in pairs, always place them feet to toe. (Just like in shoe boxes) You’re left with a neat little rectangle that’s efficient for packing.
- If you’re wrapping your shoes in a plastic bag, make sure to suck out most of the air out of the bag and tie it up. This makes your shoes packed vacuum-bag-like and saves some space.
If you still can’t cave enough space, consider investing in a luggage set. You’ll have three or four suitcases in different sizes that fit each occasion. Here I’ve compared the 8 best hardside luggage sets.
How to pack high heels
High heels are pretty inefficient to pack, as you’re always left with some gaps near the sides. The trick is to fill those gaps with smaller items. Also, you should be careful not to damage them, as they’re pretty easy to break. Here’s how to pack high heels super efficiently:
- Start by cleaning up your shoes not to make a mess, also freshen them up, because you will be storing stuff inside them.
- Next, roll up some socks or underwear and squeeze them in your shoes. This saves some space and keeps your high-heels from being squished.
- Next, wrap each of your high heels in a plastic bag to protect other items from getting dirty.
- Before packing your high heels, fill up the bottom part of your case with some shirts, jeans, and other clothes.
- Place your shoes inside your suitcase near the bottom for better balance. Make sure to place them sideways for better protection.
- Now you’re left with some gaps around the heels. Fill them up with t-shirts and tank tops to save some space.
- Fill the rest of the case with other items.
Tips on protecting other items
If you’re packing high heels, you can damage other items if you place them close enough. Make sure to leave some distance between your DSLR and high heels to avoid unpleasant surprises. Just imagine how much your bag is tossed around by the airline employees when packing the plane.
Also, shoes are pretty nasty when it comes to packing. If you don’t take the time to wrap them up your clothes will get dirty.
I like to wrap my shoes in either plastic grocery bags or tote bags. If you’re using a grocery bag, you can suck out most of the air and tie it up, making your shoes packed vacuum-bag-like for more efficient packing. Also, if you’re storing each shoe separately, those small transparent plastic bags are just the right size and take up almost no space.
Lastly, make sure to place your shoes closer to the bottom of the case or near the walls. This helps your shoes to stay in place and keeps them from damaging other items.
How to pack shoes in a suitcase without squishing them
If you’re concerned about squishing your shoes, your first thought would be to put them in some kind of a container. This way they’d be protected from airline damage and other items pressing against them. Is this the best way of going about it? Probably not.
A container takes up too much space, weight, and is pretty inefficient for packing. Instead, you should fill up your shoes with smaller items, like rolled up socks and underwear. Make sure to fill them up tightly, so other things can’t squish them.
Also, if you want to protect your shoes, pack some clothes around them, like t-shirts, tank tops, jackets, and socks. To avoid bending, try to place them with the sole facing the side of your suitcase, so they’re pressed straight against the wall.
Alternatively, if you’re taking expensive dress shoes, you may want to use a shoe tree for preserving your shoes. This replaces stuffing them with socks, as a shoe tree is better-shaped for dress shoes.
Before packing: How many shoes should you take
It depends on how long you’re staying, the weather and your activities. However, when packing shoes, less is always better, as they’re super inefficient to pack.
First of all, you should think about the weather. If you’re traveling to warmer climates, a pair of flip-flops or sandals is a must. (Also, they’re easy to pack) Same goes for cold weather; You should be packing a pair of boots. Make sure to wear the boots on the airplane and pack your lighter pairs in the suitcase to save some space.
Next, think about your activities. Will you be exercising? What about hiking and walking long distances? Will you be attending a formal event?
As a rule of thumb, I rarely take more than three pairs of shoes.
- The first pair is casual. A pair of sneakers works perfectly, as they look pretty casual yet are comfortable enough for everyday sightseeing.
- The second one is either boots or sandals, depending on the climate.
- For the third pair, I pack sports or hiking shoes. I run every other day, so sports shoes is a must for me.
If you’re doing mostly active stuff, consider leaving the casual shoes behind. Take sports/hiking shoes for your activities and flip-flops/sandals for sunbathing, swimming, e.t.c.
Use a shoe freshener
If you’ve read this article entirely, you’ve probably noticed that I recommend stuffing your shoes with smaller items, like socks, underwear, and belts. If your boots aren’t fresh, you can quickly ruin your clean pair of socks.
That’s why I like to freshen them up before packing. I usually spray the inside part with a shoe freshener and leave them to dry for a day. The following day, I repeat this step to make sure they’re extra fresh. Do this at least two days before packing your suitcase.
That’s it; I’ve shared all of my tips on how to pack shoes in a suitcase efficiently. If you have more tips, please share them down below in the comments!