How to Pack Shoes in a Suitcase for Travel – 8 Smart & Easy Tips

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Curious to know how to pack shoes in a suitcase for travel to help you save both space and time? You are not alone!

Shoes are one of the most awkward parts of your attire to pack. They don’t fold, are oddly shaped, and under too much weight, will easily deform and lose shape.

Fortunately, there are several simple tricks and methods you can use to pack a range of your shoes. Together, we’re going to explore these methods.

Looking to pack a certain type of shoe? Use our quick picks in the table of contents to skip to specific parts of the article. Otherwise, let’s dive in from the beginning!

How to Pack Shoes for Travel

Please note: For all images, shoes have been photographed without being wrapped in bags, so that you can see everything clearly.

How to Pack Wedges and Heels in a Suitcase

Let’s start with one of the classiest pair of shoes many travelers pack: wedges or heels.

It’s always great to pack a pair of shoes for fancier evenings or nights out. Whether it be a fancy restaurant or a glitzy cocktail bar, a pair of wedges or heels will assure you look the part.

However, heels and wedges have one of the most awkward packing shapes. Plus, they are often the most expensive shoes in your suitcase. Damaging them is not an option.

So, let’s break down how to pack both wedges and heels in the right way.

packing wedges in a suitcase
  1. Clean your shoes thoroughly because they will be coming into contact with some of your clothes. You can use a shoe disinfectant, an ultraviolet shoe sanitizer, a shoe cleaner kit, or any other method you prefer.
  2. Separate out smaller clothing items or socks, which can be stuffed or rolled.
  3. Stuff the inside of both shoes with the rolled-up items of your choosing to help them keep their shape.
  4. Wrap both heels or wedges in separate bags, wrapping firmly, but not too tightly.
  5. Your goal is to pack the heels in the central top half of your suitcase so that they don’t take as much weight. Form a base layer of a couple of shirts or dresses at the top and against the side.
  6. Lie one heel down, sole first, against the layer. Then, place a piece of clothing on top.
  7. Lie the second heel upside down, on top of the piece of clothing, and in line with the first heel.
  8. Finally, fill the gap between the sole and heel or wedge of both shoes with more rolled-up small clothing items or socks.

Packing heels or wedges is like playing Tetris or Candy Crush. The goal is to minimize the space they take and to fill the gaps with other clothing.

How to Pack Boots in a Suitcase

While boots are heavy shoes, their strength and bulk mean, if packed in the right way, they can take more luggage weight than heels, sneakers, and sandals.

If you’re traveling to a place with rugged terrain, cold weather, and outdoor activities, your trusted boots will be going with you.

Here’s how to pack boots effectively, saving you space and time.

packing boots in a suitcase
  1. Clean your boots thoroughly, particularly if they are for outdoor activities. You can use a shoe disinfectant, an ultraviolet shoe sanitizer, a shoe cleaner kit, or any other method you prefer.
  2. Naturally, the height and bulk of your boots mean they will take up more space. However, the capacity within each boot can be used to hold a lot of socks or smaller clothing items.
  3. Once they have been stuffed, wrap each individual boot in separate bags.
  4. Now prepared, you can use your boots at the bottom of your suitcase to stabilize the weight, reducing the risk of it tipping over. Use the L shape of your boots to slot them into the bottom corners, pushing the sole and heel against the side of the suitcase.
  5. As with heels and other shoes, fill the gaps created with lightweight clothing to utilize space, and keep everything packed in tight without movement.
  6. Add one final layer of clothes on top of the boots for a barrier, and pack the rest of your suitcase. Once upright, the base of your suitcase should be more stable, due to the weight being at the bottom.

How to Pack Sneakers in a Suitcase

If your vacation involves some hiking, or you like to work out while traveling, you’ll want to pack a trusted pair of sneakers.

Sneakers fall somewhat in the middle of our packed shoe selection. Sneakers are bulkier than heels and sandals, hence can hold more weight.

However, they are not as strong or rigid as boots. There are a couple of ways to effectively pack sneakers in your suitcase.

packing sneakers in a suitcase
  1. As with all shoes on this list, make sure they have been cleaned before packing. You can use a shoe disinfectant, an ultraviolet shoe sanitizer, a shoe cleaner kit, or any other method you prefer.
  2. Fill the inside of each sneaker with socks. Sneaker heels are rigid, but the top squishes easily. This will help keep their shape.
  3. Wrap each sneaker in a separate plastic bag, and tie firmly. Try to get all the air out of the bag, to help with space.
  4. The design of sneakers means stacking them heel to toe, one on top of the other, creates an almost perfect rectangular shape. So, as with heels, you could slot them together, with a thin barrier of clothing, and place in the center or bottom of the suitcase.
  5. Or, if you don’t want so much weight on your sneakers, you could split them and pack them sole to side, next to each other.
  6. Once you’ve packed them, add layers, above and around the sneakers, of lighter clothes, for another barrier of protection.
packing sneakers in a suitcase and layering

Sneakers are also ideal to wear while traveling. They are comfortable, easy to slide off on a plane, and by wearing them you can free up your suitcase for heavier, less practical shoes.

How to Pack Flip Flops and Sandals in a Suitcase

Flips flops and sandals are without a doubt the easiest shoes to pack for travel. With much less height than heels or sneakers, they require much less space.

Often, their structure is far less rigid. This means it’s much harder for them to lose their shape. Some people don’t mind them being packed down and squished.

That being said, there are still a few expert ways to pack them to save space and time.

packing flip flops and sandals in a suitcase
  1. Clean them before packing them, so that they have a fresh aroma.
  2. You won’t be able to stuff them, so instead place one of top of the other, heel to toe, so that both soles face outward.
  3. Wrap the cleaned pair together in a travel shoe bag or a plastic bag.
  4. Because they flatten down so well, flip flops and sandals are perfect for utilizing any mesh or side pockets, if those pockets are big enough.
  5. If not, simply pack them nearer the top of your suitcase. As with other shoes, layer them either side with clothes, just for a little more protection.

How to Pack Shoes Without Squishing Them

All of the methods we look at try to pack shoes in a way that minimizes stress on the parts of the shoe that need to stay in shape.

For a good guide across all types of shoes, try to pack with the following points in mind.

  1. Always fill the insides of shoes with socks or rolled-up small clothing items you’re happy to crease. This stuffing technique helps the shoe hold its shape, and it saves space in the rest of the suitcase or bag.
  2. Always make sure the soles of sturdy shoes are packed against the bag or suitcase side. If there are any bumps or weight shifts, the harder sole can take more of the impact.
  3. If you’re traveling with expensive shoes or don’t want to stuff them with socks and smaller clothing items, use lightweight shoe trees to help them maintain their shape.
  4. Always assemble your shoes heel-to-toe (unless using the heel to suitcase side method), with the sole facing outward. Assembling shoes like this helps create more of a rectangle shape, which is easier to pack. Plus, the body of the shoe is more protected this way.
  5. Protect your shoes by forming layers around and between them. This could be a thick hoodie, a pair of jeans, or a couple of folded shirts.

How to Pack Shoes in a Backpack

If you’re traveling light but still need an additional pair of shoes, you could pack them in your backpack.

The space available to you naturally will change depending on the size of your shoes. If you can, try to wear your heavier, bulkier pair, and pack your lighter pair.

Shoes such as sneakers and flip flops will be easier to pack this way, but you can try this method with any spare pair of shoes.

packing shoes in a backpack
  1. Clean your shoes and stuff them with rolled-up clothing items or socks, as with suitcase packing.
  2. Wrap each shoe in a plastic bag, wrapping firmly, but not too tight.
  3. Once your shoes are stuffed and wrapped, slot them together so that both heels and both soles are facing the opposite direction.
  4. Contrary to how most people pack, it’s better to pack heavy items in the middle of a backpack, not the bottom, as it puts less stress on your back. Create a base layer of clothes at the bottom of your backpack, that you won’t need instant access to.
  5. Then, pack your wrapped shoes in the center of the backpack.
  6. Lastly, pack some lighter items you need access to for your top layer such as hoodies or sweaters.

It’s good to bear in mind that you should only pack shoes in your backpack if it makes sense to do that.

By packing them in your backpack, even the smallest of shoes will still take up a sizeable amount of room.

How to Pack Shoes in a Duffel Bag

The great thing about a duffel bag is the depth and volume is much greater than a backpack. Hence, you don’t need to get too innovative with your packing.

packing shoes in a duffel bag
  1. Clean your shoes thoroughly, and utilize the space in the shoes to store small clothing items or socks.
  2. Wrap each shoe up in an individual bag, firmly but not too tight, and tie the ends.
  3. With a duffel bag, the weight is much better distributed. Hence, you can place your shoes on the bottom. Arrange them heel to toe, one on top of the other, and place them side-up in the center of the bag.
  4. Either side of the shoes, create a heavier base layer by packing your thicker clothes and weightier items. This will make the bag easier to carry, and it will protect the softer part of your shoes.
  5. Finally, create a top layer of lighter clothes and zip up when finished.

With your shoe’s soles facing outwards, the softer structure of the shoe is more protected. Plus, with the lighter clothes on top, they won’t be squished or deformed.

How to Pack Shoes in a Garment Bag

Of all the bags and cases we’ve looked at, a garment bag is actually one of the easier bags to stow shoes inside.

This is because most garment bags have a pocket or zippered section at the bottom specifically to hold shoes.

If you’re traveling with a suit, you’re most likely going to be traveling with polished, classy shoes too. Hence the garment bag has you covered.

However, there are still a few tips you can use to pack your shoes well, without fuss.

  1. Naturally, you should clean and polish your shoes before packing them. You can use a shoe disinfectant, an ultraviolet shoe sanitizer, a shoe cleaner kit, or any other method you prefer.
  2. Once cleaned, spray the inside with shoe freshener.
  3. You can then pack your socks inside your shoes once covered.
  4. Put each shoe in an individual bag. This will stop any dirt or polish getting on your suit or skin.
  5. Stow your shoes in the base pocket. Place them next to each other, soles first.

Other Considerations for Packing Shoes

shoes and a suitcase

Spray your shoes before you travel

All shoes can quickly house unpleasant odors. While it’s worth cleaning your shoes, doing it all the time is simply not practical.

Shoes take much longer to clean and dry. As you’ll be wearing them most days, you’ll need them readily available.

It’s a good idea to travel with a shoe freshener or spray. Spray them once a day, and spray generously a day or two before stuffing them with socks and smaller clothing items.

Your shoes can be used to hide valuable items

We’ve talked about the stuffing technique for smaller clothing items and socks. But shoes can also be perfect for protecting smaller, valuable items.

Things such as earrings, necklaces, other jewelry, memory cards, and spare cash can all be kept inside shoes if the shoes are in your carry-on or backpack, and not in a checked suitcase.

Put such items in small packaging or bubble wrap, then stow them inside the socks and smaller clothing items you stuff into the shoes. Just be sure to only pack valuables in your carry-on, and not in your checked suitcase.

Now, your shoes will keep their shape, and their rigid exterior can protect your small and delicate items.

Do not pack shoes next to expensive equipment

If you’re traveling with expensive tech, such as DSLR cameras and drones, be wary of packing them next to your shoes.

Do your best to create layers of clothes between the two items. Or protect your tech with bags, bubble wrap, and packaging.

The soles and heels of your shoes are very rigid. If your luggage is not packed tightly and there’s a shuffle, the hard heel could hit or press against your equipment.

Do not travel with more than three pairs of shoes

If you can, resist the urge to just pack as many things as you can before traveling. If you plan, you can save a lot of space and stress.

Most people when traveling opt for three pairs of shoes. These are commonly a casual pair of shoes, a dressier pair, and then a pair suitable for the climate of their destination.

This could be flip flops or sandals for a beach holiday or heavy boots for hiking and adventure holidays.

Before you pack, ask yourself if you really think you’ll need those shoes. If you rarely workout out, the chances of you doing so on holiday are even less. Hence, you could easily do without your sneakers.

Aim for three pairs of shoes, one of which you’ll be wearing, and two packing. That way, you’ll have more space and luggage weight to work with.

How to Pack Shoes in a Suitcase for Travel Summary

Smart packing is always a case of problem-solving and innovative thinking. Shoes may be bulky and rigid, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be packed well.

Heels, boots, sneakers, sandals, and all types of shoes can be packed using the methods we’ve looked at in this article.

Remember to clean and stuff your shoes, use them to stabilize your suitcase, and pack them carefully with plenty of clothing layers.

Let squished, damaged shoes be a thing of the past when traveling. Use our 8 packing tips and techniques to pack faster and smarter.

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How to pack shoes in a suitcase - 8 smart tips

Author: Dale Johnson is a content creator and strategist from the UK. He has been a full-time digital nomad since 2016 and writes on a number of travel-themed topics, including smarter travel and the latest gear.

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