30 Days to Packing a Better Bag – Day 8: Choose Your Travel Shoes

day 8: choose your travel shoes

Welcome to Day 8 of 30 Days to Packing a Better Bag.

If ever there was a thing to struggle over packing for the ladies, it would be shoes. Since shoes tend to be so specific in their purpose, the task of whittling down to just a few pairs for a several week to several month adventure becomes an agonizing one at best.

While this post probably isn’t going to wave a magic wand and make you magically walk out the door with 3 pairs of shoes in your bag, it will hopefully shed some light on possibilities.

day 8: choose your travel shoes
Top: Yes, it would be nice to have all these options on your travels, but difficult to carry. Bottom: What you can make-do with. This varies by trip style of course! We’d prefer a pair of walking sandals (like Chacos or Tevas) in this image.

Shoes for Trip Purpose

We all have our favorite pairs of shoes at home, but taking those same shoes in our luggage can be a terrible decision. When it comes to travel shoes, practical is usually better (unless you’re traveling for something where you have to dress nice or work). High heels and other shoes that are hard to walk in for long periods of time do not tend to make the cut. The best plan is to think about the different types of shoes you might need for your intended trip style, and then see which ones could potentially be done without.

Shoe Options:

Hiking Boots – Hiking boots will be necessary for the person that is serious about exploring the outdoors, trails and mountains, but they will be the worst things to carry with you long-term. Take these only if you need them and consider whether or not a light hiker that can double as your hardcore walking shoe will work instead.

Walking Shoes – On almost any trip, people find they walk more than they do in their normal lives. A comfortable walking shoe is a must so that you can continue to enjoy the experience instead of dealing with blisters and soreness.

Running Shoes – The individual that likes to run in order to stay in shape will want to pack a running shoe. If you can find a shoe that works for both walking and running, try to pack just the one for both.

Comfortable Sandals – Warmer climates can be stifling to feet covered in hot shoes. In that case, a good walking sandal is probably a great idea. Pairs from Chaco and Teva will work wonderfully, but if you want something a bit prettier to look at, try these from Merrell.

Flip FlopsFlip flops of some sort are a must for most travelers, especially if you’ll be staying in hostels and sharing communal showers. These are also great if you’re heading to the beach. Since Chacos and Tevas generally come with fabric or leather straps, they are usually not the best to use also for your daily showers. If you’ll only be needing a shower flip flop, try investing in a pair of fold-up flip flops (like Flipsters) instead.

Ballet Flats / Casual Dress Shoes – We recommend going with a ballet flat or other sort of casual shoe that can be worn to nicer dinners or nights out. If these will be minimal, you can always invest in a pair of Spare Soles, but the more expensive Tieks are a definite recommendation if you can afford it. Those shoes also fold up but are made of high quality Italian leather making them something that can be worn to more dressy events without feeling self-conscious.

>>Read a review of Tieks fold-up ballet flats here.

choose your travel shoes - shoe goal
Converse, Flipsters fold-up flip flops, Tieks fold-up flats, Merrell hiking and walking shoe. Again, we’d prefer if a quality walking sandal were in the mix, but it all depends on your trip style.

How to Choose Your Travel Shoes

Take only what you truly need. When heading off on a round-the-world trip to more off-the-beaten-path destinations, a good minimalist list might include: a pair of light hikers (Gore-tex soles, waterproof uppers) for hiking, walking and colder weather; a pair of walking sandals (like Chaco or Teva brand); a pair of flip flops (for showers, beaches, around the hostel). If stopping in to cities from time to time and indulging in nicer meals out, shows and the like, then a pair of ballet flats might be a necessary addition.

We would say 2-3 pairs of shoes plus your shower flip flops (if hostels and/or beaches are on the agenda) is the target range to take on your travels. Shorter weekend trips will potentially require less, as would a beach holiday where closed-toe shoes might not be necessary.

>> Perusing all the shoes in our travel clothing section can help you choose how many shoes to pack since we cover many that serve multiple purposes.

Ask yourself questions as you whittle down the list. Will you be needing these shoes more than once? Is it imperative that you bring these exact shoes? Can you make another pair work? For example, a pair of high heels for one nice dinner out and a few nights at a club is not a good enough reason to pack them for that 3 month trip. Can you use black ballet flats or a pair of sandals work for those situations instead?

Luckily, the trend for comfortable, technical shoes that also look cute is becoming more popular, just like Megan discovered in her search for a comfortable walking sandal.

choose your travel shoes - empty space in shoes

Extra Reading: What Shoes for Work and Pleasure Trips?; 8 Reasons Toms Make Great Travel Shoes; Rebuttal: Toms Make TERRIBLE Travel Shoes; Shoes to Pack for an RTW

Take Action: Take Only the Shoes You Need
Go through your planned itinerary and activities. Decide which shoes you will need to take and pare down to the best of your ability. Look for taking fewer high quality shoes that can serve multiple purposes.

Let us know the shoes you’re taking with you on your upcoming trip, or let us know if you need some extra advice, in the comments below.

Written by Brooke

Brooke Schoenman runs the show at Her Packing List. Inspired from years of travel experience, Brooke decided there needed to be a travel gear site focused on the needs of a wandering female.

Add your voice & leave a comment!

Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Sarah says

    My last trip I took just a pair of Clark’s Privo mary janes and they were amazing (and shower flip flops). We were in cities mostly, and I walked about 5-10 miles a day in those babies and my feet never bothered me. This time I’m taking those again as my main walking shoes, but will probably wear a pair of boots on the plane OR pack some ballet flats. I’m going to Ireland in the winter, so if I find the right pair of boots I’m bringing ’em.

  2. ZA @ The Girl Who Cry Wolf says

    For many of my solo trips, usually I’m in sandals and happy to live in it. In fact, if I could get away with just sandals for my upcoming trip, I would certainly do so. Unfortunately, my next trip is to Japan during winter, thus, it’s unavoidable, I need to get a good pair of boots. Thanks for the tips. I won’t forget about flips flops since I’m gonna crash at hostels. during the trip.

  3. Claire says

    The last two summers I have gone on two month trips and the only shoes I had were work boots and water shoes. They worked great.

  4. Sam says

    After 2 days of reading through your amazing site I had to comment! I start my trip 01/03/2014 travel in America, Canada & Fiji before our work Visa in Australia. You have helped me with so many things I will definitely be keeping an eye on articles in the future!!

    🙂

  5. Tiera says

    Shoes are the one thing I actually don’t overpack, lol. I usually stick with a pair of trainers for walking/hiking/exploring, a pair of flats (the Dexflex ones from Payless are surprisingly chic and comfortable, and great for the price), slippers (I’m from Hawaiʻi, we wear them everywhere haha), and my trusty Nine West black ankle boots. Those have a chunky heel so they’re dressy but still comfortable, they can be counted on to keep my feet warm. I usually wear them on the plane so they don’t take up any extra room and still feel semi-chic. They’re great for any business meetings I might have to attend or for fun nights out.

  6. Gale says

    I just wanted to point out that Merrell quit producing the Henna sandal in 2012. I noticed this when the original review was posted, but since you’re using it as a viable shoe option in follow up posts, I thought it worth mentioning this time.

    I’m a big HPL fan and reference it before every trip I make. Thanks for keeping it going!

  7. Olivia says

    Hi,
    I haven’t travelled yet, just day dreaming and planning. But I was wondering, would anyone have any suggestions for alternatives to sandals when travelling for those who have to wear orthotic inserts in shoes all the time?

    • Brooke says

      Hi Olivia – I also have troubled feet these days. Have your asked your foot doctor about options? I know they offer different types of orthotics these days (like for heels and such) – perhaps they have something that can go on a sandal footbed? (I could be dreaming here) If not, check out sandals with excellent arch support, such as Chacos. Have you seen Abeo sandals before? http://www.thewalkingcompany.com/womens-plantar-fasciitis

    • Suzanne says

      Hi Olivia,
      I have flat feet and wear arch supports all the time. I find that Merrell is one of my favorite shoes (I think I own 7 pair now). I bought a sandle from them 2 years ago that was made with a high arch. I didn’t even have to wear my support. They also have close toe shoes (which I mostly wear) that are for summer/spring/fall. I have been sliding my support under the insert and it works great. Check them out online or in a strore that carries them. Have fun planning you first trip. The girls I work with always make fun of my pre printed packing list. I print my master for every trip and tweek it for wherever I’m headed to next : )

  8. Ann says

    Has anyone else had any experience traveling with Danskos?? I studied abroad in France in college and wore them EVERYWHERE because they are so comfy if you’re standing or walking and they look nice because they are leather and at least I think they are cute too. However, studying abroad meant that wherever I went I was just taking a smaller backpack without all of my stuff in it so I usually wore my Danskos while in transit so I didn’t have to pack them. I’m now thinking of backpacking in Europe for several weeks and can’t decide whether to take them or not because they are a heavier shoe. I have a couple pairs of closed toe ones (Mary Janes and regular clogs) and a pair of sandals that I love, but don’t know if they’re worth packing the weight around…… any thoughts on Danskos for travel??

    • Brooke says

      Hi Ashley – It all depends on your trip itinerary and the types of activities you’ll be partaking in. Something with a waterproof upper would be great if there will be snow, and you’ll be out in it. Companies like Keen and Merrell make boots that should be comfortable to walk in.

  9. Kelsey says

    What insoles have been added to the Tieks? I am really contemplating purchasing a pair, but worry about odours permanently destroying the leather insole.

    • Brooke says

      I put in some cheap insoles and regret it terribly. The insoles stunk so bad, and then the sticky layer on the bottom was really hard to remove and that had absorbed the smell. You’re better off without them, unless you have some washable ones that can be removed easily.

      • Karina says

        a nifty solution to stop inner soles from getting stinky – buy some cheap sockettes – the thin ones,
        flip them over the while inner sole with the opening at the bottom underneath.
        Helps the innersoles last for days and days without getting stinky – and you just sink wash the sockettes and replace them
        Girl in the Merrell store taught me that one a few years ago.

  10. Jude says

    I discovered skechers go walk last year. I’ve done a few trips since & have now got to the point where I take nothing else. They are so comfortable and cushioned. Ideal for long days of city sightseeing as well as being up to light hiking trips. Lots of different colours & designs.

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