Need some tips on packing shoes and making the most of limited luggage space? That’s great because that is exactly what I’m talking about in this post!
A couple days ago I was talking about packing with friends, and I realized that most of them just stack their shoes on top of each other and pack them together. And that works, but it is seriously inefficient – they don’t even realize how much space they are wasting.
And so I decided to share all the tips that I have, which can help you start packing your shoes like a pro and really utilizing all of the space in your suitcase.
Naturally, I will talk about packing different types of shoes (boots, sneakers, flip flops, heels etc.) in this helpful guide!
If you really want to make the most of the space in your suitcase, you should treat your shoes like little packing cubes. Especially if you’re packing sneakers or fancy formal shoes, which can easily lose shape when they get flattened by everything else in your suitcase.
I usually pack underwear and socks in my shoes – you want to roll up your underwear and socks, and then place them in a plastic bag, which you will then stuff inside your shoes.
This is a useful trick to really utilize the space in your luggage, because it frees up the other pockets. Plus, you can also stuff toiletries inside your shoes; just make sure that all the bottles are sealed tightly and that the plastic bag is completely closed. You don’t want to unpack your suitcase only to find a shampoo explosion in your favorite pair of sneakers.
Another way to make sure that you're making the most of your suitcase is to fill up all the little nooks and crannies. So, you've packed the shoes and the clothes, and you'll spot a tiny little space somewhere? Fill it up with whatever you haven't packed yet - a pair of socks you forgot to roll up or a swimsuit could easily fit in there.
You should always put your shoes in a plastic bag or at least a shower cap. This will protect them from the other contents of your luggage – maybe there’s a rogue zipper or a rivet that can scratch your shiny formal shoes.
In addition to that, this ensures that none of your other clothes get dirty because of your shoes. And when you arrive to your destination, you will have a bunch of small plastic bags for trash and dirty clothes!
I used to put a pair of shoes in a single plastic bag and then place it at the bottom of my suitcase. It took a couple of longer trips for me to realize that this was definitely not utilizing the space in my luggage properly, and that I should try something new.
And so I did. I found two ways that really work for me – one is to wrap a single sneaker in a plastic bag and then place it against the wall of my suitcase. And then put the other sneaker against the other wall, or pretty much anywhere where you can find extra space.
This is particularly useful if you’re packing bulky sneakers. You can then pack your clothes around them, which helps you utilize every single inch of free space in your luggage.
You can also place your shoes between the metal rods of the wheel handle, if they protrude into the main compartment. This particular space is always a bit nasty to pack properly, and I find that sneakers (and flats) utilize this part of the suitcase best.
First thing’s first – if you’re packing really tall boots, make sure that they can fit in your suitcase. It is not a good idea to bend them, because that will make them crease, which can leave permanent marks.
When packing tall boots, I find that it is the most convenient to lie them flat, against opposite walls of a suitcase. This creates a sort of barrier, and you can then fill in the middle with your clothes, like in this photo:
Of course, I obviously didn’t put proper winter clothes here, but I’m not actually packing to go anywhere at the moment. Anyway, you will be able to fit a couple of sweaters and a couple pairs of trousers between the boot walls.
If you’re packing shorter boots, you should fill them in first, and then lie them flat against the walls of the suitcase. And when you’ve filled up the space in between the boots, make sure to add stuff in all the little nooks and crannies that are left - you can put your jewellery in a bag and squeeze it in an empty space, or even fit in a pair of leggings or a tie.
When it comes to packing wedges, the best piece of advice I can give you is just don’t. They are bulky and they are going to take up half of your suitcase no matter what you do with them. Well, the really tall ones are – shorter wedges are a bit easier to pack, but they still tend to take up a lot of space.
I recommend packing these first – place them against the wall of the suitcase or in the corners. If you’re packing ankle-boot-wedges or any type of closed wedge, you should fill them up with smaller items before placing them in the suitcase.
Heels are bulky footwear, so they’re always a bit difficult to pack. You should always pack them at the bottom of your suitcase, and you should always separate them.
And you can also fill up stilettos and pumps with underwear and socks, so that they don’t lose their shape inside your luggage.
In addition to that, if you’re packing a pair that has a really thin and tall heel, you will want to protect it as much as you can. Accidents do happen, and the last thing you want is to unpack and find your favorite pair of heels destroyed.
I would recommend placing the heel in a shower cap or a plastic bag, and then on a t-shirt or a towel. You can then roll the fabric garment around the shoe; this will protect it in case of any accidents or bumps, and it still utilizes the space in your suitcase really well.
I usually pack flip flops and sandals at the very top of the suitcase, once I’ve packed pretty much everything else. Sometimes, I will even squeeze them in one of the external compartments, if I’m using a softshell suitcase, since they can easily fit in there.
My best tip to you, when it comes to packing flip flops, is that you don’t need more than one pair. If you own a pair that is comfortable to walk in and that don’t cause your feet to blister, pack those and enjoy them. In case they fall apart or break, you can always buy a new pair for very little money.
You can see in the photo that I just placed the flip flops on top, and there were really no issues with closing the suitcase. I also have a pair of sneakers in this compartment (with four pairs of socks in each sneaker), six pairs of shorts and eight or nine t-shirts. It’s not the most neatly packed suitcase, but you get the gist.
It’s pretty much the same with sandals, depending on how bulky they are. Wrap each shoe in a shower cap or a plastic bag, and then place them at the top of your suitcase or squeeze them between the clothes and the walls if there is any room.
The reason why I recommend packing sandals and flip flops last is because they are very thin and lightweight. You will usually find that, even if your suitcase is entirely full, you will be able to zip it up when you place a pair of flip flops or sandals on top of your clothes.
Another thing you can do with flip flops and sandals is place them behind the lining, between the metal rods of the wheel handle. This way you will make a flat base for all your other clothes, and you will really use up the space in your luggage to the max.
However, this also means that you will need to take out everything else inside that compartment just to get to your flip flops, and that can be a drag.
Most of the tips I’ve shared so far with you are about packing shoes in a suitcase. But what do you do if you want to pack shoes in a backpack or a duffel bag? Pretty much the same thing, really.
You should still fill up any shoes that you can, and wrap it in a shower cap or a plastic bag. The one difference with packing shoes in a backpack, duffel or a tote is that you can place them together. Just put them at the bottom of the bag – the soles will lie flat against the soft material of the bag, and you can’t really utilize the bottom of the bag better.
Of course, you can also separate them and place them at the sides – and this is what you should do if you’re packing some really bulky shoes in a travel bag.
I have a couple of other tips that can help you really pack your shoes like a pro and make the most of your suitcase.
The latter is the method of Marie Kondo, the famous Japanese organizing consultant, and it including folding each garment so that it can stand upright. You then put the garments next to one another (like in the photos, but a little neater).
As you can see in the images, I managed to fit at least six different outfits and two pairs of shoes in a single packing compartment using this method, with some space left.
Just don’t stack garments on top of one another – this is definitely the least efficient way of packing a suitcase.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!