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The Guy’s Guide To Packing Shoes For Travel

by Tony · 6 comments

Guy's Guide To Travel Shoes

Now this topic might not be the sexiest of travel problems, but it is definitely the one that made me curse the most whenever we were running late and I was trying to solve the jigsaw puzzle that was my backpack.

Meg never fully appreciated my difficulty in packing size 13 shoes for travel until she saw how much room my sneakers took up in my little 32 liter backpack. Most men’s shoes are not made to minimize volume!

They take up a lot of bag real estate.

Plus, sneakers are not the only shoes you need when going on a long trip. You’re hitting the beach, right? Or at least going to be in a warm place for a bit? Gotta have some sandals.

Oh really? You hate the beach and warm weather (weirdo)? Well you still are going to want some shower sandals for all of those hostel bathrooms… don’t tell me you like foot fungus.

Are you going to be hiking? Will your flimsy sneakers survive (and keep you alive) during the 4 day trek to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail? you might need boots as well.

And what about nice meals or events? Is there a chance you will go to a few nice restaurants in Paris? Then you need something a little classier than sneakers and shower sandals.

So the question we have to answer is how do you travel light, but still pack all of the shoes you need?

Double Up

Unless you want to just give up and get a bigger bag (it’s an option), you have to double up on the uses for your foot wear.

Yes, having amazing hiking boots would be incredible and probably a little nicer to your feet on those hikes in Patagonia. Yes, some great running shoes would definitely make working out while traveling easier.

But can you get something that works for both scenarios? That’s what I did.

There was a great hybrid trail shoe that had plenty of grip and ankle support for hiking, but also had a flexible enough sole and was light enough that I could easily run a few miles without problems. I chose the Merrel Moab Gore-Tex XCR (no affiliate link), but any hybrid trail running shoes works.

merrel moab gore tex

Not that I ran more than a few mile over the course of the whole year we traveled… but that was more a choice of laziness :)

Same thing with sandals. You don’t need shower sandals and nice sandals for the beach. Buy a pair of sturdy plastic shower shoes that dry quickly (or don’t even stay wet at all) and use them for everything.

under armour

I got some from Under Armour (no affiliate link) that held up great even outside.

Compromise (Settle For Good Enough)

You might not be getting the absolutely perfect hiking shoe or running shoe, but you’re getting good versions of both in one shoe.

Your sandals might not be the nicest you’ve ever had to wear to the beach, but they stay dry in the shower and still work outdoors.

But dress shoes… how do you compromise on dress shoes?

You optimize for weight and compression (meaning you can crush them flat easily in a bag) above all else. That’s the key.

When getting on a flight, you can stuff your sandals in a side pocket of your bag, wear your sneakers, but you still have to pack your dress shoes. So while they need to look nice, they ultimately have to fit.

I discovered some amazingly light Patagonia slip-on shoes that had a cork sole and a nice suede appearance. In case you’re curious, they were the Patagonia Maui Smooth (no affiliate link). These things could easily be crushed down to no more than two inches tall combined and still looked fine when I wore them out later.


Would I wear them out to a wedding? No.

But they definitely would work well enough for a dinner out.

How About You?

I know for me, dealing with my shoes was the biggest hassle of packing. I gave it a ton of thought before we traveled (as you can see by how much I already wrote on the topic) and it still bugs me.

So two questions:

  1. How do other guys deal with their shoe situation when packing for long trips?
  2. Do girls have a similar problem or do the smaller shoe sizes make it easier?

Let me know in the comments!

About Tony
Quit his job to try actually following his dreams for once... and is currently loving it. He is working hard to to make this life-style permanent by writing about his adventures and brainstorming money making opportunities with his partner-in-crime, Meg.

Geoff (The Lazy Literatus) October 17, 2014 at 8:53 pm

You are a brave man, secure in your masculinity, to tackle a shoe problem.

(But I empathize, mine are always a b***h to pack. )

Tony October 27, 2014 at 1:21 pm

I knew it had to be a problem for more guys than just me :) I will proudly tackle any travel problem!

Pech October 19, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Girls may have smaller shoes, but the heels also make it for an interesting challenge to packing Tetris.

Arnie Jacobsen March 25, 2015 at 10:58 am

This is great! I always have this problem, but I wish I only had to worry about size 13s! Can’t remember the last time I wore that size, when I was 13? I’m 63 now. Try squeezing size 16s into anything. We travel with roll-aboards and my monsters fill the thing up pretty well. Usually I try to wear one pair of hiking style shoe, like the Merrells you mention. Then a pair or two of good sturdy sandals like Teva Omniums.

Now, shall we talk about how we go about wedging all 6’8″, 250 lbs of me onto a plane. In coach naturally.

By the way, found you through your excellent article on networking on Travelbloggeracademy.com. Hmmmm…… could this be my first attempt at networking;-)

Welcome to the great Pacific Northwest!

Tony March 25, 2015 at 11:59 am

The shoes problem is such a big deal when packing! I usually try to have dual purpose shoes… so I bought some trail runners that could double as hiking or running shoes :)

Coach is brutal for me at 6’1″… I have no idea how you do it!

Glad you enjoyed the networking article and came on over to take a look. Always enjoy hearing from new people who love travel like we do. Thanks for the welcome!

Wilma Wilkins October 30, 2015 at 10:40 am

Very interesting post. Actually I think I never had any problem with packing my shoes. I always try to be more practical and not taking extra stuff. Greetings

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