One of the essentials we all pack when traveling are our shoes. Whether you’re planning on hiking, nightclubbing, or spending most of your time at the beach, you’ll always pack at least 2 pairs of shoes.
And it’s easy to just toss these in your luggage, without any real concern, but hopefully after this post, you’ll understand the importance of shoe care!
For anyone who has ever ruined the shape of their shoes by packing them haphazardly, had foot odor stink out a suitcase full of clothes, or ended up with sore feet after a day traveling, the following are effective tips for taking care of your shoes while traveling.
The Shoe Care Guide for Travel
Packing Shoes Correctly in Your Luggage
You don’t want to end up damaging your shoes in your luggage, so it’s important to know how to pack them correctly. And, normally the bulkiest item you’ll pack, knowing how to pack your shoes will save a lot of space in your suitcase.
Stuffing your socks inside your footwear is a great way to keep their natural shape. To save space, they should be packed in your luggage in an interlocking shape. Place them in a dust bag, and wrap the dust bag using something soft, such as a jumper or pajama.
If you have a top loading or front loading backpack, pack your shoes first, preferably at the bottom. Shoes are usually the heaviest items in your pack, and by putting them at the bottom, you can balance the content of your backpack. It also makes them easy to find too!
And don’t forget your shoe accessories. Whether you’re packing extra laces, shoe polish, or getting shoe inserts for standing all day it’s important to remember to pack all the extras that you need for shoe care.
Use a Waterproof Spray
There’s nothing worse than having to travel with cold, wet feet, so you should take steps to protect your shoes against the weather.
While a leather boot lined with fur is stylish, and will keep your feet warm, it’s not usually water-resistant. You can enhance and protect most shoes by using a protective waterproof spray.
Spray it on the footwear’s exterior prior to your trip. If your trip includes trekking, most hiking boots these days are made from waterproof materials, but check this on the specs.
Taking Care of Shoes Throughout Your Trip
Beyond packing properly, and using a waterproof spray, you should also take steps to protect your shoes throughout your trip. This not only protects your shoe from damage, but also the comfort of your feet.
In case your shoes get wet, make sure you let them dry completely (a minimum of 24-hour drying time) before wearing them again. Though avoid drying them too close to different sources of heat like heat vents and radiators, so you don’t damage your shoes.
Stuffing newspaper in your shoes while they’re drying can reduce the time it takes, and like socks, is helpful in retaining its natural shape.
And making a conscious effort to keep your shoes clean throughout the trip will make them more breathable. Simply wiping dirt away with a paper towel can really help with both comfort … and smell!
Keep Your Shoes Smelling Fresh
After you’ve worn your shoes, they have to go back in your luggage again, and if they’re not smelling fresh, it’s going to impact the rest of your suitcase.
The good news is that it’s not expensive or complicated to keep bad odors away. Easily accessible items like rubbing alcohol, baby powder, or freezing them will do the trick.
Rubbing alcohol is something you might already carry in your bag. Just pour or rub over the dirty part of your footwear to remove the stink. Aside from reducing the smell, rubbing alcohol also works in disinfecting the footwear.
Baby powder can be used as a preventative measure, and rubbing some powder on your feet before you put them inside your shoe is a great idea if you’re prone to smelly feet.
Freezing your shoes is another way to keep them fresh, and if you have a freezer or fridge in your accommodation, place them in a sealable plastic bag, and into the freezer overnight. The cold should kill any fungus or bacteria causing the odor.
Travel With Appropriate Footwear
Traveling with appropriate footwear is one of the most important tips for both comfort and shoe care. Before visiting your destination, you should spend time researching important details like weather or climate, and any other facts which might influence your choice of shoe.
If you’re heading into unstable areas, safety shoes like a steel toe boot might be appropriate (learn how to find a safety shoe that’s right for you). If you’re heading to the beach you might be fine with just your sandals and flip flops. Consider the specific types of activities you plan to do too.
Sneakers and training shoes are usually just as sufficient across varying terrain, and flats are comfortable for walking around a city and much more compact. Please don’t think that traveling with high heels is ever a good idea.
Foot Care & Shoes
There’s no denying that moving around all day will take it’s toll on your feet. With that in mind, we highly recommend prioritizing comfort over style when it comes to choosing the shoes you travel with.
Avoid wearing a new pair of shoes while you’re traveling if they haven’t been properly broken in. Or break it in prior to leaving, so that you won’t end up suffering from blisters and other forms of pain and discomfort!
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I would have never thought to put my shoes in the freezer, lol! Maybe I’ll start with waterproof spray and stuffing them with newspaper while they dry first. Baby steps lol.
Lol I don’t think it’s something people automatically think of … you do wonder how the first person to ever think of it did!!
Waterproof spray though is a great way to prevent water damage … and wet feet :)
I do the baby powder trick and it works with my shoes. I’ll have to try rubbing alcohol and waterproof spray!
Baby powder is awesome, I use it all over, not just my feet :)
Let us know how you go with the rubbing alcohol and waterproof spray.
These are all good tips and really make a difference. You never realize just how important shoes are – we really take them for granted – but they can totally make or break a trip. It’s too bad they’re so heavy and take up so much room because I always want to have an extra pair or two with me when I travel.
We definitely take them for granted … until out feet start to smell or hurt lol! They really can make or break a trip, but yes, I hate how heavy they are in luggage, because it is always nice to have an extra pair or two!
It’s surprising how we often overlook such simple things. Sometimes we do need a post like this to make us think about things like shoe care. I’m often too busy with the itinerary planning to take care of anything else:) Thanks for the simple tips!
Glad you enjoyed the post Sreekar – I agree, I think it’s the simple tips we tend to overlook and take for granted, so it’s nice to have a reminder now and then :)
Hi Megan, I love this post. No one ever talks about shoes when travelling. There are many great tips here. For example, I never thought of putting my shoes in the freezer to kill the odour. I will definitely try that next time, it’s certainly not just a travel-related problem! And yes, when your shoes get wet like mine did when we were hiking in Indonesia, you definitely need to stuff them with absorbing material to get the moisture out as soon as possible. Otherwise, they’ll stink!
Thanks Silke! I hadn’t seen anything like it yet, so thought it was a good topic to cover – shoes really can break a trip if we don’t care for them properly.
Glad we could let you in on the freezer trick – it sounds quite quirky, but works so well!!
Been on one or two similar hikes myself where you end up with wet shoes, and it just stinks! Lol so it happens to the best of us. But it’s good to know how to get rid of it, without having to carry it around with you for the rest of the trip.
This is a super important post! I walk *everywhere* when travelling so looking after shoes well is vital.
Glad you found the post helpful Lucy! I think it’s something people often overlook and take for granted, but shoes play such a huge role in smooth travels. I love walking when I’m in a new city too, so am so conscious of taking good care of my shoes :)
I always bring at least one pair of inappropriate shoes! :-) One tip is that I use hotel shower caps to cover my shoes in the suitcase. It keeps them from getting scratched and keeps the clothes clean.
Hotel shower caps is a great tip – basically the same as a plastic bag, thanks for the tip! I usually pilfer the hotel laundry bags, though they usually only ever have one, so shower caps might be next on the list!
This is a sensitive subject in our home. My husband doesn’t like to travel with big, heavy suitcases but his size 13s take up half the space! So stuffing them with socks and other little items is not just a way to keep their shape but also to save space.Living in Austria, we’ve learned the value of a protective waterproof spray, especially in winter but this is the first time I hear about freezing shoes to keep bad odours away! Will definitely give it a try.
Sounds like you’re all over keeping your shoes clean and maintained Linda :) And yes, I initially started stuffing mine with socks and underware as a way to save space too … didn’t think about keeping their shape at the time, so that was a bonus!
Let us know how you go if you try freezing them – a quirky approach but totally works!
Shoes are the biggest issue I have when travelling! My only pair of “fancy” shoes were stolen at a resort. They were thongs :)
Haha that’s awesome – … not that they were stolen, that sucks! But that they were thongs :D I don’t really travel with “fancy” shoes either; just a comfortable pair that I can wear everywhere!!
The most helpful blog post for me at the moment! Protecting shoes with waterproof spray is so easy. Planning to try it for my next trip surely!
Awesome Sneha, glad it was helpful for you!
Great shoe tips! It’s definitely a big challenge to carry a limited number of shoes when traveling especially when you go on a 5 month trip across different climates like I did. Your waterproofing spray tip would have helped a lot!! Another tip I have to help with packing is wrap them in plastic shower caps that you get from hotels That way you don’t get your things dirty.
Thanks Jenn! The shower caps trick is a great one, something that’s pretty readily available in all hotels too – thanks for the tip!
Agree that it’s difficult when you’re traveling for long periods of time and need shoes to cater to different climates. the waterproofing definitely helps though :) Happy travels!
Never had imagined of putting my shoes in the fridge! lol But maybe could try! The only basic care I know for shoes when traveling is I wrap them in a shower cap just to be able to avoid dirt to get mixed up in other stuff. And also, sprinkling powder on feet before putting shoes on, I think some people including myself have tried it but didn’t have a good outcome, haha. It was the opposite situation. Bringing appropriate shoes is a must, tho I sometimes overlooked this. lol
It’s a quirky tip, but totally works!! A couple of people have mentioned a shower cap to contain the dirt, so it’s a great approach – easily accessible in most places too :)
Oh haha sorry to hear you didn’t fare too well with the powder – perhaps its one of those things which works for some, and others not so much. Try the fridge trick though and let me know how you go!
Thank you very much for your article. My husband and I have massive problems with sweaty feet and smelly hiking boots. I have tried several treatments. My personal recommendation is using backing powder and wearing cedar wood insoles (we bought zederna insoles). It is naturally anti-bacterial and works very well.
Thanks for the tip on baking powder and cedar wood insoles – haven’t tried either of those, but will add them to my arsenal of tricks. Very handy, thanks Melissa!
And happy hiking :)