Start at the bottom and build your outfit UP.

With the world opening up again (thank you Pfizer and Moderna), travel seems to be on many people’s minds. Travel and special occasions – but I’ll save party attire for another column – this one is all about travel shoe tips!

Some things have changed in the 18 months we’ve all been grounded. Getting back in the swing of travel, airline travel especially can be challenging. Even in pre-pandemic life, packing for a trip caused many people stress. And now, with being so out of practice, it’s even more so.

I help my clients pack for trips both big and small. Regardless of the final destination, a common theme (both pre and post-2020) has been the dire need for travel shoes. Another common theme is the desire NOT to overpack in the shoe department. Most people think they need waaaay more shoes than they do to go on a trip. Shoes take up A LOT of room in your suitcase (and your luggage weight restrictions). That space is precious – use it wisely!

In the past 16 years, my team and I have helped pack for NYC, Aspen, California, Arizona, Florida, Italy, France, Portugal, Ireland, Vietnam, Israel, Japan, Iceland –  you name the destination, and we’ve probably assisted in packing for it.  And, it doesn’t matter what the weather is at the final destination, hot, cold, humid, or wet, all of these traveling gals have had the same conundrum, what shoes to pack and how many are really needed? So, I figured, hey, if this has been the common theme, then why not put it out there for you, too. 

Travel Shoe Tips from the Pros:

Build your outfit based on your travel shoes.

Literally, this travel shoe tip has been life-changing for many clients (men and women alike): START FROM THE GROUND UP. Start with your shoes and build the outfits from there. The shoe makes the outfit, so when it comes to travel, let the shoe start out the outfit. It really helps to cut down on the number of shoes you need to schlep with you too. If you have one or two good travel shoes that you can wear around all day or night, that’s really all you need. This will really help to prevent overpacking in the shoe department. Give it a try, and maybe it’ll even save some space for shoe shopping on your trip.

Bring shoes you already own and you know are comfortable.

This might sound like weird advice from a “personal shopper” but use what you own before running out to buy new.  Chances are you have the shoes you need in your closet, and you already know which ones are comfortable and supportive and you can walk miles in. That’s important stuff, walking down the Champs Elysee is not the time to break in your new pair of kicks. That being said, there are some really great shoes out there that are good for everyday and perfect for travel, so I’m linking up my favorite travel shoes.

Pro Tip:  If you do buy new shoes, wear them at home first to break them in and make sure they’re comfy.

All you need are three pairs of shoes.

Yep, that’s all. For summer that means: sturdy sandal, sneaker, and block heel sandal/bootie. And for fall/winter just replace the sturdy sandal with a sturdy walking shoe – that can be a lace-up or bootie, whatever is your most comfortable go-to. If you’re going to a beach destination, throw in a flip-flop for the beach. They don’t take up much room and it stops stubborn sand from permeating your everyday sandals.

Travel Shoe Tips: The 5 Things to Look For in a Travel Shoe.

1. Look for a Sturdy Shoe.

You want it to be sturdy and supportive. Nobody wants aching feet or backs from yucky shoes. Go for flat or flatform bottoms so you’re not wobbly on cobblestone or any other kind of pavement that isn’t your average sidewalk.

2. Good Foot Coverage. 

Meaning keep your foot mostly covered.  They are better in wet weather, to avoid foot sunburn, and in large crowds. Have you ever had your foot stepped on while wearing flip flops? It hurts! Protect your tootsies.

3. Go for Comfort.

Yes, you can be both comfortable and fashionable at the same time. It’s best to find a shoe that you can wear for an entire day of touring and traveling. You don’t want to stop along the way to change your shoes because of blisters. If you opt for sneakers during the day, try pairing them with a no-show sock. The socks provide comfort, sweat, and blister protection, AND the no-show profile doesn’t break up the leg line – so it looks like you’re sockless, but you’re not! 

4. Leave Your Pumps and High Wedges at Home.

Unless you’re walking the red carpet in Cannes, your stilettos can stay at home. Instead, opt for a block heel that won’t get stuck in concrete or cobblestones. And they’ll give you a lift while offering support to keep you stable.  

5. Choose neutral color shoes.

Neutral color travel shoes will go with a lot more which will also help to consolidate in the shoe packing department. Tans, blacks, grays, and whites mix and match with other neutrals as well as denim and florals to give you lots of options.

The 3 Essential Travel Shoes for any Destination:

The Sturdy Sandal

My latest obsession is a sturdy walking sandal that’s both functional and fashionable. It’s tried and true. It feels like you’re wearing a sneaker but feels lighter and more summery. 

Style Tip: Wear these with shorts, jeans, or a day dress to stay cool and look polished all day long.

The Sneaker

A lightweight sneaker is a great everyday travel shoe. Sneakers are acceptable to wear with a dress, or slacks too. 

Style Tip: Wear these as part of your travel outfit for chic comfort on planes, trains, or automobiles.

The Block Heel

Think of a block heel sandal as a cross between a bootie and a sandal. It’s sturdier than a wedge and more modern too. I’m partial to a nude because it goes with literally everything. And makes your leg look longer.

Style Tip: Think of this as your evening shoe. It’s a step up from your sneakers or flat sandals but totally walkable.

I hope these travel shoe tips are helpful! Do you have any trips planned this summer? And, how many pairs of travel shoes are you going to take now??

If you have any dressing dilemmas that have been bothering you, be sure to post them to my private Facebook group – ALL DRESSED UP WITH SOMEWHERE TO GO. Trust me, if you have the question, someone else does too – and we can all benefit.  Honestly, my best ideas come from your questions, so bring them on! 

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Photo: Molly Nook


Cleveland-based personal stylist and fashion blogger.

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