What is Your Minimum? (Advice on How Many Shoes to Pack for a Trip!)

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Struggling with how many shoes to pack so you can be both fashionable and functional on your trip? Read this advice from another shoe lover on how to rock your Mama style while paring down that huge pile of shoes that won’t fit into your luggage!

Editor’s Post by Deborah Hetrick Catanese

When I ask “What is your minimum?”, I’m not asking you how many shoes you actually OWN!  The number of shoes we each have in our closet is very personal information. It’s something that many women don’t want to broadcast to the world, at risk of being shamed. Ask us our age, or how many partners or husbands or vices, but PLEASE, not how many shoes we have! (Moment of silence for poor, berated Imelda Marcos and her 500 pairs of designer shoes!)

What I DO want to talk about is how you can go about deciding how many shoes to pack for a trip and which ones, while still being able to walk on the plane with only carry-on bags. 

How Many Shoes to Pack?


In my experience, any trip of any length of time has multiple shoe requirements, and a mama of fashion will ignore her shoe needs to her peril!

This decision of how many shoes a woman CAN pack is complicated by the chaos of travelling by air today.  So for me, that means I travel with carry-on baggage only: one carry-on size suitcase and one “personal item” (translation:  a VERY LARGE purse!)  Wow, does that cramp a Mama’s style or what?!

But, with proper planning, you can travel relatively light and still have what you need, (Check out: Packing Tips For Travel With Your Family). But my Numero Uno piece of advice about packing is: DON’T SCRIMP ON SHOES! You can easily buy toiletries or even sweaters when you arrive, but replacing tried and true shoes you should have brought from home is not only time-consuming, but costly to your aching feet as well as your wallet.

Below are my suggestions for what shoes to pack for a trip of any length:

  • One pair of flats that go with anything… skirts, jeans, leggings, shorts.  Make sure you have worn them enough to know they are comfortable.
  • One pair of shoes that go the distance, LITERALLY…meaning shoes designed for walking, hiking, running, or working out on the hotel treadmill.  I try to choose workout shoes that also look cute with regular clothing as a back-up for the sore feet that inevitably occur if you are visiting a city or museums with their hard floors or putting your miles in running or hiking.
  • One splashy pair of heels for nights out on the town.  Choose a pair you love that will change your basic everyday dress (Check out our printable packing list HERE) into a nighttime dazzler.
  • One pair of flip flops is a must, winter or summer. Flip flops serve purposes other than going to a pool or beach. They are something to wear in your hotel room so you don’t have to walk around in bare feet where who knows what feet have tread, ugh.  And, last time I was in Paris and my feet were literally KILLING, I learned to carry my flip flops in my (large) purse to ease the pain when my mind wanted to say YES about more shopping, but my feet were saying NO!
  • You can stop at the FOUR above.  OR add this OPTIONAL Fifth Pair: Fun fashion shoes or sandals or wedges that go with everything and give one’s feet and one’s outfits a change of pace.

The first four pairs listed above are MY minimum number.  If I can, I pack the fifth, though I’m always yearning for ten!

Well broken-in walking shoes/workout shoes; flats to go with anything; statement heels; every occasion fashion sandals. Add flip flops, and ready to go!

L to R: Well broken-in walking shoes/workout shoes; flats to go with anything; statement heels; every occasion fashion sandals. Add flip flops, and ready to go!

One SUBSTITITION to the above list of four or five would be boots, while eliminating either the dressy shoes or the fun fashion choice, depending on the trip.  If I decide I can dress up my chosen outfits with a great pair of fashion boots, I bring them instead of the heels, since I can get both daytime and nighttime mileage out of them.  If the boots are made for walking (sorry, couldn’t resist, lol), then that’s another strong lean in their direction.

Your shoe choices can get more complicated if part of your trip will be spent in business attire or if there is a special event like a wedding that requires special footwear.  Keep that in mind as you make your other choices, always trying for multi-purpose whenever possible.

Another reason to up your minimum number is if you do outdoor activities that require special shoes…for me, that often means water shoes for either long beach walks, tide pool exploring, or kayaking.  Keen and Jambu make water shoes that you can actually hike in and are still cute enough to wear with a summer outfit. Triple duty!

And, try to avoid bringing a pair of shoes you’ve never tested out before, other than for the special occasion option.

One final tip is from a brilliant doctor of mine who once advised to never wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. First, it avoids putting pressure on the same points which would contribute to sore feet. And second, it allows your shoes to completely dry out from perspiration before you wear them again, increasing the longevity of  your shoes!

Now for packing your shoes, while still having room for everything else.

  • First of all, always wear your bulkiest shoes or boots on the plane.
  • Pack shoes first.
  • Slip items like socks, gloves, or products to fill the empty spaces in and around your shoes.
  • Wrap shoes with those soft tote bags made from thin recycled material to keep your clothes clean, which you’ll also be able to use for a beach bag or as a shopping bag.
  • Try to put at least one pair of shoes into your “personal bag” and the other two (or three) tucked around the edges of your suitcase’s interior.
  • Rejoice in fashionable yet supportive flip flops since they take zero room and add lots of mileage, both fashion and otherwise, for you.

Remember, happy feet make happy traveling. So, make sure you figure out YOUR minimum! And please share with us once you do!

Fashionably yours,


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