When packing for a trip, I employ one simple, age-old packing rule: Only take it if you love it. Vacation isn’t the time to be test-driving new shoes or breaking in a fresh pair of jeans—it’s a time to be comfortable and enjoy your surroundings. But when a specific type of trip or activity demands a certain type of footwear you don’t love (or even have), you might need to stray from your favorites and improvise to create your own travel-friendly shoes.
Traveling for a more specific purpose than just vacationing—whether it’s a destination wedding or an outdoor adventure—can mean finding yourself bringing some less-than-comfortable shoes. But there are some brilliantly simple hacks to make any necessary footwear—from formal shoes to new hiking boots—a lot more comfortable.
How to Turn Any Footwear into Travel-Friendly Shoes
Here are the best ways to turn any less-than-loved footwear into travel-friendly shoes with the help of some affordable tools.
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Problem: Too-tight shoes
Solution: At-home shoe expanders
Ever think you’ve found the perfect shoes online for an event or adventure only to receive them and realize they’re far too tight? In the era of online shopping, you no longer have to go to a cobbler to get your shoes stretched a size or two: affordable shoe stretchers available on Amazon are handy gadgets for prepping those perfect shoes that need some extra wiggle room to be wearable.
They’re especially handy for leather shoes, since leather can stretch more than most other materials without showing it, and work for everything that needs some extra sock space, from heels to hiking boots. As an added bonus, there are versions small enough to leave in your packed shoes to do the stretching work in-transit.
The Right Inserts
Problem: Lack of support
Solution: Gel inserts
It might seem like a no-brainer, but gel inserts like Dr. Scholls’ can greatly expand the number of travel shoes you have in your arsenal by making less supportive pairs a lot more comfortable to walk in. They can also make shoes you’d normally never wear for many hours (hello, destination-wedding heels) a lot more bearable … if you choose the right kind. For example, while closed-toe shoes can benefit from pretty much any of the full-foot insoles you’d find in drug stores, heels and sandals are better off paired with more discreet options like insoles for the ball of your foot—which I always keep in my carry-on.
Solution: Adhesive cotton moleskin
Stop carrying around a handful of bandages for your uncomfortable shoes and use adhesive moleskin directly on the problem area of your shoes instead. Moleskin is a soft, neutral-colored material often used in comfortable shoes that you can purchase as an adhesive to use anywhere you need it. It’s available in bandage form, but for a more permanent solution that won’t require sticking anything to your skin, peel-and-stick moleskin padding can go straight to the inside of your shoes instead.
What to Wear with Travel Shoes
Cute Women’s On-the-Go Outfit for the Summer
Men’s Casual Summer Outfit from Nordstrom
Women’s from Beach to Dinner Outfit
Men’s Outfit for Walking to Tijuana
Women’s Amazon-Based Casual Outfit
Men’s Chill Outfit for Walking on a Trip
Women’s Casual Outfit to Wear with Travel Sandals (no shoes)
More from SmarterTravel:
- Most Comfortable Travel Shoes 2019
- Foldable and Collapsible Shoes Perfect for Your Carry-on
- 9 Stylish and Sustainable Shoes for Travel
Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Instagram @shanmcmahon.