Packing Travel Trends

3 Expert Ways to Make Any Pair of Shoes Travel-Friendly

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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Shoe Stretchers

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

gel inserts for travel-friendly shoes.

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.

Moleskin Tape

moleskin tape for travel-friendly shoes.

Problem: Blisters

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

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Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

By Shannon McMahon

Editor Shannon McMahon is always planning her next trip and often writing in her travel journal. Follow her on Twitter @shanmcmahon_ and on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

Shannon joined SmarterTravel in 2015. A former news reporter, she's lived in the south of Spain, spotted elephants in Sri Lanka, gone spelunking in the Caribbean, hiked Jordan's Petra Basin, interviewed Sao Paulo's Michelin-Star chefs, and explored China via bullet train. Travel trends, news oddities, and her visits to up-and-coming destinations are some of her favorite things to write about.

Her stories have also appeared online on USA Today, The Sun, Huffington Post, Business Insider,,, and more. Her educational background is in journalism, art history, gender studies, Spanish, and film. She's been quoted as an expert travel source by CNBC,, MarketWatch, The Washington Post, USA Today, and more.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Plenty of extra thick hair elastics. They tame my frizzy curls and come in handy in a surprising number of packing and hotel dilemmas."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Climbing (yes, climbing, it's steep!) the Great Wall of China before it's gone."

Travel Motto: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." - Mark Twain

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window, of course."

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