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Oh My God, Shoes!

An argument for packing one pair of shoes for long-term travel.

The number one problem people run into when trying to minimize their pack, is shoes.

And rightfully so.. there is no "one shoe" for every occasion, and it's extremely frustrating trying to match shoes with outfits, comfort with style, functionality with taste, etc.

The absolute best and only advice I can give you is.. quite simply, a reminder that no one cares what you're wearing when you travel. I go into this concept extensively in No One Cares, Except Maybe You.. but in short, at least in terms of style.. you don't need to worry about your shoes; if you stick to simple, neutral colors and don't get too fancy with your outfits, you can wear the same pair every day.

This is where having just 2-3 outfits will actually simplify your shoe selection; just pick a style, for example.. "stylish hiker," and go with it, every day.

Remember, when you're in a different country, whether it's by the clothes on your back, your hair color, your skin tone, or the constant look of confusion on your face... you already stand out... so stop worrying about having the right outfit for every occasion, and that will free you up to pack just one or maybe two pairs of shoes.

Now in terms of functionality, that's a different story; at the very least, you'll likely want sandals, comfortable walking shoes for daily wear and hiking/trail shoes. Personally, since I pack the absolute minimum, I pack just one pair of black trail-running shoes, which work fine for trails, long walks, working out and general, daily use. Yes, they look questionable with pants, but I have to remind myself that I'm literally the only person who notices or cares; and if you're really doing travel right, you shouldn't even need pants.

basic hiking shoes

Now I realize it won't be that simple for everyone.. so this is where you may want to get a little creative; for example.. if you're a serious hiker and like to have ankle support, consider packing ankle braces instead of ankle-high hiking boots, you get the same support in less space; or, if you see yourself doing a lot of boating or water sports, consider water shoes instead of sandals, remember, you can always buy a super cheap pair of sandals wherever you are, and tie them to your bag or donate them if you're heading to cooler climates.

a woman in water shoes

​I also highly recommend shoe inserts that can be replaced as you wear through them - these can be found literally anywhere in the world and they give your shoes (and feet) a bit more life.

I do pack and recommend a pair of barefoot sandals for beach days and hostel hangs, they take up almost no space and can be attached to the outside of your bag when traveling. I pack a pair of Xero barefoot sandals that I've been using for years; they're thin, lightweight and durable.

Xero Barefoot sandals

Lastly, this is one area of minimalist packing you should put some thought into, shoes can make or break your trip; your best bet is to find the most comfortable, neutral-looking, multi-functional shoes available - you'll be wearing them all day, every day, and for every occasion - so don't treat them like an afterthought.

Remember, comfort is king - style is just a dirty, forgotten step-child.

Last lastly... if you got the reference in the title, congrats, and for those of you who didn't, here you go...

Read Next: Fair Weather Travel 


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