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Choosing the right shoes to wear on a plane can be tricky. You want to look nice, but you also want to be comfortable for the long flight ahead of you. Here are some tips for picking out the best pair of shoes for your next trip:
1) Make sure they’re comfortable. This is the most important thing! If the shoes don’t feel good on your feet, who cares how cute they are? You’ll just end up with sore feet and blisters, which is no fun for anyone.
2) Don’t pick something with too much heel. If you’re going to be walking around a lot in them (like from gate to gate), heels can be painful if they’re too high. They also make it harder to walk quickly through crowds if there’s an emergency situation like an evacuation, so keep that in mind when choosing a shoe style.
3) Go for flats or sneakers instead of boots if possible—they’ll be easier to get off during an emergency situation and will provide more support than boots do (which is especially important if you have circulation issues in your legs).
Best Shoes To Wear On a Plane
The Best Shoes to Wear to the Airport
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My feeds are constantly filled with airport looks, from friends heading on their vacations to celebrities captured by the paparazzi. Victoria Beckham opts for an open-toe boot. Katie Holmes chooses loafers sans socks. Some bold screen sirens or pop stars saunter through LAX in teetering stilettos. Of course, these stars probably don’t have to worry about the actual horrors of slogging through airport security. (Most of them are, most likely, flying private, or at least have TSA pre-check). They don’t have to take their loafers or open-toe boots off and mash their bare feet into the ground while being scanned. Nor do they have to worry about their feet swelling, bound in their vertiginous heels—they have reclining seats! Celebrities are, well, on a different plane of travel.
They will never fully grasp that the airport is a disgusting place (except for Naomi Campbell, who travels in a hazmat suit and is known for religiously disinfecting her first-class pods.) Airports are notoriously dirty. The floors are coated in bacteria. There is so much bacteria on those floors, it sounds like I’m reading the back of a probiotic bottle. I’ve read countless articles counting the CFUs (colony-forming units), a.k.a. the number of bacteria and fungal cells, that multiply at an airport. And the thought of being barefoot while going through security? No thanks!
Sure, I’ve gone through my phases of preferred airport shoes. A flip-flop in my younger years. (I’m now inoculated against the bubonic plague). A running sneaker. (It left imprints on my foot thanks to swelling). And a lace-up boot. (Cumbersome; annoying). I decided to take some tips from my colleagues, who, over the years, have hacked their travel footwear. Fashion news editor Sarah Spellings swears by Birkenstocks and socks. “I always get cold on planes, but I also hate slowing down the TSA line with laces,” she says. “Socks and Birkenstocks, especially the shearling lined ones, solve both problems.” Her colleague, creative development associate director Alexandra Gurvitch, notes that she opts for the same comfort combo but loves compression socks, which battle altitude-induced swelling.
Fashion news writer José Criales Unzueta always opts for sneakers—a pair of Nike Cortezes or black Acne Rockaways—and if it is cold, he’ll wear his boots. (Who wants to bulk up on baggage fees anyway?) Market editor Maddy Fass follows Unzueta’s suit and will typically wear her heaviest footwear through security as does creative development senior associate Lucy Dolan-Zalaznick. “Besides the suitcase optimization, the best thing about traveling in the boots is that they simply look cool,” Dolan-Zalaznick says. “Without sacrificing comfort or the ability to take them on and off in 10 seconds in cars or security lines.”
Fashion writers André-Naquian Wheeler—who prefers White Air Force Ones and Marine Serre x Nike Shox—and Christian Allaire concur on Unzueta’s sneaker front. “As much as I want to look like Victoria Beckham at the airport, I need comfort,” Allaire says. “And I’m forever late, so they’re perfect for running to the gate. I’m very unglam…usually my New Balance dad sneakers. They’re black, so they go with everything.”
Other Vogue colleagues have a less practical way of approaching footwear on a plane. Features editor Lilah Ramzi has a whole recipe on how to walk through security. Ramzi, who I’ve never seen in a sneaker, will opt for a flat to go through security and carry cashmere socks in her bag. “I keep socks in my bag and put them on to walk through the security line. I then take them off,” she says. “And then put them back on on the plane so I’m cozy.”
But perhaps the most sound advice comes from seasoned traveler and lifestyle writer Elise Taylor. “I have three rules for airplane shoes. One: They must be shoes you will wear again on your trip. (Footwear is incredibly clunky and takes up too much room in your suitcase as is. Do yourself a favor and don’t bring a random pair that you’ll have to lug around for the remainder of your travels.) Two: no metal (not great in the security line),” she says. “Three: You must be able to run in them because, if you’re like me, you’re always minutes away from missing your flight! So, voilà, these white slip-on sneakers from Vince that check all the boxes.”
The best airport shoes are plentiful. I personally love the idea of laceless slip-on sneakers à la Taylor and cashmere socks per Ramzi. Just please don’t wear flip-flops—or go barefoot.