Last Updated on November 19, 2023 by Martina McKeough
Are shoes allowed in carry-on luggage or can you only place them in a checked bag? This is a big question for anyone traveling as the rules around what you can put in carry-on bags aren’t always the easiest to interpret.
Here’s what you need to know about packing your carry-on luggage so that you don’t get stopped by a TSA agent or equivalent when you are traveling for business or pleasure.
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Where the Confusion Arises Around Shoes and Planes
The reason why people ask if shoes are allowed in carry-on luggage is primarily because of the incident that happened back in 2001. A man attempted to detonate a bomb hidden in his shoes on a Paris- Miami flight.
Thankfully the bomb didn’t detonate and the person concerned was restrained by passengers and crew. However, after that point more severe restrictions were put in place at airport security regarding footwear. After the incident passengers were required to take off their shoes and place them through additional screening before boarding a flight.
At the time this was hugely disruptive as the airlines weren’t set up for this extra screening. I remember being stuck in a massive queue at Heathrow Airport in the UK whilst security tried to suddenly adapt to the new rules that were brought in overnight.
Years later some airports still require you to take off your shoes before boarding particularly in the United States. In the UK I’ve just traveled to Australia via Malaysia and neither airport required me to remove my shoes.
Are Shoes Allowed in Carry on Luggage?
Ok so you might have to take the shoes you are wearing off before you go through any security scanners at airports but what does that mean for any shoes that you might have in your carry-on bag?
Well as the bag will be going through the scanners anyway then in the majority of cases you should have no problem leaving them in the carry-on baggage.
There is usually no need to place shoes in checked luggage if you don’t want to. In fact, I always carry a spare pair of shoes in my carry-on suitcase in case any of my other luggage gets lost.
Airport scanners are great at being able to see your shoes inside any bag as they travel through the scanners so packing shoes in your carry-on or checked luggage is usually fine.
Note I use the words usually fine as there are some exceptions to this rule which I’ll go into.
Are High Heels Allowed in Carry on Luggage?
It isn’t just flat-heeled boots, shoes, and sneakers that you can put in your carry-on bag as high-heeled shoes are allowed as well when you are flying.
High heels can happily be placed in your backpack or suitcase providing that they don’t look like they can be used as a weapon.
Yes, I know people think this sounds daft but here’s a great example of problematic high heels.
Karl Lagerfeld when he was still alive designed some Chanel Shoes that were called Miami Vice. Madonna famously wore them on the red carpet.
So what was the problem with these shoes? Well, the heel was designed to look like a gun! Clearly, if you try getting them past a TSA officer at the security checkpoint you are going to have a big problem. In fact, you may have a problem with them in your checked luggage as well because they are scanned before being placed on the plane.
How Many Shoes Can You Bring on a Plane?
There are no restrictions on how many shoes you can bring on a plane you do however have to worry about any size and weight restriction the airline may have in place.
In theory, you can fill your entire carry-on bag with shoes and nothing else if you want. Provided that the bag weight doesn’t go over your allowance you shouldn’t have any problems.
Use a luggage weight scale to check how heavy your bag is to make sure you don’t have any problems.
Can you Bring Shoes in Your Carry-on?
If you want to bring shoes in your carry-on bag or in your checked luggage you are generally not going to have a problem.
Whilst you may have to remove shoes that you are already wearing to go through a security checkpoint at some airports this shouldn’t be a huge issue for most people.
I do however recommend that if you are wearing shoes for a flight they should be not only be comfortable but easy to put on and off without a struggle.
I learned this from my own experiences after the shoe bomber incident. I would fly for work almost every week and I would constantly be removing my shoes and putting them back on as they were checked. However, I have a medical issue with my hip which means in order to do this I would normally need to sit down first.
If my shoes had laces, or buckles or were difficult to get on and off this would create a whole fuss at security. So I started to wear ballet pumps when I was traveling because they were so easy to slip my feet off. If you have a similar problem easy on-and-off shoes make sense to save time and a bunch of hassle.
As an example, these are the kind of shoes that are good to wear when you are flying.
I talk a lot about Hey Dude shoes because they are reasonably priced, lightweight and comfortable.
These are perfect to wear with casual clothes on a flight. They are also easy to get on and off as you are going through the security gate.
My feet tend to swell on a long-haul flight so I like the fact that they are adjustable as well so that you can have a little more room if that happens.
Sketchers are another great brand that makes shoes that are perfect for plane travel.
These men’s Go Walk shoes are easy to slip on and off and feature a memory foam footbed which means they are going to be super comfortable for travel and those long walks around airports.
Flip-Flops and Airport Security
I thought it was important to briefly mention wearing flip-flops through airport security and on the plane itself.
Whilst some people love to wear flip-flops for that holiday vibe I am definitely not a lover when it comes to the flight for these reasons.
- If you have to take them off your feet are walking around on the dirty airport floor (yuck).
- Planes are sometimes really cold. Bare feet can therefore get freezing on a long flight.
- There is no way in hell I would want to wear flip-flops in an airport toilet (that liquid on the floor isn’t just water).
- Apparently, they are dangerous in an emergency as well so closed-toe flat footwear makes more sense.
The Exceptions To The Rule
Are shoes allowed in carry-on luggage? Well as with almost everything in life there are exceptions to the standard rules. Here are some of the main reasons why you might have a problem with putting shoes in carry-on baggage.
All airlines have a limit on the amount of hand luggage that you can bring onto a plane. On many international flights, this can be generous but when you get to the cheaper carriers you often are limited or have to pay extra for your bags. This could obviously limit what you decide to bring in your carry-on bag, especially heavy shoes or boots.
Another reason that I have come across is the problem with space especially in smaller aircraft.
Small planes for island jaunts or short hops often have limited overhead lockers which means that you can’t really bring any large hand luggage onto the plane with you as it all gets put in the hold.
In this case, your hand luggage can easily end up being placed with your larger suitcases in the hold as the airline will only allow you to bring essential items with you onto the plane.
Space also becomes a problem with cheaper budget airline carriers. They often find that their overhead compartments become full as people try to get away with not paying for checked luggage. If you happen to be unlucky enough to be one of the last people on the plane your bags are at risk of ending up in the hold if there is no more space in the overhead lockers.
I don’t know about you but when I am packing hand luggage I am optimizing the space to the max. It is amazing what I can cram into my carry-on when I try.
Whilst I often add shoes into my backpack or carry-on suitcase they are usually relatively small ones such as ballet pumps or light sneakers.
If I tried to put heavy shoes and boots into my carry-on bags I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t have any space for anything else like clothes, books, or toiletries.
The fact is that lots of shoes and heavier sneakers can be bulky so it doesn’t always make sense to put them in hand luggage because they take up too much room. It makes far more sense to wear your heavier shoes on a place (especially for short-haul flights) and put the lighter ones into your carry-on luggage.
The case of Madonna’s shoes which I mentioned earlier is a prime example of why some shoes should never go through a metal detector in a suitcase.
If your shoes are problematic in any way always check with the airline first as to whether your footwear is acceptable to think about packing.
Remember that not all countries have the same rules and regulations so what might be appropriate in one location might not be ok in another.
Common sense should also tell you that shoes can be dirty because of where we walk and carry grime and germs. I know that before I fly I make sure any shoes that I am thinking of packing in my carry-on bag or suitcase are thoroughly cleaned.
How Do You Carry Shoes On a Plane?
Even when I have them clean I still put them in a bag to protect my other clothes and belongings. I buy packing cube sets that have shoe carriers in them and use those. Plastic bags can of course work for a short period of time but they don’t look as nice.
I have a few different types of shoe carriers that I use that are large enough for boots and sneakers as well. Packing cubes don’t cost very much and keep my clothes and shoes incredibly organized so I love using them on my trips.
To save on space I also tend to stuff soft smaller items such as socks, tights or knickers into the toe of the shoe or boot. This helps give me more room in my suitcase and also helps to stop the shoe from losing shape by being battered by other heavy items in the bag.
What Shoes Should Not Be in Your Hand Luggage
Certain types of shoes should always be put in the hold with your checked luggage rather than being brought onboard. These are some examples where you can stay on the right side of the TSA officers.
Shoes with Built-in Batteries or Heating Elements
Some shoes, slippers, insoles and even socks have heating elements in them usually to keep your feet warm. If you have a pair of these check the rules carefully as to whether you are allowed to bring them with you on your trip.
There is a safety issue with this type of footwear as they can create a fire risk so they may be considered a restricted item. Certain airlines might not even allow them in checked luggage so always check first before you fly. Remember the TSA officers have the power to confiscate items that don’t meet the regulations.
Certain Types of Sporting Equipment Footwear
Are shoes allowed in carry-on luggage? Well, perhaps not if they create a safety risk. An example of this would be some sports shoes such as ice hockey skates.
This is common sense if you think about it because they have blades and could be a safety risk. In cases like this where you have specialized shoes that aren’t the norm, it would definitely be worth checking before thinking about taking them on a plane. It is likely that the airline may have very specific rules about the way they are transported.
Extra Large Boots
Some airlines are super stingy with their carry-on luggage sizes and weights. If you have extra large or heavy boots then you may find that they either don’t fit the size requirements for online bags or the weight.
Check each airline’s size requirements of hand luggage before traveling and weigh them as well to make sure they don’t exceed your allowances.
Whilst steel-toed boots won’t be necessarily restricted from your hand luggage they may cause a problem at security as they are likely to set off alarms.
I know I have a metal component in my hip that isn’t supposed to trigger alarms but every time I travel I get searched. This was a huge hassle and annoyance when I traveled on a plane weekly.
Steel-toed boots can cause a similar disruption so might be better placed in your checked bags.
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