Going through TSA has never been so easy.
Figuring out what to wear to the airport is almost as difficult as deciding what to pack in your suitcase. TSA lines are rarely short, and wearing the right shoe can speed up the security process or, if you’re known to barely make your flight, can give you the ability to run to your gate.
“We may not think about it, but airports always involve a lot of walking (and sometimes even running),” says travel content creator Alexa Moore. “Because of this, it’s essential to find shoes that balance comfort and style that you can realistically walk in all day.” So, that usually means leaving your favorite stilettos at home and instead opting for functional footwear, like sneakers or flats. Moore shares that air travel often involves walking on many different terrains, including tiled slick floors and carpet, which means “your choice of shoe will make or break your entire travel experience.” No matter the footwear you choose, make sure it’s something you feel comfortable walking in or wearing for many hours to avoid any tripping incidents.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler looking to spruce up your footwear or need inspiration for your first flight, we’ve gathered 13 travel-friendly shoes you can wear on a plane.
Meet Our Expert
Alexa Moore is a travel content creator who has been to over 40 different countries.
As footwear you likely already have in your closet, slip-on sneakers are versatile enough to complete any casual airport outfit. You can pair these sneakers with everything from a baseball cap and jeans to a T-shirt dress. “Laces can complicate things, so slip-on sneakers are by far one of the most comfortable options for air travel,” says Moore. “Easy to take off at any point in your air travel journey, especially before airport security. But the lack of laces provides all-around comfort for your feet.”
Are sneakers not your style? That’s where an elegant loafer comes in. Beverly Osemwenkhae says this polished shoe style is “comfortable and timeless, making it easy to style with any airport fit.” She recommends pairing loafers with a knit lounge set or, for a more modern look, opt for baggy jeans and a chunky sweater.
Since most loafers are crafted from leather, Moore suggests breaking in your chosen pair before heading to the airport to ensure comfort. “But if you do not have time to break a new pair in, opt for the backless version,” she adds. “You will be far more comfortable gallivanting around the airport or racing to board your plane."
“I have a love-and-hate relationship with my birks, but they always come through for holiday travel,” says Osemwenkhae. Not only is this footwear comfortable, but the double-toe straps also offer support. She suggests a fur-lined pair for extra comfort and functionality, but if you’re traveling in the summer months, the traditional buckle Birkenstocks work just as well and come in a variety of colors. With such a casual shoe, Osemwenkhae recommends styling your Birkenstocks with boyfriend jeans, a band tee, and a blazer.
Similar to Birkenstocks, slides are one of the simplest shoes you can wear to the airport. They slide on and off with ease, so you can quickly toss them into your bin at TSA or, as Moore notes, place them in your carry-on bag if you plan to make a shoe switch on the plane. “If you want extra support, grab a pair with arch support or memory foam,” she recommends. “And if you’re looking to elevate the slide look, choose a sleeker leather design.” If you’re worried about walking barefoot through TSA, wear your slides with socks or keep a pair in your travel bag to use when necessary.
If you’re looking for a slip-on shoe with a little more toe protection that isn’t a sneaker, both Moore and Osemwenkhae recommend clogs. Moore says that this shoe style is “the perfect combination of ease of use, comfort, and versatility,” plus more casual clogs have a back strap that offers extra support. “If you are someone whose feet swell during flights, these are a great adjustable option,” she adds. “And if your feet get cold on the plane, opt for a clog with a fur lining for extra coziness.” To elevate your clogs, Osemwenkhae suggests styling them with a slip skirt and a duster jacket or a button-down shirt and wide-leg knit trousers.
Reach for a pair of ballet flats if you’re looking for an alternative to sandals to help elevate a simple airport outfit. Moore recommends foldable ballet flats as they can be slipped into your carry-on bag or personal item. “They are also comfortable enough to wear on long flights and provide no hassle to slip on for trips to the plane restroom,” she adds. While classic no-fuss flats are always a good choice, Osemwenkhae suggests if you’re looking to “spice up your ballet flats,” choose a style that's “a little more playful and has texture.” Mary-Jane flats give off major balletcore vibes, while a studded pair of flats is a bolder choice that feels very modern.
Leave your heeled mules at home and opt for a flat pair when preparing for a long travel day. “Flat mules are the easiest to travel in because they're comfortable and chic,” shares Osemwenkhae. “It gives your feet breathing room and movement while traveling and can easily slide on and off while in the air.” For an ultra-cool look, she suggests styling flat mules with a simple T-shirt and distressed jeans or a cropped sweater and relaxed trousers. Headed to a tropical location? This shoe style also looks great combined with a printed sundress or a linen set.
Heeled shoes are not the first choice for most travelers, but if even a flight can’t keep you from your heels, opt for kitten-heel boots. Osemwenkhae says this footwear gives you the elegant and sophisticated look of a high heel but “still provides the comfort you need for your commute.” If you need a boot with a little more support for a long journey, consider a kitten-heel boot with a thicker block heel. As for styling, she recommends tucking a pair of jeans into your boots with a white top or going for a cozy look with a sweatshirt and leather shorts (add tights for more coverage).
Upgrade your sneaker collection with a platform version. This style is fashion-forward but still practical enough for air travel. “I love all things flatforms because it gives you a little height but always makes your outfit a little more fun,” says Osemwenkhae. “With this style, I would wear it with a slip dress and moto jacket or pair it with a mini skirt and a varsity sweater.” When choosing your platform sneakers, opt for low-tops rather than high-tops, as this design can be more difficult to remove at TSA because of the extra laces.
“Because these sandals are typically designed for outdoor activities, they tend to be far more versatile and durable, no matter where you are traveling,” shares Moore. “Sporty sandals are often designed with cushioned soles and breathable materials, so they're comfortable to wear throughout the entire flight. These sandals are great because they are usually waterproof and/or quick-drying in case of unexpected spills or if you encounter rainy conditions on your way to or from the airport. ” While a classic black or white pair will match with any of your travel outfits, consider a bold print or a pop of color if you’re looking for a style that will make more of a fashion statement.
Everybody loves a good boot, and luckily, they’re an excellent choice for air travel during the fall and winter months. “When traveling, you want boots you can easily slip on and off and provide peak comfort,” says Moore. “A classic Chelsea boot is the perfect option for plane days and complements any airport outfit.” To add some edge to your airport ensemble, Osemwenkhae suggests a combat boot design that would pair well with a shirt dress or an oversized blazer and a denim maxi skirt.
Whichever style you choose, make sure to consider the weight of your Chelsea boot. “While a chunky boot serves its purpose during the winter, they can be a lot to walk around with,” explains Moore. “For extra comfort, research the material makeup of the boot and opt for something constructed with lighter materials.”
White Tennis Sneakers
You can never go wrong with classic white tennis sneakers for your travel days. Osemwenkhae says this footwear staple is “great for all climates and very transitional,” so they’ll be comfortable on and off the flight, whether you’re headed to Boston or The Bahamas. For a pair that provides “enhanced comfort for long hours,” Moore recommends opting for sneakers with a memory foam insole that molds to your feet. “If you plan on landing in your destination and immediately exploring, these shoes are a great versatile pair for exploring new destinations,” she says. “And a nice neutral pair can vibe with airport outfits or even a fun maxi dress.”
Another travel-friendly sneaker option is a sock sneaker that is easy to remove and less constricting than a traditional pair. Plus, Osemwenkhae explains that with this footwear, “not having to fiddle around with your laces is one less thing to think about while traveling.” She says it’s best to choose a lightweight pair that won’t weigh you down, so you may want to avoid those with a heavy platform or extra thick fabrics. To nail an off-duty model look, Osemwenkhae recommends pairing your sock sneakers with a trendy pair of cargo pants or an oversized sweater dress and a baseball cap.
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