Traveling in cold weather presents several packing challenges. You want to pack the right clothes so that you aren’t cold but it takes planning to avoid bringing a bunch of bulky clothing and shoes. A well planned Carry-On Capsule should include base layers, thin wool knits and the right outerwear for your destination. Most importantly your capsule should include the right footwear.
The right shoes for winter travel can make or break a trip. There’s a few considerations to think about. The first and always most important is comfort. If you will be doing a lot of walking, a shoe that will support you is key.
The next is what types of cold weather elements will you be most likely to encounter during your travels. Will it be extremely cold? Will there be snow or rain? What will your travel activities be and how long will you be exposed to the elements? This determines what type of shoe to pack.
A few things to think about when selecting a winter travel shoe. If the weather will not be that extreme and you won’t be exposed to snow or rain then a good wool sock may be all you need to “winterize” your travel shoes. Wool socks will absorb moisture and keep your feet warm and dry during your travel day. Avoid big and bulky hiking type socks and choose a lightweight wool sock, like these Smartwool ones.
Wet conditions, due to snow and or rain is another winter travel issue to consider. Waterproof footwear is essential if you expect these conditions during your travels. Cold, wet, feet are a recipe for a travel disaster.
In the graphic I showed options that suit winter travel ranging from mild conditions to more intense cold weather travels. All options shown here are waterproof (except the Allbirds sneakers). When selecting a winter travel shoe, look for a nice “grippy” tread on the sole so that you will minimize your chances of slipping on wet or snowy terrain.
To keep luggage minimal and carry on size. I recommend a maximum of 2 shoes. Of course, you would wear your bulkiest pair of shoes in transit and pack your other pair.
Fashionable + Waterproof
Riding boots instantly dress up most winter outfits and can be versatile enough to be worn casually in the daytime and dressed up in the evening. These waterproof options are stylish and practical for winter travel and the extra calf coverage can provide a little bit extra warmth. Pair them easily with skinny jeans, thick leggings, skirts and dresses. The only drawback to a riding boot is that it isn’t packable unless you are packing ultra- minimally. If you go with a waterproof riding boot, it’s best to wear it in transit. Olivia Knee High Boot, Blondo Volly Waterproof Riding Boot, Teva De la Vina Dos Tall Boot.
Versatile + Waterproof
I love a bootie for travel and a waterproof one increases its versatility. A bootie can be paired a multitude of items to be dressed up or down. I’ve worn my Teva Delavina’s all over the world and with a lightweight wool sock I’ve walked miles in cold/rainy weather with no issues. A bootie is easily packable and can serve as a secondary shoe if your primary shoe is bulky. Caslon Water Resistant Bootie, Blondo Liam Waterproof Bootie, Teva De la Vina ankle boot.
If your travel activities are more on the casual side then a winter sneaker is the way to go. A high top sneaker gives a little extra coverage and warmth, especially when paired with a light wool sock. The first two options shown are waterproof. The third option is Allbirds, a new sneaker on the market made out of wool. So while this isn’t waterproof it will keep your foot warm. Teva Willow Chelsea Boot, Blondo Jax Waterproof Sneaker, Allbirds Wool Runners.
Hiking + Sneaker Hybrid
Travel activities that are more adventure based might benefit from a hiking sneaker hybrid. Functional enough for hiking yet they also have a street style vibe that would work with jeans and leggings. New Balance 701 Boot, Teva Arrowood Lux Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot, Helly Hansen The Forester Bootie.
Snow + Extreme Cold Weather
Snowy and wet travel conditions demand the right shoes. A waterproof shoe with good traction and insulation if necessary is the way to go. These shoes are quite bulky but necessary if you are going to be exposed to harsh winter elements. Maeko Waterproof Goretex Boot, Sperry Saltwater Boot, North Face Nuptse Purna II Waterproof PrimaLoft® Silver Eco Insulated Winter Boot.
Stay warm Travelistas! I’d love to hear in the comments what cold weather destinations you will be traveling to this season. I’ve also put together a quick one sheet winter travel checklist that you can download here.