"Shoes are these pesky things that create so much clutter—particularly because they come in pairs!" says Nikki Boyd of At Home with Nikki in Summerville, S.C. "Next to paper clutter, they're the items that frustrate people the most." Whether you live alone or share your home with family or roommates, figuring out a way to get the shoe pile under control can make your space feel better from the minute you walk in the door. "There's this feeling of calm when there's not clutter in view—but even a small pile of shoes can cost you that feeling," says Katrina Green of Badass Homelife in Sacramento, Calif.
Storing your shoes properly will keep them in better shape for the long term and save you a headache in the short term. "If your shoes are scattered in a pile by the door, you won't be able to find what you need," says Brittany Daley of Perfect Fit Organizing in Charlotte, N.C. And by trying out a couple different configurations, you can figure out the best system for you and your household. "Give yourself grace—if the first solution isn't working for you after a few months, you have permission to change it, even if you spent money on it," says Meggie Mangione of Organized by Design in Houston. "We call it tweaking!"
From wrangling the drop zone to tackling your closet, here are 15 shoe storage ideas from professional organizers.
Chances are, you have more shoes than you need, so step one is always to take all of your shoes out of hiding, sort them, and move along anything that’s worn out, dated, or uncomfortable. Once you’ve pared down, sort by type (sandals, heels, booties, sneakers), then by color, to see what you’re dealing with.
“You have to have a plan before you buy the products,” says Daley. Ideally, you’re storing all of your shoes someplace where you can see them, like in a closet. Whether you’re planning to install a system or just buy a few bins, measure the space you’re planning to use, as well as the shoes or boots you're storing. “That way, you won’t be tempted by a shoe rack at Target that holds 12 pairs of shoes, when you own 57 of them,” says Mangione.
Shelving is ideal for shoes, since it allows you to see what you have. If you’re having closets made, wood is the cleanest-looking option, but you can get a semi-custom look with pre-made shelves, like the Made by Design Shoe Organizer. There are lots of options for à la carte metal shelving, like Container Store’s Elfa system or Closetmaid, that offer easy installation and customization.
Pro tip: “If you alternate shoes heel to toe, that saves the most space,” says Daley.
“Those white shoeboxes look beautiful on Instagram, but it’s just not functional,” says Boyd. Daley agrees: any more than two in a stack, and they’re too hard to slide out for it to be a real solution. “That’s frustrating and a disaster—if you try to get your shoes and it’s not fun, you’re going to wonder if you really want to wear those shoes,” says Boyd.
While the pros advise against opaque boxes, an open-front clear container can give a closet structure, with or without existing shelving, and keeps shoes from rubbing against each other. Stackable boxes work well when they have a drop-front design. Daley likes these clear boxes from the Container Store, which come in both large and small sizes, because they allow for both easy viewing and easy access.
If you have a lot of flat summer sandals, consider this tip from Boyd: store the shoes vertically, sole to sole, inside magazine holders on a shelf. “I sort them by color, for example, all the brown sandals together, and these keep them concealed and color coded,” she says.
You want to store shoes standing up, rather than laying on top of each other, to best keep their shape. To keep boots upright, invest in boot shapers. Daley likes the Inflatable Boot Shapers from the Container Store. “These are the cheapest ones I’ve found and they’re good quality, and you can deflate them if you don’t need them,” says Brittany. If your boots are too tall for your closet, fill the shaft with a boot shaper and then lay them sideways inside an open shoe box that’s easy to pull out from a shelf.
While the pros generally consider hanging shoes on the back of a closet as a last resort, in smaller closets, a door-mount shoe rack can be a real space-saver. If you’re looking to buy one, the pros agree that a metal rack makes for a sturdier solution. “I’ve found fabric shoe holders get fussy and cluttered,” says Mangione.
Another solution if you’re short on closet space: under the bed. A roll-out drawer can create an easy-to-access drawer that works for a variety of shoes. “If you have limited space, get creative,” says Green.
“I always have space for a couple shoes by the door, in case I have to run and put the garbage out,” says Mangione. The key is to designate a space—and stick with it. “Limit the quantity: whatever fits is the ideal amount,” says Brittany. “My husband and I each have three pairs of shoes that we keep on a rack, but if it starts filling up, it’s time to take some shoes back to the closet.”
If you’re the sort of person who hates to see clutter, consider a small cabinet next to the door. IKEA’s HEMNES shoe cabinet is a popular option with it’s pull-front doors, but any sort of cabinet will do, says Boyd, who keeps her own shoes out of sight inside a repurposed bar cabinet: “the wine rack is actually the perfect size for shoes!”
"Training your family to use the designated space is a whole other issue—the kids could care less about whether the shoe pile is organized!” says Boyd. So make it as easy as possible to keep the front door tidy-ish, put a medium-sized bin or two right by the door that will be easy to stash in a closet if someone’s coming over. For these, opt for something made of metal or wood over fabric, which is too flimsy to hold up to daily wear, says Katrina.
If you rotate your shoes seasonally, pay attention to the spot you’re putting them. “Most storage areas, like attics or basements, are not climate controlled, so you need to put shoes inside a container that will block humidity and resist big temperature fluctuations,” says Daley. For humidity, “silica gel is your best friend,” says Green.
Winter boots, especially, need TLC before you store them: wipe the surface with a clean cloth, then fill the boots (don’t fold them!) to avoid getting creases. (Boyd likes to use her winter socks as boot stuffers for double-duty storage.) Don’t stack boots on top of each other.
Whatever system you use for your shoes, once you find something that works, commit to it. “If your shoes live in the closet, keep them in the closet most of the time,” says Daley. “If you start spilling into other rooms, things will get messy.” And don’t worry so much about getting your closet picture-perfect. “Organizing looks different for everyone—if you can find things when you need them, the system works for you,” says Mangione. “It’s not about being Instagram-worthy, it’s about getting the right feeling.”