The Good, Bad and Ugly of Shoe Storage

64 Arts

If you’re going to indulge in a lot of anything, you’ve got to be able to store it so you can use it and not waste your time or money. The Art of Dressing continues, below…


Remember the opening scenes from Overboard (start about the 9:00 mark if you’re in a hurry), where Kurt Russell builds Goldie Hahn an amazing shoe closet? I love that shoe closet (more than I loved the movie) and I absolutely lust after the walk-in closets with the wall-o-shoes feature that are in so many movies and television shows. Oh, to have the space for that!

Instead, this girl’s gotta economize on space just like she does her shoes.

The Good

Did you know the best container (in my mind) for shoes is the box they came in? It’s true! Not only is it perfectly sized for the style of shoe, it even has the color, description and (sometimes) drawing on the outside to let us find them when they’re stacked up neat and pretty. I keep as many shoes as possible in their original boxes stacked no more than 4-boxes-high to avoid an avalanche when I want that one particular pair on the bottom.

Slippers and Tennis Shoes in a Basket

Soft shoes in a soft spot

But, wait, what about shoes whose boxes become damaged or, worse, bought at an outlet center without a box of any kind?

For boxless pairs I prefer modular racks or shelves. The ones from most big-box home stores work fine but usually need some extra shoring-up as the connections will fail without much effort. Some poster putty or hot glue in the wells will help keep the metal rods in place. Cubbies are great if you prefer flats or flip-flops but large shoes can get scrunched in such a confined space, wearing them out and damaging their structure.

For slippers and other soft, seldom-worn shoes (for me, this includes tennis shoes) I like a big basket that can comfortably contain them and looks prettier than a jumble of soft shoes in the bottom corner of the closet.

The Bad

Shoes Under Storage

Shoes Under Storage Unit

A thousand curses upon the As Seen on TV Shoes Under Space-Saving Shoe Organizer. Oh, it looks great on that commercial, sliding out from under the bed with no problems whatsoever. Admire the strong, sturdy-looking sides and dividers.


First, it comes in a very small box (relative to it’s unfolded size). Second, there’s nothing sturdy or stiff about it: it’s a floppy box that takes ever ounce of it’s structure from the shoes placed inside it. Third, while you can certainly pull it out from under the bed, pushing it under to begin with involved much shoving and smashing–espcially if you use a basic metal bed-frame that isn’t quite as tall as the Shoes Under would prefer.

I, being an optimistic fool, bought two of these “gems” when Todd and I moved in together and I lost my walk-in closet. Imagine my disappointment.

And, yet, I didn’t return them (for one thing, I hate returning purchases). With all their faults, they are better than nothing and I had a lot of shoes that were sans box and not a lot of space in the new closet. So I made do. The interior dividers are flimsy but that does take care of the pesky squish-factor for larger-than-flats pairs, you can just slip the tops of ankle boots under the divider. It now occurs to me that sheets of plastic canvas cut to fit the bottom and sides of the organizer, tacked with a few stitches along the edges, could provide the needed support.

I’ll let you know if that works.

The Ugly

Now, this last one is a bit controversial because I know a lot of people use it and some big names had promoted it as a very good solution to shoe clutter:

Clear plastic shoe boxes.

First, the good points: clear plastic means you can see the shoes inside and their uniform size means they will stack well on shelves.

Unfortunately, all I can see are the down sides.

Uniform size is not ideal for women’s shoes that can range from ballerina flats to ankle boots with varying heel heights. One size does not fit all.

Plastic doesn’t breathe. Getting uncomfortably real for a minute, here: feet sweat. In shoes all day an unpleasant odor can develop. Yes, there are sprays and powders and sachets and perfumes, but all a plastic container is going to do is lock all that inside until you open it again and, well, it’s not going to be pleasant. Not only that, the moisture that gets trapped in the box with the shoes (whether from sweat or rain) could damage the shoe’s materials.

    IF you choose to go this route, save those little packages of desiccants that come with new shoes, purses and other goods of this ilk. Those little packets will absorb any moisture in the plastic shoe boxes for quite some time (you can also find the material in bulk at the hardware store in the dehumidifiers section). Pieces of (clean!) panty hose filled with baking soda or activated charcoal and tied up tight can help alleviate odors.

    I prefer to save the plastic boxes of any sort for organizing my craft supplies.

    (Dis)Honorable Mention

    Hanging Shoe Organizer

    Hanging Shoe Organizer

    Hanging shoe organizers can be useful when you’ve got a bit of spare closet space but no ready shelf space, true. But a few caveats when looking at these for your shoe-organization salvation:

    • Look for canvas or mesh pockets over clear plastic–what you lose in a bit of visibility you’ll gain in breathablity.
    • The sturdier the hook, the better–especially when you’re holding 2 sides worth of shoes. A single hook may stretch out over time and you’ll find your shoes slipped out and scattered on the floor. Look for a double hook, a sturdy sleeve or reinforce that single hook with some extra bungee-cord support.
    • Load it carefully and only once it’s hanging up in the spot you intend for it to stay. These pouch-style organizers depend on gravity and balance to keep the shoes in place and when that’s tampered with the shoes tend to go flying. (As we experienced most recently during the move.)

    And if you have one of those stellar shoe closets you see in movies and model homes?

    I’m totally jealous.


    Next week we’ll be tackling how to walk in heels and revisiting closet issues in our search for a stylish and creative life.

    *Disclaimer: If you purchase anything from the links in this post or any other on the site I get a whopping $0.04 on the dollar (or something like that). Can’t blame a girl for trying!