Do you want happy feet while traversing this vast planet of ours?
The travel shoes you choose for your first trip abroad are more important than you’d think. You may not realise it now, but having the right footwear can either make or break your backpacking experience.
Nobody wants to ruin their trip by getting massive blisters, which are gross, painful and can mean you have to miss out on awesome activities because your feet are killing you. Same as you don’t want to have the wrong shoes or shoes that are not appropriate for the destination you are travelling to.
This guide – part of our Backpacking 101 series – will help you make the tough decisions about which are the best shoes for travel and get it right first time around.
What should I consider when shopping for travel shoes?
Where are you going?
Is it going to be hot, cold, dusty, muddy, sandy, snowy, rocky?
This is something really vital to consider as many travel shoes are designed to cater to certain terrains. You don’t want to be stuck with only a pair of flip flops in Europe during the winter, same as you don’t want just your favourite military boots or hiking boots if you’ll be hanging out on the beach in South East Asia.
Do some research into the expected climate for your stay and what the landscape is like, to help you choose the best travel shoes to take.
What are you going to do?
Will you be spending your days wandering around museums and art galleries or trekking out into the wilderness? Lazing by the pool or visiting ancient temples? The plans you make for what you’re going to do are also important to consider.
With that said, here we will break down the different “types” of backpacker and what shoes they require. Choose which one suits your style of travelling best.
Is getting lost in the wilderness your perfect getaway?
You’re gonna need hiking boots
How do I choose hiking shoes?
Hiking boots are designed to give stability, comfort, ankle and arch support, and be durable enough to last walking long distances on rough terrain. Unlike trainers, hiking footwear has thicker soles, additional support, and can often come in waterproof options.
What are the best hiking boots?
Some of the more popular brands with travellers include Keen, Colombia and Salomon. We personally love Merrell, but choosing a hiking boot has to be about what you love. You need to make sure they’re comfortable, affordable, durable and did we mention comfortable? Prices of different brands can vary greatly, but if you make the right choice first time around these shoes will be around for many more backpacking trips.
Here are some of the most popular hiking shoes for travellers:
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Do you enjoy getting lost exploring rural villages and traditional markets?
Or maybe strolling around art galleries and museums?
Then you will need a good pair of walking shoes or trainers/sneakers.
Walking shoes are still comfortable, supportive shoes but they are a lightweight option. The sole is not as thick meaning they are not really designed for hard rocky terrain as with the hiking boots. But they are a fantastic all day option that you can wear practically anywhere.
What are the best walking shoes for travelling?
Brands and prices vary greatly and it can be very much a matter of “you get what you pay for”.
Picking up some cheapie trainers might seem like a good idea, but they may not be comfortable to wear all day nor will they last as long. Once again, the leaders of the hiking boots are the favourites with walking shoes or trainers. Merrell & Keen are sure favourites with Salomon being aimed more for the running enthusiasts.
The latest rage is five finger Vibram shoes. These are a barefoot “back to basics” shoe promoting a “healthy alternative to traditional footwear”.
A good pair of walking shoes is great to pack as they suit all styles of backpacking, certainly a worthwhile investment for a new traveller.
Here are a few walking shoes preferred by world travellers:
Lems Shoes Men’s – barefoot shoes that are also completely vegan. Available in women’s sizes as well – we love our Lems.
Here are a few more popular choices:
Do you like taking long walks on the beach, visiting ancient temples, perhaps island hopping in the sun?
Then it’s sandals or flip flops for you.
I know the island hopping, beach scenario makes sense, but you might be wondering why a pair of sandals or flipflops would be needed for temples? “Surely a good pair of trainers would be ideal?”
While trainers usually offer a greater amount of support if you are walking around all day on tour, in this case, they are just not ideal. Did you know that many temples require you to remove your shoes before you enter? This is customary and strictly enforced in many tourist sites.
After spending a day visiting a few temples, trust me, you’ll be tired constantly of taking off and putting your trainers back on. Also, a nice pricey pair of trainers left outside can sometimes attract shoe thieves. This is why flip flops or sandals are ideal, slip them on and off with ease all day long.
With choosing the best sandals or flip flops comfort is what you are looking for. Also, take into consideration the amount of grip on the sole. A shoe without grip can become very slippery when wet, and slipping over, especially on stairs while wearing a 13kg backpack, is not fun and very ouchie! Yes, I learned the hard, and very bruised way….buy good sandals!
What are the best sandals or flipflops for travel?
The favourite brands by travellers might actually surprise you. But we all love them because they are durable, comfortable and supportive.
Crocs – yes that’s right those hideous things that make you a social pariah just by wearing them. Crocs actually tick all of the boxes that were just previously mentioned. Luckily they have realised that the clunky clog design isn’t for anyone under the age of 40. They now have some new pretty funky designs.
Reef has been a classic favourite for many years. Once again Merrell and Keen make the top list – they just make really awesome shoes!
Naturally, you can pack just any old flipflop you have lying around at home but ask yourself first, are they durable? Trust me – You don’t want to be walking the dirty food markets of Asia, through all the old fish guts and animal leftovers with one shoe cause you’ve had a blowout!
Also, can you wear them all day without getting blisters? Usually, we don’t wear flipflops in everyday life long enough to find this out. The extended walking you will do while backpacking will put them to the test. Flipflop blisters suck bad!
Here’s a selection of favourites to consider:
Do you like to do your part for the community?
Help others through your travels?
Have you heard about TOMS?
TOMS shoes and accessories are an organisation that works on the foundation that for every pair of shoes sold TOMS helps out a person in need.
When TOMS sells a pair of their eco-friendly shoes, a pair of shoes is given to an impoverished child. They also make sure to continue to supply shoes to that child as they grow. Same as when Toms sells a pair of eyewear – sunglasses etc. part of the profit is used to save or restore the eyesight of people in developing countries.
Not only do they help people in need, but the shoes are funky and versatile. There are plenty of options and patterns for all backpacking shoe requirements.
Click For more information on TOMS and their partners.
Here are some of their best styles to choose from:
Hopefully, this article has given you an insight into the different shoes for backpacking you may require during your trip abroad. Our aim is to introduce you to some of the best backpacking shoe brands to give you a head start and have you choosing the right shoe for you, first time around. If you liked our list can you do us a favour? Share this post.
If you haven’t already selected a backpack for your trip, take a look at our complete guide (with quick quiz) for choosing the right backpack for you.
If you have any other questions please feel free to ask us in the comments below or even drop into your local adventure store and talk to a travel shoe specialist.
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Disclaimer: We are NOT sponsored by any of the above companies to promote their products, though we did receive a free pair of Lems shoes to test them – they are awesome. We do receive a small commission from Amazon for any purchases made using our links. We also get a commission from world nomads insurance but they are our preferred insurance service. Opinions are our own and recommendations should be taken at your own risk.