When I was trying to decide what to pack for my first overseas trip I had a lot of difficulty deciding what footwear to take. Footwear is important for backpacking; it makes sense since your feet are your most regular means of transport. But there are so many different types of footwear for so many different situations – and your bag is only so big. So what footwear should you pack for your trip?
Most (If not all) seasoned backpackers will agree that the lighter you travel the happier your travels will be. Hence I recommend if at all possible that you don’t pack any footwear – you travel with what you wear on your feet. With one exception – jandals (flip-flops/sandals) – they’re versatile, lightweight and small so easily packed or strapped onto your backpack.
So you’re not packing any footwear in your backpack other than your jandals/sandals, but what should you wear on your feet? Although this will come down to personal preference and the type of travelling you intend to do there are some features worth looking for:
- Quick Drying
If you get wet you can stuff newspaper in them and prop them against your hostel wall and they’ll be dry in the morning.
If you switch to wearing your flip-flops they don’t add to much weight to your backpack.
- Dark coloured
You can pass them off under jeans as an acceptable dress standard in bars and restaurants.
This feature should go without needing to be said for all footwear, but it isn’t, so I’ve included it. Make sure the shoes you wear for backpacking are comfortable for all-day wear. You may well be wearing them all day every day!
These four features can be applied to hiking boots and hybrid hiking shoes if you intend on doing a lot of outdoor walks and hiking trails in the places you intend to travel to. Likewise these features are also applicable to more street styled shoes if your travels will mostly be in cities and urban areas.
Shoes for Backpacking – What have I worn?
So what shoes for backpacking have I worn on my travels, and what can you learn from my mistakes?
I purchased these running shoes in Banff because I wanted something to run in and go to the gym with while I was doing the winter ski season.
Being lightweight, quick drying and comfortable they make pretty good travel shoes but they certainly have their flaws. Firstly they’re ‘running shoes’ and you’ll look a little odd wearing them at restaurants or bars. But it’s not just the look, ideally for travel I’d go with something a little sturdier and more designed for walking.
Semi recommended, but you could find better.
These shoes have sure taken a battering. Sometimes your favourite shoes which you wear all the time at home are actually your best choice for travel too. If they’re comfortable and you’re use to wearing them all day that says a hell of a lot.
I certainly find these comfortable and I’m use to wearing them with jeans to bars (if not ideal for restaurants) however they’re not quick drying when they get wet and somewhat in-between on the lightness scale as shoes go.
Semi recommended, I’d travel with these but from the state they’re in I’d say they haven’t got much life left…
I purchased these heavy duty boots in Montreal in anticipation of hitch hiking across Canada. I picked them up cheap at a second hand store. They featured fully leather exterior, Gore-Tex lining for waterproofing and a steel toe cap. They’re bad-ass looking and super heavy.
Being waterproof and warm these would have proved useful if I got stuck out in the rain and cold, however as it happened I was pretty lucky with rides once I got started. I ended up spending most of my time with very hot sweaty feet, gross. The bulk and lack of air-flow made these uncomfortable for car travel and their weight made them pretty impractical for most other forms of backpacking.
I recommend you avoid heavy duty boots.
These cheap leather (probably fake) dress shoes are rubbish. They’re not comfortable, not quick drying and they tend to give me blisters if I wear them for long. I plan on never wearing these things again, my last choice for travel.
Not recommended, they’re the worst shoes ever!
An alternative to the jandal for women. You be the judge, be sensible, but I still think the jandal (sandal/flip-flop) is the best for both sexes.
Personally, I wouldn’t recommend for travel.
Yes the almighty jandal, winner of all travel shoe classes and an absolutely must have travel item.
Aka the flip-flop, the sandal, the thong and more.
Must have footwear for backpacking and the only footwear I recommend you pack in your backpack.
These are probably the most practical shoes for backpacking I’ve owned. I picked them up in a sports store in Brussels and found them useful for backpacking throughout Europe and the United States in varied terrain from New York City to Iceland.
They were lightweight, dark coloured, quick drying and comfortable. From purchase through to the time I ditched them in Halifax they served me well. I actually replaced them with the boots shown above because I thought I would need something warmer and more waterproof for hitch hiking in Canada with the onset of winter – in hindsight this was a mistake.
Essentially they were low cut, light weight hiking boots with an inconspicuous appearance so that they didn’t look too odd when wearing normal clothes in city environments.
Meet all criteria, highly recommended shoes for backpacking.
My recommended shoes for backpacking are one pair on your feet and a pair of jandals (sandals) strapped to your backpack. Travel light, travel happy.
Your favourite shoes at home will likely be a good choice to take travelling, but if you must buy something new for your trip buy something lightweight, dark coloured, quick drying and most importantly comfortable. A good place to start looking is normally an outdoor adventure or sports store.