Camping Footwear: an Introduction

Torn Up Shoe by Johan Borg

What should I wear on my feet when I go camping?

Well, it depends on what activities you’re going to be involved in while you’re there.

If you’re looking for minimalist: hiking boots.

If you’re willing to carry a little more for comfort and adaptability: hiking boots and sandals.

If you plan to do a lot of hiking in water or swimming/wading/fishing: hiking boots, sandals and water shoes.

Why do I need 3 pairs of shoes just to go camping?!? Talk about overkill!

Now, this isn’t just because I’m female, but it is because I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors. You are, hopefully, trying to get the most out of both your experience and your money.

If you want the boots to last, you can’t keep hiking in or through streams in them.

If you want your sandals to last, you can’t keep hiking in them often.

If you want your water shoes to last, and your toes to survive, you can’t hike in them at all out of the water.

But why?????

‘Cause no style of shoe is built to survive heavy it was never designed for, that’s why.

Sure, they’ll work for short stints, and if you take care of them well and use the right chemicals on them and patch them as soon as anything goes wrong, they’ll last a little longer. Maybe even enough to make you ignore the information I’m sharing. Fine. It’s your choice. But when your $30-130 boots break down in just 2 short years, don’t come yelling at me.

Even hiking sandals aren’t meant to take the wear and tear of long hikes consistently. Look at the design: every time you need to adjust your balance suddenly you are stressing the straps. Since there’s no additional fabric supporting the straps, they break down faster. Many hiking sandals don’t have covers over the toes so you can get anything stuck in there, pulling the material away from itself and stressing the front connections – not to mention hurting your feet.

Now, there are a ton of different types of shoes out there, but to limit it to just camping, whether short or long term, or living the life, I’m going to talk about these 3.


Hiking Boots

Type 1 seems like a no-brainer, right? But, oh, the number of people who don’t use them. If you’ve

If you’ve Hiker by Zsuzsa N.K.got your shoes that you always camp in and they work great for you: GREAT! That’s fantastic, please share in the comments what they are so others can try them too.

However, if you’re new or just looking for better support, look into getting a good pair of hiking boots.

They need to fit, be comfortable for extended time periods, and hug both the top of your foot and your ankle.


I don’t know why it became popular to not tie your shoes (actually I do, and that’s a much different conversation that includes cultural appropriation and class divisions, so I’m still not talking about it here); but I do know that you can break an ankle or two, or worse sprain them, if you buy a great pair of boots then use them improperly.

Why’d you spend the money, just to ignore the point of the purchase?

So, you know to tie them and, hopefully, you’ve experimented a bit and found the best way of tying them to ensure they don’t slip and the laces don’t drag. Feel free to get a little creative here, just don’t wrap them around your ankles – wrap them around the boot itself (and preferably not more than once).

Whether they are low-cut or high is a matter of personal preference, but high-cut boots are safer and more secure. However, if you’re like me and your thyroid is ‘different’ and you can’t stand the feeling of anything on your neck, wrists and ankles, bare with me here and look at sturdy but low-cut boots. They do exist, you just need to try on a lot of boots before you find the ones that you don’t want to kick off your feet immediately.

Also, tread is important as well. Just like with vehicles tires, you want a good tread that will support your activities and stop you from slipping.

The season you camp the most will also affect the type of boot you want. If it’s rainy, you’ll want a waterproof boot. If it’s cold you’ll want one that’s insulated. If it’s always bright and warm, you’ll want a lighter material that breathes better while still providing support.

As I talk about long term camping, the boot I’m going to use as my example today is this one:

As you can see, it’s a high-cut, so it’s not one I’ve worn personally; but it is a company I like a lot and one whose quality is usually high.

It’s an insulated boot, waterproof, and so is meant for mid-fall to mid-spring.

I’m using this boot as the example because you can see the high-cut, as well as the control you have over how tight your laces are over each part of your foot. Also, you can see a hint of the tread on the bottom, and the cushion at the top.

When buying boots, most people want to go a little bigger than they normally wear, to allow for thicker socks, inserts, and even heating patches.

Regarding men’s versus women’s: go with what is comfortable and will work for you. I usually buy women’s dress shoes (usually), but men’s boots for winter or hiking, and generic sneakers or sandals when I can afford to purchase a casual shoe.

Try on every variety of boot until you find the one you can walk around the store in, forwards and backwards, sitting down and getting back up (a struggle for some of us), and the one that’s going to fit the shape of your foot – not the other way around.

If you’re going to be camping and hiking with just one pair of shoes, you need to especially make sure they are of a high quality, and definitely able to fit and support you long term.



So, you may be asking yourself, if I’ve got kick-awesome boots, why do I need sandals?

Actually… you don’t.

However, if you don’t want to deal with getting your boots on and off on the days you aren’t hiking, or if you are like me and hate wearing your boots in the tent (it’s much easier for the tread to catch and drag both tent floors and tarps), you want a pair of sandals to use when staying near your campsite.

So, sandals, eh? Aye, sandals.

Again, go for comfort and what fits you physically, as well as what you need the shoe to be able to do.

If I didn’t know the eventual fate of my poor long-discarded favorite sandals, I would swear these were it:

A Long Journey by Katherine Ruppert

Before I owned boots to go with all the walking/hiking I was doing, before I knew why I couldn’t stand strappy sandals; but not before I started spending a huge amount of time living out of a tent, I lived in these.

I could, really. I was a lifeguard, my classes didn’t care what I wore on my feet as long as I didn’t smoke (never have, actually), and the fanciest place I worried about going was to charitable organization meetings where I was so much younger than everyone there they just thought it was a new “style” of being popular (it wasn’t). 

I don’t remember how long I had my sandals, but it was at least 6 years before the bottom of one started to break down. I wore them with a hole in one shoe for another 3 years or more, just never stepping that heal down. ….I miss those shoes. And you certainly can’t find them like this now.

Anyway: sandals!

Going against my nostalgic wandering above – get sandals with straps. just like high-cut boots, straps make the sandal stronger, and provide more support and safety while walking/climbing/etc.

If you’re just looking for a pair to wear “around the house” such as it is, almost anything will do really.

If you’re planning on doing some light hiking in them, get straps and toe covers. Your feet may not be able to thank you, but the future podiatrist you won’t be paying theoretically could.

An example of such are: Shoes by WokandapixNow, don’t start whining that they look like boots. Of course they look like boots. They are meant to make sure that you don’t hurt yourself, then hurt yourself even more as you finish falling over. (does anyone else have trouble not falling out of their shoes, or is it just me?)

Really, all that material is a good thing.

Also, you can adjust the tightness along parts of the top of the sandal to allow for better grip and fit, and, again, the toe covering helps keep your digits whole and healthy.

Okay, I hope this section has convinced you to be safe about your activities, and to plan for transitioning between them. So, moving on.


Water Shoes

Water shoes are weird, yet wonderful. The strange combination of the material strength of boots, and the breathability and manoeuvrability of sandals. And they can feel sort of strange, too.

If you’re going to be swimming or wading or jumping in puddles or fishing very close to the water, water shoes will save your boots, your sandals, and your feet from the wear and tear of the lovely liquid that keeps us all alive.


For added spice, here is an example of one that actually has a pretty good design for both grip and protection:


While it does look strange, this type of water shoe is said to provide more grip and stability through the division of the toes in the design.

I’ve never tried them myself (my sandals do me just fine, and yes I know I’m a hypocrit here), but I’ve met many people who swear by them.




Well, now, that was a bit of a journey, wasn’t it?

Are there any particular styles you like?

Are you camping light and only going for the hiking boots, or do you think your activities are the type better meant to include all 3?

Let me know in the comments and, however you camp, try to keep your shoes better than my top image!

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Again, just to remind you, the links may be affiliate programs; but you don’t pay extra for it!


I'm (now) an Affiliate, who blogs about the materials, gear and supplies needed for living in a tent and long term camping: http://longtermcamping.siterubix.com I also enjoy reading and sci-fi in all its many forms.


  1. Thank you for sharing this information. Footwear is important when you are out on a trip in nature. This is what I’m looking for!

    Thank you once again!

    All the best,


    • Hello Nam,

      Yes, it can make such a huge difference in the level of enjoyment someone can get from their trip, whether short or long.

      I’m glad I was able to help you out!

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