Best Versatile Shoes for Backpacking

Shoes are one thing that take up a lot of unnecessary space in your backpack. It can be very hard to find shoes that fit the huge array of activities, temperatures and occasions covered in any one trip, let alone long-term travel. For me it is about doing away with shoes that only fit one purpose and investing in some versatile shoes for backpacking.

Now, I don't consider myself to be a fashion guru but I do like to find a balance between comfort, practicality and not looking like an 80-year-old or a hiking enthusiast going for a walk in the city. A travel shoe must be able to walked in all day, light, durable, washable and at least a little bit cool.

For long-term travel we plan to only take 40L backpacks so shoe choice is pretty important. My plan is a pair of waterproof sandals, sports shoes and comfortable flats for day and night wear. I'll probably throw a pair of flip-flops in the van too.

SKECHERS GO WALK

Pros

  • Supportive. Something I used to scoff at when my mother told me it was important. Just the 4687th time my Mum knew best.
  • Washable
  • Comfortable, and I'm talking 'walk around alllllll day without the slightest problem' kind of comfortable.
  • Super lightweight
  • Covered
  • Durable. I wore mine all over South East Asia for a few months and then on and off for the next couple of years and they're still going strong.

Cons

  • Smell. The material isn't so breathable so after a day walking around they start to smell but you can always throw them in the washing machine.
  • Heat. I have them in black and the material is similar to a wetsuit so they can get quite hot in the height of summer.

TEVA SANDALS

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable. Mine are a new purchase but they took no wearing in and are some of the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn.
  • Can be worn in the water. This was important as I wanted something I could wear for activities like going through caves or bush walks.
  • Simple and can be worn with anything.
  • Huge variety of colours and styles. I went for plain black and white.

Cons

  • Not very fashionable. They look a little bit adventure-traveller for my usual tastes but I'm willing to adopt that look for the comfort and versatility.
  • I'm worried that the velcro might wear out after wearing them long-term.

BIRKENSTOCKS

Pros

  • Comfortable and breathable
  • Sturdy and provide more support than flip-flops
  • These are very fashionable at the moment so you can wear them around cities without standing out as a tourist.
  • Slip on and off so they are great for camping and beaches.

Cons

  • Heavier and more rigid than some of the other shoes mentioned here which makes them harder for minimalist packing.
  • Made from leather so they aren't very good at getting wet.

ECCO SANDALS

Pros

  • Look nicer than normal travel sandals
  • Comfortable and supportive

Cons

  • Made of leather so they aren't great for getting wet
  • They are quite covered so they can get hot and sweaty
  • As a result they get smelly and it's hard to clean leather shoes!
  • Ecco is quite expensive.

HAVAIANA FLIP FLOPS

I can't believe I've started referring to these as flip flops! (In NZ we say jandals.) But whatever they're called you can't travel to hot places without them. Perfect for beachwear and anything involving water including showering. I've owned 2 pairs of Havaiana's in my life and both have lasted a good few years of constant wear. They are extremely comfortable, good quality and come in a huge range of colours and patterns.

CONVERSE

Surely this one is self-explanatory! Doesn't everyone own a pair? The perfect all-weather (except rain), all occasion, all colours, trendy looking shoe.

NIKE RUNNING SHOES

Pros

  • Great for all active endeavours but also fine for walking around cities. I like to pretend I'll go running while we're travelling.
  • Incredibly light and flexible.
  • Range of styles and colours
  • Can be fashionable when paired with an active looking outfit.

Cons

  • Can be unfashionable when worn with jeans or dresses.
  • Can get hot it summer.

I've never tried these but I would love to and have heard good things.

ALL BIRDS MERINO WOOL SHOES

A New Zealand company making shoes from what we have in abundance- sheep's wool. I'm really tempted to invest in a pair of these as my Nikes are getting a bit old. These look insanely comfortable and I have a thing for merino wool  Unfortunately they only ship to the USA and New Zealand.

TOMS

Basic, comfortable and colourful. I haven't owned a pair of these before but as I was researching this article I saw their entire range. They also offer more sophisticated looking flats in a range of colours. Plus for every pair sold TOMS donate a pair to a child in need.

ROTHY'S

Made from recycled plastic, they look comfortable, light and easy to wash. They would be perfect for walking around all day but also going to a restaurant in the evening. However, they are really expensive and only ship to the USA so I don't think I'll be getting them any time soon. Let me know if you've tried them!

So there's my picks for some great versatile shoes for backpacking. I will update this about some of my new purchases when we get on the road!

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