What is the best all purpose shoe for a 3 month backpacking trip?
August 18, 2006 1:20 PM   Subscribe

What is the best all purpose shoe for a 3 month backpacking trip?

I am traveling to South East Asia for about 3 months and i am trying to find the best shoe for around 100$ (flexible). I have spent some time looking through backpackgeartest.org as well as trailspace.com. Unfortunately most reviews are focused on back country hiking or trail running, and the number of options is daunting. I will be doing alot of walking in environments that are hot, sometimes wet, sometimes dusty, and full of bugs. I will be bringing a pair of teva's for the beach and such, so i'm not looking for a water shoe. Please help me find the right shoe, any help is appreciated.
posted by Merik to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Doctor Martens
Doctor Martens
Doctor Martens

I have travelled many diverse places in my 10-hole docs, and they rock.
posted by goo at 1:27 PM on August 18, 2006

Buy a pair of sandals when you get there.

There's an entire 'shoe quarter' in Ha Noi that stocks every shoe you can imagine.
posted by the cuban at 1:29 PM on August 18, 2006

I've always had a painful time breaking in Doc Martens. Maybe try something like this?
posted by thirteenkiller at 1:41 PM on August 18, 2006

Or this if you want something a little less shoey.
posted by thirteenkiller at 1:43 PM on August 18, 2006

I had a pair of Vasques that were great for traveling. They were on piece leather with a GoreTex liner, so, they were totally water proof as long as you didn't go above the cuff. They were also pretty plain looking brown leather, so, if you were wearing pants that coverup the high top part, they were perfect for wearing to nicer restuarants and the like. These boots hiked about half the Appalachian Trail, countless destinations in Utah, worked on mountain at a ski resort, and got me all over Europe for a few weeks. After 8 years I am finally retiring them and I'm going to buy a new pair. Here is a link.
posted by trbrts at 1:43 PM on August 18, 2006

I got a pair of boots by a company called Vasque which I wore every day (my only shoes) for 2 months of backpacking throuhg Ireland. They took about 3 weeks to really break them in, so get them before you go. They cost me $160 at an Outdoor World store. I thought they were fantastic! It has been 3 months since I got back from that trip, and I still wear them every day.

On preview, I think I had the exact same pair as trbrts.
posted by LoopyG at 2:00 PM on August 18, 2006

I've always had a painful time breaking in Doc Martens.

Yeah, they do take a few weeks to break in. But I've had three pairs of 10-holes in 16 years, and they are super for all sorts of environments, including Asia (my docs have seen Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, India, the Phiillipines and Myanmar and survived).
posted by goo at 2:02 PM on August 18, 2006

Yeah, those Vasque Sundowners are sort of the standard answer for this kind of stuff - at least they were a couple of years ago when I did more backpacking. They may be a tiny bit hot for warm weather street walking, but probably worth it for the support, comfort, etc.
posted by rossination at 2:06 PM on August 18, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the great responses so far, keep them coming.

the Dr. Martens look durable, but what about ventialation?

the Cuban:
Good tip, i think i will get some sandals when i get there; unfortunately im not going to be in hanoi until half way through the trip ( i start in Bangkok) . Ill definitely seek that market out though.

Those columbia shoes look like they might be a good match, though from my reading about shoe/sandal hybrids, they tend to catch dirt and pebbles in the shoe. (rock goes in easy but doesnt come out easy) I was all excited about Keen's hybrids until i read alot of complaints about trapped dirt.

trbrts, LoopyG (and goo):
The vasques seem like they would good, but will they be hot and sweaty? The weather is going to be pretty hot, so ventilation is a necessity. Did ya'll ever have sweaty feet problems?

Again, thanks for the comments, keep them coming.
posted by Merik at 2:11 PM on August 18, 2006

I'm really fond of my Merrell hiking shoes. They're comfy, and I've been wearing them for about 2.5 years now. They were comfy from the start, and if there was a breaking in period, I didn't notice it.

This was the first page of them Google gave me.

Mine are like the Pulse II Smoke variety, but whatever suits you is surely best for you.
posted by SlyBevel at 2:15 PM on August 18, 2006

Vasque sundowners are superb, but in this case not climate appropriate and a bit heavy. Instead of waterproofness, which we all appreciate in variable climates, the better choice in the hot tropics is to seek ventilation and drainage. I'd leave my beloved gore-tex sundowners at home. I sometimes take them to the desert, but I'd never take them anywhere that was both very hot and very wet. In most of the U.S, for most of the year, hot and wet take turns.

Instead I'd take the Bates 924, which are shockingly light (lighter than my 29oz Chaco sandals), provide ankle support, and have that cool lace-up feature mentioned here. They drain. You can run in them.

Did I mention they're light? You'll be amazed. And the lacing feature menioned in the link is really cool--you pull, they tighten evenly across the whole boot, and it feels good. No break-in period. Durable and they do not hold odor.

With a pair of smartwool socks (they make thin ones, but wool is amazing for feet in all weather), you can wear them in 100 degrees, through swamps, carrying a pack, and be happy and blister-free.

The only downside is they look a bit military--as backpackers often discover, some countries in that region don't necessarily love to see military gear on tourists. As long as you don't waar any camouflage clothing with them---and cammies should be left at home anyway-- you'll be fine.

I helped paint a house in mine and the inevitable dribbles of paint go a long way towards making them less threatening.
posted by Phred182 at 2:25 PM on August 18, 2006

From my hiking boyfriend:

depends on how much weight they will be carrying and the terrain.
posted by k8t at 2:40 PM on August 18, 2006

DO NOT wear Tevas. You will look like a total dork. Wear flip flops. I wore them the entire time I was out in that part of the world and did just fine.

If you must buy shoes, though, I recommend Keens.
posted by redteam at 2:46 PM on August 18, 2006

I love my Garmont shoes, and wore them every day for weeks when I was down in Mississioppi and Alabama after Katrina.

They needed no breaking in at all, and were just fine on both hot days and cool nights.
posted by dersins at 3:04 PM on August 18, 2006

I disagree with the Vasque recommendation. I have a pair I wore in a hot, humid climate. It was awful. Sticky, tight, uncomfortable. Blistered continued to form for weeks.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:08 PM on August 18, 2006

You know, I love my Keen's. But...

I did an 18 day trip last month and there was a lot of walking on city streets. I was photographing the Gay Games in Chicago and was *all* over the city. Then out to Vegas and all up and down the strip. But even so. I don't think that I should have holes in my soles now. Granted, I was wearing a pair of Bronx, but still. They are less than a year old and for $100 shoes... come on.
posted by FlamingBore at 3:08 PM on August 18, 2006

Merik, not an issue, if you wear good woollen or cotton socks. Doc Martens also make brilliant sandals (I've had two different pairs now with no complaints) if you would prefer those. For bushwalking in the jungle, though, I recommend the boots. (Snakes! On the motherfucking path!).
posted by goo at 3:16 PM on August 18, 2006

Best answer: I just came back from two months backpacking around Southeast Asia. I had a pair of the Merrell ventilators and a pair of Keen Venice H2s.

Seven weeks and three days into the trip, I realized I had automatically chosen to wear the Keens every single day and forced myself to wear the Merrells one day just for the principle of it. (The Merrells are still great shoes, but not as good as the Keens for hot weather, especially where it frequently gets wet.)

I know you said you have Tevas, but the Keens are way better than Tevas, because your toes are protected. The Keens have much better arch support than Tevas also. They didn't need any break-in period either- no blisters or chafing, even when they got wet.

I rarely had problems with trapped dirt, and if I were going back to southeast asia now, I'd take the Keens and leave the Merrells at home altogether. My travelling companion often had to deal with shoes that once they got wet, stayed wet for a while, and wet leather in hot climate = powerful stink. I had no such problems with the Keens.
posted by ambrosia at 3:54 PM on August 18, 2006

Best answer: I recommend low-cut hiking boots in the trail runner category. Comfortable like a sneaker, not as heavy as a full boot, but suitable for hiking outside the city. As for brands, try a bunch on and go with the ones that seem most comfortable for you. I llike Merell and have a pair that handled several months of backpacking in NZ, Australia and Asia.
posted by justkevin at 6:33 PM on August 18, 2006

I think justkevin is right. You want a boot that can basically handle hiking, given how much you're going to be walking, but that's going to be light and breathable. Doc Martens just don't give you the kind of support and cushioning you'll need, I don't think. And they won't be good in the wet. Get yourself some light, low-cut trail runners/hiking boots.
posted by Dasein at 7:11 PM on August 18, 2006

DO NOT wear Tevas. You will look like a total dork.

You'll be just fine in Tevas, and won't look dorky in the slightest.

And to answer the original question: lightweight sneakers/trainers designed for trail use are your best bet. I use New Balance 809s.
posted by rjt at 7:55 PM on August 18, 2006

I'll second rjt's sentiment. Get a good pair of trail-oriented trainers: light, great ventilation, quick drying, durable (enough), cheap.
posted by cog_nate at 8:29 PM on August 18, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks again for all the comments. This is has been tremendously helpful. Please continue to post ideas. I will post again to let you all know what shoes i end up getting.
posted by Merik at 1:59 AM on August 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

I wore a pair of Crocs in SE Asia for a few weeks last winter; they were champs (and super light / pretty cheap, to boot).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:48 AM on August 19, 2006

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