Questions & Answers

Shoes and hiking boots for Africa


I am heading to southern Africa in March/April/May 2012 and need some recommendations for shoes and boots.

First, I need a good all-purpose walking shoe, something that doesn't look too flashy or sporty.

Second, I need a good pair of hiking boots, for all kinds of terrain on walking safaris.

Anything anyone can recommend?

Thanks! Andrew


Answers and Replies


For non-sporty, non-flashy minimalist shoes that are good for walking you might want to check out VIVOBAREFOOT, Kigo, and Russell Moccasin.

For hiking... what are your requirements? Many of us get along just fine in very rugged conditions with a pair of minimalist trail runners. Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove, New Balance Minimus Trail, VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trail, Inov-8... (to name a few) all can work well. If you want something leather, then again Russell Moccasin might be a good bet.

If you can give me more specifics, I would be happy to help narrow things down for you.


The VIVO shoes are about the style/use I am looking for in a walking shoe, anything similar that are cheaper?

As far as the hiking shoe, I think I will need a boot. I currently use a trail runner but these will be used mainly off-trail.

Anyone know of any good stores in the San Francisco bay area for barefoot walking/hiking boots? I am going to be there in October (I live in Canada and can't find anything in my city).


When it comes to general-purpose casual shoes, VIVOBAREFOOT has got the most to choose from. You could also look at Soft Star and OeTZI3300. For the most part, all other brands are going to be sporty.

For an over-the ankle minimalist boot, the only two you have to pick from are VIVOBAREFOOT and Russell Moccasin.


Why do you need a boot? I hiked all 2663 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail wearing nothing more rugged than trail running shoes. Since then, I've hiked several hundred more miles wearing Chaco sandals. I've hiked over snow, in freezing rain and falling snow, on the John Muir Trail and in the desert and for as much as 30 miles in a single day. All of this has been wilderness backpacking with a pack on. Lately I've done a lot of dayhiking in huaraches, my longest day being 14 miles in a pair of Luna Pacer-like huaraches and my most difficult hiking being primitive trail in chaparral (which is thorny, spiny stuff.)

I can't imagine any conditions where you actually need a real boot except if you are going to need to wear crampons.


I think I will stick to a shoe, and get a pair of gaiters if I need the extra protection. Not quite ambitious enough to try out the huaraches.

I really like the look of the minimalist Russel Moccasins, but they are quite pricey. I also would like something that would dry quickly.

I found a Merrell store near where I will be in San Francisco in October. Can anyone recommend any of the "glove" shoes?


The Trail Gloves are alright. I actually prefer the NB Minimus trail over the Merrells, I just find them more comfortable. Alternatively, I also think the Altra Instinct makes a great trail shoe with a little more protection under foot (and an amazing toebox) if you need that.


acd333 - you might want to check out They have good prices on the VIVOBAREFOOT line and until Oct. 11, they have a $20 off promotion. For instance, you can get the NEO Trail for $129.95 and $20 off for $109.95. Still not cheap, but better than $130.



Quite an important question, where exactly are you visiting? Southern Africa is a surprisingly big place. Contrary to popular belief there are not elephants walking down the main road or lions outside the local mall (LOL)

Your biggest consideration is probably going to be heat. March especially can still be hot and sticky.

W.R.T hiking boots, the whole protection issue comes in big time. Look for soles that are thorn resistant. As an example of what you are up against, google 'Emex australis'


I plan to start in Cape Town, head up the coast towards Port Elizabeth, do some trekking in Lesotho, go on some safaris in Kruger and Pilansberg, head up into Botswana, into the Kalahari and then into Zimbabwe, then up to Victoria Falls and the Chobe region. Everything still subject to change :).

I was thinking of getting a pair of mesh minimal runners or trail shoes (maybe the MT101) paired with some gaiters for when I am in areas that I need them.

On a side note, on my trip to San Francisco last week I picked up a pair of Merrel Tough Glove's. They make for a really nice minimal shoe that passes as a dress shoe if need be.

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