Knowing what the best shoes are to wear on your African safari is one of the most important aspects of your trip.
Have you ever gone away for a vacation only to arrive and discover that you haven’t thought carefully enough about some things that will be crucial to your overall experience? Making sure that you have taken the time to prepare properly will definitely mean a whole lot to ensure that you have a terrific time.
Packing for any holiday or getaway is a challenge. You don’t want to forget anything behind that you might have to either purchase when you arrive at your destination or simply do without which could be an uncomfortable position to be in.
Your shoes are going to quite likely be the most important part of your clothing gear that you want to give extra thought to. If you need to spend some money on clothing and you’re watching your budget, make sure that you put aside the first few dollars for the correct footwear.
Are Shoes Really That Important?
Yes, they most definitely are. A lot of people don’t realize that they won’t only be sitting in a jeep being driven through the rugged terrain while they sit comfortably in the back taking snaps of the wildlife and other scenery.
There will be opportunities for walking and getting out of the vehicle as well. You want to be sure that your feet have the necessary comfort and protection. There honestly is very little that can make an adventure turn out horribly if you don’t have the right footwear.
Usually when we buy shoes we are immediately attracted to the style aspect. I don’t know about you but when I buy shoes I always try on the pair that looks the nicest. Only then do I actually think about whether or not they will be practical or sensible to serve the purpose that I need them for.
Not so when going on a safari. Style must certainly take the back seat. Your primary and only objective should be the importance of getting shoes that are going to be comfortable and protect your feet from bugs and let’s not forget sunburn.
I’ve mentioned comfort and protection but let’s not forget about the element of safety as well. There may be times when you will have the opportunity to scale a few hills or climb on some rocks.
You want boots that are going to steady you and grip the surface. I’ve seen some horrible slides down rocky surfaces that have left cuts and grazings all because the footwear did not have a decent sole.
How Many Pairs Should You Take With You?
I recommend no more than three pairs. Shoes take up quite a bit of packing space anyway as they are bulky. Even though you’ll probably have one of them one your feet at the time of travel to your destination you’ll still have to make room in your bag for the other pairs.
At the very least make sure that you have two pairs with you for different occasions as well as just being the sensible thing to do.
Shoes For Taking A Hike! – Or A Walk 🙂
When visiting Africa you’ll most likely be doing a quite a bit of walking. There are a few reasons why the correct walking shoes are important:
- You’ll be in the bush. There aren’t lush grasslands that you’ll be skipping through. The grasses in Africa are rough and scratchy. It’s surprising how easily your feet can get a real beating if exposed to this landscape so you don’t want to be on a day trip with open sandals or floppies.
- As unpleasant as this may be and I don’t want to put you off in any way, but there are snakes, scorpions, and spiders that inhabit this kind of terrain. They see feet and think, “Yum!”
- Tall hiking boots are not necessary and they are downright uncomfortable I find. Especially in the Summer months. This style might give you added protection if you are really concerned about the creatures getting at your ankles and shins but as I’ve mentioned, they might not be ideal to wear in hot weather.For me, the ideal hiking boot is a low-height hybrid hiking shoe.
- Our feet sweat. That sounds less than glamorous but you’re now in the African bush so let’s forget the glamour at home. Get yourself shoes that are waterproof and breathable. You do get hiking shoes that have a special waterproof breathable membrane that facilitates dryness. A boot like the Keen range is a great buy.
What About The Other Pair/s That You Bring Along?
Relaxing after a day of fun in the sun is always made better by taking your shoes off. A lot of tourists or travelers prefer to camp whereas others (like myself) prefer to book in at the lodge. It’s a real treat to get into a shower at the end of a day and give my feet a good rinse and massage.
If you choose to do the camping thing then make sure that you have a pair of flip-flops to do your outdoor shower. These are more than likely communal showers and your feet will be grateful.
You also need to let your feet breathe so having a pair of sandals is very worthwhile. Make sure that you get a pair that has a decent thickness for the sole. There are lots of thorns and I’ve seen some ugly piercings and scratches done to feet. I think my first selection for a good sandal would be the high quality sandals from Merrell for men and women.
If you go for a pair of flip-flops I can suggest either Olli, Unisex Crocband Flip or Planet Flops. Not only are they super comfortable but they are so easy to rinse and they dry quickly.
A Bit More About Boots – What Features To Look For
By now I have already emphasized the importance of hiking boots so I want to talk a bit more about them. Each safari can be different. There are different kinds and knowing where you’ll be going and what you’ll be doing will help you make the right choice.
Will you be going on hikes? Is there any climbing involved? Perhaps it is a tracking chimpanzees and gorillas trip that you’re going on. There’s even the bird-watching variety for which you’ll need good boots.
The best safari boots should have thick and light soles with uppers that are supple and not going to squeeze the top of your feet. Here are a few considerations when looking for the right pair:
- Weight – the lighter the boot, the easier it will be to walk. At the same time you don’t want something so lightweight that it compromises the support that it should give to your arch. You also want something that is going to offer longitudinal as well as latitudinal strength.
- Water-proof – you don’t want a boot that isn’t going to be able to resist moisture. Any bit of damp can be very mushy and particularly when it is a wet season. Always remember that moisture that gets trapped inside your footwear (and socks) can cause very painful blistering.
- Scree Collar – this is the back part of the boot that will protect and support your ankle, heel and Achille’s tendon. It should also have padding to keep sand out. The best type of collar is the half-moon shape which will allow your ankle to flex and it eliminates any chaffing that might otherwise occur.
- Tongue – the flap that is between the laces and the top of your foot should be fully gusseted. This basically just means that there should be stitching along both the bottom as well as along each edge towards the upper. This will help keep sand, stones, and water from getting in.
- Soles – I mentioned earlier the importance of the safety aspect. The sole should offer an aggressive tread to ensure a good, solid grip. It also helps if there is a stiff shank which is a thin piece of metal inside the sole. This not only strengthens the underfoot but guarantees that anything ugly like thorns, glass, and other sharp objects don’t penetrate your flesh if you accidentally step on it.
- Laces – braided, nylon laces are always a winner. Flat laces are not as strong and they tend to break far more easily with all the tying and untying. They also get knotted and become threadbare. If you do see a boot that has everything that you are looking for in a hiking boot and they have these flatties, then get yourself another set of laces.
- Colour – please don’t select a light or tan colour shoe. The outdoors environment is going to discolour them and they will be ruined. Most hiking boots are shades of browns or greys which is a much better investment in the long run.
Showing Your Boots Some Care
At the end of every safari or at least once every three months or so it’s a good idea to apply some polish to preserve and care for the leather parts of the shoes.
It is not unusual to come across little streams that you’ll have to cross and your boots may get wet inside. It is a bad idea to use a blow dryer on them or put them in front of a fire in an effort to dry them out. This is only going to dry the leather and make it stiff and unresponsive.
A great tip is to take some newspaper and crumple it up into a ball and push it inside the boot. This actually helps maintain the shape as well as absorb some of the excess water.
If your boots do get muddy then rinse them off with clean water and use a soft brush to clean it up. Then leave it to dry naturally.
Yikes, I hope I didn’t get too nasty about why you should have the correct shoes – talking about creepy crawlies, and communal showers, mud, etc. but since you are here reading this you want to know some important things about what makes a good bush-bashing time really good.
Get yourself a pair of good, sturdy boots that might cost a little but will be a very worthwhile investment and ensure that you don’t have any regrets.
I hope you found these pointers useful and that it will help you to get the best shoes for your African safari. Please leave a comment below. I love to hear from my readers.