Whenever you hike long distances and have your feet crammed into a shoe or boot you will get sweaty and foot funk, to helpfully recover you want to get your feet out of those shoes and allow them easier access to breathe.
Unfortunately for most of us, this is never pleasant as our feet have come to love the encompassing shoe feel and when we aren’t wearing shoes many of us are at home on a clean carpet, wood, or tile floors.
Well, the trails are none of these things which is why you really should have some form of camp shoes, like Xero shoes, to help protect your feet while giving them ample time to be out and exposed to the air.
While some may view them as a “luxury” item and not necessary for many people its the little things that break them on a thru hike and for the little weight they add they provide a large value for almost all who choose to carry them.
Camp Shoes – Comparison Chart
How to Pick Your Camp Shoes
When deciding that you are a person who would like to have camp shoes to wear at the end of the day you may wonder what is the criteria to use which would give me the best shoes for my needs.
After thinking about the best shoes for camping and hiking I came up with four main focus points which are vital to your choice of shoe. These include do you prefer an open or closed toe, overall weight to add into your pack, the breathability of the shoe, and the support and ease of wearing.
Today we dive into choosing the best camp shoes for thru hikers and backpackers as these are very often overlooked and missed on a first long distance hike.
Open or Closed Toe
When you choose your camp shoe you will need to look into whether you prefer open or closed toes. A closed toe is much more protective and helps you to eliminate possible issues with leaving them out.
An open toe though provides your little toes much more breathing room and allows them to decompress and air out much more, so you need to make a choice based on which is more your preference.
I have recently chosen closed toe as I don’t wear shoes in my tent which means I have a solid 8-10 hours at least no toe cover which gives them time to relax.
Lets be honest that each item you carry comes with a weight attached to it, and many of the above shoes will come in around 16oz, which is a pound. Shoes are most definitely not for someone looking to build an ultralight pack setup.
What you want to do is look at the options, weigh the pros and cons, then make sure that the pros outweigh the cons and additionally that the weight makes sense to you and your pack weight overall.
The key to this is to get those feet and toes with any possible blisters or hot spots out and into the open as long as possible to give them time to breath. Not only that but they will be damp from sweat they have been stewing in for hours.
You want your camp shoes to give your feet a break from the tough sock and crammed spaces and laced up life in a shoe. You need your toes and feet to be out of socks and open to air access so that the skin can breath and keep itself healthy, if you lose your feet you lose your hike!
How are your feet going to like the shoes, having the lightest shoes on the planet isn’t helpful if your feet ache when you wear them. This is overlooked but also a very important thing to consider when you are making your purchase.
The last part of support would be something as simple as does it hold onto your ankle helping to keep them on your feet if you have to climb up at all instead of slipping off your feet.
Why You Need Camp Shoes
Just as equal to what to look at when deciding on your purchase is the reasons why you would add on a pair of camp shoes. They can range from just giving your feet a break from the normal hiking shoes to something as simple as keeping feet clean and dry!
Let Your Feet Breath
One of the most important things to avoid numerous foot issues like trench foot and similar issues is to let your feet breath and get air flow around them which allows your skin to work its magic healing and restoration processes.
Keep Your Feet Clean
If you choose not to wear camp shoes you will have to deal with your feet getting dirty and gross at camp which you may take into your tent or hammock. This allows your skin to better start the work on healing up and getting ready for your next day of trekking.
Allows Your Hiking Shoes to Dry
Your hiking shoes are going to be gross and nasty as you sweat and generally add to their stench each day as you hike 8+ miles or more daily, this means when you get done for the day they may be wet regardless of your needing to water cross or rain.
If it has been raining or your feet and shoes get truly soaked you wouldn’t want to keep wearing them in the campsite as they would continually just add to your problems, hence camp shoes give you time to have your normal shoes dry out for tomorrow.
This is the bottom line, you want to be comfortable around your campsite. For as much hiking as you are going to do you will be spending a large volume of time in camp each night which means you have to be comfortable in the camp shoes you choose.
Best Camp Shoes for Thru Hikers and Backpackers
Our Choice: Xero Shoes Z-Trek
Xero makes some amazing sandals and shoes but in the area of camp shoes they create tremendously durable shoes that also are compact and super lightweight allowing for easy carry and use without breaking your back or your wallet.
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As with most sandals they hold to your foot well while allowing your feet to breath and providing the bottom of your foot hard cover to make sure you don’t get hurt by stepping on something sharp.
Our Runner Up: Chaco Z1 Classic Sport Sandal
Chaco’s are always popular as they are durable and comfortable which is a perfect match for a long distance thru-hiker or backpacker.
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One big reason to pay a little more and leap is that Chaco will repair the webbing straps and the soles on your sandals for life with a minimal fee. This is why many Chaco purchasers will wear the same pair of sandals for decades.
Budget Classic: Crocs Classic Clog
Lets face it, you either love or hate them. Unfortunately, they are super inexpensive, lightweight, totally waterproof, while also being almost virtually indestructible.
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These have long been a favorite on the trail due to their lightweight and ease to carry (typically on the outside straps) as you can swap quite easily for a water crossing in just a few seconds.
For Those Who Love Slides: HOKA ONE ONE Mens ORA Recovery
I’m not a huge fan of slides personally but my wife and daughter absolutely love them and don’t want to leave home without them. For them the HOKAs were a perfect match to their comfort and relaxation which is why I included them in here as it may fit you also!
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These HOKA ONE ONE Mens ORA Recovery Slides were created to help let your feet recover after a hard day of activity and workouts.
Water Socks From Sockwa
I found these randomly through a blog ages ago and they have continued to grow and get added into all kinds of shops, they are a nice foot covering that is super lightweight but rolls up super small for storage.
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Final Thoughts on Best Camp Shoes for Thru Hikers
Hopefully what I discussed above has helped you in making your final decision on the best shoes for you for hiking and that you use them for the next few years!
If I was perfect then please let me know below in the comments, similarly if I failed and you know of an awesome pair of shoes drop a hint in the comments for me and the other people who come here to help them out!
Our Top Options For Camp Shoes on Amazon