The Shoes that you walk the Camino de Santiago with is the most important gear decision you will make on your Camino de Santiago Packing list. Walking in the wrong shoes can result in terrible blisters, tired feet, and other injuries that can even end your Camino.
There are so many opinions, everybody is different, every route is different so unfortunately there is no ‘best shoe for the Camino’. Alya has walked 9 different Camino de Santiago routes and I have walked 7, as well as many other treks all over the world. In this post I will give you our experience with shoes on the Camino de Santiago.
Boots vs Shoes for Walking the Camino de Santiago
The quick answer – our favorite footwear for the Camino de Santiago are hiking shoes.
This is a very popular topic to discuss on Facebook groups and in online forums and you will find plenty of discussions if you search a little. Here is a quick summary of our experience with different kinds of shoes.
Trail runners on the Camino
Trail runners are a very popular option for walking the Camino de Santiago. Trail shoes are similar to road running shoes, but they are built more rugged to protect the shoes and your feet from objects like rocks, and sticks, so they are light and tough. I have read so many discussions with pilgrims praising trail runners, the logic is they are light, get dry quick and provide enough support for the kind of terrain that you will experience on the Camino.
Our experience with trail runners on the Camino was not great. We walked two shorter routes in trail runners, the Camino de San Salvador (120 km/74 mi) and the Camino de Santiago de Gran Canaria (67 km/41,6 mi). We hiked in well worn in trail shoes that we use for trail running. The shoes were comfortable on the trail, but we both had problems with blisters walking in trail shoes.
In the Defense of Trail Runners
You do get many different brands and models of trail running shoes, maybe a different trail runner would work better on the Camino. We have however not had any problems running with our Adidas or Asics trail runners while running. Since we bought these shoes for running they where a comfortable fit, but not large enough to wear with our thick merino wool socks. We swear by merino wool socks, they are fantastic!
Popular Trail runners on the Camino de Santiago
- Hoka Speed Goat 4 (Speed Goat 4 Ladies) – You see Hokas everywhere on the Camino nowadays. These super cushioned, trail runners have become extremely popular on the trail. Most pilgrims walk in the Hoka Speedgoat, with lots of cushioning; grippy outsole, and a quality upper. The Speed Goat 5 is the latest release.
- Altra’s Lone Peak 6 (Lone Peak 6 Ladies) – a running shoe that has since become a thru-hiker favorite. Very popular on the Camino, known for extreme comfort and thick padding. Apparently the novel design takes time to get used to, so make sure you walk them in before hand.
- Brooks Cascadia 16 (Cascadia 16 Ladies)- very popular with through hikers, feels like a comfortable road shoe, with good underfoot protection. Light quality built trail runners.
Walking the Camino in Hiking Shoes
Hiking shoes are designed for hiking. With a lower cut they are more agile and lightweight than hiking boots. Many boots are also available as a lower cut hiking shoe. For Alya and myself we found hiking shoes to work the best and have worn several different shoes in the 16 Camino de Santiago’s we have walked between the two of us. We found shoes to be fairly lightweight, comfortable, stay relatively dry and do not take to long to dry when getting wet. Hiking shoes have a stiffer sole which we found to be great on Camino’s where you spend a lot of time walking on cobble stones such as the Camino Portuguese.
Popular Hiking Shoes on the Camino de Santiago
- Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX Hiking Shoe (X Ultra 3 GTX Ladies) – A very popular hiking shoe know for extreme comfort, great performance, and durability. Our mid height Ultra 3 GTX shoes are fantastic and this is just a lower cut version. We really had only great experiences walking in Salomons, Alya walked 3000km (including the Camino Frances and the Camino Portuguese from Lisbon) in a pair of Salomon Elipse 2 Ltr. The Salomon X Ultra 4 has also been released.
- Merrel Moab 2 – Fantastic shoes we got brilliant service out of doing multiple hikes on varied terrain.
- Available in Merrell Moab 2 Goretex – waterproof version (Moab 2 GTX Ladies) and a Merrell Moab ventilation water resistant version, better venting for air circulation (Moab 2 Ventilation Ladies). Great shoe, but a bit heavy the Salomon X Ultra 3 is significantly lighter. Merrel Moab 3 has been released.
- Oboz Sawtooth X-low (Sawtooth Ladies), popular hiking shoe on the Camino de Santiago, a stiff, stable hiking shoe with excellent support.
Wearing Hiking Boots on the Camino de Santiago
The two biggest problems many people have walking the Camino de Santiago in boots are weight and breathability. The higher the cut of the shoe the heavier it will obviously be. Leather boots tend to be heavier and less flexible. Waterproof material does not only keep water out, but also keeps water in. If your feet sweat a lot, leather or Gortex is less breathable and your feet can be wet in any conditions.
The Camino de Santiago is not a single route, but a network of network of pilgrimage routes ending in Santiago de Compostela. The route and season definitely influences what shoes will be suitable. I will not recommend wearing heavy, waterproof boots on a hot dry Camino in summer time (July/August). Walking in shoulder season (May, June, September), can be good, but rain is possible. We walked a very wet Camino Primitivo during this time and waterproof boots worked fantastic.
With boots there are many different choices, the height of the boot and material used for construction makes a massive difference. Old style, heavy, leather boots do not work well for us. We both love our Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX (LADIES) mid length, Gortex boots. Modern, light and super comfortable we have done some distance in conditions varying from snow to hot dusty trails and have only had a great experience! Light and athletic with a mid length design. I find them very comfortable and do not have a problem with breathability. I wear them with thick merino wool socks.
Sandals for Walking the Camino de Santiago
Most people pack sandals to wear around the albergue after a long day on the road. I love my Havaihana flip flops and have walked long stretches in my flip flops on hot days on the Camino. I have met people walking the whole Camino in hiking sandals and saying after switching from shoes to sandals they will never go back! Packing sandals to alternate with your shoes is not a bad idea to keep your feet dry and blister free. Walking your Camino in sandals is mainly an option if you walk in dry season. Some popular sandals we have seen are made by KEEN and Teva; Keen Ladies Whisper Sandals, Keen Men’s Clearwater CNX 2 Lightweight, Teva Hurricane Xlt2 and Teva Hurricane Xlt2 women.
Walking in Running Shoes
I walked my first Camino after coming to Europe following an hiking season in Nepal. It was summer and I decided to rather walk in my road running shoes than my trekking boots. I have done a lot of running in the shoes (more than 1000 km)blister free. I walked in my running footwear, thin running socks and my Asics road running shoes. I got the worst blisters I have ever had and by the end of the Camino the shoes were completely destroyed.
Good Socks for Hiking the Camino
We are firm believers in Merino wool socks, this is a game changer. Hiking many thousands of kilometers on a variety of budgets we have used probably about every kind of sock you can imagine. Nothing comes close to merino wool socks. They are simply fantastic at keeping your feet dry and blister free. They just take much longer to start smelling bad than even the fanciest synthetic hiking socks. DARN TOUGH and MERIWOOL make excellent quality merino wool socks.
The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.