The Swahili word safari means journey initially from the Arabic word “safar” with the same meaning. Being close to nature and being in the African wild is a thrilling experience and comes with certain practicalities you need to consider.
There are so many things you need to factor in when planning your African journey, and shoes are one of the essential elements of all.
The best footwear for safari depends on your type of safari, where it is, and what season you plan to visit. Hot and dry desert conditions require breathable footwear, while wet conditions need waterproof shoes with great traction. Hiking safaris need a good quality pair of hiking boots.
Shoes are an essential factor when packing for a safari. Whether you plan to stay in camp or plan lengthy hikes, all require their appropriate footwear. We have made some suggestions to guide you on your best footwear for your safari.
Table of Contents
- What Kind of Safari Are You Planning?
- What Should You Look for in Safari Boots?
- Best Safari Footwear For Men
- Best Safari Footwear For Women
What Kind of Safari Are You Planning?
There are many different Safari styles available, and the factors you need to consider when packing vital gear such as shoes are:
The Length Of Your Stay
If you plan to visit one spot for a week’s visit, you can afford the space and weight to bring along several shoes. Mainly if you are staying in a lodge or a luxury tented camp, you will not be required to bring everything along in one backpack.
However, if you plan to stay more extensively and intend to travel trails and spend much of your time hiking, you would need to consider the space in your backpack and the weight that you have to carry. It would be wise to bring along more of an all in one shoe than several pairs.
Which Country & During Which Season?
Although your Safari might be in Africa, there are vast differences in climate and vegetation. Shoes for a hike on a desert Safari would hardly serve you in the jungles of Rwanda. The five most famous safari destinations all have their specific requirements in terms of footwear.
What Should You Look for in Safari Boots?
- Weight – Finding a lightweight and durable boot is essential for walking safaris. The boot must still be able to offer you arch support and provide stability.
- Waterproof – Moisture can cause foot problems, especially in longer hiking trails, and you must ensure that your hiking boots are sufficiently waterproof. Water can cause chafe and blisters and should be avoided at all costs.
- Toungues – When you place it in your boot, the flap that covers your foot should be adequately cushioned and stitched properly up the upper to prevent stones, sand, and water from penetrating your boot.
- Scree Collar – The scree collar is the part back of your boot that protects your Achilles tendon and ankle from chafing. It should also be padded to prevent sand from entering your boot.
- Temperature Control – If you plan to visit South Africa in the summer months, you might consider a shoe that is well ventilated, with breathable material for comfort. If you are planning longer hikes in colder temperatures, a thicker, well-insulated boot would be preferable.
- Treaded Sole – Your boot’s sole should have a tread aggressive enough to ensure a proper grip on most terrains. A good hiking boot should have a shank (usually a thin piece of metal) to prevent thorns or sharp objects from entering your boot.
- Laces – Your laces should be made of high-quality braided cord and not be the cheaper, flatter nylon version.
Best Safari Footwear For Men
We’ve broken this post up by gender, but in all honestly, the majority of the men’s shoes are fine for women and the women’s shoe are completely fine for men. Just keep in mind the sizes and width of the shoe if you do look to purchase a different gender shoe.
The Keen Arroyo is perfect for exploring the coast and perfect for beachcombing. The quick-dry design allows you to get your feet wet without worrying about soggy inners.
The Salomon GTX is a great downhill boot with all the grip you need for uneven terrain. With descent control technology and foam cushioning and advanced chassis, the Mid GTX fits the rougher patches of your Namibian adventure.
The Salomon is a great hiking boot option with aggressive traction for mixed terrain and advanced support and flexibility. The high rise protects your ankles from bites and provides plenty of ankle support for longer trails.
Even if you plan to stay in camp, there are snakes, biting insects, scorpions, and snakes even in the camps themselves.
Sandals should be of the thick-soled variety if you are planning on walking around camp. Thorns are a huge issue in Africa, and thin-soled sandals will not offer your feet protection.
While your safari boots should be well-supported shoes with a flexible upper and sturdy soles that are strong but lightweight driven safaris are different.
If you plan on a game drive and want protection and breathability, the Saucony Men’s Trail Running Shoe is an excellent option.
This great all-rounder is lightweight and built for comfort. The material is breathable with a padded tongue made to keep out moisture and debris.
Best Safari Footwear For Women
As I mentioned earlier, we have broken this post by gender, however in all honestly, the majority of the men’s shoes are fine for women and the women’s shoe are completely fine for men. Just keep in mind the sizes and width of the shoe if you do look to purchase a different gender shoe.
This versatile and durable boot is a great all-rounder for mixed terrain and mixes classic style with lightweight innovation.
Your hiking boots should be of darker colors (to show less dirt) and be comfortable, sturdy, and lightweight. You will need a boot with good traction in its soles to cope with wet conditions and should ideally have higher ankle padding for support and prevent pesky ants.
You should also bring a pair of sandals or flip flops for pool areas (if applicable) and trainers for walking in town.
This sandal offers excellent support and is light to save packing space. They are flexible and can be slipped on and off with ease and allow your feet to breathe.
You will also need a good pair of closed shoes or boots for rocky hikes such as Sesriem Canyon and the Twyfelfontien rock art sites. In the evening, the temperature plummets, and you will need the warmth of a good pair of shoes.
Malarial zones such as Etosha pan require closed shoes or, ideally, boots to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
The Salomon GTX is designed to deliver aggressive grip on dry and wet terrain and has adapted running shoe technology to provide comfort on longer hikes.
The high ankle guard protects from insects and provides excellent ankle support.
Leather and suede footbeds can end up smelling of the swamp after a bit and don’t dry as efficiently as quick-dry materials.
An excellent example of a shoe with a great grip but made to dry quickly is the Keens Newport H2 sandal (male and female varieties).
This is also a super comfortable option of this shoe for the ladies suited for games, drives, and comfortable walking both on the safari and in town.
This comfortable boot is made for hiking in wet conditions, which offers great water resistance and a lightweight shank for comfort. The Keen offers support for your ankle and an aggressive grip for slippery trails.
Because your activities’ intensity varies from safari to safari, you should consider your shoe choice carefully. Trainers are good for game drives, but you need a high-quality pair of waterproof hiking boots for longer hikes and game walks.
If you are planning a coastal stay, flip flops or sandals would be appropriate.
The Keen Women’s Solr sandals provide great traction on wet surfaces but are lightweight and dry quickly. These are perfect for exploring the coastal tide lines.
These sandals come in a variety of different colours which makes them perfect for expressing your personality and co-ordinating outfits while being comfortable out on safari.