The Kilimanjaro footwear you take on the mountain is very important.
In this detailed article we outline the key characteristics to look for in a pair of boots, as well as provide recommendations on good but affordable shoes.
Remember your feet are what get you to the top of Kilimanjaro and back so make sure you follow the guidance in this article, or risk having sore feet, blisters and lost toenails.
Kilimanjaro Footwear: Key Characteristics
There are three key characteristics to look for in a pair of trekking boots. The first two – fit and quality – are decided at point of purchase. The third – use – is entirely dependent on you.
Get any of these three characteristics wrong and you risk getting sore feet, injuring your back, losing toenails and enduring painful blisters.
Let’s deal with each characteristic below:
The best way to test good fit is to place your foot in a boot and slide it all the way forward until your toes hit the front of the boot (make sure you are wearing an average cushioned sports sock). Then take your index finger and slide it down the back of the boot between your heal and the boot support.
A perfect fitting boot will allow you to squeeze your finger in without too much resistance. If you cannot squeeze your index finger down the back of the boot, then unfortunately the boot is too small. If you find that your index finger fits too easily into the back of the boot, then the boot is likely too big. A snug fit, with your index finger in the back of the boot, is just right.
Note: this is not a science, but a good approximation for good fitting boots.
Good quality doesn’t have to be expensive, in fact you can get some affordable trekking boots that are great quality. Good quality boots have the following design features:
- Medium to high tops for study ankle support. The higher the top the heavier the boot
- The sole of the boot should have a high rubber content and deep lugs for better traction – the deeper the lugs, the heavier the boot
- Medium to heavy weight – heavy boots are good for durability and cushioning, but the extra weight of the boot can be pretty tiring to hike in. We recommend going for a medium weight boot
- Waterproof – this is pretty standard today but always good to get boots that use GoreTex material for improved waterproofing. Combined with waterproof socks and you can be sure your feet will stay dry.
- Lacing system should incorporate D-Strings and speed hooks for better ankle support and fast lacing
Once you have got yourself a good fitting pair of boots that have similar characteristics to those set out above, then the task is to break your boots in. Do not, under any circumstances, arrive in Kilimanjaro with brand new hiking boots that you have never worn.
The best way to break boots in are to wear them as often as possible before your hiking date. During that time you should undertake 2-3 long distance treks (4-5 hours a day) in your boots.
When the inner soles of the boot start to contour the bottom of your foot then you can be confident that your boots are well worn in.
Recommended Hiking Boots
Best Overall Boot: Asolo Fugitive (Men's) or Asolo Stynger (Women's)
Asolo make some of the best quality trekking shoes on the market.
The Asolo Men's Fugitive or Asolo Women's Stynger are all-round great trekking boots, ideal for long distance hiking in summer or winter. The GoreTex lining provides very good waterproofing and breathability. They are also lightweight.
Best Leather Hiking Boot: Asolo Power Matic
Asolo also make some of the best quality leather trekking shoes.
If durability is your thing, then the Asolo Power Matic's will last you many good years of trekking and provide excellent comfort and durability. Mid-weight. Brilliant waterproof qualities with leather and GoreTex lining.
Best Value Hiking Boot: Salomon Quest
For great affordability, quality and all-round performance we recommend the Salomon Quest hiking boot. Sold as a day hiking boot, we have seen these babies used on many long distance treks, like Kilimanjaro.
Don’t expect long-term durability but you should get a couple years of good trekking in before they need to be replaced. Key features: Mid-weight with a GoreTex membrane for waterproof breathability.
Cheap and Cheerful Hiking Boot: Hi-Tec Altitude IV
At its price range, the Hi-Tec Men's Altitude IV is probably the best hiking boot on the market.
You can be assured of great comfort and durability. The outer material is waterproof full-grain leather. Very light-weight boot.
Other Important Footwear
Trainers or Trekking Sandals
Each evening when you reach your camp, the first thing you are going to want to do is to take off your trekking boots, and not have to put them back on until the next day.
The trouble is you are going to want to walk around the camp and perhaps do some exploring in the surrounding area.
The solution: bring with you basic hiking shoes or trekking sandals that you can slip on in camp, and that can double as a trekking alternative shoe for flat terrain.
It is important that you bring good quality trekking socks. You should avoid cotton or cotton-blend socks as these absorb and retain moisture, keeping your feet damp and making them susceptible to blistering.
We recommend 5 x Wool trekking socks as these are the best for wicking moisture away from the foot. The best trekking sock manufacturers include COOLMAX, Smartwool and Bridgedale. All three brands manufacture their socks from really soft merino wool which is great for comfort and performance. If you are allergic to wool we would go for an acrylic or acrylic-blend alternative like those from Wigwam.
Key characteristics to look out for include:
- Flat seams. Bulky seams are prone to increases friction which results in blisters
- Thick socks as they provide more cushion for the foot
- Snug, not tight, fit
On summit night you will need to wear thermal socks.
Ragg Wool is the best material for thermal socks. Some people go with a polypropylene liner to assist with the wicking process.
We recommend 1 x extra thick / heavy thermal socks, the best quality thermal socks are the heavy variations made by SmartWool.
Note: The extra pair of thermal socks can be used as a thermal cover for your water bottle (see Other accessories to find out how)
Gaiters are made of waterproof material that extend up from your boot to your calve muscle. They are used to keep unwanted materials out of your boots (mud, water, rocks etc.). Although the trails are very good on Kilimanjaro, if you encounter rain it is possible that you shoes will get wet and muddy. Gaiters can help prevent this.
Here are some affordable gaiters (don’t spend more then $30-$40).
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