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How to Choose the Best Shoes for the Camino de Santiago

The Camino Frances is 800 kilometers and the Norte is even longer. Even if you are doing the shorter Porutguese or the 100/k from Sarria to Santiago, you’ll be pulling some serious distance on your pilgrimage. This means that finding the best shoes for the Camino will be a critical choice for your comfort and safety. 

This guide walks you though your various Camino de Santiago shoe options, with advice on which features to look for and recommendations for 7 comfortable and reliable brands. 

These recommendations come from trail-tested experience. I’ve been on the Camino myself multiple times and also did the full distance of the Frances at home during COVID summer. For each, I used several different combinations of footwear. I’ve also crowdsourced recommendations from the Camino Community. 

I’m going to state up front that every foot is a snowflake and what works for me may not work for you. So if you are in the Camino Forum or in the Facebook groups, gather all of the advice that you need. But you will ultimately need to know thyself…and do training walks with your shoes of choice to make sure that they work for you. 

After you sort out your feet, be sure to check out our guide for finding a suitable Camino backpack. It has tips on key features and our five favorite options.

Best shoes for Camino de Santiago - trail runners and shell

(This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to purchase, I’ll make a small commission.)

Common Camino Footwear FAQ’s

Should I wear Hiking Books or Trail Runners on the Camino?

Trail runners are perfectly suitable for the Camino. The terrain is a mix of soft path, forest trails, a few rocky sections and a fair amount of sidwalk or paved pedway. Most people find that the sticky tread and light profile of a trail runner works perfectly. Trail runners are also preferable to hiking shoes because they’re lighter, more flexible and cooler on hot days.

You don’t generally need the super stiff sole of a major hiking boot, but they can be a good idea if you have weak ankles. If you have a favorite pair of hiking books that you can’t live without, then wear them. It’s all about your comfort. 

Should I Wear Waterproof Gore-Tex Camino Shoes?

Generally no. But there isn’t an absolute consensus on the matter of waterproof shoes. 

If you are doing the Camino during the late spring to early fall high season, you will experience far more hot days than rainy days. And wearing waterproof shoes on successive hot days will turn your feet into a swampy mess. `

If you are doing the Camino in the winter or rainy spring sections of the Norte or Primitivo, you may want to consider waterproof shoes, but they aren’t strictly necessary. 

Can I Wear Sport Sandals on the Camino?

Yes. In fact, some people use sport sandals as their primary Camino shoe. Other folks do a trail runner for most of the day and switch to sport sandals in the evening. Yet others, do trail runners for part of the day and switch to sandals partway through the day.

This latter strategy allows you to air out your feet and can reduce repetitive rubbing from wearing the same footwear all day. 

Some folks wear the sandals with socks. It’s not a handsome look, but it reduces rubbing on the skin. And yet, others wear no socks at all. You’ll want to experiment to see what works for you. 

Camino de Santiago shoes- Hoka trail runners

The 4 Best Shoes for the Camino de Santiago

The best shoes for the Camino de Santiago are the ones that fit you. So, when purchasing a shoe for walking the Camino, be sure to go up a half or full size in order to make space for swelling. You want a shoe will a generous toe box, and nubby treads. Three of our primary recommendations are trail runners. They are lighter than a hiking shoe but they still have enough grip on the soles to get you up and the down the hills.

The downside to trail runners is that the tread tends to wear out sooner than hiking shoes. You can still get about 800/k (500 miles) out of a shoe, but you also need to factor in your training. Plan to buy one pair for training, then break in a second pair of the same shoe a few weeks before you go.

You should also consider features like how stiff (or cushiony) the shoe is, whether it has a narrow or wide tow box, a snug heel bed and the heel to toe drop (in millimeters).

Heel drop matters because a higher heel drop means that you are more likely to strike at the heel. A lower heel drop means that you are likely to strike mid-foot. If you have issues with arthritic toes or bunions, a higher heel drop may make sense for you.

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

The men’s version is pictured and they offer women’s sizes in different colors.

Hokas are my favorite shoes for the Camino de Santiago and a popular favorite with other pilgrims as well. They’re popular because they have a very cushiony sole with a 4mm heel to to drop with a rocker style heel. This design takes a lot of pressure off the toes. I have toe issues and Hokas have become my primary, trail runner. I’m on my fourth pair!

PROS: Medium toe box, cushioned Vibram sole, rocker function.

CONS: The rocker style takes getting used to and you’ll feel it in your calves at first. Their colors are sometimes eye-wateringly bright. Some complaints about the tongue being too stiff.

Altra Lone Peak 5

The women’s version is pictured. The men’s come in mostly muted colors, except for the yellow, which is so bright that it will stop traffic.

Altras are also a very popular Camino shoe. The Lone Peak doesn’t have a heel to tow drop, which will give you a mid-foot strike. The shoe also has moderate cushioning.

PROS: The Altras have a generous toe box, are lighter then many other trail runners and they have air vents which will help keep your fee dry.

CONS: Complaints about durability. Not a Vibram sole.

Salomon Speedcross 5

The men’s version is pictured. The women’s come in more pastel colors.

The Salomons are even lighter than the previous Camino shoes. They are a narrower fit and feature a serious 10mm heel to tow drop and lots of cushioning. These shoes are more bendy at the toe and have big lugs that shed dirt from the bottom of the shoe.

PROS: Elastic pull ties rather than shoe laces make for easy on/off. Altras also have great traction and better for narrower feet.

CONS: Complaints about durability.

Oboz Sawtooth II

The men’s is pictured but both genders come with earthy, neutral colors.

If you need a stiffer shoe, then you may want to get the Oboz Sawtooth. These are a proper hiking shoe, not a trail runner. They have serious lugs, including on the sides. I prefer a softer shoe for the Camino, but I use these hiking shoes for hard-core hikes and my husband wears his almost every day.

PROS: Good support for arch and knee issues and very stable.

CONS: Very stiff sole and heavier than trail runners.

The 3 Best Sport Sandals for the Camino

Be sure to get a sport sandal that has a hiking sole, rather than sole for playing in the water. The hiking sandals will be heavier, but the nubby tread sticks to the trail better and will last longer. 

Teva Sport Sandals

The women’s version of the Tirra is pictured. They don’t carry this style in men’s, but they market the Strata as a similar men’s hiking sandal. We are recommending these two, rather than some of Teva’s other styles because these are designed more for hiking than watersports.

The multiple straps give you a lot of flexibility for adjustments and the Neoprene adds cushion and prevents rubbing. The soles are pretty dang grippy and the shoes last a long time.

PROS: Very comfortable with solid arch support.

CONS: No toe protection.

Keen Sport Sandals

Like Tevas, Keen doesn’t have the quite the same thing for men and women. The men’s Clearwater is pictured and you can also get the women’s Whisper Sandals.

Both are designed for hiking with good cushioning and support, elastic closures and a Neoprene interior. They also come with nice (and not obnoxious) color choices.

You can also look at the Keen Newports, which also have a lot of support and grippy soles. But they have a deeper foot bed, chunkier toe box and are heavier. I find that the Whispers do a better job of shedding rocks and dirt out of the foot bed.

PROS: Toe protection and comfortable.

CONS: Some find the sole not supportive enough.

Chaco Z1 or Z2

The women’s is pictured but the same style is available in a wide range of colors for both genders.

Chacos have their fierce loyalists, but the design isn’t for everyone. The sandals feature a heel cup with good arch support and deeper lugs than the Keens. The Z1 has an arch strap and the Z2 has a toe strap.

PROS: Great padding.

CONS: The straps are the weak spot. They are stiff out of the box, only have one adjustment point and floppy excess straps.

Popular Socks for Walking the Camino

If you can afford it, I recommend purchasing 2-3 different types of socks and then train in them for some longer distances. This will help you determine the best sock for you. Here are some popular favorites:

I’m a fan of the Fox River padded crew socks. Normally, I don’t tolerate merino wool very well, but these socks manage to be pretty soft and thin, while still providing great toe and heel cushioning.

I also use the double layer Wright Socks. This manufacturer is a small family owned operation. They have Cool Max double layer socks that are as thin as some single layer socks. Wrights also carry some heavier socks with a merino wool outside and the Cool Max inside.

And then there are the weird looking Injinji toe socks. (Amazon or REI). They are a light Cool Max sock with toe separators. This is supposed to help with rubbing and blistering of the toes. I haven’t yet tried these socks, but others swear by them. I’m going to get some to test because I get pressure blisters from two overlapping toes. That’s probably more information than you need. But we are all fellow pilgrims here, and sharing is caring.

Camino Footcare Tips

Some folks blister, others don’t. Sometimes it’s the toes and sometimes it’s the heel. You will be a happier hiker if you can figure out your weak spots before you go on pilgrimage. Test out some of the following suggestions on your Camino training walks to see what works for you.

  • Use an ointment or glide product and goop up your feet before heading out. Re apply at least once if you are doing a long walk.
  • Air out your feet and then switch to a clean pair of socks at the halfway mark on a long walk.
  • If you have consistent trouble spots, tape them in advance to avoid developing blisters. I’m a huge fan of the Metolius tape. It’s used by rock climbers and it really sticks, even on sweaty feet.
  • Lastly get yourself in shape by using our Camino training guide. It has very practical advice and offers a 12-week training plan. 

More Useful Camino Planning Information

  • Start with our packing list, because you are going to need to pack more than determination and a pair of Camino hiking shoes. It’s a complete list with everything you need…but nothing more.
  • Figure out whether you want to take a Camino app or a Camino guidebook and then get our recommendations for the best of both. 
  • Find inspiration by reading some books about the Camino or watching Camino movies
  • If you are on a budget, use this tool to figure out how much it will cost on your pilgrimage.
  • Get further inspiration to do the Camino solo. This article is particularly helpful for women who are facing family pressure to not go solo. (PS: You can do it!)
  • Are you doing the Frances? If so, here’s our guide for how to get to St Jean Pied de Port.

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