Choosing a quality pair of shoes is one of the most essential aspects of any outdoors hiking trip. But when it comes to harsh desert environments and extreme weather conditions, you need to choose footwear that is both sturdy and breathable. Whether you are going dune climbing, sand surfing or just having a stroll in the sand, we have researched and reviewed for you the very best hiking shoes for desert on the market.

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Desert Shoes

Best Desert Hiking & Running Shoes [2021]

Whether you are planning to go trekking in the Sahara desert or running the Marathon the Sables, you are going to need a good pair of trail hiking shoes that can withstand extreme heat and rough terrains without absorbing too much sweat. Most quality desert boots are made from sturdy and breathable leather, although more and more vegan options are also becoming available.

1. Oboz Sawtooth II Low B-Dry Hiking Shoes

Best for hiking
Oboz Sawtooth II Low B-Dry

Overall great hiking shoes for sand dunes and extreme terrain conditions. It's heavy and sturdy but breathable and sweat proof.

Description

O Fit Insole is molded to match the specific shape and construction of every pair of Oboz shoes, this purpose-designed technology delivers the kind of fit, feel and performance that’s unmatched in the industry. The Sawtooth Midsole is great for everyday, whether it’s on the AT or your local trail. Featuring a duel-density EVA midsole that provides cushioning and stability and a nylon shank that gives added support under foot. A thru-hiker cult favorite, the Sawtooth Outsole is built to be versatile, flexible and supportive. The map molded in the bottom of the outsole features the Sawtooth mountain range near Sun Valley, Idaho. B-Dry Waterproof System lets sweat escape while keeping moisture out. Large mesh panels let feet breathe easily.

Features

  • Leather top
  • O Fit Insole
  • Duel-density EVA midole with nylon shank
  • B-Dry waterproof system – sweat repellent
  • Large mesh panels for breathability

Oboz Sawtooth II BDry Hiking Shoes Review

Great pair of leather hiking shoes for hot weather, with great performance on even the most challenging desert hikes. They are somewhat heavy but don’t feel like it once you put them on your feet, thanks to their large mesh and breathable material. The extreme sturdiness and durability make up for the weight and the waterproof system ensures that sweat stays out even in the warmest climates and summer months. Recommended for challenging hikes and slow-paced desert adventures.

Pros & Cons

✅ Sturdy & DurableHeavy
Breathable and sweat-repellentNot Vegan

2. Clarks Original Desert Chukka Boots

Best casual shoe
Clerks Desert Chukka Boot

Great casual boots for desert camping and less demanding trips to the dunes.

Description

The Desert Boot from Clarks Originals combines a Suede upper with a durable Rubber sole. These Desert Boots feature Lace-Up fastening, cushioned insole and Leather lining. Mens and Womens boots available in multiple color.

Features

  • Upper material: suede leather.
  • Sole: rubber.
  • Closure: laces.

Clark Originals Desert Boots Review

Desert chukka boots were popularized by Clarks back in the 50s and their design is based on popular veldskoen shoes which are commonly used in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Today, they are considered trendy and worn pretty much everywhere – but they make great desert shoes nonetheless. These extremely lightweight boots sport a simple yet sturdy design and are a great choice if you are planning to a casual visit to the desert or small hikes in the sand dunes.

Pros & Cons

✅ Robust & LightweightStrictly Casual
Simple yet trendyNot Vegan

3. HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 7 Running Shoes

Best for trail running
Hoka One One Clifton 7

Amazing trail running shoes for both soft sand and rough terrains. Recommended for desert marathons!

Description

Crafted with the same midsole and ride characteristics, the Clifton 7 features a streamlined silhouette and updated upper made from engineered mesh. Outfitted with a plush collar that eases Achilles pressure, this daily runner is equipped with an intuitive pull tab at the heel for easy on-and-off. 

Features

  • Rubber sole
  • Breathable open engineered mesh upper with seamless synthetic overlays
  • Breathable textile lining for abrasion-free wear
  • Removable, foam padded insole for cushioning and support
  • Durable full-length EVA midsole to absorb shock and offer stability
  • Durable sole with rubber inserts for grip

HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 7 Running Shoes Review

If you are running a desert marathon such as Morocco’s Marathon Des Sables in the Sahara desert or Australia’s Big Red Run in the Simpson desert, then you are going to need a pair of trail running shoes that is both lightweight enough to float on soft sand and sturdy enough to protect you from debris and rougher terrains. Hoka One One shoes tick all the boxes, and the Clifton 7 is one of the latest entries to the party. They are incredible cushioned shoes which are both comfortable and lightweight, with great stability for the most challenging sand dune runs.

Pros & Cons

✅ Soft and lightweightToo soft for off trail hiking
Great stability and resistance
Vegan

Best Barefoot Shoes for Beach & Desert Sand Dunes

Barefoot shoes offer the best compromise between natural movements, weight and protection of your feet, but usually come with very thin soles which are not strong enough to protect you from burning in the hot sand. Whether hiking in the desert or running at the beach on a very warm day, if you want to enjoy the sensation of walking barefoot on sand without scorching your feet, it’s worth to invest in a good pair of desert-proof barefoot boots.

Barefoot in the Desert

1. VIVOBAREFOOT Namib Desert Boots

Best for Desert Hiking

Made from camel leather to withstand extreme weather and desert conditions, while managing to stay lightweight and breathable. High quality trekking shoes resistant to sand and easy to wash.

Description

VIVOBAREFOOT has designed this boot in collaboration with the best world’s outdoorsmen and tested them in a real desert environment. Nature proof and perfected for feet, these shoes are ideal for desert hiking and nature trekking in hot climates.

Features

  • Camel leather
  • Removable nylon ankle strap
  • Padded calf skin collar lining
  • Rubber multi sole – made with sticky rubber performance compound
  • Removable cork insole – naturally anti-bacterial

VIVOBAREFOOT Namib Desert Boot Review

Made with incredibly sturdy leather and padded calf skin sourced from free-roaming animals, these shoes are both functional and breathable and well worth the price. As the name suggests, these boots are inspired by the Namibian desert and the use of camel leather ensures resistance to most desert conditions. The removable nylon velcro and cork insoles help protect from the sand and are both antibacterial and easy to wash, which is gonna save you a lot of time if you are hiking and surfing down sand dunes. Despite their sturdy look, VIVOBAREFOOT Namib boots are extra thin and lightweight, exactly how you’d expect barefoot shoes to feel. Personally, I love their overall look and feel – even more so after using them out in the dunes as they get a bit of a worn out aesthetic. Highly recommended.

Pros & Cons

✅ Sturdy & DurableNot Vegan
Suitable for trekking

2. VIVOBAREFOOT Gobi II Leather Walking Shoes

Best minimalist shoes

Trendy and comfortable casual shoes that can withstand most weather and terrain conditions, with a shelf life of about 1-3 years. Great look in brown or black.

Description

The Gobi II is our classic minimalist desert boot, designed so you can explore every day with true barefoot sensory feedback and freedom of movement. This shoe is made from Wild Hide the naturally-scarred leather of free-roaming cattle, sourced from small-scale farmers in Ethiopia.

Features

  • Naturally scarred African Wild Hide leather
  • Soft leather collar lining
  • Removable cork insole – naturally anti-bacterial
  • Available in two colors: black and obsydian

VIVOBAREFOOT Gobi II Review

These minimalist shoes are as comfy as they are stylish and come in two colors – brown and black (“obsydian”). Their zero-drop shoe feature means they are completely flat with no elevation from heel to toe, making them ideal for casual daily walks and small hikes. They can withstand most types of weather and terrain conditions, but they are not as durable as the Namib – if used extensively they will start wearing out after a couple of months, and you should expect them to last no more than a couple of years. Still, they make an excellent choice for travelling on sand dunes and desert locations.

Pros & Cons

✅ Comfortable and lightweightNot Vegan
Great for casual walks and hikes Last 1-3 years

3. VIVOBAREFOOT Primus Trail FG Shoe

Vegan and Eco-friendly

Versatile and high-functioning trekking shoes for rough terrains and pavements. Vegan and made from sustainable recycled materials.

Description

Wear your sustainability statement on your feet with Primus Trail FG. Constructed for durability and flexibility, this vegan shoe is made using PET plastic bottles recycled into durable performance materials, to create lightweight and breathable movement. Featuring our firm ground outsole with low-profile lugs, designed for traction on trails and rocky terrains.

Features

  • Ultra thin soles for maximum sensory feedback.
  • 100% Vegan
  • Made with recycled PET plastic bottles, and featuring a bio-based BLOOM insole – train hard while treading lightly on the planet.
  • Firm Ground (FG) Sole – for rocky and rough terrains.
  • Available in different colors

VIVOBAREFOOT Primus Trail FG Shoe Review

Possibly the most comfortable sand trekking shoes you’ll ever put on your feet, Primus Trail are incredibly versatile and high-performance barefoot shoes. If you are planning to hike on desert sand dunes, make sure to hop for the “FG” (Firm Ground) variant. These zero-ground (flat) sole shoes are ideal for both walking and running in most types of terrains and are entirely vegan and environmentally friendly – made from recycled PET plastic bottles.

Pros & Cons

✅ Vegan and eco-friendlyOnly suitable for dry environments
Great for hard terrains and pavements

4. Xero Shoes Terraflex

Best trail running shoes
Xero Shoes Terraflex

Minimalist high performance trail running and hiking shoe, with detachable sole for an enhanced barefoot sensation. Vegan.

Description

Wear your sustainability statement on your feet with Primus Trail FG. Constructed for durability and flexibility, this vegan shoe is made using PET plastic bottles recycled into durable performance materials, to create lightweight and breathable movement. Featuring our firm ground outsole with low-profile lugs, designed for traction on trails and rocky terrains.

Features

  • Rubber sole
  • TRAIL-GRIPPING – a 4mm lugged sole gives you incredible traction — uphill, downhill, fast, or slow, in dry and wet conditions
  • COMFORT – The foot-first, natural movement design lets your feet bend, flex, move, and feel the world the way they’re supposed to
  • PROTECTION – 6mm of FeelTrue rubber, with an embedded 3mm BareFoam layer smooths out the rough spots
  • LIGHTWEIGHT and TRAVEL-FRIENDLY – They won’t weigh down your pack, and work great on and off the trail

Xero Shoes Terraflex Shoe Review

Xero is another very reputable brand that makes top-quality barefoot shoes. These are incredibly lightweight zero-drop shoes with a firm 6mm rubber sole that will protect your feet from hot sand, but can be removed when the sand is not too hot and you want to have a more natural sensation under your toes. The shoe is entirely vegetarian and vegan friendly.

Pros & Cons

✅ Vegan and eco-friendlyOnly suitable for dry environments
Great for trail running and simple hikes Lower performance on hard terrain

Best socks for desert

When hiking in the desert, socks are just as vital as shoes. Not only will a comfortable pair of socks protect your feet from hot sand, but they will also absorb sweat and ensure proper perspiration, preventing blisters and other foot problems. Merino wool, a special form of material that is particularly good at retaining moisture from sweat and keeping your feet fresh, is what you need to keep an eye on when searching for the best socks for your desert hike.

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75% Merino wool socks
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66% Merino wool socks

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40% Merino wool socks

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