Last Updated on June 19, 2023
Deserts are some of the harshest environments on Earth. The hot, dry climate can be unforgiving to both people and equipment.
When choosing footwear for a desert trek, it is important to consider the specific conditions you will be facing.
Additionally, there are three layers of protection you should consider for your feet when hiking in the desert: 1) shoes or boots, 2) socks, and 3) gaiters.
Most importantly, you’ll need a sturdy pair of shoes or boots that can protect your feet from the hot desert sand, rocks, and other hazards.
Socks are important for keeping your feet comfortable and preventing blisters.
Choose socks that are made from a breathable material, such as wool or synthetic fibers, and that have good moisture-wicking properties.
Gaiters are a great way to keep sand and dirt out of your shoes.
They can also help to protect your legs from cactus spines and other sharp objects, rock debris, and even snake bites.
As part of the Amazon Associate and eBay Partner Programme, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Types of Desert Footwear
The type of desert footwear you choose will depend on the specific conditions you will be facing. For example, if you will be hiking in a sandy desert, you will need boots with good traction to prevent you from slipping.
If you will be hiking in a rocky desert, you will need boots that are durable enough to withstand the sharp rocks.
Desert Hiking Boots
Desert boots are a type of ankle-high boot that is made of suede or leather and has a crepe sole.
They are designed to be sturdy and having good traction on both sand and other types of harsh terrains, making them ideal for different types of desert environments.
Desert boots are a good choice for activities such as hiking, camping, and sightseeing in the desert, and are especially suited for rocky deserts and more challenging types of terrains.
Kenetrek Desert Guide Non-Insulated Hiking Boot
BLACKHAWK Desert Ops Boot, Coyote
DANNER MANUFACTURING Bull Run Moc Toe Work Boot
VIVOBAREFOOT Gobi III Eco
Desert Hiking Shoes
Desert hiking shoes are a type of shoe that is designed for hiking in hot, dry environments.
They are made of lightweight materials and have good ventilation to keep your feet cool and dry.
Desert hiking shoes often have aggressive treads to provide traction on loose surfaces, such as sand and gravel, although they may not be as sturdy as desert hiking boots.
Desert hiking shoes are a good choice for activities such as hiking, backpacking, and trekking in sandy deserts where your main concern will be protection from the sun rather than from rocks and debris.
Oboz Sawtooth II Low B-Dry
HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 7
Xero Barefoot Shoes Terraflex
Sandals can be a valid option for desert footwear, although they are not the best choice for high-stamina activities like trekking.
Sandals are a type of open-toed shoe that is made of a variety of materials, including leather, rubber, and canvas.
Sandals allow your feet to breathe, which is important in hot weather, but they offer limited protection against the sun as they keep more of your skin exposed to dangerous UV rays.
Because of this, if you are planning to spend many hours outdoors in the desert, you better opt for closed-toe shoes or using sandals together with socks.
Sandals are a good choice for activities such as leisure walks, hiking, and camping in the desert.
They are also a good choice for people who want a comfortable and casual shoe that can be worn in a variety of settings.
Moccasins are a type of soft, flat-soled shoe that is made of leather or suede. They are often decorated with beads or other designs.
Moccasins are comfortable and versatile, making them a good choice for walking in desert areas, but not the best choice for hiking on difficult terrains.
They are also a good choice for people who want a traditional and stylish shoe that can be worn in a variety of urban settings.
Types of Desert Socks
Desert socks are designed to keep your feet cool and dry in hot weather.
They are typically made from a blend of wool and synthetic fibers, which wick moisture away from your skin and help to prevent blisters.
Quality desert hiking socks also have features such as arch support, cushioning, and antimicrobial treatment.
Desert Hiking Socks
Merino wool is a natural fiber that is incredibly soft, breathable, and moisture-wicking. It also has natural odor-resistant properties, which is important when hiking for many hours in hot, sweaty conditions.
Merino wool socks will keep your feet cool, dry, and comfortable all day long.
Sand socks are a type of sock that is designed to be worn on the beach, specifically for playing sports like beach volleyball and sand soccer. They are meant to be worn without shoes and provide the necessary grip and traction to help you move quickly and efficiently on the sand.
While sand socks are not meant for hiking in the desert, they can be useful for some recreational desert activities, such as sandboarding.
Keep in mind that desert sand can be very hot, so it may be necessary to wear shoes especially during the hottest hours in the afternoon.
ShocSox Beach Volleyball Socks
Tilos Sport Skin Socks
Seavenger SeaSnugs Low-Cut Beach Volleyball Socks
Types of Desert Gaiters
Gaiters are leg coverings that extend from the ankle to the knee or thigh.
They are typically made of a lightweight, breathable material, such as nylon or polyester.
Gaiters can be used for a variety of activities, including hiking, running, and camping.
In the desert, gaiters can provide protection from sand, dirt, and debris, which can be kicked up by your boots as you walk or run.
High gaiters are a great choice for hikers in the desert. They provide protection from sand, dirt, and debris, which can be kicked up by your boots as you walk.
High gaiters also help to keep your feet cool by preventing sweat from evaporating. This is important in the desert, where temperatures can be very high.
High gaiters can also provide an additional layer of protection against snake bites.
Low gaiters are a good option for desert runners. They provide some protection from sand and debris, but they are not as bulky as high gaiters.
This makes them a good choice for runners who want to stay cool and agile. Low gaiters can also help to keep small rocks and dirt out of your shoes.
Desert Footwear Tips & Recommendations
Consider the type of desert environment.
If you will be hiking in sandy desert, you will need shoes with good traction to prevent you from sinking into the sand.
If you will be hiking in rocky desert, you will need shoes with good ankle support to protect your feet from rocks.
Additionally, each desert has its own microclimate – so make sure to research in advance what to expect in terms of temperature, weather and terrain.
Consider the type of activities you are going to do.
Most people who travel to the desert will do a mix of activities which may require specific footwear.
In the case of desert hiking, you will need shoes that are comfortable and provide good support, and protection from the sun (i.e. closed-toe shoes).
If you will be doing activities that require less walking and spending time in the sun, such as a desert safari or visiting a desert festival, you may be better off wearing sandals or mocassins as you won’t need as much protection from the sun.
If you are planning to do sports, you will need shoes that are lightweight and flexible and may be better off opting for sand socks and low gaiters compared to regular desert hiking gear.
Inspect your shoes and boots for scorpions.
Scorpions are common in desert environments, and they can be dangerous if they sting you.
While scorpions are generally easy to avoid, they like to hide inside people’s shoes while they are sleeping.
If you are camping in the desert overnight, before you put on your shoes or boots, take a few minutes to inspect them for scorpions.
Look for any small, dark creatures hiding in the seams or crevices. If you find a scorpion, carefully remove it from your shoe or boot and release it outside.
Apply a good quality foot balm before you go hiking.
A foot balm can help to moisturize your feet and prevent them from drying out. This is especially important if you will be hiking in hot weather, as your feet will be more likely to sweat.
When choosing a foot balm, look for one that is made with natural ingredients and that is designed for hiking.
You should also make sure that the balm is not too thick, as this can make it difficult to put on your feet.
Take breaks often to rest your feet, take your socks off and change to new ones.
If you are hiking for a long period of time, it is important to take breaks to rest your feet.
When you take a break, take your socks off and let your feet air out. You may also want to change to a fresh pair of socks.
This will help to prevent your feet from getting too hot and sweaty, which can lead to blisters.
Desert Footwear FAQs
What is the best footwear for desert hiking?
For desert hiking, it is recommended to choose footwear based on the specific terrain. Sturdy boots with ankle support and traction are ideal for more difficult hikes on rocky desert terrain. Lightweight hiking shoes are suitable for traversing sandy desert environments, such as sand dunes, providing flexibility and comfort.
Desert hiking socks are also recommended for their ability to absorb sweat, whereas high gaiters offer an extra layer of protection against sand, debris, and snake bites.
What is the best footwear for desert running?
For desert running, lightweight and flexible shoes with good traction are ideal.
Low gaiters can provide some protection from sand and debris, keeping your shoes and feet clean.
What are the best socks for hiking in the desert?
When hiking in the desert, opt for socks made from breathable materials like merino wool or synthetic fibers. The best desert hiking socks offer cushioning, arch support, and moisture-wicking properties to keep your feet dry, comfortable, and blister-free.
What is the difference between long and short gaiters?
Gaiters are leg coverings that protect against sand, dirt, and debris. Long gaiters provide comprehensive protection, extending from the ankle to the knee, and are suitable for hiking in rocky desert terrains. Short gaiters, which cover the lower leg, offer some protection and are preferred for desert running or less rugged trails.
Can I wear sandals in the desert?
Sandals are an option for leisure walks or casual activities in the desert. However, they do not provide comprehensive protection from the sun or potential hazards on the ground.
Wearing socks with sandals can offer some additional protection and prevent sand from causing discomfort.
Your n°1 source of information on the world of sandsports and desert adventure travel. Our articles are the result of extensive research, personal experience, and knowledge-sharing within the global sandboarding community.