Your hiking boots are arguably the most important item of a Kilimanjaro climb. You need warm, comfortable and protected feet to successfully climb to the summit over several days and make it safely back down. A good pair of hiking boots is truly an asset on Kili – you’re able to forget about them and just enjoy your time on the mountain. A poor pair of boots, on the other hand, can pretty much wreck your trek. For this reason we want to help you find the very best hiking boots for Kilimanjaro. And not only for Kilimanjaro – we want you to invest in a pair of boots that can accompany you on many further adventures! Because once you’ve ascended Kilimanjaro, you’ll doubtless have caught the trekking bug.
So what makes for great hiking boots, especially when it comes to the challenges of trekking Tanzania’s Mt Kilimanjaro? And how do you go about finding them? Why not just rent hiking boots? And what about things like gaiters and crampons – are they necessary? Also, what are the best socks and bootlaces to wear when hiking? These are all questions we answer below. Additionally, we talk about how to care for your boots during the climb, and tips for keeping your feet healthy and happy during the climb!
Let’s get started by answering the question of whether or not you actually need hiking boots to tackle Kilimanjaro.
Do I need hiking boots or hiking shoes for Kilimanjaro?
We definitely recommend hiking boots over hiking shoes when it comes to climbing Kilimanjaro. The terrain of the mountain is rough and varied. You have to walk over roots and rocks, through streams and mud, over scree, across ice and snow, and more! So a quality pair of hiking boots is a must.
That said, you could opt to walk in hiking shoes some of the way, and boots the rest. A few Kili trekkers walk the first couple of days in hiking shoes because the temperatures near the base of the mountain are mild. They then switch into their boots higher up, where the ground gets rougher and the temperature drops. This is totally fine, but just remember that there are countless steps where you can easily twist an ankle, or worse. Kili is an expensive exercise to risk a busted ankle preventing you from reaching the top.
Hiking boots also offer greater warmth than hiking shoes, which is important when trekking the top half of Kilimanjaro where the conditions are harsh. Our advice is therefore, once again, to go with hiking boots over hiking shoes.
All of the trekking routes up Kilimanjaro take you over rough and varied ground – hiking boots are definitely warranted.
Look for hiking boots well in advance
The most important item on your Kilimanjaro packing list is a pair of comfortable, worn-in hiking boots. As such, your hiking boots shouldn’t be an afterthought in your Kilimanjaro preparation. Since rushed purchases lead to buyer’s remorse, give yourself plenty of time to shop around and find just the right pair (hopefully at the right price). You also need to leave yourself plenty of time to properly break in the boots.
Unfortunately quality hiking boots don’t come cheap. But speak to any seasoned trekker and they’ll tell you the same thing: hiking boots are an investment. A good pair of boots can last years, sometimes even decades. For this reason, try to think ahead to the sorts of treks you might like to do in the future. Consider the climate, terrain and other conditions of those routes to help you decide which boot is best for Kilimanjaro as well as those treks.
Anatomy of hiking boots
Knowing some basic hiking boot terminology will help you in your search for the best hiking boots for Kilimanjaro.
Characteristics of good hiking boots
Finding the best hiking boots for Kilimanjaro is an integral part of your Kilimanjaro preparation. There are so many different types and brands of hiking boots – both in-store and online – that shopping for them can be a bit daunting. The best way to enter the fray is to do so with some guiding principles. We give you a break down of what to look for when shopping for hiking boots for Kilimanjaro under the following three categories:
But first, an important caveat. Much like nutritionists tout different ideas about what you should eat to be healthy, hiking boot experts have differing opinions as to what boots lead to the happiest and healthiest feet. Frustrating stuff, but there you have it. And as research advances, we’re sure there will be different advice and industry standards to come in the future! With that being the case, we present both sides of the argument where debate exists to help you make up your own mind.
The upper boot
When it comes to the upper of a hiking boot, there are a few things to consider, as follows:
- Toe caps
- Ankle support
Hiking boot fabric is a very important topic. But it’s worth noting that there’s no ‘best’ fabric. What works well for one person might not be ideal for another. That’s why we can’t declare any one boot the best boot on the market. It’s all about you deciding for yourself based on expert opinion and knowing your own feet.
The two main hiking boot fabrics are leather and synthetics. And the two main concerns when it comes to boot fabric are breathability and absorbency. Unfortunately, the more waterproof a boot, the less breathable it is, meaning you usually have to settle on a compromise between the two. So here’s the 411 on leather and synthetic hiking boots …
Leather is a natural fibre (often cowhide) that makes very tough and long-lived hiking boots. It’s an excellent choice for many, and often those with leather hiking boots swear by them. Hiking boots are often made with full-grain leather, reverse full-grain leather, or nubuck. Leather boots are breathable, as animal skin has pores. But if you wax them enough they can become waterproof. Leather hiking boots are great for Kilimanjaro, provided they’re broken in well.
The pros of leather boots are as follows:
- They’re tough, resilient and durable.
- They can withstand abrasive action much better than synthetic fibres.
- A good pair of leather hiking boots can last years, even decades (though you may need to replace the soles).
- They can be made waterproof by waxing them regularly.
- They’re warm in cold weather.
- With time they mould to your feet and become very comfortable.
The cons (or possible drawbacks) of leather boots are:
- They tend to be more expensive than synthetic boots.
- They take a while to break in.
- The more waterproof you make them, the less breathable they become.
- They require more care and maintenance than synthetic boots.
- They’re heavier than synthetic boots.
Synthetic boots are any boots constructed from a human-made fabric. Many synthetic hiking boots are made from synthetic leather, nylon or polyester. The majority of Kilimanjaro trekkers climb the mountain in synthetic boots and find them excellent. Here are the pros of synthetic hiking boots:
- They tend to be cheaper than leather boots (we all have a budget).
- They’re quicker to break in.
- They also require less maintenance.
- They’re very breathable, which helps in the prevention of blisters.
- They’re lightweight.
And the cons?
- They aren’t waterproof.
- They’re not as tough and durable as leather boots.
- They’re not as warm as leather boots.
Water-resistant vs water-repellent vs waterproof
A quick word on the matter of absorbency. You’ve probably heard the terms water-resistant, water-repellent and waterproof and you might even have thought they’re synonymous. Not so. Waterproof materials are completely impermeable, so not a drop of water can get through. Water-repellent fabric is one step down, as it keeps most water out, but isn’t entirely waterproof. A water-resistant fabric is the least reliable – you might say it discourages water, but that’s all.
‘Water-resistant’ is not the same thing as ‘water-repellent’. And ‘waterproof’ is another thing altogether.
On Kilimanjaro you walk through rainforest, and sometimes over ice and snow. Having a waterproof boot is very helpful here, though a water-repellent one is usually sufficient too. If you want to avoid the rainy season on Kilimanjaro, you can read about the best time to climb Kilimanjaro or watch the video below.
Choosing between leather and synthetic boots for Kilimanjaro
When it comes to Kilimanjaro, both leather and synthetic boots work well. Synthetic boots might be a better option for you if you have particularly sweaty feet or are prone to blistering, as they offer excellent breathability. Remember, the more you wax leather boots, the less breathable they become.
Kilimanjaro isn’t a particularly wet climb, as you’re not walking in a monsoonal region or anything like that. But the lower portion of the mountain – which you hike your first day along most Kilimanjaro routes – has a rainforest climate and so does get plenty of rain, especially at certain times of year. Also, you’ve got the potential of ice and snow at the summit of the mountain to contend with. So water-repellent boots are a plus for a Kilimanjaro climb. You can’t afford wet feet when trekking in an arctic climate.
You want to avoid boots that are too heavy for you to walk comfortably for long stretches. Each day on a Kilimanjaro climb sees you hiking for hours – and that’s hours of up climbing for the most part. As mentioned, leather boots tend to be heavier than synthetic boots. We suggest when trying on the boots that you walk around the store for some time, lunging, squatting, air kicking and just generally putting on a show to help you ascertain if the boots are the right weight for you.
In fact, some stores have treadmills you can use to help test out the boots. These are a fantastic resource and we recommend taking the time to really test out the boots on them.
Note that a boot may not feel heavy when standing in the store, but after hours of walking it could become troublesomely heavy. We suggest you ask the sales clerk for advice in this regard.
3. Toe caps
A toe cap (or toe shield) is a hard surface wrapped around the outer edge of the toe box. Some boot toe caps are even made from steel. The toe cap is a feature that helps to protect your precious toes (and the boot fabric) from things like falling rocks, thorns and bashings. Not all hiking boots have toe caps – if the material is already tough enough, like certain leathers, then they’re not necessary. But if buying boots made with a relatively soft fabric like Gore-Tex, be sure to purchase ones with quality toe caps.
The inside lining of hiking boots is important as this determines to a large degree the warmth of your feet while trekking. This is very important on a Kilimanjaro climb where you enter some very cold climates near the top of the mountain, including an arctic climate at the summit. The materials used to line the inside of boots vary, including fabrics like leather, microfibre and insulated or vegan lining. Synthetic linings can sometimes lead to extra sweating and bad odours.
Winter hiking boots tend to use fluffy lambskin or insulated lining, but you don’t really need winter hiking boots for Kilimanjaro. These would be overkill for much of the trek. When worn with thermal socks, regular hiking boots that have a standard inner lining will see you through summit day of a Kili climb just fine. That said, you certainly could opt for winter hiking boots if you plan to do most or many of your future treks in very cold conditions.
5. Ankle support
It’s important to think about your ankles when choosing hiking boots. One busted ankle could mean the end of your Kilimanjaro climb. For this reason many advocate choosing high-cut hiking boots. These have a high collar that wraps around your ankles to offer them support. You want to find boots that have a nicely padded collar as these are more comfortable for the ankles as well your shins and lower calves. If you’re unused to high-cut boots, note that they can take a while to get used to. This is another good reason to spend plenty of time in your boots before hitting the slopes of Kili!
It’s worth saying that the very best ankle support is strong ligaments and muscles in the feet and lower legs. Those who argue for a more ‘natural’ type of hiking boot say that artificial ankle support is actually unhelpful. They point to the fact that no ankle support can completely immobilise your ankle (to prevent sprains or breaks), and argue that you don’t actually want this anyway. The argument against ankle support will likely ring prettily in the ears of those who hate high-cut boots! If you do choose to go with low-cut boots, be sure to still go with proper hiking boots, not regular trainers. You want the other characteristics of good hiking boots (like insulation and toe caps) to be in place.
The fit of a hiking boot is crucial. You’re going to be spending long hours in your boots every day, so the best hiking boots for Kilimanjaro are, naturally, ones that fit your feet very well.
We strongly suggest that you go into a reputable outdoors store to find the best hiking boots for you. While shopping online can be tempting (especially when you find a sweet deal), you’re left on your own when the boots arrive to determine if they’re a good fit. It’s better to have someone who’s bread and butter is shoes to help you find the just right pair.
When thinking about fit, we suggest you pay attention to boot size as well as the toe box.
While you may be someone who is usually a size 6, for instance, don’t let that number stick in your head when shopping for hiking boots. Keep an open mind about what size you should purchase. For starters, the sizings of each brand may not be identical. And secondly, you often need a bigger boot size to your normal shoe size. More on that in just a moment.
A good guide when looking for the right size hiking boot is the index finger test. This test says that when your boots are on and laced, you should be able to fit your index finger between your (sock-clad) foot and the back of the boot. You want a boot that protects your feet but doesn’t distort or overly confine them. Ideally, you want a boot that allows for some engagement with the ground while still offering protection.
Wear your socks when choosing your boots
It’s important to take your different hiking socks with you when you visit the outdoors store to buy your hiking boots. As discussed below, your hiking socks for Kilimanjaro should include sock liners, thermal socks and regular hiking socks. If you don’t have these socks already, ask the sales clerk to give you appropriate pairs to try on with the boots, and then buy those too.
You need boots that are large enough to fit a sock liner as well as a thick thermal sock. It’s no use deciding a pair of hiking boots fits you well but they turn out to be too small when you add your Kili socks into the mix. This is another reason why you may end up buying hiking boots that are a size (or half a size) larger than you expected.
Did you know? Many people have slightly differently sized feet. In fact, around two thirds of the world’s population have unequal feet! Experts say that if your one foot is half a size bigger than your other foot, you should buy shoes to fit your bigger foot. This makes sense. Remember the saying …
“If you want to forget all your other troubles, wear too tight shoes.”
The toe box
The hiking boots of the past few decades have mostly provided relatively narrow (or tapered) toe boxes that keep your toes pressed relatively close together. (The toe box, as you saw in the infographic above, refers to the front area of the shoe that houses your toes.) Some now argue for the superiority of a wide toe box that allows for natural toe splay. Toe splay refers to how your toes naturally spread out when you walk barefoot. Toe splay is important in helping you to maintain balance. When a shoe reduces or takes away toe splay, it often compensates for the reduced balance by giving you a wider front sole. But is this ideal? Narrow toe boxes can sometimes lead to nasties like ingrown toenails, neuromas or even dead toenails.
Whichever shaped toe box you choose, note that your toes shouldn’t touch the front of the boot. Far from it, in fact. Leave about a finger’s width between the front of the boot and your toes. If you can’t move your toes at all, they’re too confined. Your toes also shouldn’t be pressed up against the sides of the boot – again, that would mean your boot is too small.
The soles of your hiking boots are a make-or-break feature. You want soles that have good tread and are waterproof, comfortable and durable.
There are two differing views when it comes to the ideal thickness of a hiking boot’s sole. The established viewpoint is that the thicker the sole, the more protection the sole of your foot receives. A thick sole prevents your foot being injured when you step on things like sharp stones, and it endures longer.
Another reason for a thick sole is that the more weight you’re carrying (like a heavy rucksack, for instance), the longer it lasts. The army issues thick-soled boots because soldiers often carry heavy equipment. With Kilimanjaro, you only need to carry a slackpack with your daily items, as the porters carry the rest of your stuff as well as all of the food and camping equipment.
The other viewpoint – the challenger – is that a thick sole is too rigid and holds your foot in one position. More specifically, your foot is prevented from feeling and making micro adjustments to the demands of the terrain underfoot. Advocates for this viewpoint also argue that a thinner sole lowers your centre of gravity and so improves your balance. Leonardo da Vinci said that the “human foot is a masterpiece of engineering”; should we be letting our feet do more of the work when hiking than the boot?
As you saw in our discussion on the anatomy of hiking boots, the soles of boots can be divided into three parts: the insole, midsole and outsole. When looking at the outsole of a hiking boot, you want one that’s decently wide, especially in the front half, for good balance.
The lugs of the outsole are what afford you traction, which helps you to not slip. If you’re likely to tackle treks that ask you to walk across surfaces like grasses, streams, scree or ice, then you want good traction to avoid slipping. You need decent traction for climbing Kilimanjaro as the forest floor can be muddy and there’s snow and ice near the summit.
Outsoles can be made from various materials like polyurethane, plastic or rubber. For a hiking boot you definitely want an outsole that’s waterproof and durable. Vibram is an example of a brand that makes quality outsoles suitable for hiking boots. Their outsoles are hardy and abrasion-resistant, so cope well with rough terrain like that of Mt Kilimanjaro.
Outsoles do tend to wear out before other parts of a hiking boot given the beating they take. But the good news is that you can often get a boot resoled, saving you ditching the entire shoe when the sole becomes too degraded.
The tread pattern formed by the lugs on an outsole can increase or decrease a boot’s grip. You want plenty of deep lugs with a fair bit of space between them to provide you with good traction when you walk. Lug depth is also important as abrasion from walking will wear them down with time. While most hiking boots should have this, check for lugs that cover the ball of the boot and its heel.
Many trekkers enjoy insoles with memory foam. As your feet heat up with walking, the heat spreads to the memory foam, which starts moulding to your feet. You also want an insole with decent arch support. Women especially tend to have insteps, and inadequate arch support can lead to foot problems.
Obviously if you’re someone who does have problematic arches, the best course of action in such instances would be to visit a podiatrist. They can offer custom-made insets if necessary. If you have such orthotics, check the sole of the hiking boot is removable as usually you won’t have room in the boot for both.
Break in your boots like a pro
Be very careful to break in your hiking boots properly before your Kilimanjaro climb. This is especially important with leather boots. Even if your boots feel super comfy when you test them out (which they should), they still need breaking in. What’s comfortable in-store isn’t usually comfortable after a few hours of hard hiking.
It’s recommended that you and your boots cover at least 100 km together before your Kilimanjaro climb. Start by wearing the boots around the house and on short outings like to get the groceries. Gradually level up by doing some longer walks, and then eventually going on increasingly longer hikes, backpack in place. If you try to rush the process, you’re likely to get sore feet, especially with leather boots. This is another reason why you shouldn’t leave your Kilimanjaro preparation to the last minute – if you do, you won’t have enough time to properly break in your boots.
A word of caution: don’t listen to the folks who suggest quick-fix remedies like soaking the boots. The very best way to break in boots is to spend lots of time in them. Breaking in your boots properly is so important that it’s one of our top 10 tips for climbing and summiting Mt Kilimanjaro.
Breaking in your boots gets your feet used to the boots, and the boots used to your feet.
If you find your toes are hurting or blistering – or your toenails are suffering – while breaking in your boots (or even after your boots are worn in), you might like to try out toe caps. Toe caps are gel ‘socks’ that you can slide over individual toes to protect them from friction and provide some extra cushioning. Again, you wouldn’t try something like this for the first time on Kili – experiment with toe caps before coming to the mountain to ensure they work and don’t produce any side effects.
Keep your boots with you when you travel
We’ve just discussed all of the time, effort and money that goes into finding the right pair of hiking boots. It’s a lot. So the very last thing you want after finding your ‘sole-mates’ is for them to go missing, get stolen or in any other way end up somewhere that isn’t with you! To this end, we always recommend that clients keep their boots on their person when travelling to Tanzania.
When flying to Tanzania, you could put your hiking boots in your hand luggage, but they tend to be bulky and heavy. So usually it’s best to just wear them while travelling. This way, should your luggage disappear or be delayed en route to Tanzania (this does happen sometimes), your Kili climb isn’t derailed. We always do our best to help clients with any needed items, but new or rented hiking boots could compromise your climb in a big way.
Side note: If for whatever reason you decide by the end of the Kili climb that your boots just aren’t for you, know that any of the porters would be super grateful to have them. Just hand over the boots and travel onwards with lighter luggage and the knowledge that your boots are going to enjoy a full and rewarding second life!
Kilimanjaro and crampons
Crampons are metal frames with spikes that you can attach to the bottom of your boots to help give you fantastic traction when walking in snow and ice. When hiking Kilimanjaro, you don’t need the hardcore crampons used by those tackling mountains like Everest. Instead, a pair of light crampons will do the trick.
That said, crampons usually aren’t needed on a Kilimanjaro climb. The only time you might like to have them is when conditions are particularly icy at the summit. When this is the case, you can hire strap-on crampons trouble free in Tanzania just before heading to the mountain. If you travel with Follow Alice, we’ll advise you on arrival in Tanzania if our trek team thinks they’d be helpful, and assist you in renting a pair. Crampons can clip onto pretty much any hiking boot.
The good news in all of this is that crampons aren’t something you need to research and buy for a Kilimanjaro trek.
When talking about hiking boots, it’s essential to also talk about socks …
You can’t really talk about shoes without talking about socks. In fact, your choice of socks for Kilimanjaro is almost as important as your choice of hiking boots. We recommend bringing three types of socks to Kilimanjaro:
- hiking socks
- thermal socks
- sock liners.
Just like underwear, we suggest that you bring a few pairs of quality hiking socks along with you. Quality hiking socks are usually made from synthetic material to wick away moisture and keep your feet dry. They also often have extra padding around the toes and heels.
It’s important to test out your hiking socks before coming to Kilimanjaro. The best materials for hiking socks are wool and nylon. They keep your feet warm while also wicking moisture and drying quickly. Cotton socks are a big no-no. Note that we discuss in detail the different types of socks to pack in our Kilimanjaro packing list. This includes considering the best fabrics for each type of sock.
Hopefully you’ll follow our advice to take your hiking socks with you when you select your hiking boots to ensure they fit nicely into your boots. That done, you also should do some preparation hikes to break in the boots and test the socks. For instance, do the socks have worrisome seams? Do they stay put or do they rotate or bunch? Is the fabric kind to your feet?
It’s important to test out your hiking socks before coming to Kilmanjaro. Never bring new socks with you.
You might also like to consider toe socks if you’re prone to blistering between your toes. Toe socks have separate compartments for each toe. They take some getting used to, but some hikers find them useful.
The higher you climb on Kilimanjaro, the more important thermal socks become. On summit day, you’ll be walking for many hours in an arctic climate. Thermal socks aren’t just a comfort in such a situation, but a necessity! As discussed above, the important thing with thermal socks is to ensure your feet still fit in your hiking boots. We suggest bringing at least one pair of thermal socks. But you might also enjoy a second pair for the day or two before the summit hike, as things can be pretty darn cold at that elevation too. Be sure to do some test hikes in which you wear your thermal socks with your hiking boots to check their comfortability.
We also suggest you bring sock liners to Kilimanjaro. These are great in helping to prevent blisters because the friction gathers between the liner and the sock rather than between your skin and the sock. It’s quite common for climbers to get blisters on their feet, especially on summit day when you’re on your feet for around 12 hours. A pair of quality sock liners could save your feet from all sorts of agonies. We suggest bringing three pairs along, one of which you set aside for summit day to go under your thermal socks. Again, be sure as part of your Kilimanjaro preparation to do hikes wearing your sock liners to ensure they’re comfortable.
Bootlaces aren’t something most of us give much thought. We simply use what comes with a pair of new boots. And usually those do the job just fine. But should you like a little more insight into the ideal bootlaces, then read on …
Best bootlaces for hiking boots
We recommend round bootlaces over flat ones for hiking boots. Round bootlaces are a bit more durable, being able to cope with stronger knots and tugs. Note that polyester or nylon bootlaces are more durable and water-resistant than cotton ones. Braided or paracord nylon bootlaces are super strong and an excellent option for hiking boots. Nylon laces are a touch more expensive, but they last very well.
You also want laces with aglets (plastic-coated ends) to make threading them through eyelets more manageable. Aglets have the added advantage of preventing the laces from fraying.
Finally, you want bootlaces long enough for the very top hooks or eyelets of the boots. Of course the laces that come with the boots you buy should be long enough for this. But if you ever need to replace your laces, measure them or take them with you to the store to ensure the new ones are the right length.
5 tips for happy feet on Kilimanjaro
Let’s say you now own and have broken in a simply brilliant pair of hiking boots. Yay! But will that equal perfectly happy feet on your Kilimanjaro climb? Hopefully yes, but to end, here are five tips for helping to ensure that’s the case.
1. Bring sneakers to wear at camp
Many trekkers find that when they reach camp they love to kick off their boots and slip into some softer sneakers. It’s all about giving your feet (and shins) a rest from your boots, which will probably be pretty hot and sweaty. That said, our Head of Sales, Tash King, loves her hiking boots so much that she just undid the laces when she reached camp and chilled in her boots. She was happiness itself with this situation. So as with any advice: use it, don’t use it. You do you, Boo.
Trekking sandals are also a nice option for letting your feet breathe. They can be worn with socks when things get chilly. But they’re arguably not quite right for Kilimanjaro as they won’t serve well at the higher elevations where things are downright frosty. On these days you’d need sneakers as well. But again, you know you best. If trekking sandals are your happy shoes, then go with them.
2. Address any hint of a blister
Blisters. How are they not a swear word? During your Kilimanjaro climb you need to take every precaution possible to prevent these trek-wreckers from setting up shop. Common causes of blisters are:
- tight spots in your boots
- wrinkles in socks
- excessive moisture
Even with the best hiking boots in the world, blisters can happen. Bog standard blister plasters from the chemist don’t work on hikes as they tend to bunch or even slide off given the non-stop action of hiking. We recommend that you bring moleskin plaster with you on the climb so that you can cover any hot spots you feel developing. An alternative to moleskin is leukotape, a very sticky and breathable tape that won’t budge even when wet. Just note that with leukotape you need an under-wrap as well to protect your skin from the adhesive.
3. Keep a fresh pair of socks just for summit day
Summit day is by far the hardest day of any Kilimanjaro climb. Not only do you have the exhaustion that comes with exercising at high altitude, and the intense cold to battle, but you’re also on your feet for around 12 hours! Having a fresh pair of thermal socks to put on when you’re woken up at midnight to prepare for the Big Push is not only a small comfort, but a smart move. Your feet will take strain, and a dry, clean pair of socks can help to combat common issues like blisters and infections. Summit day is also a good day for a fresh pair of sock liners. You can thank us later.
4. Wear gaiters
Gaiters aren’t essential while climbing Kilimanjaro, but we do recommend them. Chris Sichalwe, our Kilimanjaro lead guide, swears by them. You’ll never see him without his trusty gaiters in place. The benefits of gaiters include:
- helping to keep your calves and feet dry
- preventing gravel and stones getting into your shoes (super annoying!)
- protecting you from ticks, snakebites and other nasties
The first day of your Kilimanjaro climb is spent walking through the forest, so gaiters help to keep your feet and lower legs dry and free from mud. Then, on summit day, you hike through snow and ice, so they’re especially helpful during that stage of the trek too. As to keeping out dust and stones – gaiters are super helpful when you start your descent of the mountain. You’ll spend a fair amount of time skidding down scree, and this sends dust and pebbles flying everywhere!
5. Clean your boots on the trek
If your boots are an investment (which they are), then you should treat them with care. For one thing, this means giving them regular cleanings. We won’t get into long-term care here (though this is definitely an important aspect of proper boot maintenance), but rather touch on the attentions you can give your boots during your Kilimanjaro climb.
Every evening in camp, we recommend that you firstly bang the soles of the boots together to shake off dust and mud. Then remove what remains on the upper boot with a stiff brush. Next, take a sturdy item like a mini screwdriver or strong twig to gently dislodge stubborn mud and stones caught in the tread and along the rand (where the sole and boot upper meet). Removing mud is especially important with leather shoes, as it draws out moisture and weakens the fabric. If the mud is proving intractable, use a little water to soften it so that you can get it off.
Finally, we suggest determining beforehand that you will give your hiking boots a few moments of your time at the end of each day. We say this because (a) you’ll be tired and perhaps inclined to kick them off and forget about them, and (b) not everyone will be looking after their boots properly, so you won’t necessarily receive encouragement in your diligence! It’s a fairly meaty process to find the right pair of hiking boots. So take good care of the ones you have and save yourself the trouble and expense of having to replace them too soon.