“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.  That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away and you have their shoes.” (Jack Handey)

One of the main reasons for setting up this website was to share information – so I very much appreciate the comments people write in with.  A good example of this is the response to the video I did on jungle boots sometime ago and the comments drew my attention to some new ideas for possible footwear.

So the video below covers some of these suggestions and reviews the ones I’ve been trying out since.

While I was making the video I got to thinking about whether there is any real difference between footwear advice for the jungle vs, say, advice for people trekking in the US or Europe.  Certainly there is a lot of overlap, but there are some specifics about the jungle trekking that do apply:

1) Jungles are warm – so keeping your feet warm (and dry) is not as critical as it would be in, say, sub-zero temperatures.

2) Jungles are humid – humidity degrades all sorts of equipment and can cause the glue to perish between the shoes and its sole.

3) Jungles are wet – often  your feet are going to be wet from morning to night, either because of rain or because you are wading through rivers.

4) Plants in the jungle often  have vicious defense systems – rattans and bamboo can rip weaker gear to shreds, a thorn from, say, a Nibong tree can easily pierce the sole of a soft rubber shoe and enter your foot.

5) There are things that bite – leeches, ticks, snakes and centipedes are all most likely to bite you on the foot or lower leg.

6) Often the terrain is muddy and slippy (because of all the rain and fact that rainforests ‘dry-out’ slowly) – needing traction on mud.

7) Often you will be walking alongside, wading in or crossing rivers.  The path of least resistance through the jungle is often along rivers but they are potentially dangerous places to walk – slippy moss covered boulders, wet tree trunks used as bridges can both send you flying.  This type of terrain requires footwear with traction on slippy smooth surfaces.

The last two points are, unfortunately, bad news for footwear choice as the type of grip that works well in mud is different from that which works well on slippy smooth surfaces.

I have tried a few ways to get round this – even crampons to grip on tree trunks used as bridges, or simply going across in my socks.  Neither of these are ideal solutions and, as anyone who has tried it will know, crossing rivers barefoot is not a good idea unless your feet are super toughened up.  Why?  Simply because river beds have the the odd sharp stone or branch that will hurt your feet and thus make you less stable: you will be ‘feeling’ for comfortable spots to place your feet, rather than treading confidently (which you can do in boots).

Of course, the obvious solution to this problem is to take two pairs of shoes – one for trekking on mud, the other for river crossings.  I usually carry a pair of Crocs for the evenings, but these are not really designed for river crossings and to bring along yet another pair of shoes as well is getting a bit ridiculous.

Recently I came across an interesting product that may provide the answer.  Developed by a Spanish Company called Onemoment, they are inspired by the Amazonian practice of painting latex on your feet when in the jungle – basically a rubber shoe just 1mm thick (but 2mm for the sole) they are, apparently, breathable and mold to your feet.  I’ve ordered a pair to test out and will let you know how they perform.

Another product I came across recently was the barefoot type shoe – I was trekking with someone using these in the jungle some weeks back and he seemed to get along fine with them.  I haven’t tried them myself so can’t really comment but, if you are interested in checking them out, here’s a link to the Vibram fivefinger trek shoe.

For me, the Altbergs and the Inov8 Mud Claw are my two favourites for the moment and I’ll switch between them depending on the type of trip I’m going on.  The Altbergs have been well tested over time, the inov8’s not so much (so I can’t testify to how well they’ll hold up over time).  The OTB Jungle Boots offer a compromise between the Altbergs and the inov8s – they are a ‘light’ version of the Altberg but offer more ankle protection that the inov8s.  I haven’t used them myself but know someone who has and he liked them a lot.

Like any piece of kit for trekking the right solution for you may well be different for me – that’s just the way life is – so the important thing to do is to test footwear before you go on a long trek and find something that you are comfortable with….but hopefully this video will give you some ideas of what to bear in mind when making your selection.