Desert Boots

12:51 p.m. on April 16, 2013 (EDT)
39 reviewer rep
4 forum posts

In the coming months I will be going on a 400 mile trek through the Mojave, Sonoran, and Great Basin deserts, and I am looking for a pair of desert boots up to the task. I have a few requirements, and was hoping that the good folks on Trailspace might have some experience or insights that would help me decide on the best boot for the job. Ideally these boots would be...

  • Vibram soled
  • mid height
  • have a rubber toe bumper attached with adhesive, not stiched
  • ultra-breathable
  • leightweight
  • minimal stitching throughout
  • mixed mesh/leather upper
  • light in color to reflect sun
  • reasonable price, although I am flexible if I find the perfect pair

I really appreciate anything you all would be able to recommend, and welcome past experiences. Thanks!

10:30 a.m. on April 17, 2013 (EDT)
25 reviewer rep
3,190 forum posts


There are lots of those boots out there.  I would avoid Goretex.  I would avoid a lot of padding, desert boots need to breathe.  Some short gaiters would be good to keep sand and grass awns from getting in your socks.

I would avoid the hot months in the desert.  It is better to be in the low desert in the winter, and the higher desert in spring and fall.  The more you need water out there the harder it is to find.  The moisture all comes in the winter except for the occasional and undependable thunderstorm in summer.

What are your plans for water?  It will determine your routes.

10:44 a.m. on April 17, 2013 (EDT)
625 reviewer rep
1,178 forum posts

Welcome to Trailspace Anthony!

I wonder about getting some feedback from some veterans about the govt. issue boots for Iraq and Afghanistan?

Another potential resource is this post from's Bryon Powell about the footwear choices of runners in the Marathon Des Sables:

Let us know what you settle on for footwear and share pictures of your epic journey!

12:15 p.m. on April 17, 2013 (EDT)
228 reviewer rep
26 forum posts


There are many boots out there that will fill you need. For mid-height boots, I'd recommend these from Oakley:

I'm an Army Reserve officer, 26 years of service and counting, and have spent a good deal of time in Iraq and other overseas locations. I've worn the taller version of these boots and issue boots made by Belleville and Rocky in all sorts of desert conditions. They are comfortable, durable, and well made for the type of environment you're anticipating. You should have plenty of support when carrying a load. I personally know a lot of Soldiers who have the Oakley's and wear them exclusively.

Some of the issue boots, like Belleville and Bates, do have problems in rocky terrain, like Afghanistan - the soles tend to break down quickly. The Army fixed this by first issuing Danner Mountain boots, then a modified version of the Belleville's.

Hope this helps,



1:57 p.m. on April 17, 2013 (EDT)
5,616 reviewer rep
2,036 forum posts

there are tons of options out there.  the sneaker companies (new balance, converse, among others) make light colored desert boots, Danner makes a number of different models, Bates does too.  use any internet search provider's "shopping" function and insert the words "desert boot."


avoid the gore tex models.  they don't vent moisture as well and feel warmer. 

3:13 p.m. on April 17, 2013 (EDT)
12 reviewer rep
848 forum posts

yeah, definitely avoid goretex. look at bates and danner.

11:38 p.m. on April 17, 2013 (EDT)
880 reviewer rep
301 forum posts

I live and hike in the desert, both winter and summer.  I agree with everyone - stay away from Goretex or other waterproofed-lined boots.

Personally, though, I like a leather boot.  The desert is full of things that stick, and I've been stuck by them all.  Since switching to a leather boot, I've been stuck less.  Much less.  Foxtails and cactus needles just don't get through.  Cholla, AKA Jumping Cholla, is especially  tenacious.  Carry a pocket comb to make removal easier.    

Another advantage to a leather boot is that it's impervious to sand and dust from filtering in, as a mesh shoe would.  I still have several pairs of socks that are permanently  stained red from desert dust.  Short gaiters will help a lot in keeping out sand from coming in over the tops.

Leather may be a bit hotter than an lightweight mesh boot, but for me, it's the only way to go.


11:06 a.m. on April 18, 2013 (EDT)
25 reviewer rep
3,190 forum posts


I agree with you about leather for the desert, especially the low desert with the most plants that bite.

9:16 a.m. on April 19, 2013 (EDT)
39 reviewer rep
4 forum posts

WOW, the feedback from you guys far exceeded my expectations, thanks all!

I was told by some Vet friends of mine that the standard issue Bates mil spec boots are junk, but I'll certainly ask around about these Oakleys.

Thank you all for clearing up the "to gore or not to gore" debate, I was leaning against it, but I've also had more than one overzealous retailer with dollars on the brain nearly convince me that Gore-Tex mesh would be better. That's why it's better to get your information on Trailspace.

You all can feel free to check out our team's websites, as soon as I can figure out how to post a URL. This trip has taken over one year too plan, and we've made sure every single base is covered. We've planned out one resupply cache per day, and are carrying our water in the 10L MSR Dromedary, the studliest water bladder available.

9:18 a.m. on April 19, 2013 (EDT)
39 reviewer rep
4 forum posts

I put up the links to the expedition websites on my member profile if anyone is interested.

May 23, 2018
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