Last Updated on September 18, 2019 by Jeremy
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When I spent five months in Asia in late-2010 there was one set of items in my packing list that went through more torture than any other. Not my shirts, pants, or even my expensive and fragile electronics.
The items in my packing list that went through the most torment were simply my walking shoes and flip flops.
From long hikes in the mud, the flip flops being stolen by a dog on a beach in Thailand, to an immeasurable number of puddles and miles walked, my shoes were really put to the test. What else goes through such wear and tear when walking more than a thousand miles over the course five months? Nothing we know of.
So when we began putting together our packing list for our upcoming 14-18 month trip around the world we knew that having the right pair of shoes was going to be the most crucial decision we would make. After all, if I walked over a thousand miles on a five month trip, an adventure three times as long is going to provide three times more wear and tear to whatever goes on our feet.
Obviously, we didn't take our shoe choice lightly.
What KEEN Shoes Do You Need? Check the Itinerary
When looking at picking the right shoes, we had to first consider the climate and terrain we would be seeing during our itinerary. Many brands make shoes that can last for thousands of miles of exploring, but when you also want shoes that protect from the elements or are made to perform on specific terrain you begin to narrow the options down quite considerably.
While our adventure is a “chasing summer” itinerary by design there are just a few oddities that stand out which our shoes would need to be prepared to handle:
- Eastern Europe Beaches (1 month in October 2013)
- Everest Base Camp Hiking (2 weeks in November 2013)
- Antarctica Cruise (2 weeks in February 2014)
- Central America Beaches (1-2 months in June/July 2014)
Our itinerary has us hitting several beach destinations but only for 3-4 months out of the entire trip, so only taking a good pair of sandals is out. We also have some major hikes planned, but again are only for a month or so of the entire trip.
Packing a pair of full-fledged hiking boots also seems silly, but we are also leery on the idea of buying and reselling hiking boots every time we want to go on a hike.
So to combat our variable itinerary of beach, city, and nature environments we opted to get one pair of KEEN flip flops and one pair of combination hiking/walking boots to cover all scenarios.
All-in-all, most long-term itineraries fall on this type of packing list choice. Only a few of the most extreme travelers opt for durable sandals the whole way through, such as MagicTravelBlog who wore their KEEN sandals for 8 months straight on a RTW trip and had the tan lines to show for it. On the other end of the spectrum, only those who plan to hike every single day typically pack hiking shoes, and we're definitely not that intense.
After deciding on the types, we had to find the best shoes and sandals that would withstand our multiple environment trip as well as last over a year and a half of constant use. As it turns out, that was not an easy task.
The Multi-Purpose Packing List
After my last long-term trip, I realized that I am guilty of being one of the worst over-packers in the history of travel writing. My bag is massive (95L) and I take enough clothes to last me weeks. While I am personally fine with that, we are trying to focus on minimizing our packing list requirements to items that have multiple purposes for many unique scenarios.
When considering the need for multi-purpose shoes, our minds immediately jumped to KEEN Footwear's waterproof styles for a number of reasons that fall in-line with our packing list goal:
- Waterproof sneakers are perfect for wet hikes and cold environments; as well as those days where the rain never seems to quit.
- I recall a nightmarish experience the last time I was in Venice when my non-waterproof shoes got soaked in the flooded alleys and would be perfectly happy if that did not happen on this trip.
- They also dry faster after experiencing said hikes in the worst case scenarios, getting rid of that horrible feeling that stays with you for several days after a good soak.
- That Venice experience in particular proved to require a rather expensive and unexpected laundry day. Avoiding those just once per month would pay for the cost difference over the entire trip.
- Most models of KEEN sneakers double as hiking shoes with deep soles that are built to last.
- All those slips and trips I had in Sapa could have been avoided if the soles of my sneakers weren't already worn to a nub. No local women having to hold my hand during the muddy parts anymore thank-you-very-much!
- Waterproof sandals can double as shower shoes when in a grungy hostel or lesser cleaned facility
- We're hoping to stay in apartments and hotels for most of our trip, but you never know when a bad shower will sneak up on you. A good pair of sandals could really save your life here.
- KEEN sandals in particular are one of the most durable on the market, and have the structure and support of a good shoe while still keeping the sandal concept.
- No need to take off a shoe at the beach means that a beach dog wont try and steal them from me again, nor will we have to endure the pain of flip flops digging into our toes ever again.
After a lot of research into the different varieties of waterproof shoes KEEN offers, we decided on the following models to join our RTW packing list:
- Siskiyou Waterproof (Mens)
- Alamosa Waterproof (Womens)
- Newport H2 Waterproof (Mens and Womens)
So take a good look, because at the end of our trip we'll be comparing how the shoes held up! (Our full KEEN Shoes Review after the fact is available at the previous link!)
The biggest challenge for the ultimate travel shoe begins now.
How'd Our KEENs Survive?
Fifteen months after leaving for the adventure discussed in the above article, we returned home. We took them on numerous adventures like trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, climbing sand dunes in Oman and Namibia, exploring icy Patagonia in South America, and walked hundreds, if not thousands, of miles in cities all over the world.
But there is only one question we have left: did our KEENs survive their time on the road? Head over to our KEEN shoes review to find out more!
To buy your own pair of KEENs for world travel, you can do so by clicking the previous link or selecting a shoe from the following links to be taken directly to KEEN. Note that the exact models of shoes have since changed and our links point to the current equivalent:
We'd like to thank KEEN Footwear for providing us with these great shoes and sandals for our adventure. Whether you are looking for a shoe to go travel the world with or just to use in your every day activities, we love our KEEN shoes and recommend you check them out!
About the Author: Jeremy is a full-time travel writer based in Pittsburgh and primary author of this site. He has been to 70+ countries on five continents and seeks out new food, adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences wherever he travels.