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Inca Trail Shoes – Put Your Best Foot Forward

Alison Macallister

So, you’ve booked your hike and are looking to get your gear in order. The most important piece of trekking equipment is your hiking shoes.

If your old-reliable pair of hiking boots are looking a bit worn, it’s probably time to look for something new. These days, there are so many options on the market, it’s hard to know where to start.

In this article, I will share my best insights for choosing suitable Inca trail shoes for trekking along this famous route.

Let’s begin.

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Inca Trail Shoes

What Shoes Should I Wear to Hike the Inca Trail?

Tennis shoes or trainers are not advisable as Inca Trail shoes. You need something with a good grip for sandy trails and stone steps. Also, consider your comfort in terms of cushioning and ankle support. Pack proper hiking boots or a good pair of trail runners.

Hiking Tip: The most important thing about the shoes for the Inca Trail is that they are worn in. Don’t wait until you get to Cusco to buy a brand-new pair of boots. Buy your hiking shoes a few months in advance and wear them on a few training hikes.

My advice is to also buy a few pairs of good sports socks or hiking socks. I also never hike without a pack of bandaids in case of blisters, especially with breaking in new hiking shoes.

Want more advice on what to take with you on the Inca Trail? See our full Inca Trail packing list.

inca trail shoes

Trail Running Shoes Or Hiking Boots: Which Is Better For The Inca Trail?

There was a time when heavy-duty boots were the only option for serious hiking trails. Those days are over!

Of course, there are fantastic, modern, and lightweight hiking boots available. A tough pair of boots is still the first choice for most hikers.

On the other hand, the market for trail running shoes is expanding every week. These lighter shoes are surprisingly comfortable for long treks. They take up less space in a backpack and can be cleaned and worn around town. Trail runners also have an equally good grip over rough terrain.

Pros of Classic Hiking Boots

There are several pros to wearing classic hiking boots on the Inca Trail:

  • Good ankle support
  • Waterproof options
  • Look the part
  • Strong uppers are resistant to damage from rocks and snagging

Cons of Classic Hiking Boots

With that said, there are a few cons with wearing classic hiking boots on the Inca Trail like:

  • Heavier than trail running shoes
  • Low breathability
  • Single function
  • Usually need some care

Pros of Trail Running Shoes For Hiking

Like classic hiking boots, there are some great pros to wearing trail running shoes while hiking the Inca Trail like:

  • Lightweight
  • Multi-functional
  • Good breathability
  • Easy to care for and some are machine-washable

Cons of Trail Running Shoes For Hiking

With that said, there are also some cons to wearing trail running shoes while hiking the Inca Trail like: 

  • Not good waterproofing
  • Uppers damage more easily
  • Lack ankle support for all those stairs

What To Look for in Shoes for the Inca Trail

Whichever type of shoes you pick to hike the Inca Trail, there are some things you need to consider:

  • Durability
  • Fit
  • Ankle Support and Waterproofing

Durability

Firstly, boots or trail shoes need to be durable. Knock-offs of well-known brands are rife in South America. It’s best to buy good-quality boots or shoes at home or from a reputable store. Your footwear should also have good stitching, strategic padding, and a thick tread (with good grip), which are all important stuff for hiking the Inca Trail.

Fit

Just as important as quality is fit. After going through dozens of both hiking boots and trail runners, I can testify that not all shoes of the same size fit the same. Your first choice should be to go into the store and try pairs on yourself. Be sure to walk around a little to get an idea of how they feel while on the move.

If you really must buy shoes online, measure your feet carefully (width and length). Compare size charts and read ALL the product reviews. The arch and heel height of the shoe makes a big difference to walking comfort.

Ankle Support and Waterproofing

Good Inca Trail boots should also offer ankle support. This is especially true if you are susceptible to ankle injuries.

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Hiking Tip: Are you planning your hike around the Inca’s wet season? Consider buying a pair of good-quality waterproof hiking boots.

Best Shoes for Hiking the Inca Trail - Our Top 5 Picks

Salomon X Ultra 3 MID Gore-TEX Hiking Boots for Men, Castor Gray/Black/Green Sulphur, 7

These boots deliver the exceptional quality we have come to expect from the Salomon name. These waterproof boots are specially designed for more comfortable descents, even over wet landscapes. They are perfect for tackling steep passes on the Inca Trail. They combine the best traits of trail runners and hiking boots.

Features

Pros

Cons

Gore-Tex lining

Effective waterproofing

Narrow fit

Made from Synthetic and waterproof material

Good price

Insoles tend to curl after a wash


Comfortable from the first wear

Uppers are not very durable


Lightweight



Great grip on slippery surfaces


Columbia Women's Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped, Elk/Mountain Red, 8.5

Columbia products have been some of the best boots I’ve owned. They have a sturdy design and are comfortable from the get-go. Newton Ridge Plus is priced very reasonably for the quality. These boots look great and outlive many other brands.

Features

Pros

Cons

Seam-sealed construction

Waterproofing holds up well

Hot and sweaty feet in warmer months

TECHLITE lightweight midsole

Super comfortable and don’t need much breaking in

Wide mouth so stones and sticks occasionally get inside

Omni GRIP traction outsole

Good durability


Leather uppers

Ankle support





Merrell mens MOAB 2 WTPF Hiking Shoe, Granite, 10 US

These Merrell boots are a more lightweight design than the classic hiking range. They are particularly great for men with wide feet. The built-in arch support is not so pronounced as to be a problem if you have flat feet.

Note: In recent years, Merrell experienced some quality issues. As a result, you can often find these for a great price. They will be brilliant shoes for the Inca Trail, but you shouldn’t expect them to last for years.

Features

Pros

Cons

Removable insole with extra heel cushioning

Comfortable

Durability not up to Merrell’s usual standard

Bellows tongue to prevent debris from getting inside

Waterproof

Not very breathable

100% leather

Lighter than a typical boot

Fit is a little small

Waterproof membrane

Well priced





Salomon Men's Speedcross 4 Trail Running Shoes, Bluestone/Black/Sulphur Spring, 12.5

If you can get away without heavy ankle support, I highly recommend trail runners. Salomon’s are light on your feet and allow plenty of air movement. With Salomon’s, I love that I don’t need to immediately rip off my running shoes to let my feet breathe when I get to camp.

They also don’t take up much weight in your bag. Salomon’s are perfect for backpackers that also want a city-friendly shoe when sightseeing.

However, Salomon's shoes fit very small. Unless you have very petite feet, I’d recommend going up a size by 0.5-1.

Features

Pros

Cons

Aggressive grip

Comfortable all-day

No ankle support

Lightweight and cushioned midsole

Great traction on sandy surfaces

Small fit

100% synthetic

Lightweight



Highly breathable





machu picchu cta

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Start planning your Machu Picchu hiking holiday.

Alison Macallister

With a degree in Nature Conservation and experience working with wildlife including the Big 5, Alison works as a guide for a 5-star reserve. She enjoys sharing her passion for all things nature-related. She enjoys hiking, horseriding, 4x4 driving and kayaking.

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