Safari Boots

Page Updated: July 2020

Getting your safari boots right is essential as you're going to spend a lot of time on your feet.

Though probably not as much time on your feet as W D M Bell who wore out 24 pairs of boots a year while walking an average of 75 miles for each elephant he killed.

Early African hunters often wore leather officers boots known as 'Veldtshoen', the descriptive name originating from the Boer War. The upper part of the boot is turned outwards, rather than inwards, then stitched to the sole, just like the desert boots of today. In fact the original veldtshoen was the forerunner to desert boots, which are still called 'vellies' in South Africa.

Early safari boots were often topped with puttees - strips of cloth wound in a spiral from ankle to knee, originating in the 19th century in British India. Puttees became part of the regular British army uniform in the 20th century when they changed from wearing high boots to ankle boots. The forerunner of the gaiters, we know today, the military puttees were found to be extremely practical when hunting in the African bush.

John T McCutcheon, who accompanied Theodore Roosevelt on the 1909 safari, took 3 pairs of Abercrombie 'lightest shoes'(one pair with rubber soles), 3 cloth puttees, one pair of mosquito boots from Lawn and Alder, London and a pair of leather top boots for evening wear in camp.

Safari Boots Guidelines

Buy the best quality possible rather than a cheaper option.

Safari Boots Size And Fit

Getting the right size and fit of your safari boot or shoe is obviously essential. As with all footwear, size and fit may vary with different brand boots or shoes, plus you will have accommodate any foot irregularities you may have like bunions, hammer-toes etc. This can be hard to do if buying new boots or shoes online.

Make sure you consider the thickness of socks you intend to wear with the boots. Most good outdoor specialist footwear brands will take into account the potential thickness of socks in the sizing of their shoes for the specific activity, like hiking.

Consider also if you are going to be carrying a moderately heavy backpack and rifle, the weight of which may cause your feet to swell.

When selecting the type of footwear from the specialist outdoor ranges available, hunting is generally not listed in the activities, for obvious reasons. Where hunting boots are categorised, they are mostly for the domestic hunting scene and may not be suitable for Africa. Browsing the 'hiking' or 'trail' lists should turn up boots or shoes that work for hunting in Africa.

  • Check that you can easily move all your toes.
  • Check your foot does not slide around in the boot.
  • Check that no part of your foot is being squashed within the boot.
  • Check the whole of your whole foot is comfortably contained in the boot.

Right Safari Boots For The Terrain

Check the terrain that you'll be hunting before the purchase of new boots. This will help with the decision on boot height and tread pattern.

  • If the terrain is primarily hilly, uneven and rocky, you may prefer a medium-high boot which will protect your ankle if you go over on it. You can also tuck your trousers in a higher boot, if you need to, which will also help to keep out tsetse flies and other debris.
  • A low-cut hunting shoe will be fine in a mostly flat level terrain. If necessary add gaiters to keep out grass seeds and debris.
  • For African hunting opt for the softest sole you can get away with on the terrain you are hunting. Hard soles, though more durable, make more noise when walking.
  • Your choice of tread pattern also depends on the terrain you will be hunting. A deep, thick tread will improve traction in the wet or on sloping surfaces.

Safari Boots Durability & Water Resistance

  • Check whether the upper boot or shoe is stitched or glued to the sole. Stitched soles tend to be more durable than most adhesives in hot conditions.
  • Some water-resistance may be useful especially when hunting in the early morning when there is a heavy dew. Fully water-proof boots are probably unnecessary for most African hunts and they may make your feet very hot and sweaty.

Safari Boot Height

Use whatever boot height is comfortable for you and the type of hunting you expect to be doing. It is often useful to be able to tuck your trousers in, so tsetse flies, ticks and grass-seeds etc cannot gain access. However, generally...

  • Low cut shoes are fine for most daily hunt outings for plains game in flat bush veldt terrain.
  • Mid cut shoes are better if you are carrying a backpack & headed out for long days on buffalo tracks. They will offer better ankle support and protection from dirt and debris.
  • High cut boots are the best choice for maximum balance and ankle support. They may be the boot height of choice for very rough or mountainous terrain, and provided they are waterproof, in wet conditions too. They will also keep your trousers well tucked in, preventing access for insects etc.

Leather Or Synthetic Shoe/Boot Upper?

Leather is generally best for durability, protection, strength and comfort but there are lots of types of leather...

  • Full Grain Leather is thick, smooth & shiny which has great durability.
  • Reverse Full Grain Leather is the strongest, thickest leather which works well against abrasions.
  • Nubuck Leather is a type of full grain leather that has been sanded on the grain side, or outside, to give a slight nap like suede.
  • Split Leather is the result of the hide divided into several layers. The fibres are slightly looser than full grain leather to provide a softer feel. This leather can be oiled and waxed to improve water resistance.
  • Pigskin Leather is a dense leather which is very pliable, comfortable and water resistant.
  • Synthetic uppers can be manufactured to look and function like real leather with similar durability, water resistance and performance.

Upper Ventilation?

Upper ventilation is a good choice for the general warm climate and dry conditions of Africa. However, if you are likely to be hunting wet, marshy areas, skip the ventilation features. You may need water resistant footwear when hunting in the heavy early morning dew, changing to ventilated boots later in the day.

Waterproof Footwear?

A measure of water resistance or waterproofing in your hunting boots is a good idea, depending on your hunting area and season - chilly dewy mornings, river or marshy terrain, frequent downpours, etc.

  • The shoe is lined with a waterproof, breathable membrane, such as Gore-Tex, built within the whole shoe, like a sock.
  • Alternatively the seams of the show can be sealed with pieces of waterproof membrane.

And...

  • Always take a spare pair of equally comfortable boots in case your main pair get broken or wet. There is nothing worse than walking in soaking boots.
  • Don't forget to take spare laces.
  • Make sure your boots are well worn-in. Don't arrive in Africa with brand new unworn boots. This is particularly important if your boots are made completely or partially of full-grain leather or nubuck. Boot or shoe uppers made of synthetic material do need wearing-in but not as much.

Hunting Boot/Shoe Tech Explained

It can be quite hard to unravel the technological features when selecting appropriate footwear to hunt in Africa. Manufacturers often brand these features with a name specific to their company but the technology is often available in many makes of footwear, just under another name.

  • Merrell 'Air Cushion' - a sealed unit located in the heel section of certain Merrell Footwear. It can absorb up to four times your weight and helps to correctly align the foot within the shoe for a more comfortable and stable walk or hike.
  • Merrell 'Kinetic Fit' - insoles provide flexible, intuitive support for connected and protected movement.
  • EVA midsole - part of the sole that provides cushioning and protection of your feet when striking the ground when walking or running.
  • Dual-density EVA foam pods - extra cushioning in the rear and forefoot areas.
  • Vibram Outsoles - deliver grip on different types of surfaces and are resistant to abrasion at the same time.
  • Vibram Megagrip - high performance rubber compound even better grip on wet and dry surfaces.
  • Gore-Tex - is the trade name for a membrane or fabric which has many applications. In footwear, a layer of Gore-Tex is built in to put a barrier between your feet and the elements - rain, wind, heat, etc. In addition to waterproofing, it allows sweat to evaporate, ensuring that your feet don’t become clammy and uncomfortable.
  • BOA Fit System - reduces pressure points and accommodates swelling with micro-adjustments for comfort in all environments.
  • Merrell 'FlexPlate' - is the integration of a lightweight, full foot stability plate with outsole lugs to provide stability, underfoot protection, durability and integrated grip.
  • Ballistic mesh - nylon fabric designed for maximum durability and abrasion resistance.
  • Merrell 'M-Select Dry' - is a waterproof technology using taped seams.
  • Merrell 'M-Select X-Dry' - is added moisture-wicking properties to keep the wearer completely dry.
  • Molded nylon arch shank - adds a measure of firmness for sure-footedness with increased padding underfoot to protect from rough terrain and vigorous foot strike (the way in which your foot strikes the ground).
  • EXO Heel System - a snug, supported area surrounding the base of the ankle that, once a foot is slipped in, locks the heel down, preventing rubbing and blisters.
  • TPU Stability Shank - a type of plastic shank that provides more stability for your feet.
  • TPU Midfoot Shank - a type of TPU shank that provides more midfoot support and stability.

Recommended Safari Boots & Shoes For Men

Please note, this page contains affiliate links, which means Shakari Connection receives a commission if you make a purchase using these links.

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Merrell Men's Chameleon 7 Hiking Shoe have a full grain leather upper, air cushion in the heel to absorb shock and adds stability, protective rubber toe cap, breathable mesh lining, removable contoured insole for flexible support, EVA midsole for stability and comfort, Vibram outsole for traction in all weather and temperature conditions. Buy Now


This Merrell mid-hiker boot is waterproof and features a performance upper and sticky Vibram Megagrip for confidence on any adventure. The cordura fabric and performance suede upper is abrasion and tear resistant. They come with metal hooks and D-rings for secure lacing. Bellows tongue keeps debris out. Breathable mesh lining. Merrell air cushion in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability. Removable contoured footbed for flexible support. Buy Now

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These rugged boots by Chippewa are constructed with apache leather upper with contrast stitching. They have lace-up closure and Vibram rubber outsole for confident grip on all surfaces. Buy Now


These durable Danner boots have full grain leather uppers and Vibram Megagrip outsoles providing unparalleled grip on slippery and wet surfaces. The boots have a Gore-tex lining for 100% waterproof and breathable comfort. Danner's stitchdown construction is crafted to provide a wider platform and increased stability. Buy Now


Merrell's Moab Adventure shoe is made of nubuck leather and mesh upper with traditional lace closure. It comes with a breathable mesh lining, contoured footbed with organic odour control, molded nylon arch shank, EVA midsole for stability and comfort and Vibram outsole for traction in all weather and temperature conditions. Buy Now

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The Merrell men's wilderness boots offer a wide, stable platform underfoot and a top-grain leather upper. A bellows tongue keeps debris out. They come with metal eyelets, microporous rubber midsole for comfort and Vibram sole. Buy Now


These lightweight Danner hiking boots have resiliency, cushioning and durability, while minimizing weight. By combining the midsole with the Vibram outsole, there is a perfect balance between flexibility and traction. The Vibram outsole with megagrip technology offers superior grip on wet and dry surfaces. Waterproof suede upper. Buy Now


These Danner hunting boots are waterproof and lightweight. They come with a secure lacing system with locking speed hooks, antimicrobial footbed, shock absorbing cushioned midsole and Talon outsole for great traction. They are made of tough foam-backed nylon with oiled nubuck leather finish. Buy Now


This lightweight men's Merrell Capra Sport hiking shoe makes quick and easy work of the toughest trails. Constructed with a supportive midsole for protective cushioning over varied terrain. A synthetic-and-mesh upper is fitted with a traditional lace closure, while a bellows tongue keeps debris out. Breathable mesh lining and contoured footbed with organic odour control. Buy Now


Merrell Altalight hiker is rugged, lightweight and equipped with mountain-grade grip rubber outsoles. They are made of durable nylon ripstop uppers, foot fatigue-reducing Kinetic Fit Advanced insoles and shock-absorbing air cushion in the heels. Traditional face closure, bellows tongue, EVA foam midsole for stability. 5mm lug depth. Buy Now

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The Valsetz Tactical boots from Under Armour feature a low profile rubber lug sole and 'ClutchFit' technology which wraps your ankle with a lightweight, powerful support. Comes with synthetic leather & textile upper with welded, abrasion-resistant film around the perimeter of the foot. They have a lightweight TPU shank for mid-foot support and the right amount of rigidity. Buy Now


These Merrell's lightweight mid-height men's hiking shoes have an impact absorption system for soft landings, firm takeoffs and reduced impact so you can go farther and longer. The omni-fit lacing system provides a precise, glove-like fit. Bellows tongue keeps out debris. Molded polyurethane heel counter adds stability. Breathable, antimicrobial mesh lining. 6mm heel drop. Rugged, aggressive Vibram outsole with 5mm lug depth. Buy Now


The men's Moab Ventilator from Merrell is a breathable hiking shoe that's lightweight and the perfect fit. A lattice-like overlay of Dura leather strapping supports and protects your feet while enhancing the open-window venting of the breathable mesh upper. Enjoy full bumper protection at the toe and around the heel with the Vibram Multi-Sport sole with TC5+ rubber compound for grip and durability. Buy Now


Merrell Men's Havoc Wells Mid Waterproof hiker has a full grain leather and mesh upper. They come with M Select Dry which seals out water and lets moisture escape, speed hooks for quick on and off, breathable mesh lining wicks to keep feet dry, molded nylon arch shank, Kinetic Fit Base removable contoured insole for flexible support, air cushion in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability, EVA midsole for stability and comfort and Vibram outsole for traction in all weather and temperature conditions. Buy Now


This rugged hiking boot has a softly padded leather collar, fully gusseted leather tongue and rustproof brass hardware. It also has a board last with a steel shank for added rigidity, a lightweight compression-molded EVA midsole for superior comfort and a carbon rubber hiking outsole for traction. There's even a Comfort-Tec contoured sockliner to help support feet. Buy Now


These Caterpillar hiking boots are made of leather and synthetics. They come with a rubber sole, cushioned midsole and removable sock liner. Buy Now


These insoles are ideal for those who need extra arch and heel support. They feature a mouldable orthopedic base layer, a layer of cushioning and a moisture wicking top sheet. The benefits include increased balance and feel, custom orthopedic support, equalized pressure distribution, reduced plantar fascia strain and improved natural heel cushioning. Buy Now


Men's Footwear For Around Camp

It's always great to get back to camp after a long day in the bush, shower and put on some comfy shoes for the evening. Also if you need to get up in the night it's advisable to always slip some shoes on first, in case you tread on something unpleasant like biting ants or a scorpion. Flip-flops are quite popular but they leave your feet exposed to mosquito bites and thorns. Slip-on shoes with a protective upper are ideal. They are also perfect for flying if your feet swell and ordinary shoes become tight and uncomfortable.

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Merrell's Jungle Moc is one of the most comfortable shoes you'll ever wear. The anatomical footbed provides stability and comfort with an air-cushioned midsole. The suede leather upper has an elastic stretch gore at the opening for comfort and fit. Compression-molded EVA foot frame provides extra cushioning. Buy Now


This lightweight slide with easy-breathing mesh lining and Merrell air cushion heel offers maximum comfort. The mesh upper has a breathable mesh lining. The removable contoured insole and air cushion gives flexible support. Buy Now


With a full-grain leather and suede upper, this casual slip-on features a one-piece sole for superior cushioning and a responsive feel underfoot. The breathable mesh lining in these Merrell Bask leather mocs has been treated with M Select Fresh technology to prevent odour. Buy Now


These slip-on shoes are designed with easy-fitting 3-D stretch knit, air cushion heel-to-toe comfort, and a M Select Grip outsole for added traction. Buy Now


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