Caving, or spelunking in the United States and Canada, is a recreational activity that involves traversing wild caves. This activity requires you to get down and dirty, but can be quite exhilarating for adventurers, because it is a completely different environment from the outside world. Exploring and discovering new cave systems is a thrill and abundant with wonders and beauty, but caving can also get quite dangerous if you’re not equipped with the right tools for it; you can encounter obstacles like tight spaces, water hazards, and complete darkness. Having the correct shoes is one of the first steps to safely maneuvering this extreme sport, so for our cavers out there, you may want to listen up. Your average tennis shoe won’t be getting you far while caving.
The ideal caving shoe prepares for every possible circumstance, so it should be easy to clean, keep your feet warm, and maintain durability against the harsh cave structures. Not to mention, traction, leg and ankle support, and impact resistance are also other factors to consider. You should aim to pick a shoe size that fits snugly, because that will make it easier to crawl and navigate the caves. Caving is a rather unique and unpredictable activity, so it may be more difficult to find shoes that meet all the requirements of a good caving shoe, but we did our research and found the 6 best possible caving shoes on the market, looking for durability, design, and features.
Top 6 Best Shoes for Caving
These waterproof boots by Hi-Tec prove to be an excellent choice for those looking for versatility. This shoe comes in various color ways, including taupe and blush, grey and light blue, and charcoal and violet.
It comes up close to your ankle, which prevents sediment from entering your shoe. The shoe is made of 100% leather with a rubber sole, a fool-proof combination of tough material and soft material, and offers a suede and nylon upper.
The rubber outsole is designed for multi-directional traction while the contoured EVA sockliner cushions your feet during those intense caving sessions.
The ghillie lace-up design of the shoe not only conforms to modern style, but also supplies necessary ankle support for deep caves. The hardware used to create the lace-up design is rustproof and keeps the shoe snug on your foot. This model maintains a breathable waterproof membrane that keeps your feet dry by releasing the moisture from the shoe.
Of course, due to its high functionality, this model is perfect for many other outdoor activities, from simple hiking to unpredictable cave exploring.
Amazon’s #1 best selling waterproof hiking boot by Columbia is also an option you’ll want to consider.
The design of this boot is very fashionable and offers gorgeous, sleek color ways: black and poppy red, delta and red velvet, grey ash and light blue, quarry and cool blue, and others; it prides itself on a “feminine” make!
The laces themselves are quite durable and can be adjusted to mold to your foot shape for a tighter fit. Many cavers caution against the brass hardware for the lacing, because there’s a higher chance that they aren’t durable enough for the harsh environment of caving. However, despite this, this model proves to utilize advanced technology, such as as a cushion and a traction rubber sole, for the best possible outdoor experience.
It is also designed with an omni-grip, multi-terrain traction system to adapt to all kinds of environments and conditions; you won’t have to struggle with ice, snow, or water while exploring caves.
You can’t go wrong with this lightweight and modern boot!
The Asolo Hiking Boot is another popular contender for the best shoe for caving.
It comes in the colors earth and tortora, and grapeade and gunmetal, and is made of suede fabric. This model is prepared for all outdoor challenges!
First of all, it’s water-resistant, made with suede material and a high-tenacity nylon upper. The lace-up design is common for these kinds of boots; Asolo takes it to the next level with its fabric laces and metal hardware, allowing for general customization without losing the functionality of it all.
The added TPU rubber toe cap is an excellent addition to the shoe in terms of protection and longevity. In order to sustain dryness and comfort, the shoe utilizes a GORE-TEX extended comfort lining on the inside; the molds of the lining provide both support and comfort!
This model also takes advantage of a combination that’s hard to beat: stiff and soft materials. The brand claims that its stiff materials allow for anti-pronation, -supination, and -torsion, while the soft materials absorb any shock.
Underneath it all, the sole is rubber combined with PU; it ups the ante by featuring self-cleaning lugs.
This is the shoe that many cavers will turn to in order to achieve the best possible caving experience.
This graceful waterproof outdoor boot by XPETI is one of our favorites!
It comes in light grey, black, camoflauge, offwhite and orange, and charcoal grey and blue.
The shoe is built with a toe cap and molding TBU at the heel, providing protection at both ends, as well as a standard rubber sole. When you’re exploring caves, you never know what your shoe can catch, so it’s awesome that this model has all your bases covered.
The shaft of the boot, measuring at approximately 8 inches from the arch, is also the perfect length to secure and protect your ankles whether you’re trekking through rocky regions or through mud; it also prevents any debris from penetrating your shoe. You’ll find that there’s plenty of rocky debris in caves.
The way the boot maintains its waterproof abilities is through a mesh upper and a Hydroshield Membrane. Even when it gets cold, the 200 grams Thinsulate Insulation for -25 degrees will keep your feet warm.
Oh, and it’s vegan friendly, too!
QOMOLANGMA designs a suede leather shoe designed for many outdoor activities: hiking, trekking, walking; you name it.
It comes in two different color ways: grey and purple, and blue and orange. Both styles are relatively dark, so they won’t be as visibly dirty than other lighter color ways on the market.
Though it doesn’t have the same ankle grip as hiking boots, this shoe still maintains a customizable fit via the lace-up closure, which secures your foot snugly. The lace hooks are made of mesh rather than metal hardware, which is something to consider in relation to the shoe’s longevity.
Less material means it is also very lightweight, so you would be less prone to falling and avoid the risk of noticeable fatigue. The arch support underneath also functions to prevent fatigue.
The internal structure has an EVA mid-sole to absorb impact and utilize energy. Thankfully, the shoe is also water-repellent and breathable, possible because of its suede leather and mesh material.
The design comes with a double layer toe-cap on the toe to prevent damaging collisions with hard surfaces.
Overall, the shoe proves to be durable during any and all action; the rubber out-sole is made with a unique traction grip to prevent accidents. This is a reliable shoe that can be a good substitute if you’re not ready to invest on boots.
Gumboots, or all-rubber boots, can be some of the best shoes for trekking through those haphazard caves.
Also known as “wellies,” these boots can resist electrical hazards, oil, acid, penetration, slips, and metatarsal. The use of PVC and nitrile compounds in the boot allow the shoe to be chemical, oil, and acid resistant.
However, gumboots can be quite a challenge due to the unpredictable and often dangerous conditions of caving. Though the included steel toe cap is excellent for impact protection, be wary that it adds weight, may result in more wear around the toes, and could lead to cold feet. The rubber sole can also be an obstacle for cave explorers, because they lack the ability to provide consistent ankle support; mud also tends to deteriorate rubber soles.
Maybe not the most stylish shoes on the market, but when you’re out caving, your sense of fashion is the last thing you’ll be thinking about. Its functionality outweighs its aesthetic!
Other Useful Accessories
There may not be an exact, perfect caving shoe for you, especially because caving is quite irregular and different during each expedition. However, you can adapt to common and possible situations with other accessories. Here is a list of a few extras you can invest in to accompany your new caving shoes!
- Thorlo socks
- SealSkins (Wetsocks)
- WD-40 and Snow Seal (for your hardware)
- Rubber rand (you can never have too much protection!)