Considering the following options:

  • watertight: because caves are often wet or muddy
  • stiff sole: to provide more grip and protection from the rocky bottom.
  • durability

What is better, a rubber boot or a hiking/military type boot?

What other aspects should one consider?

  • 3
    Because you are on rough/inequal terrain, I would recommend shoes which support your ankles.
    – Evert
    Aug 22, 2012 at 20:10
  • 2
    Deep cave expedition spelunkers wear pure rubber boots, they look like a regular gumboot, but they are unlined, so if you get water in them, you can simply pour the water out, give the inside a wipe, and they're dry again.
    – ShemSeger
    Nov 19, 2014 at 23:27
  • If you use electron (wire) ladders, avoid lace-up boots with hooks - it's very easy to get the ladder wire snagged on them and it can be very hard to extract yourself from that. Nov 8, 2016 at 14:15

2 Answers 2


The best qualities of caving footwear are actually

  • easy to clean (especially in places with WNS concerns)
  • easy to walk/crawl in (must fit well and now slide around)
  • keep your feet warm
  • durable (caves eat clothing)

Watertight shoes hold water in just was well as they keep water out, and in a wet cave water will get in.

First get yourself a pair of 3mm neoprene socks. That will keep your feet warm, even when wet. Then go get yourself a good pair of "wellies" (Wellington style boots). I have a pair of Servus Northern 15" rubber boots I got from tractor supply. They have excellent grip to keep you from slipping on wet and muddy rock, will keep out low water, and are easy to pour water out of once you emerge from high water. When you get home just throw the socks in the washer and boots under the hose.

  • +1 for "holding water in" -- seemed like a great idea until water ran in and stayed there.
    – D. Lambert
    Aug 29, 2012 at 19:59
  • I cut a small hole in the back of the boot, near the heel. Water will then drain immediately. Of course, this means that you will get wet feet before anyone else. The solution is to have two pairs: one for wet caves, and one for dry. Sep 6, 2012 at 13:05
  • Pro cavers will use pure rubber boots, that way if you get water in, you can just pour it out, nothing needs to dry.
    – ShemSeger
    Nov 19, 2014 at 23:24
  • Another consideration is that boots with lace hooks can be a nuisance, as they tend to snag on the wires of electron ladders. Feb 9, 2022 at 14:03

I am member of a caving association, and we have found no better equipment than the good old 5 EUR rubber boots. Equipment manufacturers know this as well, therefore a specialized market is small and brings no better value. Use wool socks inside.

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