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I'm an international hitchhiker and I've never been sure what kind of shoes to buy.

I do the vast majority of walking on roads, carrying 15kg or so. Sometimes I'll be off-road in the same shoes. I've walked up to 30km in one day though 10km or so is more typical.

I generally look for hiking shoes from any name brand that are on clearance, but I find they never last a full year. I've read that paves surfaces wear out hiking shoe soles faster.

But is that going to happen also with walking shoes or any other kinds of shoes anyway? Or do other types of shoes have soles that last a lot longer on concrete and asphalt?

Comfort is pretty important, but for me durability is more important. The longer I travel the less money I have left to replace worn-out shoes, so I want something that will last.

I know you get what you pay for but after a point it's hard to know whether you're paying for quality or marketing.

I'm currently in Taiwan where there's more budget options than back in Australia but I'm still not sure about the quality. Brands such as Lotto, Goodyear, and Quechua.

So what should I look for? Walking vs hiking vs other? Specific sole types/designs/materials? Something else?

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    The Sam Vimes theory of boots - I have personally found this a bit varied, some brands that are expensive wear quicker than a mid range for example. Good Question +1. – Aravona Jan 24 at 15:03
  • I wouldn't expect any shoe to be as durable as a boot. You would want one with a harder outsole vs something like Vibram. Perhaps something like military jungle boots? – topshot Jan 24 at 17:07
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    Which way are they worn out? Do they fall apart or are just the soles worn through? Is there a local cobbler and did tehy give some "diagnosis"? – cbeleites Jan 24 at 18:32
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    @Aravona I think Vimes went to the places where you pay £10 or less a pair! – Chris H Jan 24 at 19:45
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    I agree sole is the most important but was also thinking of durability of the whole unit, too. I also wasn't aware they made "shoes" that had tough soles. I only wear trail runners for hiking but don't expect them to last more than 1000 miles. Maybe Vibram has different formulations? I just recall reading in several places they didn't hold up for mountain hiking - the stickier the sole for traction on rock the less durable in general. – topshot Jan 24 at 20:57
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If durability and walking on pavement and other hard surfaces are your primary concerns look for hand made leather sole boots or shoes. These will be expensive but very durable and can be repaired and resoled for much less than buying new. They can last decades.

However, they are a poor choice for climbing trails or rough terrain, and the soles will wear faster when wet. A cobbler can put rubber over the leather to help with this somewhat, but you would probably be better to carry a separate pair of hikers for those conditions if practical.

Good leather shoes or boots can sometimes be found cheap second hand, since they do last a long time, but it takes some luck to find the right fit and all.

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There are two approaches you can take: Wear heavier shoes that wear longer, or wear lighter/cheaper shoes and replace as needed.

I'm interested that you wear shoes out. I typically get about 500 miles on a pair of runners used on gravel roads. I can get about 60 miles out of a pair of 'water socks' (1 mm thick rubber soles, mesh top) I never wear out the bottom of a shoe. The top falls apart or the inner soles fall apart long before the sole wears out.

Part of your wear issue may be how you walk. Go outside and walk barefoot. Close your eyes and 'feel' how you walk. Try walking that way in shoes. This is really hard at first.

If the sole is wearing out, then get a shoe with a replaceable sole.

Other tips: Sho-goo is similar to silicone seal, but dries harder. You can use to to rebuild worn areas on shoes. A tube can double the life of a pair of shoes.

If you wear out the heels, you can get heel plates. They used to be metal, but I think now you can get hard plastic. You will click a bit when you walk. Plates are easy to replace.

A friend of mine has a pair of Mexican sandals made from tires. He wears them constantly. No signs of wear.

My own preference right now is Merrell 'Ventilators' But I have wide feet. Any of the trail shoes or walking shoes should work, but one caution: Better grip on wet rocks = softer sole material. You are looking for a harder sole material.

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Your best source for information on brands is still asking someone who has already tried them. Knowing in advance how a brand new untried product will perform is very difficult. You can try examining the new product and using your own judgement about the quality. If a brand has been good in the past, perhaps you can trust it.I look to see if it is still manufactured in the same place as before.

  • I would certainly do that if I was at home. Since I'm travelling the world I know a limited number of people here and there are shoes here that are unknown at home. I have actually asked on Quora, but no answers have yet arrived. – hippietrail Jan 28 at 7:09
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    I like a certain department store's model of med height work boot. I have had 2 or 3 pairs. With all my walking, the hollow heel wears through to the inside after 8 months or so. I have had good luck extending the useful life by filling the holes in the heel with silicone from a tube. Works if the toe separates or the welt seal fails also. Not perfect but serviceable. It gives me extra months and useable overnight if kept at room temp. I've even seen work boots wrapped with duct tape to keep them together. – David Reichard Jan 29 at 23:55

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