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necessary trekking shoes for machu picchu

The trekking routes are a very different adventure from a normal trip. Doing the whole trek to Machu Picchu by any of the routes will require ideal footwear. That is why, in this blog, we want to show an orientation for each of the routes. We will take into account the geography of the areas and the characteristics of the footwear. In the same way, this blog can be useful for all those who are thinking of doing a hiking route. In this brief guide we hope to help those who do not know how they should choose hiking shoes to have an excellent trip. The ideal shoes will depend a lot because they will be a source of security for each step taken by the beautiful mountains of Cusco. Now it only remains to start. Let’s go.

Types of hiking shoes

There are many footwear options for any hiking route. Moreover, it is even possible to do without them. However, they are becoming more and more functional. This, thanks to certain advances in the technology of this type of footwear, make them increasingly useful for hiking routes. Even for other activities as they provide great security.

As for the types of hiking shoes, we can find many options that end up confusing us. In this sense, it will be important to choose them according to the activity to be carried out. Likewise, along with the activity, the terrain where the hike will take place must be taken into account. It is for this reason that hiking shoes can be divided into three: the first will be rigid, semi-rigid and flexible.

  • In the case of rigid footwear, it is recommended for use in activities related to mountaineering. This is due to the safety they offer, precisely because of the type of sole they have.
  • Semi-rigid footwear can be used for mountaineering, that is, for activities with a certain difficulty in the terrain. Therefore, they are ideal for slippery, ascending or steep slopes.
  • Finally, flexible footwear is designed for durability and comfort. They are used in trekking and mountaineering activities in geographies with little variation.

Recommendations for the route to Machu Picchu

In the case of the routes to Machu Picchu, we dare to recommend semi-rigid shoes. Especially if you plan to do the Salkantay Trek or Choquequirao Trek. Both routes have geographies that vary from one day to another, besides having slightly higher difficulty conditions than the other trekking routes to Machu Picchu.

When it comes to footwear for other hiking routes, you can opt for flexible and semi-rigid footwear. This may depend on the comfort and safety offered by these shoes. To have a better experience, it will be important to know some characteristics in the footwear and also part of the terrain, as we will see below.

Tourist observing the snow-capped mountain in the background
Tourist observing the snow-capped mountain in the background

Essential characteristics of trekking shoes

The essential characteristics of any hiking shoes are vital in order to choose the right one for our feet. The main characteristics that these accessories must have are the following.

  • Performance

    A suitable hiking shoe will have to meet several qualities that are essential to guarantee the rest of the features. For example, they must have the ability to be both waterproof and breathable. That’s not all, the footwear will also be required to meet a grip and provide adequate traction.

    This quality is essential for safe walking and less physical exertion. Likewise, it must provide durability or resistance for the most complicated stretches. All these details must be evaluated in the materials they are made of.

  • Protection

    The materials and the shape of the construction should be evaluated at the time of purchase or choice of footwear. It is important that the materials with which they are made are guaranteed or at least show adequate manufacturing for protection.

    The vital points of protection will be the sole and/or sole of the footwear. This should be resistant to stepping on stones or sharp objects. Likewise, the lining, for example, must comply with what is offered in the product. Among them we can find better grip on the ankles and also waterproofing.

  • Safety

    Footwear should offer safety. Sometimes safety can be uncomfortable, but not to the extent of causing severe discomfort such as sores or blisters. In some cases it can even prevent adequate blood flow. These problems can be seen in poor quality shoes. Be careful with them. Fortunately, there are shoes that are really safe and most of them are endorsed by world-renowned brands.

    Safety should be in accordance with the type of footwear, as we saw above. That is to say, it should at least comply with the necessary protection for the activity it is designed for. Comfort, on the other hand, can be subjective and will depend on the user. Let’s see it below.

  • Comfort

    It is important to verify that the footwear to be used is adequate because it will be the only one that will accompany us on the hike. In this sense, it must be sufficiently comfortable and, at the same time, safe. At this point it is important to make the hiking routes once the footwear has been tested. In case you do it with a new shoe, it may become a problem later on or at the moment of using it.

    Likewise, relying on extensive comfort can be a problem. Ideally, it should have a fit that articulates properly with the foot. In case it is too loose or too tight it may cause some injuries. Any injury to the foot will be a problem that will have to be carried through to the end of the hike.

Trekking to the Ausangate snow-capped peak
Trekking to the Ausangate snow-capped peak

What is the geography like on the way to Machu Picchu?

The geography on the route to Machu Picchu is really incredible. To get to Machu Picchu it is important to get to Cusco and from there start the journey. During the trekking routes, in any of the options, it is normal to start the trip in the Cusco Andes. There are different options and all of them will not start from the same place. This will allow you to visit different destinations and routes up to Machu Picchu.

  • Hydroelectric

    The Hydroelectric trip is also known as the economic route. The route already starts in the high jungle, it is quite flat and with few elevations. However, you may encounter some rough terrain. The route by hydroelectric to Machu Picchu, follows the lines of the train is why you can find some chopped stones.

    These stones are annoying. If you will be hiking the hydroelectric route, make sure you have sturdy, thick, and if possible, rubber shoes. This will be essential to be able to do the whole hike without problems. You can also do the route with lighter footwear such as Trail Running shoes.

  • Piscacucho

    Piscacucho is the starting point for those who want to do the 4-day Inca Trail. This route follows different trails, the first section that follows is through the Cusco Andes. The geography of the place is located more than 3,000 meters above sea level. In this sense it follows an ascending section and then you will have to make descending routes. Accompanied, also of routes of staircases.

    That is why semi-rigid hiking shoes are recommended. These will allow you to have adequate grip and traction, while hiking in total comfort. It is also recommended that you make sure that the footwear has good ventilation. This is because the activity will last 4 days and the hikes are really demanding.

  • Chachabamba

    It is the starting point of the 2-day Inca Trail. The hike along this route is quite demanding. Although the hike starts near the high jungle, you can find part of the Cusco Andes. In this sense, you also have to start the trek through an ascending section. After this arduous ascending route, you will follow a flatter path with some stairs.

    In this sense it is recommended to do this route with a semi-rigid hiking shoes. These shoes will be ideal for the hike, especially for the ascending and descending sections that are part of this path. Similarly, it can be done with lighter footwear. This is only because the hike is only one day long.

  • Mollepata

    In Mollepata you will start the route for the Salkantay Trek, on the way to Machu Picchu. The hike starts from high Andean zones of more than 4,000 meters above sea level. In this sense, it will be necessary to dress warmly and above all to have a good acclimatization process.

    In the case of footwear, it will be advisable to wear semi-rigid footwear. Especially because of the cold and the mountain trekking. The difficulty of this route is moderately high, so it requires footwear that allows a secure grip and also comfort so that every day you can do the route without problems.

Hiker observing the Humantay Lagoon
Hiker observing the Humantay Lagoon

How should I choose my trekking shoes to get to Machu Picchu?

We saw throughout this blog three alternatives and we also left some recommendations for this tour. In this sense it is important to remember that this footwear has to be chosen very carefully. A good choice will be the guarantee to have a good walking tour, in case you do not make a good choice or make a mistake you can risk considerably the comfort of the trip. One last recommendation is to test your footwear well before starting the route.

In the case of the different routes to Machu Picchu, we realized that the trails are not so complicated and that they are not considered mountaineering routes. Therefore, the ideal would be to use semi-rigid footwear. This type of footwear guarantees safety and good stability in the geography on the way to Machu Picchu. However, it will be important to try the footwear in its different variants. That is to say, choose appropriately between high top shoes, medium top shoes and even between sneakers or hiking shoes. Likewise, we recommend that the footwear be waterproof.


By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 16-05-2024

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