What shoes to wear in Thailand?
Whether you’re coming to Thailand for a never-leave-the-resort beach vacation, city-sightseeing or a top-to-bottom exploration – at most, you need to pack just 5 pairs of shoes to wear in Thailand. But first – avoid these two common mistakes.
#1. Never wear …
It’s too hot for socks in Thailand. Always choose shoes or sandals that you can wear barefoot. Also keep in mind that your feet will swell in Thailand’s heat.
#2. Cultural norms …
You take off your shoes before entering Thai homes, temples, and many shops. For convenience, all your shoes for Thailand should be slip-on, rather than lace-up.
The 5 shoes you need for Thailand
#1. Flip-flops or slip-on sandals
Given Thailand’s heat and its shoes-off culture, flip-flops and comfy, casual sandals are the de facto footwear in Thai beach towns and tourist hot-spots. On Koh Samui, I rarely wear anything else.
If your itinerary will be a loop of hotel – beach – pool – spa – food/drink – repeat, these will be your most convenient shoes for Thailand. They’ll get you places comfortably, and will keep you cool while doing so.
Either flip-flops or a “flip-flop-like friend” should be the first, and perhaps only, type of shoe to pack for Thailand.
Which flip-flops are best?
My favourite flip-flops are Havaianas because (A) they last forever and (B) they don’t get hot when left in the sun.
However, Sanuk sandals are massively popular as well – and sooo comfy. The foot-beds are made from yoga mats (and ‘Sanuk’, loosely, means ‘fun’ in Thai).
If you don’t like flip-flops, or find them uncomfortable, just apply the same logic to other sandals – as long as they easily slip on and off.
Whether padding around your resort, heading to a casual dinner or enjoying some general sight-seeing, both Sanuk slings and Crocs flats are just as convenient and perhaps even more comfortable.
TIP! Dress codes differ between Bangkok and Thailand’s beach towns. To make sure you’re cool, comfortable and culturally appropriate, see outfit examples.
Lots of walking?
If you’ll be doing lots of city walking or sight-seeing in Thailand, Skechers Go Walk shoes are your most comfortable choice. For an itinerary with lots of foot-mileage, I’d recommend something like this in preference to flip-flops. The Go Walks also fit the ‘good in hot weather’ stipulation – they have some microbial sciencey magic in their fabric. They meet your ‘slip-on/slip-off’ shoe rules as well.
Bad ideas for big feet
If your feet are bigger than ‘Thai size’ (U.S. 9 or Euro 39/40 for women, and slightly larger for men), you’ll struggle to find shoes that fit in Thailand. While Thailand has great shopping, bring all your shoes from home. Otherwise, for smaller feet, it’s easy to find Western brand-name shoes but – as imports – they’re often more expensive than at home.
#2. Slip-on shoes
Flat, slip-on shoes, like boat shoes, ballet flats, loafers, TOMs, etc., are ideal for your travel days and for visiting Thailand’s temples, where decorum asks that you wear closed-toed shoes.
Crocs Beach Line Boat Shoes (women’s)
Crocs Beach Line Boat Shoes (men’s)
As with flip-flops, you want shoes that:
- are easy to slip on and off, and;
- don’t require socks
Any of these options will keep your feet reasonably cool and will remain comfortable when your feet swell in Thailand’s hot weather…
Avoid bringing shoes with shoelaces
It’s customary to take your shoes off before entering homes (including your hotel room) and many shops. Messing around with shoelaces is a massive pain. Shoelacey-shoes tend to be hotter, too, and you’ll have more fun if you’re cool and comfortable!
TIP! To balance your new barefoot life with Thailand’s hot and humid climate, consider adding some odor-eater insoles, or some deodorizing shoe spray.
Do you wear shoes with socks in Thailand?
I don’t. Never, ever. It’s too hot and just creates more laundry. However, if you’re a dedicated runner or gym-using-person, of course bring your gear.
#3. Slip-proof shoes
Do you need sandals with staying power? Maybe – what do you have planned?
Thailand is ready to offer you fantastic opportunities to explore jungle trails, waterfalls, national parks, remote temples and plenty of teeny, tiny islands.
While you might not have athletic endeavours in mind, you’ll need your shoes to help you get around Thailand without slipping or spraining your ankle.
This might include hopping in and out of long-tail boats, kayaks, Jeeps and more. Any of the above will ask a bit more of your footwear than, “Please, wouldn’t you mind being so kind as to stay put and not kill me?”
Your itinerary will determine whether sturdy sandals will be enough (or whether a light-weight but closed-toe/protective hiking shoe would be more appropriate).
Whatever its structure, it should:
- pack light
- provide excellent grip
- deal well with water (both in it and drying quickly afterwards)
All of the above fit the bill perfectly.
TIP! For perfect planning and head-to-toe packing tips, see how to prepare for Thailand.
#4. Dressier shoes
Do you need dressy shoes to wear in Thailand? Again, it depends what you have planned. Generally not, but Thailand has great nightlife and high-end dining – with matching dress codes.
Women’s dressy shoes for Thailand
On Koh Samui, I pack a pair of dressier shoes for dinners at nice resorts, etc. For the most part, gold sandals do the trick.
Dressy shoes vs Thailand’s heat
Be careful! Your feet will swell in Thailand’s heat so avoid anything with too many strappy parts. Note that every pair of shoes in this section has:
- few straps
- a sturdy base
- lots of breathing room
Leave your high heels at home
Unless you’re an utter pro in heels, I recommend sparkly sandals or sturdy wedges as the best dressy shoes for Thailand. Whether in Bangkok or a beach town, sidewalks are uneven, lighting can be patchy and surfaces can be Teflon slippery. On Koh Samui I can find plenty to trip over in flat shoes in broad daylight. Don’t face-plant in the name of fashion.
Men’s dressy shoes for Thailand
Simply recycle your loafers or boat shoes from #2. In beach towns, you can get away with sandals and your dashing good looks.
#5. Rainy season shoes
If you’re coming to Thailand in rainy season (that’s October–December “ish” on Koh Samui), you’ll definitely want to revisit the slip-proof options in #3.
Many Crocs shoes make ideal rainy season shoes because (A) they’re all rubber – nothing to dry out, (B) they’re grippy on the bottom, and (C) they’re comfy.
Luckily, Crocs are atoning for past clog crimes with some much more acceptable offerings – I really like the Beach Line boat shoes.
TIP! For everything wet-weather, including the best packable rain jacket, see what to wear for rainy season in Thailand.
Recap: The best shoes to wear in Thailand
More Thailand questions?
Don’t forget to round out your bipedal experience with a well-earned Thai foot massage. Before that, arrive with perfect preparation. Here’s how:
▸ Makeup: The best makeup for Thailand
▸ Packing prep: A to Z Thailand packing tips
▸ Head to toe: What to wear in Thailand
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