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.
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1. Flip-flops or slip-on sandals
Which sandals are best for Thailand? 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).
Avoid any sandals with buckles! 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 or buckled.
Why are these the best shoes for Thailand? 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. Do you need others? Let’s consider your itinerary…
2. Slip-on shoes
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.
As with flip-flops, you want shoes that (1) are easy to slip on and off, and (2) don’t require socks. Any of these options above will keep your feet reasonably cool and will remain comfortable when your feet swell in Thailand’s hot weather.
And leave your socks at home! Do you wear shoes with socks in Thailand? I don’t. With this one exception – never, ever. It’s too hot. (If you’re a dedicated gym-using-person, of course bring your gear). Instead, always choose shoes or sandals that you can wear barefoot.
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.
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 (1) pack light, (2) provide excellent grip and (3) deal well with water (both in it and drying quickly afterwards). All of the above fit the bill perfectly.
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. On Koh Samui, I pack a pair of dressier shoes for dinners at nice resorts, etc. Though, when you’re dining on the beach, “dressy” can still be made of rubber. Often, gold sandals do the trick. As for dressy clothes, see what to wear out at night.
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.
Be careful! Your feet will swell in Thailand’s heat so avoid anything with too many strappy parts. Ideally your dressy shoes would also have a sturdy base, and lots of breathing room.
Men’s dressy shoes for Thailand
The easiest solution? Simply recycle your loafers or boat shoes from #2. In beach towns, you can get away with nicer 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.
Recap: The best shoes to wear in Thailand
- 1. Flip-flops (or similar) – Sanuk sandals, Havaianas, etc.
- 2. Slip-on shoes – Skechers Go Walk shoes, Crocs slip-ons, etc.
- 3. Slip-proof shoes – Aleader water shoes, Tevas, etc.
- 4. Dressy shoes – elastic sandals, wedges, men’s loafers, etc.
- 5. Rainy season shoes – Crocs flats, Aleader water shoes, etc.
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: