Packing Lists for Travel

The 7 Best Shoes & Boots for Alaska Travel

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From the frozen winter to the sunny summer, Alaska is certainly a destination that will test your packing skills! There are so many different activities to enjoy in Alaska – plus the weather is a dynamic force that changes as often as you check the forecast – that it can be hard to know what to pack for Alaska… especially for your feet.

Choosing the right footwear for your Alaska trip is critical to having a good time. If you choose poorly, you’ll end up with cold and/or wet feet, which is exactly zero fun. If you choose well, your feet will be comfortable, you won’t risk slipping or tripping, and you actually won’t even think about your feet at all (the optimal outcome!).

Best Boots for Alaska Hero

In this post, I’m sharing my tips for the best shoes and best boots for Alaska. All of these products are the exact ones I reach for when I start packing for my next Alaska trip (or the more recent version, as many of them last for years and I haven’t had to upgrade as often as the company has released a new design). As you’ll see, I pulled photos of myself wearing these shoes and boots in Alaska whenever I could find a good picture.

If you want to tick the “get new shoes for Alaska” to-do off your checklist as you plan your Alaska itinerary, look no further. No matter the forecast or season you’re planning to visit, these are the best boots for Alaska and the best shoes for Alaska.

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of many Alaska Native groups, including the Aleut, Athabascan, Haida, Inupiat, Tlingit, and Yuit peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

Best Sandals for Alaska

Okay, I’ll be honest: I didn’t originally include a section about sandals for Alaska when I first sat down to write this post… then I started looking at old photos and discovered that I wore sandals a lot growing up in Alaska during the summers. So it seemed like I should include a recommendation for those of you who love to have your toes in the fresh air and don’t mind if your feet get a little cool.

For Women or Men: Chacos Z/2 Classic

When I was growing up, there were two types of people I knew: Teva people and Chaco people. I started out as a Teva person, but when I tried on my first pair of Chacos, I became a convert.

The Chaco Z/2 Classic is my favorite style, and it’s available for men and for women.

These multi-strap sandals are perfect for Alaska because they offer solid foot support for a sandal. The sole is a specialized rubber that is great for gripping onto anything – even when walking through water. The straps are adjustable, allowing you to make them a perfect fit; be sure to choose a pair with the toestrap as that’s key for keeping them more secure as you’re walking or hiking around.

I still have my first pair of Chacos that I was wearing in Alaska 15+ years ago, so they also last – making them worth the investment.

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Best Walking Shoes for Alaska

Denali National Park Itinerary Hero

Alaska is big, so while you won’t be walking from end to end – you will be walking a lot in Alaska. So, when it comes to the best shoes for Alaska, you should get a comfortable pair to avoid blisters and bruises on your hiking trips. There’s a joke in Alaska that you can always spot a tourist because they arrive in fresh white New Balance sneakers… Don’t be that tourist.

For walking around towns or easy, non-technical hikes, here are the best walking shoes I recommend.

For Women: TOMs Mesa Boot

You won’t have to compromise style for functionality with the TOMS Mesa Boots. I have a pair and love them – I’ve worn them everywhere from Alaska to Utah to Ohio. Like all TOMS, they’re ultra-comfortable, and the OrthoLite footbed cushions and supports your feet, providing the stability you’ll need during those long walks.

Featuring an ankle boot design, the Mesa Boot is great for walking in Alaska for those who prefer extra ankle support. Slippery surfaces won’t be a problem, thanks to their lugged rubber outsole. As we said before, their fashionable design doesn’t compromise functionality, with their leather and suede being both waterproof and stylish! (Seriously, I get stopped and asked every time I wear these.)

For Men: TOMS Ashland Boot

When it comes to the best boots for Alaska for men, you can’t go wrong with the TOMS Ashland Boot. They’re the equivalent of the Mesa boot for women, so it’s no surprise they make my list for the best walking shoes for Alaska – but for men instead.

This rugged boot with a sturdy design is ideal to endure those long walks. It features quality materials and waterproof construction. They have a cushioned insole and durable lug outsole that gives hikers superior traction.

The boots high-top padded collar design and gusset tongue prevent water, mud, and other debris from entering the interior. You can also find these boots in three different colors: black, peanut brown, and topaz brown. 

Best Hiking Shoes & Hiking Boots for Alaska

When I first started visiting Alaska after moving away, I discovered a hack for those who like hiking but don’t want to invest in new hiking boots for Alaska travel: trail running shoes. In most cases, a great pair of trail running shoes will handle the trails as well as hiking boots but will be cheaper to purchase and lighter to pack. Here is my recommendation for the best hiking shoes for Alaska.

For Women or Men: Salomon XA PRO 3D v8 GORE-TEX

TheSalomon XA PRO 3D v8 GORE-TEX is a mouthful, but it’s a great option that is made for both men and women and is perfect for everything from a jog in Valdez (go you!) to hiking Flattop near Anchorage to exploring the Exit Glacier area near Seward. They feature a full premium wet traction grip and a fully waterproof Gore-Tex membrane to keep your feet dry and comfortable. The traction soles provide good support and grip well on the trail.

This model is an upgraded version of the iconic XA PRO 3D GORE-TEX, if you know Salomon trail running shoes already. This pair of shoes comes back with a lighter and softer design. Again, ideal for almost any trail in Alaska.

I wore a pair much like these for several years of Alaska trip; I still have them downstairs in my gear bag!

The only exception I want to comment on for these hiking boots in Alaska is that if you plan to do any backcountry hiking, you’ll want to invest in either a sturdier pair of hiking boots or – as I discovered on my recent trip to Denali – rain boots, which will protect you from super muddy or wet tundra you might be hiking across.

Best Rain Boots for Alaska

John Hall's Alaska Review - Day 4 - Denali Park Drive Polychrome Pass

Rain in the forecast? First: I’m sorry (but I can’t do anything about it). Second, welcome to the club! Most people don’t realize that summer is the rainy season in Alaska (so the two seasons are the rainy season and the snowy season!)

When looking for the best rain boots for Alaska don’t compromise: you need waterproof footwear, not water-resistant. When it rains in Alaska, it goes big – just like everything else!

For Women or Men: XTRATUFs

XTRAUFs are the best rain boots for Alaska for both men and women. You’ll see these are a staple, with most Alaskans owning at least one pair. Alaska’s weather is often damp, and everything from sidewalks to trails has wet and muddy stretches, so you need a pair of shoes that are up to the task.

XTRAUFs is an Alaskan company that has been making shoes for fifty years; they started by creating shoes for fishing boats, which is why you might recognize them if you watch shows like Greatest Catch.

If you’re going to buy a pair of XTRATUF boots for your Alaska trip, I recommend going with the classic style: the 15″ Legacy Boot (here’s the link for men). These are the perfect length to protect you to the upper calf, and fold down when you don’t need that much waterproof coverage.

Best Winter Boots for Alaska

Fairbanks in the Winter Hero

From October to April each year, Alaska turns into a winter wonderland. Getting the best boots for Alaska in winter ensures you’ll be able to enjoy Alaska’s breathtaking snow-filled landscape without losing your toes to frostbite. (Not a huge concern but still possible if you’re spending nights out in -35°F temperatures watching the northern lights in Fairbanks!)  

For Women: Lobben Norwegian After-Ski Boots

As you might guess from the name, Norwegians know how to handle winter just like Alaskans, and these boots were my go-to growing up in Alaska (and for my mom too). Designed with felted wool inside and insole, the Norwegian boots feel like heaven on your feet. All materials are natural and keep your feet good and warm. They feature a lovely cotton polar fleece lining and boiled wool, which allows moisture to wick away. They also apply natural lanolin on the wool to repel water. 

All that’s great for keeping your feet warm, but they also have a special rubberized sole that is excellent on ice – ensuring you won’t slip, fall, and bring a bruise home as a souvenir from your Alaska trip.

(There isn’t a great product image of these boots online, so I didn’t include one – but I am wearing them in the above photo!)

For Men: Salomon X Ultra Winter CLIMASALOMON™ Waterproof 2

Featuring a solid water-resistant design, the Salomon X Ultra Winter will be your best friend during the Alaska winter. From slush puddles to wet ground and deep powder snow, there’s nothing they can’t resist.

The Salomon X Ultra Winter comes with Thinsulate insulation technology, providing sufficient warmth during freezing cold days. Its full-grain leather upper sheds water and snow extremely well. They are also ultra-comfortable and suitable for a variety of terrains, being light enough to run on snow-packet trails and sturdy enough to hike.

(In our house, we actually have one pair of these that fit Mr. V but I also wear with two pairs of wool socks; they don’t come in women’s style/sizes, but women can wear the men’s boot.)

And there you have it – my personal recommendations for the best walking shoes, hiking boots, rain boots, and winter boots for Alaska. These are all shoes I’ve personally tried and tested in Alaska (or previous versions of them) and I can vouch for their effectiveness and comfort.

Have any questions about which shoes to pack for Alaska or the best boots for Alaska? Let me know in the comments!


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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

18 Comments

  • Lisa

    Going on a Inside Passage cruise in September; round trip Seattle. Wondering if you have any experience with Hunter boots? They are great rain boots in Wisconsin and I’m wondering if they will work well for the wetter port excursions or if I should invest in the XtraTufs. I really don’t NEED 2 pairs of rain boots but I want to be comfortable on the trip. The Hunters are great with a boot insert, but I haven’t done any hiking or long distance walking in them.

    • Valerie

      I do not have any experience with Hunters, sorry! I do recommend them for just walking around town, but if you plan to do any hikes, I can’t say whether they will work or not.

  • Melissa Shipe

    Hi! We’re going on an Alaskan cruise out of Seattle mid July. I’m trying to limit what I pack since we’ll be flying in. I’m taking sneakers for everyday wear, flats for dinner and am planning on one more pair. Should I bring hiking shoes or rain boots? We’ll be doing some walking around but I know we’re doing the Crab boat excursion.

    • Valerie

      I’d go with rain boots – unless you’re planning a bunch of hiking, they’ll be way more helpful if it does rain!

  • Jim

    Hi Valerie,

    I was born in SE Alaska so my bronzed baby shoes are extra toughs. We would wear them so often and for so long that inevitably you would pull them on one day and the whole
    leg cover would tear. Slippers! Take care and keep coming back; you are Alaskan.

    Jim

  • ann

    Hi Valerie,
    We are going on a cruise the first week of July.I have always packed for the caribbean.So easy.Now will i need boots at this time?At this time I own no boots.Any shorts?Heavy coats?Light coats?Will we need to bew layered? Thanks

  • Cindy Nickleson

    Hi Valerie!
    We are planning a trip to Alaska at the end of April to early May. I cannot afford to buy hiking, rain, etc. boots nor raincoat, puffer, etc. coats or jackets. We are not taking a cruise there, we will renting a car. I keep getting different info as to what to pack during this time. Can you please give me a list of the most important things to pack without needing too much?
    I appreciate any help you can give me with this.
    Cindy

    • Valerie

      Cindy, hi, I can say, if you’re visiting in late April, you will be cold if you don’t bring proper boots and a coat. It is not warm during that time; the average high will be in the mid-40s most days. Be prepared for that – it’s not going to be pleasant.

      I do have a series of packing lists, if you check my Alaska travel guide: https://www.valisemag.com/guides/alaska/

  • T Qazi

    Hi Valerie
    Thanks for this great post.
    We are going on Alaska cruise in August. I dont want to over pack and also buy shoes that I will not use anywhere else.
    Reading online, it seems like getting water proof shoes is a must?
    I was thinking of getting trail running shoes that are waterproof, that I will be wearing when at any of the ports . Will that be sufficient or do I need to get either duck boots or hiking boots ?
    I have timberland , should that work when taking moderat hikes ?

    Any tips would be appreciated – thanks

    • Valerie

      Hi! Only you can know whether Timberlands will work – it’s not what I hike in, and I’ve never owned a pair. In any case, I highly recommend a pair of waterproof shoes.

  • Ashley

    Do you have any additional recommendations for the TOMS Mesa boot? I have searched multiple sites and it seems like they are out everywhere.

  • Deborah Smith

    HI Valerie, Thanks for the great information. We will be in Alaska mid to late March. Would you recommend knee-high or ankle boots? Thanks!

    • Valerie

      I’m assuming you mean snow boots… It depends on your planned activities, but I would have some way of ensuring you don’t get snow in your boots, whatever you pick! (I bring both ankle and calf-high boots, but also bring snowpants that have elastic so that I can seal everything up…)

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