Caving Boots: A Buying Guide For The Complete Beginner

This post may contain affiliate links. By purchasing products through these links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. If you would like to learn more, please read this Disclaimer for details.

Beware: You should never explore wild caves alone or without proper gear. Consider getting in touch with a Grotto of the National Speleological Society at or a qualified cave club. These groups are skilled and will train you. Without sufficient knowledge, preparation, and equipment, cave exploring can lead to serious injury or death.

Autumn is here, which means the best caving season has started. There won’t be any freezing rain or snow that can wreak havoc on your boots or other caving gear just yet. If you still have some questions about caving boots, we have assembled answers to the most asked questions here, which will clear up your misconceptions more and ease your search for the best caving boots.

With so many types available, it is essential to understand which boot is right for your brand of spelunking. It is not only about enjoying a comfy walk; you have to opt for the design that ensures you will stay properly supported and protected on the roughest grounds and varying surfaces of each cave.

Choosing the best caving boots can be confusing, especially for first timers.

For a list of good quality boots, check our Caving Boots Recommendations here.

But if you’re looking to spend more time for a more personalized shopping experience, we can help with that.

First, understand the difference between comfortable walking and dangerous or painful walking. Caving boots aren’t like normal shoes. They are designed to withstand the roughest and most remote corners of the earth. With the right pair, you can easily walk on the high-up trails and far-flung locations without a second thought. You don’t have to worry about your trip or if you should back off of a certain path in the middle of a caving adventure. The right caving boots will always sync with where and how you hike, and the best caving boots put your safety first.

If you are planning to buy boots online and can’t visit a store where experts can help you pick your perfect boot, check out our buying guide below. If you have questions on a topic that we have yet to cover, simply let us know through the comment section at the bottom.

A caver climbs vertically, with his caving boots planted against the wall and a rope in his hands.
Don’t attempt this climb in sandals, not speaking from personal experience of course.

What to Look For in Caving Boots

There are several factors to consider while shopping for your caving boots. But considering you will be walking for at least a few hours and likely staying on your feet for the majority of your time inside the caves, do not sacrifice comfort whatsoever. The supreme comfort level can step-up the game of any boots. Every other feature can be negotiated, but not the level of comfort.

People usually focus on the waterproof feature, which is good if it is your priority. You don’t want your socks getting soaked in the puddles or bodies of water you may have to cross at times. However, if the boots aren’t comfortable, they can and will surely cause pain in your knees, ankles, and feet. So always check how much comfortable they are first. Check the cushioning, weight, and other synthetic materials that make them feel good. Walk around in them in the store as you would with any pair of shoes. We will discuss waterproofing a little later.

Once it is confirmed that the boots you want are comfortable, you can begin to investigate other features, such as the waterproof quality, insulation, laces, etc.

1 – The Right Fit

The first thing you have to see is whether your caving boots are the right fit.

Some brands create extraordinary boots, but they aren’t built for everything due to their design and shape. It can be tough for some people to find the right fit, so don’t expect to find the best pair on your first try. Fit is also not all about the size of your feet. In reality, it is more about shape. If you are having the right size and your feet aren’t still comfortable in them, it means the shape is not designed for your feet.

From the flexibility of your toes to the width of your heel, discomfort can be caused by anything if the shape is off. Therefore, focus more on the shape of your foot.

A collection of over a dozen boots for caving and more.
You don’t need a different pair for each cave, but we don’t judge if you like variety.

Buying Boots Online

If you are buying online, you can expect to run into some extra problems. Buying boots online isn’t easy.

After choosing your favorite brand, finding the perfect fit may elude you. It may be wiser not to stick to just the brand you are familiar with. Going through all the different brands can be confusing for a new buyer, but nowadays many brands have their own sizing guide to help you in picking the right size. If it is tough to find the sizing guide, just remember ordering 1/2 smaller size than your normal sneakers since the design and construction of the boot is very different. In addition, when you buy leather, it automatically stretches according to your feet over time. Finally, consider contacting the customer support team; if there’s something else to keep in mind with sizing, they can let you know before you order anything and end up needing an exchange.

If you are able to get to the store, following the boot fitting guide that is available there will be easier. This will tell you how to choose the right size for your caving adventure. You will also learn how to measure your feet to choose between different styles where sizing may be inconsistent, for future reference.

If you simply cannot find the right fit, it is very much possible to rely on a footbed in your boot. Removable comfortable footbeds are available in the market that provide a snug fit in case the size is too big or you have narrow feet. These may be a cheaper alternative, as they are more easy to customize.

2 – Type of Activity

Finding boots for a specific type of activity is possible.

For instance, are you looking to visit a show cave for fun? You might need lowland over-the-knee boots. This boot is very flexible and used often for more leisurely dog walking, hiking, or trips to a national park.

The lowland rambling boots are good for both winter and summer season too.

In case you are more into wild caving or even climbing vertical caves, lowland rambling boots won’t be ideal for you. They will bring discomfort for strenuous activities or longer periods of walking on uneven surfaces. Instead, look for ‘Hill Walking’ boots. The hill walking boots have different kinds of features; they are much more rigid and they have the ability to tackle steep slopes and hills efficiently.

They are built to take on rougher and tougher terrains.

In order to see whether you have a hillwalking boot or a lowland rambling boot, try to flex it from the toe side. If it bends easily, you have a lowland rambling boot. On the contrary, in case the boot is rigid and it is hard to flex it, congratulations. You have a hillwalking boot that is suitable for both caving and rough terrains, and should be better prepared to go underground.

3 – Caving Season: Summer Or Winter?

A couple cavers admire the ice formations in Crystal Ice Cave, Ireland.
You’ll want something with good grip for Crystal Ice Cave, Ireland.

We know these two factors don’t matter a whole lot when it comes to caving.

However, it is good to have a pair of shoes that can be used for any outdoor adventure. Four-season footwear is available of course, but sometimes the characteristics either suit only the winter season, or only the summer season. You need to see which season your region faces the most, and if they are more extreme at the location you will be visiting.

Apart from this, decide when you will do the majority of your walk.

Ideally, in our opinion, you should purchase one pair for each season to have the comfort you want and reduce the risk of an injury. You won’t need extra features like waterproofing in every cave or region that you travel, so having a separate pair may provide more comfort in drier areas.

4 – Check Soles

The performance of the caving shoes/boots depends on the soles. It ultimately decides the durability and grip on the unpredictable surfaces.

Unfortunately, for the average person, it’s hard to check the quality of the sole. Most concentrate on the overall quality of the boot and its fit, rather than checking its specifics. People who don’t have any idea regarding the soles should focus on a few things to determine the sole quality.

A graphic showing natural rubber and the addition of 3-5% sulphur.
Vulcanized rubber is more durable.

Look for Vulcanized Rubber. This sole has unrivaled durability and it survives the impacts of harsh conditions with efficacy. The only drawback of this sole is it doesn’t perform better in slippery conditions. In a show or tourist cave, this sole is probably good.

If you are more into wild caving, get chunkier tread. This is a bit different than vulcanized rubber. It particularly deals with muddy and slippery conditions better, and you should always be prepared for those in the wild caves.

5 – Boots Height

Do you ever consider the effect of the boot height when comparing two pairs?

The height isn’t just for the style. It has a purpose and it supports different activities in different ways. For example, the low-cut height is quite popular among joggers. It falls below the ankle joint. Joggers and people who go for dog walking frequently love the low-cut design because it gives great freedom of movement. They can walk, run, tilt their body, and do some moderate forms of exercise without any issues.

Next, we have a mid-cut design. This height is for more support and protection against rocks. People who opt for mid-cut design are often cavers and mountaineers. Since these two hobbies deal with a lot of unstable terrains and rolling. The mid-cut design also has water-proof features. Though it isn’t fully waterproof; it keeps the debris and mud out in a much better way.

A pair of lower and mid-cut hiking or caving boots.
Low vs mid-cut boots.

Other than that, we have a high-cut design as well.

The high-cut design is for more stability and carrying big loads in rough terrain. They are good for construction workers as they require some serious kind of support so that they can carry heavy loads.

But for overall protection and general comfort, mid-cut height is the best for caving. You might opt for high-cut waterproof caving boots for when you expect deep puddles or pools during your trip.

Leather Boots

Cavers love leather boots, and it’s because they have many benefits. The main benefit is they are great for almost all dressy occasions and activities. If you have a great pair of leather boots, you can challenge yourself and participate in all extreme caving activities without having a special separate pair.

They are also a fantastic option for winter and fall. Professional cavers often visit caves in these seasons the most. The leather keeps their feet warm and protected in the cold and rain. And don’t forget perhaps the most important perk of leather – it is also easy to wipe away any dirt from a leather surface. Frequent cleaning can discolor the leather but when you use a small amount of wax to the exterior of the boot, they look new again. Some people use spray on a leather boot also; spray gives them a smooth and glossy finish.

Red Wing Irish Setter Leather boots.
Leather just goes well with every caving outfit.

How to extend the lifespan of waterproof boots?

Give your waterproof caving boots a thorough cleaning, time and time again. Make sure there is no grime and mud on it. When you don’t clean the mud or grime, they lead to severe accidents and injuries. First, they affect the overall quality and durability of the boots if left to stain and soak into the material, and most importantly, they can stick to the bottom and damage the grip.

This can be immensely dangerous as caves often have a humid environment and surfaces can get slippery.

Use a brush to remove the dirt and grime. If the mud or dirt is trapped in the soles, soak your boots in almost one-inch water for a few hours, and then gently pry the dirt off. The water will loosen the crud and make the entire cleaning process easier, without using any chemicals.

These simple steps extend the lifespan of your boots. You don’t need to keep them brand new, but washing them between trips is a good habit.

Can you make your standard boots waterproof?

What if you like some boots because of their superior cushioning and comfort, but they aren’t waterproof or water-resistant? Sometimes people like those caving boots that aren’t waterproof, and consider it a drawback, when some of these are the best boots on the market.

In this situation, you can do a couple of things to enjoy the waterproof feature.

We have some special sprays today that are developed for boots. They create a thin layer on them and make them somewhat water-resistant. Just hold the spray about six inches from the boots and create 2-3 layers/coats according to the product directions.

Apart from that, wax can be used too for coating. Warm the wax slightly with a hairdryer and apply it on your shoe with a clean cloth.

Top Rated
Sof Sole Silicone Waterproofer Spray for Boots,Tents and Outdoor Gear 12-ounce

A 12 percent silicone formula creates a durable, long lasting waterproof bond to repel water, dirt and oil. 

? Heavy duty formula

? Long lasting waterproofing

? Easy application


⚠️Not recommended for breathable technical fibers (like gore tex) or athletic shoes.

Are mountaineering boots different than caving boots?

Yes, there are a few differences between both of them.

First, mountaineering boots are heavier. The focus is always on their durability and strength. That’s why we see rigid soles in them that survive the toughest situations. Unlike caving boots, many mountaineering boots come in two layers. One-layer models are intended for alpine terrain, whereas the double layer boots are specifically for the mountainous range. The double-layer also keeps the feet warm in the snow.

The main drawback of mountaineering boots is they are not very breathable. On the contrary, caving boots can be very breathable and often have quite flexible soles. This is probably because the demand of caving boots isn’t exactly like mountaineering boots. You will likely not encounter any thick snow inside any typical wild caves.

For that reason, flexibility is easier to find in caving boots. Furthermore, caving boots cover more activities such as hiking, rock climbing, rafting, trail running, and biking. Mountaineering boots are specifically made for ice climbing, mixed (rock & ice) climbing, and crevasse traverse and rescue.

A caver walks through a narrow low-ceiling passageway with lots of dirt and mud.
Caving boots are more suitable for this kind of trek.
RANDY SUN Waterproof Socks, Unisex Hiking Wading Trail Running Kayaking Crew Socks

What about Caving Socks?

Glad you asked! Don’t forget about the quality of socks that you’ll be wearing with your boots. It matters more than you might think.

Caving neoprene socks, also called wetsocks, are the ones to go for. They’re incredibly comfortable, warm, and if you happen to step in a puddle deeper than you had expected, your feet stay warm. Other socks can be bulkier due to the material incorporated, and depending on the type, might move around a little more as you walk. This can cause discomfort or worse, make you doubt your footing.

Neoprene socks are often used by surfers and divers , so you can be sure that they’ll serve well in wetter caves as well. However, neoprene are often slightly more expensive than most other types of socks.

For general caving outings, consider plain wool hiking socks. An example is shown to the right.

Wool socks are inexpensive, warm, and more than enough in drier climates. If you’re going caving where there’s no rivers or risk of rain, you might be fine with general hiking socks, provided they offer enough padding for the uneven terrain you’d be dealing with.

As a general tip, bring the socks you’ll be taking with you to the store when shopping for your caving boots. This way, you can ensure that the fit isn’t dependent on your normal everyday socks.

Our Pick
Time May Tell Mens Merino Wool Hiking Cushion Socks Thermal Warm Crew Winter Boot Socks Pack (2/4 Pair,6-13 Size)

These merino wool hiking socks are made of a 80% merino wool blend.

? Good elasticity

? Warmth retention

? Moisture absorption


Contains: 80% merino wool blend, 14% Nylon, 5% Polyester, 1% Spandex

Leave a comment