I was packing for a 4 day hike into Tasmania’s Tarkine Wilderness last year, when my mother’s voice popped into my head saying, “Wear your sensible shoes!” As a child I’d roll my eyes at such a remark, but experience has taught me it’s valuable advice. Sensible shoes are indispensable when you’re trekking in the great outdoors.

As a wildlife photographer and lover of nature, I travel to magnificent locations as often as possible.  But no matter where I am, safety-first is a huge consideration.

In photography mode, all I can think about is getting the shot I see in my mind’s eye. The last thing I want to worry about is whether my feet are protected, or if my boots can stand up to the environment. When edging along a rocky volcanic cliff on Christmas Island to photograph booby birds soaring on thermal currents or navigating my way around a two ton rescue elephant in Cambodia, I rely on my stable, supportive ‘sensible shoes’ to protect me from the elements.

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Are you wearing your sensible shoes?

On location it’s not unusual for me to start the day early and carry around 20 kilos of camera gear from place to place until dusk. I’m tough on my footwear and my boots get scuffed, scratched, soaked and dirty. Wear and tear is an inevitable side-effect, so a great pair of boots is not just a good  investment, it’s a necessary one. Having a shoe fail or a boot blowout is not something you want to experience at the best of times, let alone when you are miles away from civilization or off the beaten track.

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Alex wears Salomon footwear, available from Paddy Pallin

I’m heading to Antarctica early next year on a wildlife photographic expedition, and my choicer of deck footwear will be my Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra shoes. They’re versatile, non-slip, and easy to pull on in a hurry thanks to their Quicklace ™ system, which will enable me to catch the action on deck when someone yells “Whale!”.

I’ve found the best range of footwear to suit my needs in Paddy Pallin’s light to mid-weight ‘hiking’ range and there’s an incredible variety of hiking boots and shoes available with ever increasing improvements and features. But no matter the technicoloured bells and whistles, I never compromise on comfort –  and comfort to me means my footwear has to be light weight, waterproof and the perfect fit.

Lightweight: For me heavy boots are out. After experiencing recurring knee pain from walking long distances in heavy boots, I learned that flexible, light to mid-weight boots work best for me.


Boots offer more stability and upper ankle support than shoes, so I wear boots whenever I’m around hooved or heavy animals and in rugged terrain. When on a recent trip to the jungle in Laos, the solid grip on the soles of my boots was perfect for walking along slippery, muddy trails and stepping over wet tree roots protruding from the path.

A boot’s weight is impacted by the materials it is made from and I prefer synthetic varieties constructed mostly of nylon and polyester. They weigh around the same as a pair of runners and require little ‘breaking in’.

Hiking shoes, which look similar to runners, work best for me when I’m working on flat, dry ground in well-defined areas. Lightweight hikers were perfect last year in India when I spent days walking along dusty roads and photographing in wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. They were easy to carry in my luggage and comfortable enough to wear on aircraft.

Waterproof: Spending the day in squelchy, soggy socks after wading through water or being caught in a tropical rainstorm is a sure fire way to develop blisters and foot pain. Boots and shoes that feature a waterproof breathable membrane lining (such as Gore-Tex® or eVent®) are designed to keep feet dry and comfortable in wet conditions. In dry conditions a breathable liner keeps moisture away and helps reduce blisters and foot fatigue.


Cambodian Sun Bear shaking off after a swim

The Perfect Fit: Fit is a huge consideration for long-term arch support and comfort. No one wants blisters or sore feet after a hard days trekking. To be sure the length and width are correct, I try new boots or shoes on with the thick socks I like to wear on location, walk around the store to make sure the fit is perfect.

You can find your next pair of “sensible shoes” from the Paddy Pallin range in store or online.

About The Author

Alex Cearns is one of Australia’s leading professional pet and wildlife photographers and the Creative Director of Houndstooth Studio. A philanthropist, author, educator, adventurer and animal advocate, she specialises in crafting exquisite animal portraits that intrinsically capture the joy people find in animals. Alex’s remarkable images, natural animal handling skills and substantial contribution to improving the lives of rescued animals around the world has earned her high regard among animal lovers. She loves to travel, and leads global wildlife photography tours to some of the world’s most exciting wildlife destinations for World Expeditions.

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