Good gardening shoes can be the difference between a pleasant gardening experience and an uncomfortable one where your feet end up soggy and stinky — or worse, injured.
Melissa Higgins, wholesale manager of Sprague’s Nursery, said that she and her co-workers have several types of gardening shoes to use depending on the task. In general, though, they all keep three different types of shoes around: lightweight waterproof clogs, hiking boots and Muck Boots.
“It all depends on what you’re doing,” Higgins said.
Waterproof clogs, especially ones with breathable holes like Crocs, are best for light gardening tasks like weeding and watering.
“I know they are terribly unfashionable, but they are cool, they are washable [and] they allow my feet to breathe,” Higgins said. “When you’re in the muck a lot being able to wash your feet off and let them dry out is a really great feeling.”
Katherine Bagley, owner of Bagley’s Greenhouse in Orono, agreed the classic Crocs clogs and shoes with a similar style are great for gardening (though she admitted that she also enjoys gardening barefoot).
“If you need a shoe, a waterproof slip-on is best,” Bagley said. “Crocs are great. They are waterproof and have holes to let your feet breath.”
For heavier duty tasks, though, Higgins said you should have a pair of hiking boots for tougher tasks that Crocs might not hold up well to.
“If I know I’m going to be doing a lot of digging, for example, I definitely wouldn’t wear my Crocs,” Higgins said. “The soles aren’t thick enough when you’re pushing down on a shovel.”
Kate Garland, horticultural specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, also emphasized the importance of a sturdy sole for gardening shoes.
“I’ve heard of someone breaking bones in their feet [during] garden activities,” Garland said. “If I’m doing some heavy duty digging, I use something with a really good sole. An old pair of hiking boots that has a vibram sole really seem to have saved me from breaking my foot.”
Boots used for gardening do not need the same level of ankle support that is needed for other strenuous activities like hiking. The ideal boots for gardening are comfortable and waterproof.
“It’s important that they don’t give us blisters and they’ll hold up to the heat and the moisture,” Higgins said. “Merrells make a great boot, [but] a few of the other girls around here swear by Keen.”
Higgins suggested also purchasing a pair of lined waterproof boots, like Muck Boots, for gardening in the early spring, fall and summer.
“The tread is awesome, they’re very comfortable, and they last a long time,” Higgins said. “They’re just so tough. You could buy a pair of Muck Boots and it’ll last you easily 10 years unless you wear out the bottom from scuffing them along.”
Higgins said that you can choose a height that suits your preference, but higher styles are better for heavy duty gardening, especially during mud season.
For heavier duty shoes especially, Higgins said, quality really matters.
“We’re really rough on shoes here,” Higgins said. “I have learned over time that it’s worth it to just spend the money and buy a really decent pair that’s going to last instead of buying a cheap pair. Once you find one that you like, it’s good to stick with that.”