Whether shopping your closet or scrolling through options from new spring ‘18 collections, choosing shoes for the Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. — which starts this weekend and runs through next — is one of the most important sartorial decisions for any and every attendee. Shoes can make or break the experience, either providing much-needed endurance and comfort for dry hot days and cold desert nights or adding painful blisters and soggy toes to the lineup.
Use these seven rules below as a guideline to choosing the right footwear for Coachella — and all of the upcoming festivals this spring and summer.
1. When in doubt, choose a boot
Sandals might channel your inner bohemian, but in reality, they equal dusty (or muddy) feet and a high likelihood of stepped-on toes. In covering the entire foot and ankle, boots provide the best protection from both crowds and Mother Nature. Choose a pair that’s not too precious, like a lace-up combat style or an on-trend Western ankle bootie. Keep the heel super-low and add an extra insole for additional comfort.
2. If you must wear a sandal, find one that fully stays in place
If covering your toes in the hot desert sun seems like torture, just make sure your sandal can hold you in all day. Skip pool slides and lace-up styles that need to be retied throughout the day and instead choose a style with buckled straps that hold in the entire foot.
3. Match materials to the local environment — and know when to wear a Wellie
Choose durable leathers that can be wiped clean (like a rough pebbled leather) and wear a suede only if it can blend in with the color of the dirt (meaning no black suede boots with sand or dust). And pack a pair of rainboots in case of a storm — because there is no bigger bummer than losing a sandal in a sea of mud and having to walk barefoot the rest of the day.
4. Save pom poms, fur and other embellishments for special events
Feathers and fur may feel Mad Max-like (and also very Burning Man), but most attendees should steer clear of any accoutrements that could be easily ruined by a spilled beer or trampled feet (or worse). Buckles are the most practical embellishment for festival footwear (and fur just gets too hot, anyway).
5. Not all sneakers are created equal
After boots, a sneaker is the safest option for any festival, but it comes with a few caveats: Any white shoe will automatically get dirty (unless it’s a ubiquitous old ratty pair of Stan Smiths), and some sneakers may not actually have the comfort needed to get through the entire day. Avoid slip-on styles with super-flat soles and consider an orthotic insert to add even more stability — a tactic that can also be applied to boots. (All rules can be applied to dad sneakers, too.)
6. Proceed with caution on any heel
In general, any high heel is a no-no for a festival outing, but there is one practical reason for them: They help shorter attendees to see the stage while in a crowd. If heels are a must, choose a reasonable wedge style or a sturdy block heel that veers on the lower side.
7. Wear them in before heading out
This rule applies to any pair of shoes prior to a big event, but it’s especially true for a day-and-night, on-the-go outing like Coachella: Give any new shoes a test run and proper wear-in before committing to them for a festival. Even the most comfortable sneakers, boots and sandals can initially cause blisters on the first few wears, so make sure any final option is tried and tested before the big weekend.