I think that photographers often over-obsess with cameras, gear, and lenses — but we never think about the most important tool when it comes to our photography; our shoes.
What to look for in a photography shoe
I feel the best shoe for photography (any form of photography, whether it be commercial photography, street photography, travel photography, etc) is the most minimal shoe. The shoe with the least amount of padding, the shoe with the least rigidity, and the least amount of weight.
1. Thin sole
Choose a shoe which has a thin sole. The thinner the sole, the better it is for your feet. Humans have evolved for thousands of years to walk barefoot. Why do we foolishly think that wearing shoes with lots of padding is good for us?
I am a huge fan of the ‘Vibram five fingers’ minimalist shoe (if those look too weird, check out the ‘Sanuk’ shoe).
Choose a shoe which is flexible. Your shoe should bend to your feet; your feet shouldn’t bend to your shoe.
I am a huge fan of the Nike ‘Free’ shoes which look cool, but have a very flexible bottom sole.
Even better are the new Nike Free RN Motion Flyknit, the most flexible shoe I’ve ever worn. It is like wearing a sock for your shoes.
Choose a shoe which is light. I read ‘Shoe Dog’ (the biography of the founder of Nike, Phil Knight) and he wrote how he was obsessed with reducing the weight of his original track shoes. Because each ounce saved on a shoe, the quicker an athlete could run, and the longer they could run without fatigue.
Wear black shoes
Choose a shoe that doesn’t attract attention. Put away those bright red shoes and choose some darker (preferably black) shoes. If you’re shooting street photography, wearing bright red shoes will attract the wrong attention. Try to go stealth.
I know for me I like having a black sole on the bottom of my shoe, as it shows less dirt when I’m traveling.
Avoid white sneakers; they will always get dirty too quickly.
Sneakers for life
I like elegant looking shoes made of leather.
But honestly, sneakers are the best shoes (I believe) for all photographers.
The sneaker is the lightest, most flexible, and most ‘normal looking’ shoe you can wear. The lighter, more flexible, and thinner your shoes– the more you can walk, the quicker you can move around, the more agile you will be, and therefore you will take more photos, with less fatigue, and capture more ‘decisive moments.’
I used to be obsessed with sneakers when I was growing up, and buying too many shoes is also a disease.
My suggestion: find a sneaker that is 80% ‘good enough’ for your needs, and just stick with one pair.
My favorite photography shoe
As for myself, my favorite shoe (as of early 2017) is the Nike Free RN Motion Flyknit. They aren’t cheap, but probably a better investment than any other photography equipment I’ve bought (and cheaper by comparison). I love how you don’t need to tie the shoelaces, it fits like a sock, it is flexible, breathable, light, and discrete.
And remember, the best photographers are the best walkers. The more you walk, the more photo opportunities you will see, and the more photos you will shoot.
When in doubt, walk more.