When thinking of hiking in Malaysia and Borneo, the first thing that comes to mind is the pair of boots or shoes you’ll need to buy. The Malaysian jungle, especially in Borneo, is wet, muddy and slippery. But what you need to negotiate it is the opposite of the expensive brand of waterproof hiking shoes you are thinking about.
All you need is rubber. All you need is… adidas kampung.
Wait a moment. What is Adidas kampung?
If you have ever been on Malaysian trekking routes, especially in Borneo (read our ultimate guide to backpacking Borneo, our article on Sabah’s best attractions, and our list of Borneo Best Beaches) you have seen them. Remember that time your guide crossed that little stream in those rubber shoes with no effort, while you had to balance yourself over rocks, failed, slipped, and soaked your brand-new hiking shoes to the sock?
Do you remember it took hours to get your footwear dry, while your guide’s rubber shoes were dry in minutes?
Yeah, got it. THOSE are Adidas kampung.
Also called “kampung Adidas”, the signature footwear of Malaysian workers, rubber tappers and farmers is the best type of shoe you can buy to venture out in the Malaysian jungle. Did we say that it’s also as cheap as bananas? Literally, you can buy a pair for only about RM10 (US$ 2.5). Adidas kampung will last longer than you need them and will be the best hiking shoes you’ll ever have in your travels.
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OK so… Why are they called Adidas kampung?
Adidas, of course, has nothing to relate with these rubber shoes that people use in many Malaysian kampung — meaning “village” — except they are a rip-off of the famous brand.
Yes, kampung Adidas resemble the shape of the world’s globalised sneaker brand: engraved diagonal stripes on the side and cleated bottoms that make them look like football shoes. For sure you’ll LOVE these cleats when trawling on muddy trails and negotiating the pebbles at the bottom of jungle streams.
Usually, the kampung Adidas are black and without laces, but these days they also come in white, and it’s pretty common to find them with laces.
Why Kampung Adidas are the Best Hiking Shoes in Malaysia?
Besides the cheap cost, the Adidas kampung made the headlines in 2011 when a female rubber tapper won the summit race to Mount Kinabalu (Malaysia’s highest mountain in the state of Sabah) using a pair of kampung Adidas.
Like Danny Kuilin Gongot, hundreds of Malaysians use the Adidas kampung not just for work, but also for leisure. And after years of living in Malaysia and taveling in Borneo, we have never found a pair of shoes that suits better the needs of jungle hiking. Expensive hiking boots? Save them for the Himalayas. When backpacking Borneo and traveling in Malaysia, all you need is kampung Adidas, and here are the reasons why.
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1. Adidas Kampung are lightweight and totally waterproof
The Adidas kampung and certainly light to carry and can be stashed anywhere inside or outside your backpack — no need to worry about spoiling them, as it’s thick rubber. And of course, they are fully waterproof. You may want to consider wearing them without socks when walking in the rain or across rivers, so that you may get wet without an issue. Done with your wading? Take the kampung Adidas off, pour the water outside, shake them a bit, and here they are… perfectly dry. No more hours wasted trying to dry your hiking boots for sure.
2. Adidas Kampung are great on slippery rocks
Given their cleated bottoms, adidas kampung are perfect to walk over slippery rocks and maintain your balance while negotiating particularly humid and wet jungle trails. I will always remember that one time we hiked at Telupid, one of Sabah’s best alternative places to go: I and Kit wore kampung Adidas, and never fell on the very slippery soil for the whole trek. An Italian friend decided to come with her real Adidas… and she fell so many times she ended up crying.
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3. You can customize your Adidas kampung as you wish
Rubber is of course hard and can hurt someone’s feet. But you can always cut that piece of adidas kampung that rubs too much on your ankle, grab some candle wax, smear it on the shoe and make it feel and look like new. The kampung adidas are almost entirely customizable — just don’t cut them into half.
4. Adidas Kampung are great against leeches
Leeches are a jungle nuisance and something you’ll have to seriously consider when hiking in most parts of Borneo. The suckers — I have no better work for them, sorry — will crawl and hide inside the folds of your clothes, and even into the cracks of your hiking shoes. But any kampung adidas is flat, rubbery, black… perfect to spot those horrible red bloodsuckers, and burn them back — yes, a flick of your lighter will repel leeches pretty well — to green hell.
5. Kampung Adidas are very easy to clean
How many hours have you spent scraping mud and soil from your expensive hiking boots, oftentimes ending up ruining them, or having to lose a good chunk of your hiking day to wait for the sun to dry your hiking shoes? With adidas kampung you’ll never ever have to do that. Just find water, douse them, scrap them with anything you need to clean the mud off, then pour the water out and… you’ll be able to wear your adidas kampung and start hiking in minutes.
Conclusion: Adidas Kampung is the best jungle hiking shoe in Malaysia
Take it from someone who goes hiking a lot: you can’t go wrong with buying a cheap pair of adidas kampung too travel in Malaysia and Borneo, as they are the best hiking shoes for the purpose. Lightweight, resistant, too cheap to really give a damn about them anyway, but so incredibly valuable because tailored exactly to the task — navigating muddy, slippery, horrible rainforest terrain you won’t want to do any other way.
Where to Buy Adidas Kampung
There are some great adidas kampung brands such as Bowling and Gajah King and you can find them at most hardware shops such as Mr DIY, available in most Malaysian shopping malls. Lazada is also a good place to buy them online if you happen to not find a pair of kampung adidas in your town.
In Penang, where we are based, you can find a selection of cheap Adidas kampung at Sim Aik Merchant in Lebuh Noordin, directly opposite the Cititel Express.
In Sabah and Sarawak, adidas kampung is widely sold at the many mom and pop stores you’ll find in every city, town and kampung across Borneo. It will be the most useful RM 10 you’ll ever spend, trust us.
Know More About Malaysia and Borneo
• Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Borneo
• Explore Bukit Piton Orangutan Sanctuary
• At Home with Pirates on a Sungai Kapur River Cruise
• Best Places to Visit in Malaysia in 3 Days
• Tawau Hills Park Hiking Guide