Hiking is one of the best ways to take a break from our busy lives, get in touch with nature, give our bodies a nice workout, and relax.
If you’ve been thinking about hitting the trails, you’ll need to get yourself a good pair of hiking shoes if you don’t have them already.
There are hundreds of footwear available with no single “perfect” footwear for hiking. Other than the usual hiking boots are there alternative footwear you can use? We explore how different shoes can or can’t be used for hiking and why.
Table of Contents
- Can You Hike in Converse?
- Can You Hike in Doc Martens?
- Can You Hike in Timberlands?
- Can You Hike in Duck Boots?
- Can You Hike in Cowboy Boots?
- Can You Hike In Crocs?
- Can You Hike In Ugg Boots?
- Can You Hike in Vans?
- Can You Hike in Wading Boots?
- Conclusion: The Value of Planning for the Right Footwear
Can You Hike in Converse?
Hiking can be done in all sorts of footwear but the type of terrain and level of comfort you’ll experience will differ. You can hike in Converse shoes but you certainly do not want to hike anywhere other than parks.
They’re fantastic for lifting weights and looking stylish, but they don’t offer the benefits of regular hiking boots. While it’s affordable, it may not be worth your while to try serious hiking with Converse since you can injure your feet with the wrong footwear.
Just because you can technically use Converse shoes for hiking doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It’s like jogging in your jeans. You can certainly do it, but given how uncomfortable you’d be, is it really worth it?
Converse shoes are unsuitable for hiking for several reasons including:
- Lack of arch support
- Not water-resistant or waterproof
- No traction, becomes slippery when wet
- Can cause blisters
- Flat sole
- No protection
- Very little cushioning
If you can’t bear to be parted from your Chuck Taylors, make sure they’re comfortable and broken in. However, before your hike, it’s a good idea to go for a trail hike just to see how your feet will hold up.
If you must wear them, Converse makes a more durable sneaker boot with greater traction and toe spring.
Fun Fact: Emma Rowena Gatewood or Grandma Gatewood, as she is affectionately called, was the first woman to climb the Appalachian Trail with a pair of Converse during part of her hike.
Can You Hike in Doc Martens?
Yes, they can be used for hiking but only if they’re your only alternative. Even then, you should only do so for a limited amount of time. Docs are fantastic. We love them but they are not designed for hiking.
Doc Martens are originally work boots used by construction workers. They are designed to be sturdy and suitable for rigorous work environments.
They provide exceptional levels of comfort and protection. They offer features such as air-cushioning, non-slip and puncture-resistant soles, breathable leather, and a welted structure.
While hiking with Doc Martens is possible, they aren’t meant for hiking and can cause pain and blistering. They aren’t breathable enough and are therefore not suitable for all-day hikes and overnight camping.
Doc Martens are not ideal hiking boots because they:
- Take an eternity to break in
- Are awkward for navigating uneven terrain
- Can lead to heel blisters
- Do not provide adequate ankle support
- Have no traction nor insulation
- Are too heavy for hiking
Hiking in Docs may not always be the worst idea. If your Docs are already broken in, they may be suitable for light hikes and nature walks, but nothing beyond them. If you prefer to use boots for hiking, there are hiking boots that are sturdier and offer better ankle support than Doc Martens. These are better options for long hikes since they were made to adapt to challenging terrains.
Recommended Reading: We’ve written a whole article on our top pick for hiking boots for wide feet that you might be interested in.
Can You Hike in Timberlands?
Timberland is the most well-known and best-selling boots these days. People wear them with jeans or shorts while traveling, working, or simply going about their everyday lives.
Timberland’s classic and iconic 6-inch yellow leather boots were launched in 1973. They are still very popular to this day. Primarily built to sustain New Hampshire’s harsh, rainy, snowbound winters, it has found its way in outdoor fashion.
Despite their durable and thick soles, they are not suitable for hiking due to their weight. One Timberland boot weighs one pound and thirteen ounces whereas a pair of normal hiking shoes weigh around two pounds. It may not seem like a dealbreaker when you put them on but imagine hiking for hours and the weight will eventually get to you.
Timberland fans will be happy to know that the brand makes shoes that are meant for serious hiking. Here are a few hiking boots to consider:
These waterproof boots are made of high-quality full-grain leather. However, bear in mind that since these White Ledge boots are completely made from leather, they do not breathe well.
These boots offer more practical features such as a protective waterproof layer to keep your feet dry and an internal TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) or plastic shank for strength and support.
A pair of these boots is the best alternative for individuals looking for a Gore-Tex solution. These hiking boots include rubber soles and leather uppers as well as an anti-fatigue detachable insole that provides additional comfort.
Timberland is renowned for producing high-quality goods and these hiking boots are no exception. Let’s look at what makes Timberland hiking boots stand out:
- Made of high-quality materials
- Offers true-to-size fit
- EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) midsoles that are extremely supportive and comfortable
- Shock absorbent
- Excellent cushioning
When you buy Timberland hiking boots, you can be confident that you are purchasing comfortable, sturdy, and reliable footwear that can keep up with whatever terrain you find yourself in.
Can You Hike in Duck Boots?
Due to their usefulness in outdoor activities, duck Boots have been around for almost a century.
Commonly known as bean boots, duck boots were designed by Leon Leonwood Bean. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Leon is the founder of L.L. Bean. His idea for duck boots was to integrate two kinds of boots: the rubber sole of an industrial boot and the leather top of a casual boot.
Why did he want to put these elements together?
The rubber would provide protection from the weather while the leather would incorporate the flexibility of a standard leather boot. The result was duck boots which quickly became a tremendous success.
Bean had the right idea since good hiking shoes should always be waterproof. There’s no telling what you’ll come across while hiking. Trails can include puddles, streams, rivers, and other moist terrains. There’s also the possibility of rain so waterproof boots help you prepare for different eventualities.
Recommended Reading: We’ve written a whole article on how to cross rivers that you might be interested in.
In addition to being waterproof, duck boots are practical for other reasons: they’re comfortable, stable as well as easy to clean and maintain.
With all these benefits, you may wonder why duck boots aren’t recommended wear for long hikes.
Although they perform well in damp and muddy situations, they aren’t the best choice for hiking because they:
- Lack ankle support
- Don’t breathe well
- Cause blisters
- Lack traction
Duck boots are outstanding winter footwear, suitable for cold and rainy weather, but they aren’t up to the mark as hiking boots. They lack the traction and stability required for intense hiking.
What they’re perfect for is casual strolls and short walks. Comfortable, lightweight, and convenient, duck boots are useful to have around. Just don’t use them for long and challenging hikes.
Can You Hike in Cowboy Boots?
Cowboy boots can be used for working on the farm, fashion runways, and construction sites. For all their versatility, they aren’t the best choice for hiking because they have heels and lack grip, a difficult combination when confronted with unstable, uneven, steep, and slippery ground.
Also, there isn’t much heel and ankle support, and the pointy toe design doesn’t have much legroom and breathability. It’s an excellent choice for horse riding and can even be stylish, but they aren’t suitable for hiking.
If you really want to use cowboy boots for hiking, western work boots are the way to go. They’re comfortable, provide protection, stability, and durability. Western work boots have the following going for them:
- Low heels
- Good arch and ankle support
- Square and round toe options
- Rubber soles
- Comfortable insoles
If the terrain is even, you can consider cowboy boots but if it’s uneven, consider something else for your safety, comfort, and maneuverability.
Can You Hike In Crocs?
Some hikers get a kick from experimenting with unconventional footwear just to see what happens. Crocs are one of those shoes that a few hikers swear by for a wide range of hiking conditions.
Known for focusing on comfort rather than style, Crocs are perfect for lounging around the house, simple get-togethers, dress-down events, and anything casual.
Some Crocs fans believe that these soft, multicolored, clog-style shoes are perfect for hiking. Since a lot has been said on the topic, let’s consider the pros and cons that have often been presented in the Crocs debate.
- Easy to clean, wear, and carry
- Dries quickly
- Comfortable cushioning
- Good for wading and crossing small bodies of water like streams
- Not suitable for sharp, slippery, and rocky terrains
- Minimal protection
- Hardly any traction
- Can cause blisters and ankle sprains
Unless you want your choice of footwear to be another challenge to your hike, leave the Crocs at home. You may be able to use them around the base camp though. Since they’re made for comfort, Crocs can provide much-needed relief for your feet after a long day’s hike.
If the trail is flat and involves crossing small bodies of water, you can consider wearing Crocs as a hiking shoe. However, if you need to cover rugged and rocky ground, go for hiking boots.
Crocs are super comfortable shoes with excellent breathability, however, they do not have the thickest or sturdiest soles. If you use them for hiking, you may feel rocks, sticks, and other debris through the soles.
If you still want to hike in crocs, many recommend the Offroad Sport Clogs. These Crocs are a little better for hiking since they offer a more solid sole as well as lugs which improve traction. Also, the large toe box is useful if your toes tend to rub against each other.
Can You Hike In Ugg Boots?
Uggs are like the Crocs of boots. They were created by Australian surfer Brian Smith. Made to feel like a “hug from a friend,” Ugg defies fashion and convention with sheepskin boots and other footwear that are fluffy and don’t adhere to the traditional shape and lines of footwear.
This isn’t to say that they aren’t fashionable. It’s just that Ugg boots look like they threw out whatever rulebooks existed on what was considered fashionable and redefined the concept. This has led them to form a strong emotional connection with their consumers and earned the brand its own loyal followers.
Despite being comfortable footwear, Uggs aren’t meant for hiking. Hiking in Ugg boots can be bad for your feet since they won’t provide you with durability and protection from outdoor elements.
When climbing up and down slopes, Uggs can create too much friction inside the boots. their soles lack the sturdiness required to hold your feet in place which may lead to blisters.
While Uggs are sufficient for flat areas, they can’t be tied or zipped up for a more snug fit. The sheepskin material is also too soft and permeable. Imagine what would happen if you wore Ugg boots and it started to rain or you had to cross a stream with them.
In contrast, hiking boots are generally formed with strong exteriors to keep your foot safe. Some can even be fastened up to the ankle to provide extra stability.
The fragile material in Ugg boots won’t hold your ankles in place especially when traversing uneven terrain. When your ankles have no support, the chances of a sprain and other injury increase substantially.
Uggs are the perfect comfort wear for lounging around at home but if you’re going hiking, leave them in your closet.
Can You Hike in Vans?
You may have a pair of Vans classic sneakers and are curious to know if they’re suitable for hiking. While these sneakers are lightweight, comfy, and have a decent grip, they aren’t ideal for intense hiking.
Vans’ waffle-pattern rubber outsole provides excellent grip making it the ideal pair for skateboarding. Their cushioning uses fluid, air, or midsole foam to shield the feet from harsh landings.
Vans shoes feature a footbed, but it isn’t cushioned enough for uneven terrain.
Vans fabric lacks the protection and sturdiness of hiking footwear. It also cannot replace the traction and support provided by a hiking boot.
Other reasons Vans is unsuitable for hiking is due to the lack of sturdiness and comfort as well as insufficient arch and ankle support. They are neither intended nor designed to handle the harsh terrain of most hiking trails.
Vans shoes are perfect for casual walking and city use since they are comfortable, have a decent grip, and are constructed from breathable canvas material that provides easy mobility.
They are suitable for short-distance walking but not for challenging terrain. Wearing footwear that is not designed for hiking on a trail or mountain can be risky. While walking, running, and lifting are all easy with Vans shoes, you should consider other options for hiking.
Hiking requires a pair of shoes designed for long-distance trekking, different types of terrain, and environmental conditions. The right pair of shoes is necessary to avoid blisters, soreness, and injuries.
Can You Hike in Wading Boots?
You can use wading boots for hiking. These types of boots are unlike other types of footwear because of their ability to withstand extreme and harsh outdoor conditions which are common when hiking.
These boots are primarily made of vulcanized rubber but many recent versions are made from Gore-Tex, PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and neoprene. Beware that hiking in boots made from these materials may cause burns during hot and sunny days.
The soles of these wading boots are mostly made of rubber which provides excellent grip. In some designs, the soles feature studs that can be screwed into the soles. Studs provide slightly more traction, especially when hiking through muddy terrain.
Most wading boots are waterproof. As a result, you can expect protection from water and keep sand from entering your shoes.
They are also lightweight and breathable. In short, wading boots can be used as an alternative to regular hiking boots.
Conclusion: The Value of Planning for the Right Footwear
As cringe-inducing as it sounds, hikes have been completed barefoot and even in makeshift footwear made from rubber and thread.
Recommended Reading: If hiking barefoot sounds interesting, then we’ve written a whole article on barefoot hiking that you might be interested in.
That makes all the shoes mentioned here seem like ideal hiking footwear, doesn’t it?
However, if you’re looking to enjoy the trail and your surroundings without being distracted by painful or uncomfortable shoes, you’ll want to plan on the type of shoe you’ll be bringing. Identify what works for you as well as the benefits and drawbacks of your choice.
The key is to plan ahead based on the terrain and circumstances you expect to face then choose your footwear accordingly. This will set you up for a pleasant and incident-free hike.
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