What Shoes Should I Wear Hiking? How About None...

Having the right gear can make all the difference when getting into a new outdoor activity. Here's a quick guide to help you find the right footwear for hiking.

Shoes to Go Hiking In

The footwear options for hikers have expanded a lot over the years. The original stiff and heavy boots have been replaced with more flexible options, including some that are not hiking boots at all. The classic leather hiking boot is far from the best option these days. In fact, you will find newer hiking boots come in a range of materials and weights to match hikers' preferences. Leather, for instance, does not repel moisture as well as newer options such as GORE-TEX.

Do I Really Need Hiking Boots?

Not necessarily, but it depends. Some situations on tough terrain may be easier to manage. Hiking boots vary in shape and feel, but there are typically a few common characteristics:

  • thick sole lugs that bit into soil for traction

  • protection against rocky surfaces

  • heavy ankle support

  • high durability

  • additional warmth for cold climates

For all these benefits, however, there are a few drawbacks. Hiking boots often have a long break-in period and can cause blistering or rubbing while you are getting used to them. Boots can be heavy, which can lead to fatigue. Plus, they can be uncomfortably warm during summer.

Are Sneakers Good for Hiking?

Trail runners are a newer option many people prefer when they head out on a hike. Some of the key advantages of choosing these shoes to go hiking:

  • breathability to keep your feet drier and more comfortable.

  • lightweight to help you maintain a fast pace.

  • little to no break-in period.

  • versatile shoes can be worn for a number of uses.

While these are all positives, there are also a few reasons trail shoes may not be a good pick for you. They often have a high price tag. Pair this with lower durability, and you are looking at spending far more out of pocket than with other options. Additionally, if you are hiking on rocky, uneven ground, they may not give the same protection you'd get from hiking boots.

Barefoot Hiking? Yes, Barefoot Hiking.

When you are debating which kind of shoes to wear for hiking, it's easy to miss the basic question. Are hiking shoes needed at all? Barefoot running has gained many adherents over the years. Now, more people are looking at the benefits of barefoot hiking, too.

Top Reasons People Barefoot Hike

A single foot has 42 muscles, 26 bones, 33 joints, 250,000 sweat glands, over 50 ligaments and tendons, and around 15,000 nerve endings. Barefoot hiking allows your entire foot to get a workout. Benefits of doing so:

  • Better balance

  • Greater strength

  • Improved mobility + flexibility

Barefoot hiking can be fun, reduce ecological impact, and are far less expensive. However, there can be some potential risks to barefoot hiking, as well. You may find your feet more vulnerable to cold without the insulation of boots. You are also more vulnerable to scrapes or stubbed toes.

Alternatives to Hiking Boots for Barefoot Hiking

Good barefoot socks can balance protection with the benefits of being barefoot. Choosing barefoot training socks like those from Pedestal can give you all the advantages of barefoot hiking without the drawbacks. A few reasons to check out these barefoot socks:

  • high-performance grip gives you extra traction while preserving sensitivity.

  • moisture-wicking keeps feet comfortable and dry.

  • slim contours mean you can still feel the trail while protecting yourself against small hazards.

Additionally, each pair of socks costs a fraction of what hiking shoes or boots can, and produces far less waste. Before deciding whether boots or shoes are better, consider the minimalist option that can improve your hike without emptying your wallet.

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