You know that the right gear is essential if you’re a hiker. And if you’re like most hikers, your go-to gear is a pair of trusty hiking boots.
But what if we told you that there are plenty of reasons to ditch your hiking boots and try something new?
Keep reading to find out why sneakers, trail runners, or even just regular old shoes might be a better option for you.
Do I need hiking boots?
There is no question that hiking boots are essential gear for hikers.
But are they really necessary?
Or can you get away with using other types of footwear instead?
In all of us, the old school hiker might be thinking, “Why would I ever get rid of my trusty hiking boots? They’ve never let me down.”
And it’s true; hiking boots have a lot of advantages.
They’re designed to protect your feet from the elements and provide support on rugged terrain.
But there are also a few reasons you might want to consider using something else on your next hike.
Tip: Read my detailed buying guide on how to find the right hiking boots.
#1 The weight on your feet restricts you
I would say that one of the main reasons to ditch your hiking boots is the weight.
Hiking boots are durable and long-lasting, which means they’re usually made with thicker materials.
This can add a lot of extra weight to your feet, tiring on longer hikes.
And if you’re carrying a lot of gear, that extra weight can add up.
If you’re looking to lighten your load, consider switching to a lighter shoe.
You might be surprised how much easier it is to hike in something that weighs less.
Every time I come back after a hike of several hours and exchange my hiking boots for sneakers, I notice how light my feet feel.
People are creatures of habit, and you quickly get used to the weight of the hiking shoes.
But that doesn’t mean that the weight disappears.
After switching from regular hiking boots to trail runners, I’m much lighter on my feet.
I will note here, however, that I continue to rely on my hiking boots for particularly difficult terrain.
#2 Blisters from the hiking boot are a nightmare
There is nothing more frustrating than getting a blister in the middle of a hike.
And while blisters can happen with any shoe, they’re more common with hiking boots.
This is because hiking boots are usually a bit tighter than other shoes.
They need to be snug to provide support, but this can also lead to friction and rubs that cause blisters.
If you’re prone to blisters, or if you want to avoid them altogether, consider switching to a different type of shoe.
Trail runners or sneakers might be a better option for you.
I was on a long hike, walking uphill when I started to feel a burning sensation in my feet.
I knew that I was getting blisters, and there was no way to avoid them.
I kept walking, but the pain only got worse.
By the time I reached the top of the hill, my feet were throbbing, and I had to stop to rest.
If I had been wearing trail runners or sneakers, I might have been able to avoid those blisters altogether.
#3 Waterproof is a misunderstood term
Beginners are quickly impressed by technical terms such as “waterproof” or “water-repellent”.
Sure, who doesn’t want to have dry feet when hiking?
But the terms waterproof and water-repellent also often cause a lot of confusion.
Many people think that waterproof means that the hiking boot will keep your feet dry in all situations.
But that’s not necessarily the case.
Waterproof usually means that the shoe is designed to keep your feet dry in wet conditions, such as rain or snow.
However, it doesn’t mean that your feet will stay dry if you walk through a stream or puddle.
Most waterproof shoes will absorb water if they’re submerged for too long.
So if you’re planning on crossing any bodies of water on your hike, you might want to consider a different type of shoe.
One big disadvantage of these waterproof hiking boots is that they are often very heavy.
They are also usually more expensive than regular hiking boots.
If you don’t think you’ll need the extra protection, it might not be worth the investment.
#4 Ankle support is often just a marketing purpose
There is a lot of debate surrounding ankle support and whether or not it’s necessary.
Some people swear by it, while others say it’s more of a marketing gimmick.
I fall into the latter camp.
I’ve never found that my ankles need extra support when hiking, and I’ve never had an ankle injury.
However, I know that some people feel differently.
I’ve been out with friends who couldn’t walk for 5 minutes in normal hiking shoes without stumbling somehow.
If you’re worried about ankle injuries or have had one in the past, you might want to consider a boot with more support.
But if you’re like me and you’ve never had a problem, you might want to save yourself the extra weight and expense.
It really depends on how secure you are on your feet when hiking.
Ankle support is often just a marketing purpose.
It’s not necessary unless you’re worried about ankle injuries.
#5 Hiking boots are demanding to be broken in and cared for
Another downside of hiking boots is that they’re quite demanding.
They need to be broken in before you use them, and they also require regular maintenance.
This can be a lot of work, especially if you’re not used to it.
But it is important to break in your hiking boots before taking them on a long hike.
If you don’t, you risk getting blisters and other problems.
And it is also important to take care of your hiking boots after each hike.
This includes cleaning them and applying waterproofing treatment.
They will quickly fall apart if you don’t and won’t last very long.
In short: You can quickly break your hiking boots in many different ways and waste a lot of money if you’re not careful.
If you’re not willing to put in the effort, you might want to consider another type of shoe.
Go with some trail runners or regular sneakers if you want something easier to take care of.
For most hikes, they will work just fine.
For difficult routes with lots of rocks, I would still recommend hiking boots as a beginner until you are confident on your feet.
Later, when you can read the paths better, you can also wear trail runners.
#6 Trail runners are the best bet for 3 seasons
Trail runners are versatile and are a good bet for most hikers.
- Weight: They are lighter than hiking boots, so they won’t weigh you down as much. Although not as much as a hiking boot, they will still protect your feet from rocks and roots.
- Maintenance: They are also easier to take care of. You don’t have to worry about breaking them in or waterproofing them as much.
- Price: They are usually cheaper than hiking boots as well. Plus, they’re usually more comfortable to wear for long periods.
The only downside is that they don’t provide as much ankle support.
But if you’re careful and watch your step, you should be fine.
I would only recommend wearing trail runners if you’re hiking in the summer or fall.
In the winter, it’s best to stick with hiking boots.
The extra warmth and protection they provide are worth the extra weight.
Don’t forget about good socks
Often the focus is too much on the shoes when hiking, and the socks disappear from the mind.
Don’t forget about good socks!
They are just as important as the shoes, if not more so.
Bad socks can cause blisters, which can ruin your hike.
So make sure you get a good pair of hiking socks that will wick away moisture and keep your feet comfortable.
I would also recommend bringing a second pair of socks to change into if your first pair gets wet.
Wet feet are more susceptible to blisters, so it’s best to keep them as dry as possible.
There are other factors to consider when choosing socks, such as the type of fabric and the fit.
But that’s a topic for another day.
To sum it up, hiking boots are not necessary unless you’re worried about ankle injuries.