Doc Martens are a timeless fashion staple that many users also consider for hiking. These iconic leather boots have a passionate following of wearers who swear that there’s no better shoe on the market than a classic Doc Marten. But while they might look great in the city, are Doc Martens actually good for hiking?
The short answer is that Doc Martens are okay for hiking, but they’re not ideal. Docs are relatively durable, but the leather on Doc Martens is stiff, so it can cause blisters and discomfort on the trail. Docs are also heavy and they don’t breathe well as you hike. The better option is to wear a pair of purpose-built hiking boots in the mountains.
However, when it comes to footwear debates, there are always two sides to consider. Up next, we’ll take a closer look at whether or not Doc Martens are a good choice for use while hiking so you can find the best boots for your adventure needs.
Can You Hike in Doc Martens?
You can hike in Doc Martens, but doing so isn’t a great idea unless you plan to stick to very short and mostly flat trails.
Although Docs are now known as fashion icons, they actually started out in the early 1900’s as work boots that were sold to factory workers and police officers. As a result, Docs were designed with ruggedness and durability in mind, but they weren’t crafted for walking miles and miles on end through rocky terrain.
Plenty of people have worn Docs while hiking, but most complain of one or more of the following issues when they get back from their trip:
- Discomfort – Doc Martens have an air-cushioned sole that makes them comfortable to wear if you’re standing around on your feet all day. However, the stiffness of the leather used in Docs can wreak havoc on your feet if you’re walking long distances over steep and rugged terrain. Many people find that they end up with blisters or foot pain if they walk for too long in Doc Martens.
- Lack of Breathability – The classic Doc Marten is made with smooth leather that looks fantastic as you walk down the street. But Docs weren’t made with breathability in mind, so many people end up with stinky and sweaty feet after a long day of hiking.
- Weight & Bulk – If you’re just walking around town, you might not notice how heavy Docs are, but this added weight and bulk can hold you back on the trail. In fact, the average pair of size 9 Doc Martens weighs about 3.2 lbs (1.5 kg), which is substantially more than the weight of a pair of uber-popular Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX hiking boots (2 lbs/900 g). If you opt for trail running shoes over hiking boots, the weight savings compared to Docs are even greater.
We should also point out that, although the leather on Doc Martens gives the boots natural water resistance, they’re generally not fully waterproof (unless you buy one of the very few waterproof models that the company sells). Treating your Docs with a leather waterproofing product or wax can help, but this wax won’t ever be as good as the waterproof-breathable liner you get in a true hiking boot.
Also read: How To Waterproof Hiking Boots
Are Doc Martens Good for Walking All Day?
Doc Martens are okay for a full day of walking in the city so long as they’re thoroughly broken in. But the tough leather that’s used in Docs takes a long time to break in and your boots won’t be very comfortable until that happens.
That said, Doc Martens aren’t a great option if you’re looking for a boot that’s perfect for all-day walking on trails—even if they’re fully broken in. Docs are heavy and they lack breathability, so they’re no match comfort-wise to a proper hiking boot.
Do Doc Martens Get Ruined in the Rain?
Most Doc Martens can handle a bit of rain, though it’s not a great idea to soak them in water or to wear them in a storm.
Leather that’s well-cared for and that’s treated with waterproofing waxes can handle a decent amount of exposure to rain. However, real leather is porous and frequent exposure to water can cause leather to become stiff and brittle when it dries.
Therefore, it’s best not to wear Doc Martens in the rain. If you regularly apply wax or leather conditioner to protect your Docs from water damage, they’ll likely be okay when exposed to water for moderate periods of time. But if you want shoes that can withstand whatever weather you throw at them, consider getting a pair of true hiking boots.
What Boots Are Good for Hiking?
The best boots for hiking are the ones that feel the best on your feet and that provide you with the traction and protection you need on the trail. As a general rule, the ideal hiking footwear is a pair of purpose-built hiking boots or hiking shoes, but some people prefer to wear lightweight trail running shoes on hikes, instead.
There are hundreds of shoes out there that are great for hiking, so we can’t list them all here. If you need a quality pair of hiking boots, consider checking out brands like La Sportiva, Lowa, Hoka, Keen, Merrell, Salomon, Oboz, and Vasque. Hiking boot manufacturers design their shoes to cater to specific types of hikers and hiking styles, so it’s just a matter of finding a pair that’s right for your needs.
Doc Martens are excellent boots, but they wouldn’t be our first choice if we were planning a long hike in steep and rocky terrain. A well-broken-in pair of Dr. Martens is okay for use on short and mostly flat trails, though we wouldn’t recommend them on more strenuous hikes.
Ultimately, we love the style and durability of a good pair of Docs, however, they lack the comfort and breathability that most people expect from their hiking boots. If you’re looking for quality boots that can join you on all your adventures, you’ll probably be better off with purpose-built hiking boots or trail running shoes.
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Erick is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up in Nairobi Kenya and now calling Glasgow, United Kingdom home. Sipping on homemade spiced swahili tea and enjoying a good book is his idea of bliss.