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Are Hiking Shoes Really Necessary? (Pros/Cons + Recommendations)

Are Hiking Shoes Really Necessary? (Pros/Cons + Recommendations)

Having been an avid hiker for most of my life, I have always been curious if wearing hiking shoes is really necessary or not. On those days where you’ve forgotten them in your mudroom, is it essential to go back and fetch them? Lucky for you, I have done the research and have found out if and when we all need our hiking shoes!

Hiking shoes are not necessary on a standard hiking route. In fact, the majority of people who do 1,000 plus mile thru-hikes like the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail prefer to actually wear trail running shoes.

Stiff and rigid hiking boots are necessary under a limited amount of circumstances. Such as mountaineering where crampons are required or extremely technical and rocky terrain where ankle rolling is a high risk. You also want to consider your weather and seasons. However, most people are not hiking in the rain or extreme conditions so a trail running shoe instead of a boot is just fine!

It is important to consider all factors when deciding if hiking shoes are necessary. Read on to learn about these factors, some pros and cons of hiking shoes, and even some recommendations on some of the best hiking shoes around!

When to Wear Hiking Shoes

Hiking shoes are not necessary for hiking. However, it is often recommended so that you can protect your feet and ultimately enjoy your hike more! Taking a close look at the length of your hike, the terrain, and the weather will be beneficial when deciding if hiking shoes are necessary.

Length Of The Hike

If you plan to hike for less than three miles, it is not necessary to wear hiking boots. However, going on any hike that is longer than three miles, I would recommend taking along your hiking shoes.

The longer you are on your feet, the more beneficial it is to wear hiking shoes. If you’re looking at a hike of around 3 to 6 miles, your feet will be much happier in a pair of hiking shoes than in regular trainers.


Hiking on a surfaced tar road is very different from hiking on uneven, rocky ground! When considering hiking shoes, take a close look at what kind of ground you will be walking on.

If you are planning to hike along a surfaced road, you can get away with not wearing hiking shoes but instead, wear some other active footwear.

A rocky, uneven surface is a call to wear hiking shoes. The inconsistency of the ground increases the likelihood of slipping, so having hiking shoes would allow for extra grip, decreasing the chance of a fall. Furthermore, a good pair of hiking shoes with a thick sole prevents you from feeling all those stones under your feet.


Looking at the type of weather you are hiking in is a great indication of whether you need hiking shoes or not. Hiking shoes are lovely in that they are great for all kinds of weather; however, not always necessary.

Hiking in sunny, clear conditions means it is not necessary for a pair of hiking shoes. Dry ground and high visibility mean the extra grip is not always needed.  However, do take note of the temperature on the day. If the ground is very hot, you might want to think about keeping your hiking shoes on.

It is highly advisable to wear your hiking shoes if it’s been raining or is currently raining. The extra grip provided by the hiking shoes will assist you on the slippery surfaces often found during this type of weather. You can also invest in a nice waterproof pair and keep your toes snug and dry during the hike!

Pros Of Wearing Hiking Shoes

There are many pros to hiking shoes! Firstly, the most obvious answer is that they offer protection for your feet from cuts or bruising. Hiking shoes are usually made from thicker material than other training shoes and, therefore, keep your feet safe inside even if you fall.

Hiking shoes are also a lot lighter and more flexible than hiking boots. This lightness is perfect for transporting your shoes from place to place. This quality makes these shoes great for traveling! Furthermore, people suffering from knee or joint issues enjoy the lightness of this shoe compared to that of a heavier hiking boot.

Hiking shoes are a lot more durable than normal training shoes. This means that you won’t have to replace them as often as you have other training shoes. They are, therefore, a great investment if you are planning on hiking a lot in the future!

Finally, hiking shoes also offer a large amount of comfortability because of the thickness of the sole and the general make of the shoe. The added protection ensures that your feet are safe in the shoe, and you won’t be feeling much pressure on your feet as if you’d warn a shoe with a thinner sole.

Cons Of Wearing Hiking Shoes

Hiking shoes are quite a bit more expensive than regular running or training shoes. This cost often makes people hesitant to invest in a pair.

While hiking shoes offer more protection than any other everyday shoe, they do not provide as much protection as hiking boots.  I would advise, before choosing between a hiking shoe or boot, taking a close look at what types of hikes you will often be doing. A hiking boot would be a better option for more intense hikes.

Another issue is that there is no huge difference in ankle protection between a hiking shoe and a trainer. Hiking shoes do not offer as much ankle protection as a boot – you are more likely to roll your ankle in a hiking shoe than in a hiking boot. If you are susceptible to ankle damage, then a hiking boot is a much better option!

Hiking Shoe Recommendations

When choosing the ideal hiking shoe for you, there are a few factors to consider. However, overall, the Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero wins the prize for the best hiking shoe around.

Although your ideal hiking shoe would depend on what types of hikes you do most, take a look at the table below and decide what would be the best fit for you!

Best Ventilated Hiking Shoe

Best Waterproof Hiking Shoe

Best Hiking Sandal

Best for Wet Conditions

Best Trail Runners

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, you do not always need to wear your hiking shoes. However, it is always a good idea to wear them so that you can protect yourself and feel happier and safer on your hike!

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