Are Hiking Shoes Necessary?

woman hiker hiking on forest trail

When you are planning a hiking trip, there are a few things you need to plan and bring with you. One of the things you need to plan on wearing or bringing with you on a hiking trip is shoes. However, are hiking shoes necessary?

Hiking boots are necessary to wear on a hike when hiking on semi-rough terrain. However, they are not necessary when the trail is semi-flat. Hiking shoes have thick soles made to increase traction and are built to be used often. Many people choose not to wear hiking shoes while hiking.

To find out more about hiking shoes, the pros and cons, and what shoes you can wear while hiking instead of hiking shoes, keep reading.

Are Hiking Shoes Necessary?

Hiking shoes are only necessary to wear while hiking when you are hiking on a relatively rough trail. Otherwise, they are not necessary and you can wear other shoes that you either already have or that you prefer to wear over hiking shoes. Realistically, the type of shoes you wear on a hike and whether or not you wear hiking shoes is up to you and your personal preferences.

According to an employee at Big 5 Sporting Goods, hiking shoes end higher on your ankle than normal sneakers and have thick soles. Because of the thick soles, your hiking shoes won’t wear out as quickly as some other types of shoes.

Overall, hiking shoes are not necessary unless you go hiking often and often hike on easy trails rather than ones that are difficult to navigate.

Hiking Shoes Vs Hiking Boots

Image of a pair of hiking boots lying in the grass in front of a beautiful mountainous landscape in Pyrenees Mountains.

Although they have similar names, hiking shoes and hiking boots are not the same type of shoes. Hiking shoes look like a mixture of hiking boots and sneakers while hiking boots are easily distinguishable from other shoes.

Hiking boots and hiking shoes are both durable, have thicker soles than many other types of shoes, increase traction, and are made to be worn while the wearer goes on a hike. Hiking shoes are more lightweight than hiking boots and also stop lower on your ankle. Many people find that hiking shoes are more comfortable than hiking boots, so they purchase hiking shoes instead of hiking boots, especially because a lot of the benefits of hiking boots can also be found in hiking shoes. (Source)

However, which one should you purchase: hiking boots or hiking shoes? It varies depending on where you plan on hiking and how often you hike. If you are going to be hiking in an area with high elevation with lots of rocks, and plan on crossing a creek or river, you will want to wear hiking boots rather than hiking shoes. Also, if you are hiking when it is cold, there is snow, or there will be a lot of rain on the trail or alongside it, wear hiking boots. (Source)

However, hiking shoes are often cheaper than hiking boots, so if you only plan on going hiking a few times during the summer, but still want to purchase hiking shoes with thick tread and will increase your traction, you will want to purchase hiking shoes rather than hiking boots.

Also, if you go hiking often but the trail is easy to navigate and you don’t come across many rocks, rivers, or high elevation or steep slopes, hiking shoes are the perfect pair of shoes for you to purchase.

Both hiking boots and hiking shoes can be purchased at most outdoor sports stores, sporting goods stores, and online. Before purchasing a pair of hiking boots or shoes, make sure you try them on and make sure they fit properly. If you wear either type of shoe while hiking and they don’t fit, or you wear them when they haven’t been broken in yet, you will likely get blisters on your feet, which is never fun, especially when you are on a hiking trip.

Pros and Cons of Hiking Shoes

Unfortunately, hiking shoes are not perfect, so before you purchase a pair, read about the pros and cons of hiking shoes below.


Hiking shoes last for much longer than many other types of shoes. Typically, hiking shoes last for about 800 miles of use, which takes most people at least a year to walk when hiking, although that varies on the person and the trails they typically hike on.

Hiking shoes are extremely durable, so they will last for a long time, especially if you don’t wear them often. Hiking shoes are often made out of the same or similar materials as hiking boots, which are known for their durability.

Hiking shoes typically cost between $20 and $60, although some high-quality hiking shoes can cost much more. This is much cheaper than most hiking boots, as they often cost between $100 and $300, so although you won’t get all of the benefits of hiking boots while wearing hiking shoes, you will be saving some money. However, it may be hard for you to justify purchasing a pair of hiking shoes if you don’t go hiking often.

Hiking shoes are much more lightweight than hiking boots, so you won’t get worn out as fast as you would if you were wearing hiking boots. Even though hiking shoes are lighter than hiking boots, you get most of the benefits of hiking shoes without having to deal with the weight.

Hiking shoes often go up higher on the ankle than sneakers but aren’t go as high as hiking boots, so your ankle remains extremely flexible and you can get some ankle support. Hiking shoes are a great transitional shoe if you are trying to make your ankles stronger, and if you have weak ankles you should wear shoes with ankle support so you can strengthen the muscles.


High-quality hiking shoes can cost between $90 and $250, which many people don’t want to pay for a pair of shoes, especially if they aren’t going to wear them often.

Hiking shoes are lighter than hiking boots, but they are heavier than other types of shoes. Even trail runners and sneakers typically weigh less than a pair of hiking shoes.

Some hiking shoes don’t have any ankle support, so they look extremely similar to traditional sneakers. If you want or need to wear shoes that give your ankles support while you are hiking, this is very unfortunate as many hiking shoes won’t give you the support you need. Luckily, it is easy to determine where hiking shoes will fall on your ankle when you try them on or look at a picture of them online.

Because hiking shoes don’t go up as high on your ankles as hiking boots do, it is relatively easy for rocks and water to get inside. It is never fun to get a rock stuck in your shoe while on a hiking trip, and walking in wet shoes and socks can lead to blisters as well as other foot-related issues.

Also, many hiking shoes are not waterproof like hiking boots often are. If you want to make them water-resistant, you will have to purchase a product to make them so.

Hiking shoes are less versatile than hiking boots. Hiking boots are great for nearly any type of hike, while it is sometimes difficult to navigate a rough trail while wearing hiking shoes.

Once hiking shoes wear down enough, they are practically useless. Luckily, it typically takes a while for hiking shoes to become worn out unless you purchase a pair of low-quality hiking shoes.

Alternative Shoes to Wear While Hiking

Set of different shoes on white background, vector illustration

Although hiking shoes are great, sometimes you don’t go hiking often and don’t want to purchase them, don’t have time to purchase a pair before your next hiking trip, or can’t find a pair that fit properly, but you still need shoes to wear during your hiking trip.

If you don’t have a pair of hiking boots to wear instead of hiking shoes, you can wear sneakers, trail runners, running shoes, Doc Martens, or regular boots. Avoid wearing sandals unless you are crossing a river or creek and don’t want to get your normal hiking shoes wet. Put the sandals in your backpack when you aren’t actively wearing them.

You can also wear snow boots while hiking. However, many snow boots will cause your feet to become extremely sweaty, which can quickly become uncomfortable and may cause blisters to form.

Sneakers are one of the most popular types of shoe to wear while hiking because many people already have them in their homes, so they don’t need to go out and purchase a pair like they may have to do with hiking shoes, and they can be worn in circumstances other than hiking.

When going on a hike that has even terrain and only a few rough spots, sneakers will work perfectly fine. Some people even think that they work better than hiking shoes, although that may be because they bought a pair of low-quality hiking shoes. (Source)

Before wearing a pair of hiking shoes during a hiking trip, make sure you break them in first. If you don’t you will suffer during your entire hiking trip and come home with many blisters. To break them in, simply wear them when you run errands or go outside for a few days. You can also wear them in the house if you don’t mind tracking dirt everywhere.

Best Hiking Shoes

Listed below are some of the best hiking shoes on the market.

Columbia Newton Ridge Plus Women’s Hiking Boots

The Columbia Newton Ridge Plus Women’s Hiking Boots are rated 4.6 stars and cost $110. You won’t ever have to re-tie the laces during your hike because it has flexible laces that adjust to your foot so they stay on without your intervention. These hiking shoes are available in 7 different colors and are waterproof. They will last a long time, even with regular use, because they are made by Columbia, a well-known sportswear brand that is partially known for the quality of its products.

These hiking shoes are cushioned to keep you comfortable while you are hiking and are made out of a lightweight material that will prevent your feet from sweating excessively.

Women’s IVO Trail Shoe

The Women’s IVO Trail Shoe is also made by Columbia. They are rated 4.6 stars and cost $90, which may seem expensive, but the price is good for the quality of these shoes. These shoes are made to look like normal sneakers, even though they are made to be worn while hiking, so you can wear them any time you like. Unfortunately, these shoes are not waterproof.

Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Hiking Shoes

The Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Hiking Shoes cost $110 and are rated 4.5 stars by consumers. They are made out of durable suede leather and mesh so your feet won’t sweat excessively, and they have enough cushion to keep you comfortable while you are hiking.

Salomon X Ultra 3 Low GTX Hiking Shoes

The Salomon X Ultra 3 Low GTX Hiking Shoes are rated 4.1 stars by consumers and cost $150, which is rather expensive for a pair of hiking shoes. However, they will likely last for a long time, so the price will likely be worth it. They come in two different colors and are built to mold to your feet and hold them to increase traction.

These shoes have enhanced heel support and have enough cushion to keep your feet from hurting during a long hike. Two types of rubber are used on the soles of these shoes to ensure that you won’t slip, even when you have very little traction.

Overall, hiking shoes are necessary when you are going on a moderately difficult hike. However, if you don’t go hiking often or don’t want to purchase hiking shoes you can simply wear sneakers, trail runners, hiking boots, or another type of shoe that is durable and doesn’t expose a lot of your feet to outside elements. In the end, it is up to you whether or not you choose to wear hiking shoes while going on a hike.

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