Why Are My Hiking Boots Slippery? Reasons & Ways To Overcome

A few months ago I was thinking of trekking the French Dolomites. However, it was October, and I’ve read some worrying comments about that idea. One of the writers said that this period features some life-threatening slippery rocks, and advised to trek it in the summer. That got me thinking – what could I possibly do to ensure my hiking boots provide some excellent grip, and what makes boots too slippery?

I began to research that topic more deeply and came up with some answers. Your hiking boots tend to slip when they feature a bad tread design, hard rubber outsole and when you tend to use them for an extended period. I have also come up with some solution for that problem and found boots that answer the basic requirements for a good grip performance.

Possible Reasons

Bad Tread Design

So what are treads and why are they so important?

Well, treads are simply the grooves at the bottom of your shoe, designed to provide a better grip — the best way of understanding that mechanism would be to imagine the following situation.

Think that you are walking down the street on a wet curve. Then, while wearing the same wet boots, you enter your home building. What would it be more slippery – the building’s floor or the city streets?

The answer for that is simple – your building surface. That is because your building floor doesn’t have these tiny rocks and coarseness the street curve features.

The same thing goes for the sole of your boot. A plane, smooth shoe design would tend to be slippier than a proper tread design. 

When you hike on a wet surface, tiny bumps will seal your boots through these grooves providing a better grip.

The more contact surface between your outsole and the ground, the lesser are the chances of slipping. I’ve been discussing that topic when I explained why proper hiking boots are good for snow. Please read that article if you are facing snow conditions – it could have a significant impact on your journey. 

Hard Rubber

Modern boots are made of hard rubber. Let’s say you are hiking on rough terrain – rocks and bumps along the road can shock and hurt your legs.

Well, that what hard rubber is for. It acts as a shock absorber, providing a more comfortable walk on bad terrain conditions. Nevertheless, that wouldn’t be at your favor regarding grip.

The harder the rubber is, the worse it acts on wet slippery rocks. That is one of the reasons that training and hiking shoes are less slippery – they feature a softer rubber design.

If you are using the same boots for a long time (several years), you might have noticed they became a bit slippier than they used to be.

That could be due to the rubber getting harder over time. For that reason, I advise you about getting a new pair with a proper outsole tread.

Boots Age

Old boots, as well as new ones, tend to be more slippery. Let’s start with an old, long used pair of hiking boots. Well, time does its own with everything in life, including footwear.

As I mentioned before – the outsole, featuring treads, is the layer providing grip. Over time those treads tend to get worn out, turning the boots more slippery.

If you are using your pair for a long time, probably years, that would be one of the reasons they grip badly all of a sudden.

In addition to that, their rubber would get harder over time, providing better shock isolation, but on the contrary – a lousy grip.

A new pair might also be slippery. That is because of a glazed surface covering the outsole, as the result of the boots manufacturing process.

Nevertheless, this one is less worrying, because their grip would get better and better the longer you tend to use them.

Bad Surface

No matter how well your boots grip is, on some surfaces – they would all slip. Getting new boots doesn’t mean you have to challenge yourself or risk it unnecessarily.

Hiking in rainy conditions can be unavoidable; I am entirely aware of that. However, you should also choose your hiking trail accordingly.

It wouldn’t be wise to hike in the Dolomites in October, even if you got the highest quality boots, featuring the best grip on the market.

Try avoiding trails which include climbing or hiking on wet rocks – stick to plane surfaces with more grass and soil instead.

Suggested Solutions

Look For Trail Runners With Soft Rubber Treads

If you tend to hike on rough terrain, which contains puddle, mud, rivers or mountaineering – you probably need a pair of boots.

Nevertheless, if you are more of a mild hiker, maybe you can do just fine with trail runners. Why would these be better?

Well, trail runners tend to feature a softer rubber outsole, which would provide a better grip, and many times would feel lighter on your feet.

Nevertheless, make sure the trail runners pair also feature a proper tread design – otherwise, that would be pointless.

Use a Rubber Cement

Rubber cement is merely a liquid layer you brush your rubber sole with – that layer would quickly evaporate, leaving the rubber more adhesive. 

When you’re done brushing your boots, dip them in the sand, which in turn will stick to your rubber outsole. That would turn your boots more ragged, ensuring a better grip on slippery terrain.

Pick Lugged Vibram Sole

There is no doubt the outsole is the absolute most crucial ingredient when it comes to grip performance. So why not choose the best there is?

Produced first in Italy, Vibram soles provide an excellent grip and tread design, turning them ideal and safe for the roughest terrain.

The Vibram soles were first designed for mountain climbing and outdoor activities. The idea of creating them came after a tragic incidence which claimed several lives in the Italian Alps.

The company founder, Vitale Bramani, was a close friend of these victims, and that drove him into the company establishing idea.

Launched in 1937, the Vibram company produced countless outsoles, serving the world’s top leading brands.

Try Trekking Poles

If your hiking boots tend to slip, and you prefer not buying new ones, you should consider using a pair of trekking poles. 

These would improve balance when walking in hard conditions, such as rough terrain or stream crossing.

They are great for climbing and might be the only factor which prevents you from slipping on a wet rock or wood.

In addition to that, they provide assistance for your knees on descents, which may, in turn, be a key factor when it comes to slipping.

They can also help you by testing the mud or stream depth, by sticking them into the ground before stepping.

That might prevent you from stepping into tricky areas with high injury potential.

Check Reviews

There is nothing more frustrating than figuring out your purchase wasn’t satisfying, just after you got a new pair of boots.

You shouldn’t base your purchase on the brand’s name nor the short description they producer provides.

Because let’s admit it, no one would mention the cons about his product. The best way to avoid that is by reading the consumers opinion.

These days, the information is more reachable than ever. All you have to do is type the product’s name in Youtube or Amazon, and bang – you’ve just found tons of different comments.

Purchasing online can be tricky, since you cannot test the product until you got it, not to mention boots are so individual varying.

Reading lots of reviews about the product might bring you closer to what you are willing to experience.

Which Boots Feature a Good Grip?

To get an overall idea about Lightweight Hiking Shoes, I highly recommend you read my article first; regarding the top rated on the market. I’ve been spending hours to collect you the most accurate data on that matter. 

The proper boot should feature a few components to provide a good grip, as I’ve mentioned above. Although, other factors such as weight and water resistance should be taken into account.

The first boot I think worth mentioning would be the Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof (Men Women). Their Vibram soles are pretty impressive, featuring flexibility, soft rubber, and well-designed treads.

Another excellent choice would be the Merrell Moab 2 Vent Mid (Men / Women) which also features a Vibram sole. Their hydrophobic outsole materials ensure your boots will stick well on wet terrain, preventing you from slipping.

How Important is Tread?

Tread does play a factor when it comes to grip, as mentioned above. The grooves at the outsole layer produce more surface contact and may prevent you from slipping.

However, choosing the right boot based on tread design may be impossible. That goes with the saying – nothing is perfect.

When you consider buying a new pair of boots, you should also take into account weight, water resistance and traction.

Having a good tread design is essential, yet, you should not neglect other crucial factors as well.

Try finding the balance point, after all, tread and grip are things you learn to manage with each boot.

My Boots Are Slippery – Do I Need New Ones?

That is not always the case. Let’s admit it – hiking boots are pretty expensive, and there are sometimes cheaper solutions.

As I’ve mentioned before – you may use rubber cement or trekking poles to assist you with balance.

Nevertheless, I do think that safety comes first. If you are wearing your boots for quite a long time now, the rubber got harder, and the tread got worn out – you should consider getting a new pair.

Before making a purchase, make sure you read some product reviews. The consumers’ opinion is the most objective and sincere out there.

Is There a Cheap Solution?

The answer to this is yes. You could purchase the Bare Ground spray for slippery footwear. Just spray it on your rubber outsole, let it dry and start going.

That product should improve your grip by turning your rubber stickier and enhancing contact forces. You may also take a look at the Woly Gum Boot Care, which does approximately the same thing.

What To Avoid?

Hiking in wet conditions can be challenging, but there are a few obstacles you should avoid the most.

One of them would be a river or stream crossing. If you are taking a picture, try standing as close as you can to the ground. If you plan on crossing it – seek for a bridge or try using a rope for assistance.

Another common obstacle would be wet rocks and tree roots. These could be found along the trail, and are difficult to avoid.

For that one, I would advise you keep your head down frequently. I know that the views might be tempting; however, you should also consider safety.

It would be easier to look around once you get used to the hike. At that point, it will be easier for you to navigate without having to look down.


Slipping is dangerous, but an avoidable issue. There are different causes for this – starting from poor design to hard rubber and old boots age.

If your boots are worn out, and the outsole is not what it used to be – you might consider buying a new pair.

Although, before doing so you might consider a cheaper approach, such as using trekking poles or different kinds of adhesive sprays.

Do not exaggerate on terrain and weather selection; it might get slippy even when you use the ideal equipment.

Dangerous terrains would include wet rock, roots or even stream crossing. If you know you are going to deal with these, don’t hike alone.

Ask for a friend or a family member to join you, and assist you if anything wrong happens.

You might also consider having a personal locator, that would call immediate help in time of need.

I hope reading this solve your issue or at least brought up some new ideas to approach it. Let me know how you are doing by leaving a comment below!

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