Destinations Magazine

The Best Hiking Footwear for Every Hiker

By Monkeys And Mountains Adventure @Laurel_Robbins

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For the best hiking experience, it is important to have the right footwear. So how do you find the best sandal, boot, trail runner or barefoot hiking shoe?

Being a hiker myself, I know exactly how important having comfortable hiking footwear really is. From experience, I can tell you that finding the right type of shoe can make all the difference on a trail. The main misconception when it comes to hiking is that you have to have a good hiking boot to be comfortable. But in reality, you have a few different categories to choose from, each with their own perks and comforts. So here is a guide to the best hiking boots, hiking shoes, trail runners, sandals and barefoot shoes out there and what you should know about each category.


Hiking Boots are the general go-to in footwear when you start out hiking. They are versatile and offer great protection on the trail from the elements, especially sharp rocks. Hiking boots also offer you the best ankle support which is important, especially on a rocky trail where the chances of injury are higher.

Finding the best hiking boot to fit your needs and the terrain you tend to hike can be difficult with all the options out there. These hiking boots each offer something unique and will give you a better idea of the differences that you can expect.

Tip: Remember that your feet swell when you hike. Make sure to try on your hiking boots later in the day and not in the early morning to make sure you take into consideration the swelling that occurs when hiking. This will ensure that your sizing is more accurate and you hiking boot more comfortable.

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Hiking shoes are similar to hiking boots but are cut lower and have a more flexible midsole. They offer you an option between trail runners and boots, with durability and versatility on most terrains. They are usually lighter and more compact to pack, which is always a bonus.

Although they do not give you the same support and protection that a boot might, they are still made with hiker safety in mind. This means that you will still have most of the same features as hiking boots, minus the sturdier ankle support. You will most likely also find them more breathable than most hiking boots.


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Barefoot hiking shoes have been on the market for some time now. This unique hiking footwear is designed in a way that gives you a "no shoe" feel. Essentially they are designed wider and better suited to the natural shape of feet.

They also do not have any padding or cushioning in them at all, letting you feel the ground as you walk. The idea behind them is that they give you a more natural way of experiencing nature, in a way it takes you back to the basics. There is nothing besides thin fabric, mesh and a piece of rubber between your feet and the ground that you are hiking.

Barefoot hiking shoes are not for everyone though. They are not comfortable and take quite a lot of getting used to. They do offer many benefits though. Barefoot hiking shoes help you better your balance and posture. They have also been said to help with impact reduction on trails and help reduce plantar fasciitis and foot-related pain. This type of hiking footwear is also great on wet trails as they dry much faster and more effectively than any other shoe.

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Trail runners are a more recent option in hiking footwear. These have become more popular over the last few years and there's a good reason. Not only are they light and breathable, but most of them also offer excellent grip and versatility on trails. If you are not one for bulky hiking boots but are still looking for grip and stability on a trail then these are the best option for you. The fact that they are great for trail running, leisure hiking and the occasional bouldering experience, make this type of hiking footwear the ideal choice. Many of these are also really stylish, so you can get away with wearing them on a daily basis.

Although, keep in mind that you will probably not have the same protection from ankle injuries and sharp objects that hiking boots will offer you. But many brands do make them fast drying which means that wet terrain will be a breeze.

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Admittedly, hiking sandals are not for everyone. But for those that find closed footwear problematic, hiking sandals are certainly the best alternative. There are several different types of hiking sandals that you will find out there. Hiking sandals are incredibly versatile as they dry much faster than any other hiking footwear and still offer you amazing comfort.

If you are worried about feeling cold or even getting scratched on your feet while you're hiking then wear some good hiking socks with them. They still offer you way more breathability. Another really great thing that people love about hiking in sandals is they hardly ever give you blisters (which every hiker can agree is the worst).

For those hikers that may suffer from medical conditions that affect their feet, you will find that the hiking sandal is the best alternative to any closed hiking shoe on this list. It all comes down to comfort and preference at the end of the day.

Tip: This may sound silly, but I have learnt that wearing sunblock on your feet when hiking in sandals is really important. Remember, you can get sunburn on any part of your body that is exposed, so be safe, especially in high heats.

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Now that you know what to look for in hiking boots, shoes, sandals and barefoot hiking shoes, you can confidently choose the next addition to your hiking gear and footwear.

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