Do I really need hiking shoes?

These Oboz hiking shoes were not even on my radar, but when I tried them on I knew these were the ones. Don't be afraid to try different shoes and brands when shopping for hiking shoes!

If you are on the fence about another pair of outdoor or athletic shoes specifically for hiking, don't skip this post!  Hiking shoes serve a specific purpose and having the right ones can make a huge difference.  Enjoying time on the trail is most definitely tied to your footwear.  So if you have been asking yourself, do I really need hiking shoes?  I can answer that question for you!

These hiking shoes from LL Bean are perfect for our little guy and have made a difference in his endurance and comfort on the trail!

Previously, I thought hiking shoes were an unnecessary expense that could be tackled with a good athletic shoe that I would wear to the gym.  And, for people that are on a basic wooded trail that is relatively flat and easy, athletic footwear of any kind will do.  But, if you plan to do more hiking for longer distances and different terrain, you need to consider a good pair of hiking or trail shoes.

This past year, we have done more hiking and really love it as a family!  Having the right gear has made it a better experience for every one!

What sets a pair of hiking shoes apart?

When I talk about hiking shoes, I'm actually talking about shoes and boots that are designed specifically for hiking.  I'll get into the differences between the two in a bit, but footwear designed for hiking should be comfortable and durable.  You want something that will protect your feet and provide you with traction and support on lots of different surfaces.  There are several types of footwear that fall into this category:
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Trail Runners
  • Hiking Boots
Personally, I am a fan of options one and two and not so much of the last one.  But, every person should try on different shoes and make a decision.  Also, consider how you plan to use your hiking shoes and where you plan to hike.

Hiking sandals are another popular choice.  But, I prefer to keep my feet fully protected on the trail.  Even though I live in flip flops much of the year, I am super clumsy, and open toed options are a terrible idea for me when hiking.  I fall constantly.  All I need is to destroy a toe or my entire foot on a trail.  A closed-toe shoe, in my opinion, is the best choice.  I'll also disclose that I live in Mississippi where it is hotter than the 7th level of hell for a long stretch of the year and still suggest a shoe over a sandal!

Having the right shoes will protect your feet and help you cruise over any type of terrain.

What kind of hiking shoe do I need?

Hiking Shoes

A typical hiking shoe looks more like an athletic shoe but has a sturdier build.  My husband and I both have hiking shoes.  I have an Oboz shoe that I love.  They took little to no time to break in.  My feet never have blisters, and I can really go the distance in these.  They absorb shock and are perfect for my knee problems.  My husband has a Merrell hiking shoe.  Our son wears an LL Bean Trail Shoe.

A hiking shoe is designed to protect your feet.  These shoes will also be at a better value than some of your more expensive hiking boots.  It is certainly a middle ground between a hiking boot and trail runner or athletic shoe.  Since they aren't as heavy as a boot, I feel like these are a good fit for most hikers.  These shoes will last most hikers about 800 miles.  

We also found that our hiking shoes gave us good traction and support in snowy conditions when camping this year.  So, they ended up serving double duty when we didn't have snow boots or other shoes on a long camping trip out west!

Trail Runners

If you are looking for a shoe that is more comfortable than a hiking shoe but will give you good support, consider a trail runner.  A trail runner is going to be sturdier than a typical athletic shoe.  It will be lighter weight than a hiking shoe or boot.  And, it could be the most practical for some hikers based on the types of hiking you plan to do.  Most people could get around 500 or so miles out of a good trailer runner.  Depending on the types of hikes you plan to take, these shoes may be the best fit for your outdoor activities.  

Hiking Boot

A hiking boot is going to be very durable over time and have a much longer life than the other two footwear options.  You could get thousands of miles of use out of a hiking boot.  However, these shoes are going to be heavier and will require you to break them in.  If you hike in all 4 seasons, including winter, this could also be your best option.  I don't do enough hiking to justify the expense of a hiking boot.  Additionally, I don't want to wear heavy, bulky shoes.  If I did longer hikes, I might consider this option but for the day hikes we do, a hiking boot is not necessary.

We all loved hiking at Big Bend in December of 2020.  It was hot, dusty and rocky on the day that we hiked in.  Our shoes were just what we needed for this activity.

What goes with a good hiking shoe?

Hiking socks!  Aside from your shoes, the cost of hiking socks is worth their weight in gold.  I was amazed at the difference a good wool sock designed for hiking made.  They are tough and last forever.  They will dry quickly and keep your feet from getting blisters.  I know that spending $20 for a pair of socks may sound crazy, but they are not like traditional athletic socks.  Put these on your Christmas list or buy a pair for a friend or loved one for a gift.  Anyone that loves hiking will appreciate a good wool sock for hiking!  I give these as gifts often!  My husband loves these hiking socks from Darn Tough.  I have always loved Smart Wool hiking socks.  I typically buy our son hiking socks from LL Bean.  Find what works for your crew, but these are the ones our family loves.

Before you decide that hiking shoes and socks are expensive and unnecessary items, reconsider.  If you really want to enjoy hiking and do it more often, get a good pair of hiking shoes and socks.  Go to a store and physically try them on and decide what is the best fit for your foot.  The biggest mistake that people make is not wearing the right shoe for the activity.  It can lead to injuries, sore feet, and just an unpleasant experience that will deter you from exploring some wonderful places that you can only see on foot!  

Until next time...

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