What Type of Hiking Shoes Should You Wear?

Take a look at the shoes people wear while hiking the next time that you’re on the trail. You may see someone wearing tall hiking boots with ankle support, low top trail running shoes, a pair of sneakers, and even flip flops all on the same stretch of trail. So, what type of hiking shoes should you wear while hiking? The answer to that question really comes down to two things.

The type of shoes you should wear while hiking depends on the type of hike you're doing, and your personal preference. Click To Tweet

Needs and preferences

Your needs and preferences determine the type of shoes you should wear while hiking.

The weather, the terrain, the amount of gear you’re carrying, and the distance you’re traveling all shape what you need from a hiking shoe. Your personal preference can sometimes override these needs, however.

Mountaineering boots

These boots are the battle tanks of the hiking footwear world. Mountaineering boots provide full ankle support – which is especially important in rough rocky terrain. They also boast stiff soles which are necessary for mountain summits.

Mountaineering boots should only be worn in the most rigorous conditions, and aren’t practical for casual hiking.

Hiking boots

Hiking boots are second only to mountaineering boots when it comes to support and protection. They are the go-to for backpackers on long hikes.

The biggest disadvantages to hiking boots is that they can sometimes be too hot or heavy for warm weather, and they aren’t necessary for easy hikes.

Hiking boots are great for rough terrain, inclement weather, and long hikes.

Low top hiking shoes

Hiking shoes blend the protection of a hiking boot with the comfort of a trail running shoe. If you’re only going to buy one type of hiking shoes, this is it.

Hiking shoes are versatile and well suited for most types of hiking, and can be worn in all but the most extreme weather conditions.

Trail running shoes

Trail running shoes are getting more and more popular among hikers and even backpackers. Fast and light is the name of the game with trail shoes, and they typically provide good grip on most terrain.

They don’t provide ankle support, and they some find that they don’t provide enough foot support with packs over 30 pounds, or on really rocky terrain (think scree or talus).

Trail running shoes are great for most types of hiking, but aren’t suited for heavy loads and extreme conditions.


Casual sneakers are more than adequate for most easy to moderate hikes in good weather conditions. The more technical your hike, however, the more technical your hiking shoe should be.

Sneakers should be reserved for easy hikes in good conditions.

Waterproof vs. Non-waterproof

Waterproof hiking shoes vs non-waterproof shoes is almost entirely a matter of preference. In heavy rains and really wet conditions, your feet will almost certainly get wet. Waterproof shoes keep the water out, but they also keep water in. This means that waterproof shoes typically take much longer to dry out.


We generally recommend that you do not hike in sandals, but we’ve seen it done before. Stop by Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters for hiking boots, hiking shoes, and trail running shoes. You can even pick out a pair of sandals while you’re at it!

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