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‘Take a hike!’ Great hiking shoes for hitting the trails

Whether a new or experienced hiker, there are countless great options to keep your feet safe and secure

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At some point in time in human history, walking in the woods transformed into the act of going on a hike. Whereas paved roads and sidewalks provide walking surfaces that are generally flat, smooth and predictable, dirt hiking trails offer a mixed bag of rocks, roots, ruts and other obstacles. As such, dedicated hiking shoes are a great investment for your long walks in the wilderness. The following shoes offer the comfort, protection and durability that will help you to enjoy your strolls amongst the birds, bees, trees and everything else nature has to offer.

Low-top budget hiking shoes

If you are new to hiking and are looking for a dedicated shoe to use on the trails, then you are in luck, as there are numerous budget-friendly options available to all new hikers. A durable low-top shoe should work well for most hikes. Target shoes that are breathable and utilize breathable materials such as mesh so that your feet don’t overheat during longer excursions, and make sure that the outsole has a beefy tread made of a grippy rubber like Vibram that will keep you from slipping on wet roots on a rainy day. Extra ankle support is an added bonus as are size options for different foot widths.

Hit the trails, guys!

  • Molded nylon arch shank with protective rubber toe cap
  • Bellows closed cell foam tongue keeps moisture and debris out

Hit the trails, ladies!

  • Available in 12 different colors
  • Made with recycled/repurposed materials

Mid-top boots

If you feel you require increased ankle stability or protection from the elements, then a traditional hiking boot may be more up your alley. These boots are usually heavier and more waterproof than standard low-top hiking shoes, so the trade-off is that keeping your feet dry and more secure may wear you down a bit more over the long haul. If you are going to be hiking during the winter months through trails covered in snow, sleet and chilly puddles, these shoes are a no-brainer. They also provide increased protection from snake bites. Also consider that if you get a traditional leather hiking shoe, you will have to break them in.

Ramp it up, guys

  • Waterproof membrane keeps feet dry in any weather
  • Fully gusseted tongue keeps out debris

Ramp it up, ladies

Hiking sandals

Now here’s an intriguing option: Ditch the traditional hiking boots and opt for hiking sandals. They’re beefier and more durable than the old-school Tevas and include features such as rugged non-slip outsoles and heal cushions that are available on traditional hiking shoes. If you are hiking in the summer months, these will keep your feet cool and protected. Make sure to get a pair that are quick-drying as well.

Breathe easy

  • 3 adjustable straps for a secure fit
  • Waterproof

Basically barefoot

If sandals are too much for you to deal with, you could also opt to hike in water shoes during the warmer months of the year. Water shoes are generally used for activities that find you moving back and forth from land to water, so if you are hiking in areas with lots of creeks or mud, then these could be a sound investment. They often feature mesh uppers and a grippy rubber sole and are known for drying fast. The downside is that you lose the cushioning and stability of traditional hiking shoes.

Embrace minimalism

  • Breathable honeycomb foam insole provides ventilation and water flow
  • Flexible and lightweight

Trail runners

If you’re planning to elevate your hiking game and actually run on trails, then you need a tweaked version of the traditional running shoe. Trail runners will generally be the lightest options available as well, so if you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of durability and protection (especially on the uppers) to trim some weight off your footwear, then these shoes will be a worthy investment. The most important region of trail runners is the outsole, as you will want a deep tread that can handle mud and other elements and that will be non-slip. Some shoes even come equipped with outsoles made of Continental Tires’ rubber that provide great traction and superior wear-resistance.

The race is on, ladies

  • Flexible and lightweight
  • Increased traction

Trim some weight, guys

  • Ultralightweight
  • Maximum traction and grip

IMPULSE PURCHASE: Socks!

Merino wool socks are a great alternative to traditional cotton socks as they pull moisture away from your skin and help to keep your feet dry. They can also help to keep your feet cooler in the warmer summer months, and warmer in the colder winter months. They are durable and comfortable and help prevent blisters because of their moisture-wicking capabilities. And you don’t have to wash them as often as traditional cotton socks — they’re an all-around winner!

Darn Tough Merino Socks

Undetectable seam
Made with Merino wool for breathability and durability

Dryw Keltz is a freelance writer living in San Diego County. He has written hundreds of news features, human interest profiles, and film and music reviews over the course of his 20-plus-year career. Keltz has a bachelor’s degree in English writing with an emphasis on creative non-fiction from the University of Pittsburgh.