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Shoes are the most important piece of equipment in hiking and many other outdoor activities, and picking the right ones can be the difference between having a great time and a miserable one.
As an avid or casual hiker, is it worth investing in a pair of hiking shoes? Or can you get away with just wearing your tennis shoes or running shoes? Read on below for four reasons you should wear hiking shoes on your next hike.
Keeps you from slipping
The primary reason you should wear hiking shoes when hiking is to help you keep your footing on rough or slippery terrain. Hiking shoes have thick, hard soles with more traction than regular tennis shoes, which have soft, bendable soles. Because of this, you’re able to dig your feet in with hiking shoes to get a better grip on the ground, while regular shoes will flex and prevent you from getting traction.
Protects your feet from rocks
The thick, hard sole of a hiking shoe provides another benefit other than added traction: It helps protect your feet from sharp rocks. The thin soles of tennis shoes or trail runners will often let you feel all the rocks below you, which can be brutal if you’re hiking on gravel or sharp rock.
Hiking shoes may not be more comfortable than other shoes in everyday situations, but at least on a hike, you’ll consistently have the same relatively comfortable surface for your feet.
Helps keep mud and water away
When hiking in certain areas, it’s not uncommon to have to slog through some mud or a little water on your trail. This is one area where hiking shoes clearly outpace tennis shoes or trail runners, as those will quickly get bogged down with mud or soaked with water and make your feet feel much heavier.
By contrast, most hiking shoes are waterproof, or at least water-resistant, and will let mud or water slide off with relative ease. Not only will this keep your feet from being weighed down, but it will also help keep your feet from getting wet and developing blisters or other painful issues.
Hiking shoes vs. hiking boots
While hiking shoes are sufficient for the majority of your hiking needs, some tougher trails and environments will call for an even more rugged option. Hiking boots are great if you have weak ankles and need some extra support, or if you want a little bit more protection against snakes, scorpions, and other creatures that tend to sting or bite the ankles.
Hiking boots are useful in many situations, but you typically won’t want to wear them if it’s not necessary. While they provide added support and protection, hiking boots are also heavier than other hiking shoes and are more likely to cause blisters when not broken in. Additionally, if hiking boots get wet inside, they can be very difficult to dry out, whereas lightweight hiking shoes can dry off quickly.