Wearing The Wrong Hiking Shoes Is More Dangerous Than You Thought

Hiking shoes are a very important part of your outdoor gear arsenal because they not only provide extra support for your feet but also protect them from rocks, roots, water, insects, and prickly or poisonous plants. While it is possible to do some hikes on short and well-maintained trails wearing just tennis shoes, wearing tennis shoes on a more difficult trail can be much more dangerous than you realize. In fact, a Swiss study published on Science Direct that examined the causes behind hiking deaths from falling found that hiking with improper footwear had "a major influence on the occurrence of a fall."

While there could be many reasons for this including that the hikers wearing improper footwear may have been less prepared and experienced than those with better shoes, it's also worth mentioning that there is a major difference between the tread of regular shoes and hiking shoes. While the bottoms of tennis shoes are designed to grip well on cement sidewalks and gymnasium floors, they don't perform as well on slippery rocks, wet leaves, or loose dirt. On the other hand, the tread of hiking shoes is specifically designed to perform well and maintain a better grip in all kinds of outdoor environments. This is why it is important to wear hiking shoes with good tread on any trail that is labeled moderate to difficult.

What about trail running shoes?

Even though sneakers may not be the best hiking shoes, there's a reason why people stick to tennis shoes over purchasing hiking boots. Firstly, hiking boots can be expensive and most people already have a trusty pair of sneakers ready to go. Secondly, hiking boots can be heavy and uncomfortable plus they take time to break in and get used to.

This is where trail running shoes come in. Trail running shoes are a good mixture of hiking shoe soles with tennis shoe lightness and comfort, and can be a good option for people who want to hike difficult trails but don't want to wear heavy and clunky hiking boots. While trail runners are not as sturdy and supportive as hiking boots, they are great for trekkers carrying a light load and moving quickly. On top of this, trail running shoes — when compared to hiking shoes — don't require as much time to break in, are more breathable because they are made of lighter materials, and are usually cheaper.

When hiking boots are the best choice

While choosing trail running shoes or hiking boots often comes down to personal preference, there are a few situations where hiking boots are the best option. For example, if you know you will be hiking a trail with uneven and rugged terrain, then hiking boots could be a better choice because they provide more ankle support and have a thicker tread to protect your feet from rocks and other hazards. Hiking boots also tend to perform better and will keep your feet warmer in snowy and frigid conditions. On top of this, boots may be the better choice for new hikers because they are more stable than trail runners and may make a hiker feel more secure when carrying a heavy pack over long distances.

On the other hand, if you are an avid hiker who hits the trail all the time, you may also want to choose hiking boots because (even though the sticker price is higher) hiking boots will likely last longer than trail runners. In fact, trail running shoes aren't very durable and often need to be replaced once every six months to a year whereas a good pair of hiking shoes can last thousands of miles. So, if you don't want to replace your shoes all the time and are looking for something sturdy and reliable, hiking boots are the way to go.