Can You Hike in Normal Shoes? What to AVOID!

Hiking popularity has grown significantly over the years in the United States of America, with 2021 seeing nearly 60 million people engaging in the activity. It’s probably safe to assume that many people venture out for a day hike in regular shoes.

Hiking in normal shoes is perfectly fine for non-technical trails and mountain paths. Any comfortable shoes that provide some grip will be sufficient for most hikes. Active shoes, such as running shoes or sneakers, can replace hiking footwear when needed.

If you plan on hiking in a pair of shoes not explicitly designed for hiking, you want to consider a few factors. I wrote an article on the four most important factors to consider when hiking in a pair of shoes that are not hiking shoes. The article will help you decide whether or not you should hike in a pair of shoes.

What Types of Shoes Are OK For Hiking?

I wear a pair of dress shoes to work daily, and they are among the most comfortable shoes I own. They have very grippy soles, and after a long work week, I often keep them on after I get home. If you can walk long distances in a shoe without issues, you can hike in them.

You can get by hiking in a wide variety of shoes. Running shoes, gym shoes, sneakers, tennis shoes, walking shoes, work shoes, and many other types of shoes that provide a comfortable fit and adequate support will work fine for most hikes.

Probably the best type of non-hiking shoes to hike in is walking shoes. Walking shoes are very similar to low hikers, offer excellent cushioning, and are designed for maximum comfort over long distances.

Nearly all active shoes will work for hiking if you stay on well-groomed trails and are not carrying a 50-pound backpack. This means shoes designed for working out in the gym will probably be fine.

Running shoes will also be acceptable for hiking in most cases. There are some important considerations, though, for running shoes in particular since they were designed for moving forward on even surfaces. I wrote some important tips here for hiking in running shoes.

Can I Just Wear Sneakers for Hiking?

Sneakers are shoes loosely associated with some sports activity but are often worn for everyday use and comfort. They come in a vast array of styles and qualities.

Sneakers are suitable substitutes for hiking if you don’t have dedicated hiking shoes. They are designed for everyday comfort and typically have somewhat grippy soles that work well for most hiking scenarios under average trail conditions.

So, we know we can hike in a wide range of shoe types. I would say that no shoes replace the purpose-built hiking shoe. A sneaker can work in many hiking scenarios, but if you go out every weekend to discover new trails, I suggest getting a dedicated pair of hiking shoes.

Here is a recent video I did testing five excellent hiking shoes and picking a winner. To find out which shoe won, watch the video to the end.

What Shoes Are NOT OK For Hiking?

Any comfortable shoe that offers some traction will work for many hiking scenarios. But what are some shoes to avoid for your next hike?

If you do not have hiking footwear and plan to go hiking, you should avoid any shoes you have yet to wear for an extended period. Avoid shoes with little traction and protection, such as sandals or flip-flops. Finally, avoid shoes with raised heels.

Of course, not all hikes are the same. So if you are making a simple out-and-back trail less than three miles long, you might be able to go barefoot.

If you plan a multiday backpacking hike with all your gear on your back, then the footwear you chose for the hike should be sturdy enough to support the extra weight and the extended miles on the trail.

Hiking ScenarioShoes to AvoidRecommended Shoe
Well-groomed trails, less than five milesAvoid loose-fitting shoes with thin soles, for example, sandals.Vasque Satoru Trail LT
Wilderness trails, five miles or moreAvoid shoes with little support or improper fit, for example, Converse All-Stars.Merrell Moab Speed
Multiday hike with a backpackAvoid shoes that are not purpose-built for hiking and especially backpacking, for example, running shoes.Adidas Terrex Swift R3
Dusty Hikers has all tested recommended shoes; follow the links to read my reviews.

What Shoe do I Recommend for Hiking?

Footwear is very personal, so a shoe that works well for one person might not work for someone else.

I purchase and test hiking shoes as a hobby. I have found that Merrell shoes provide an excellent performance-to-cost ratio and fit my feet well.

In the last round of testing I did, the Merrell Moab Speed performed very well and beat out four other shoes across a series of categories. They are comfortable, provide superior traction, very lightweight, and have good lateral stability.

You can check out the Merrell Moab Speed and support my hobby through the affiliate link. It costs you nothing.

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