Sneakers are the type of shoes that we all have at home. You might even have several pairs of sneakers you wear on particular occasions. They are comfortable, usually inexpensive, and great for regular walks.
Many hikers think that the properties that make sneakers great translate to the hiking trail, but that is not exactly the case. While they are suitable for some hiking trips, sneakers are not the best for all hiking trails.
In today's guide, I will tell you more about sneakers and their suitability for hiking trips. If you want to learn more about the topic, read the rest of the guide!
Can You Wear Sneakers Hiking?
Sneakers are not the first thing you would expect to see when hiking. Many hikers invest tons of money in special gear, including the best hiking shoes. They get hiking boots and other trail shoes, shoes with various heights, and so on. But what they usually do not use for hiking are sneakers.
Yet, different people may like different types of hiking shoes. What feels comfortable to one might not feel that comfortable to someone else. So, it would be best if you tried wearing sneakers when hiking to see how they make your feet feel. Here are some of the things you should keep in mind when doing so:
First, let's look into the reasons why you should consider wearing sneakers when hiking:
If you get a perfect size, most sneakers should be quite comfortable. This goes for road running shoes, standard running shoes, and tennis shoes. I will not be talking about trail running shoes when I mention sneakers.
The soft padding on the inside and the comfy materials used for the upper make sneakers very comfortable. So, you should feel great when wearing them, even on longer trails and challenging terrain.
Most sneakers are also quite lightweight. This is because they do not come with much padding and are not made with thick, heavy materials. So, when wearing them, the chances of your feet feeling heavy and tiresome are little to none.
Standard running shoes, especially the lighter ones made with mesh material, are also very breathable. Wearing them in warm weather makes you less likely to experience sweaty feet. The breathability is not great on leather winter sneakers, but it is still good enough to help you stay comfortable.
Some brands make costly sneakers, but I will not discuss them. Instead, I will focus on the standard running shoes you can get without a considerable investment. When you compare these shoes or sneakers, you will find that they are way less expensive than hiking boots. That is something to keep in mind, especially if you are on a tighter budget.
Now, let's talk about the reasons why you should not wear sneakers when hiking:
Mesh sneakers have little to no waterproofing, whether we are talking about road running shoes or regular everyday sneakers. I bet that even the best leather sneakers do not have the same level of waterproofing as hiking boots. So, your sneakers will not be suitable for hiking in the rain or snow.
Poor ankle support
The ankle protection on sneakers is also questionable. You might find good support on some higher sneakers, but the low-ankle sneakers generally have little to no support for the ankles.
That means that the sneakers will not be suitable for harsh terrain as they will not be able to protect you from twisting your ankles. Suppose you want to avoid severely injuring your ankles and legs. In that case, you should not wear shoes without ankle protection when hiking.
The grip on most sneakers is not that good, too, since these shoes are not designed to be worn on demanding terrain. They will never have the same level of traction because their soles are not made from the durable, sturdy materials used for hiking boots.
If you decide to stick with sneakers for hiking, you should know that you will not be able to walk over rocks, very smooth surfaces, and other demanding terrains. You will need to switch to trail shoes or hiking boots.
Last but not least is the insulation. While most trail shoes or hiking boots have great insulation, I cannot say the same for sneakers. They have poor insulation in most cases, making them unusable in cold winter weather. If you want to stay warm while hiking in winter, you will need to wear hiking boots.
What Is the Difference Between a Sneaker and a Hiking Shoe?
If you are still wondering whether sneakers and hiking shoes are different in any way, I will tell you that they certainly are! While they have some things in common, their differences are what you need to know before you go on a hiking trip with them. So, let's look into the key differences between sneakers and hiking shoes:
Sneakers can be great for regular walks in urban areas or even hikes on man-made trails. But they will not be as suitable for hiking.
I mentioned some of the advantages of sneakers over hiking boots and trail running shoes in the section above. Sneakers can give you comfort, good breathability, and a lightweight design on a shoe that will look good and feel good. They are more suitable for warmer weather and less demanding hikes.
These are the only advantages a pair of sneakers has over a regular hiking boot. Regarding the other differences, they are all considered advantages of hiking boots over sneakers. I will talk more about them in the following section.
Hiking shoes and hiking boots have many advantages over regular sneakers. First of all, they are more versatile. You can get high boots, low ankle boots, classic shoes made for hiking, and so on. They come in all shapes and sizes, so you can choose the ones you like best.
Another great thing about these shoes is that you can wear them on almost any trail. The way that they are made allows them to have both grippy soles and an upper that offers your feet protection. Even if you start walking over water, mud, or rocks, the shoes will not budge.
Yet another advantage of hiking boots and trail shoes is that they are suitable for all weather, unlike sneakers that you can wear only in dry, warm weather. They are great for rain and snow, whereas the grippy soles also come in handy when walking on ice. Most trail shoes have water resistance that will allow you to step into streams and puddles without getting your feet wet.
If this is not enough, your hiking boot or pair of trail shoes will likely have ankle and arch support, excellent grip, water resistance, and a sturdy build. These shoes can withstand wear and tear while being amazingly comfortable and breathable.
So, when you think of all the excellent properties that sneakers have - hiking and trail shoes have too! Hiking and trail shoes have many other advantages and capabilities that allow you to wear them anywhere. That is partly why I recommend having at least one pair of these shoes for when you need to go hiking!
Do I Really Need Hiking Shoes?
Investing in hiking boots is wise if you plan on hiking often.
Hiking shoes are costly, but that is because they come with excellent ankle support, grip, breathability, comfort, insulation, and what else not. They have everything you would ever need to be able to walk on any terrain and all trails.
Most hikers get hiking boots as soon as they start hiking, but they do not think of the properties they want their boots to have. I recommend investing in the shoes only once you consider what you want to get from them.
The properties mentioned in the previous paragraph are only some of the things you need in hiking boots or trail shoes. If you get shoes with these properties and maybe even more, you will be able to wear them for years and years.
So, the short answer is yes - you need hiking shoes for hiking. They are an essential piece of hiking gear, so do not put off getting them. Do it as soon as you decide that hiking is something you want to do often!
There is no short answer to whether you should wear sneakers when hiking. You need to try it out and decide if you want to stick with the sneakers or if you would rather wear hiking boots.
I recommend using sneakers only for short trips on easy trails, preferably in warm weather. All other situations will call for specialized hiking shoes that are an investment, but at least are a wise investment! So, feel free to get your hiking shoes as soon as possible!