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Hiking, although not the easiest thing you can do, there’s little to no entry barrier. All you gotta do is head out to the woods with a pair of sturdy shoes or boots and prepare yourself to walk. Though, it’s not a walk in the park. Most people feel compelled to wear running shoes (since they’re comfortable), but it’s highly suggested you wear appropriate footwear for hiking.
Unlike concrete sidewalks or flat roads, going through trails requires more stable and hardened footwear to combat jagged rocks, mud, dirt, and streams. For a better hiking experience, you must wear hiking boots or shoes, especially if you’re planning to do it often.
Hiking Boots Vs Hiking Shoes
What sets these two apart? Hiking boots are full-sized footwear designed with stability and support in mind. If you’re a long-term hiker, and you love to take black diamond terrains during the day, hiking boots offer you better ankle support and reinforced protection.
On the other hand, hiking shoes can’t lend you the same ankle support boots do. They typically designed to be lightweight for added mobility. Most hiking shoes give you outstanding support, more so than running shoes; plus they maintain a better grip in different terrains, preventing you from falling victim to injuries. Generally, hiking shoes are for people who prefer short, casual walks; as well as people who like to travel from time to time.
I typically prefer hiking shoes because I like to feel light on my feet, although I would recommend you look into hiking boots if you’re taking hiking more seriously.
Hiking Footwear Vegans Must Avoid
Non-vegan hiking boots or shoes should usually contain leather, suede, and in some cases, “PU leather”. PU leather can be deemed as being vegan, but there’s a long list of products that say they are made from PU leather but are not vegan.
Over time, “bicast leather” has been used interchangeably with “PU leather”, even though there’s a huge difference between the two:
- 100% PU Leather — is fake leather made only with polyurethane (PU), making it vegan.
- Bicast leather— contains actual leather and only has a small coating of PU on top of it. Therefore, it can’t be considered vegan.
I generally trust companies that claim their products are made from 100% PU leather, but it would be naive of me to believe that’s the case for everyone.
Something else you need to be wary of is the potential use of animal-based glue. That’s why you should always contact the company for more information. The only exception is if the company advertises itself as a vegan company.
Vegan Hiking Footwear
Other than verifying whether the boots are vegan or not, you must assess them for their quality. Are they comfortable? Do they provide solid ankle support? Are the boots allow your feet to breathe properly? What’s the cost of the boots? Does it justify the price you’re paying for them?
There are several questions that can be answered, and I believe the latter is the most important. So, without further ado, let’s hop on the first pair of vegan hiking boots on the list.
Adidas Terrex Swift R2 Mid GTX (Best Vegan Hiking Boots)
These Adidas boots are well-suited for serious vegan hikers and backpackers.
They provide fantastic ankle support, in addition to being super comfortable. Its outer sole provides great traction to various terrains regardless of weather conditions, and you can expect long-term consistency on all levels. These boots also have a fantastic lacing system that locks your feet in place on long climbs and descents, as well as a lace bungee to avoid tangling.
The least likable aspect of these boots is that they may be overkill if you’re planning to hike for an entire day on an easy trail. There are lighter and more flexible boots and shoes made for faster-paced, and light trails (Including the Adidas Terrex Swift R2 shoes).
On the other hand, the Adidas Terrex boots slay its competition if the odds are settled on an uneven, or overall harder terrain. That said, this model is only sold in a Gore-Tex (GTX) version, so your feet may get super warm in hot climates in spite of the ripstop upper mesh. Lastly, you can find both men’s and women’s versions, though it’s a shame there are no wide sizes available.
Vivobarefoot Primus Swimrun SG
Many vegans will appreciate the Vivos. They’re partially made from recycled plastic, and while they look like shoes, they have some of the qualities boots have.
They have a textile ankle collar that offers your feet more support and stability, which allows you to use them in more complex terrains. That aspect combined with how light they are, you’re getting the best of both worlds. If you hike in muddy areas, you have (1) the drain areas across the shoe that clear the water quickly and (2), the large lugs of the outsole prevent clogging.
Furthermore, the materials were tested to resist punctures. As such, you can probably wear them to hike in dense woods. Lastly, the elastic foot-shaped construction should provide your feet with the comfort and freedom you need. This being said, the lack of Gore-Tex technology does not exist to keep your feet warm in colder climates.
La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX
If you want to explore glaciers and alpine rock, the Trango technology in these La Sportiva boots is designed to make your adventure a smooth one. These are by far the lightest — and most affordable mountaineering boots you can find (from La Sportiva). Even though they’re not designed for ice climbing or high-altitude mountaineering, they’re worth a look at lower altitudes.
The development of this boot was an idea to help Italian mountain rescue teams (as well as guides) to cope with mountain duties while feeling light on their feet. Since they spend a lot of time wearing boots, La Sportiva created something they could wear all day long, but also use in the mountains when necessary. That’s why the Trango Tech has a streamlined build and flexible sole, which is unlike any La Sportiva. You will probably find it to be more comfortable than a great deal of La Sportiva boots, but you can also use it in technical terrain.
You’re not going to be front pointing ice with these boots, but you can go for fast and light objectives in regions where a trail may contain equal parts trail, snow, ice, and rock. It’s a mix between hiking and mountaineering boot for everyday use.
Find the latest price: The La Sportiva Trango Tech GTX on the brand’s official website.
Merrell Siren Edge
This pair ticks a lot of boxes. In fact, let’s start by saying that it’s a great value for money. Another factor I’ve taken into consideration, is that these shoes are unbelievably popular, is actually considered the #1 most popular hiking shoes for women on Amazon.
They have excellent breathability, they’re stable, but since they don’t have ankle stability, you’re more prone to sprains in very technical terrains. However, you don’t wear these Merrells in more complex trails, you use them for fast-paced, and short trails. Stability aside, they’re comfortable, are equipped with waterproof materials, and are certainly lighter than hiking boots.
At the same time, the cushioning technology is not as polished as higher-valued shoes, but still offer you the right amount of comfort. In addition, the toe box is roomy and flexible, which ensures your toes are not compressed and uncomfortable. They also provide you with really good traction on slippery terrains, mainly due to the Vibram technology used for the outsole.
What’s also interesting is that a great number of people recommend these shoes for dealing with plantar fasciitis, which you’re able to check among some of the reviews. In terms of durability, these Merrells’ are also worth the investment, though the same can be said for every Merrell.
Find the latest price: The Merrell Siren Edge on Amazon.
Solomon XA PRO 3D
These shoes are probably not news to you. They’re a flagship model that is adored by many hikers, backpackers, and runners across the globe. The Quicklace system by Solomon makes it so you don’t have to tie the shoes up, yet they still manage to fit like a glove.
In addition, they have some of the grippiest soles, thanks to the 3D advanced chassis technology. If you want highly versatile shoes that you can use for both hiking and running, the Solomon XA PRO 3Ds’ is a wonderful pick.
The heel-toe drop is quite high for trail running shoes, but it’s pretty standard for boots and hiking shoes. If you want a zero-drop experience, these might not be for you. Also, they don’t have a rock plate. So while you may be able to have a better feel for the terrain, you also have little protection against sharp rocks. In other words, they’re not always the comfiest pair of shoes.
Lastly, according to many of the reviews available online, they can take a beating! If I’m buying shoes that cost more than $100, they need to be extra durable. The Solomon XA PRO 3D is worth the value — not solely because of its durability, but also because of its versatility.
Find the latest price: The Solomon XA PRO 3D on Amazon.
La Sportiva Tango Cube GTX
Unlike the La Sportiva Tango Tech GTX, the Cube is designed for alpine expeditions and hiking on climbing boots. These are generally the top choice for the vegan mountaineer. If you’re looking for safety in an alpine scenario, please don’t hesitate to take the Cube with you.
Straight out of the box they’re comfy boots. These shoes have a seamless, waterproof upper with the protective rand and a direct-inject lacing system for maximum abrasion resistance and reduced weight. Not having seams makes them more durable because it’s one less potential wear point.
La Sportiva rates them as being ideal for technical mixed climbing and ice climbing on their USA website. However, their Italian website describes them as being optimal for “technical mountaineering and hiking on climbing routes”. Some reviews say you can’t fit a rigid crampon, so they may not be “fully” suited for climbing pure ice walls.
This being said, there’s enough stiffness for more technical rock climbing. Plus, the rubber climbing block on the toe combined with the boots’ sensitivity allows you to climb confidently. Their light, agile feel is also appreciated after a full day in the mountain. It’s good to actually feel your feet after hours of walking and climbing.
Overall, the La Sportiva Tango Cube GTX is a great lightweight mountaineering boot you can bring along for more delicate winters, but these boots may excel in summer Alpine.
Find the latest price: The La Sportiva Tango Cube GTX on Amazon.
Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX (Shoes)
Adidas just came out of the woodworks with shoes that can stand out from the competition, and this is one of them. The Adidas Terrex Swift R2 offers surprisingly great protection and stability for a lightweight, low-top shoe. You can also use them off the trails. They are so sleek and modern, you can use them for many other occasions.
The single-pull lacing system reminds me of the Solomon shoes, and they’re even lighter and tougher than the Solomon XA PRO 3D above. They also offer great feet and toe protection in addition to the Gore-Tex lining that provides solid waterproofing without feeling dank. Sadly, the shoes can also be a little stiff, even after wearing them for a while.
And although the Lace Bungee system is functional, it’s not as smooth or easy to use as Solomon’s Quicklace system. As for ankle support and stability, the R2 is cut fairly low, but you can opt for the Terrex boots if you want a bit more support for your ankle and feet. Other than that, the Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX have great traction, are exceptionally lightweight, and offer great stability despite the low-cut design. They’re wonderful shoes.
Find the latest price: The Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX on Adidas Outdoor.
Vivobarefoot Magna Trail
The Vivobarefoot Magna Trail is a versatile pair you can easily bring along on a hiking adventure, but also to every other casual occasion. They’re stylish, versatile and they’re heavily favored because of the way they change how people walk, jog, hike and run.
By eliminating the padding underfoot, you’re forced to walk with your body weight balanced over your feet and big toe. As such, your back is more upright, you gain better balance, and you endure less impact on your joints. At the same time, you strengthen the muscles in your feet. In other words, Magna’s are designed to let your feet move freely in the way nature intended.
The shoes weigh 500g, so they’re super lightweight. That’s part of the appeal because it’s like walking barefoot, without necessarily feeling the rough surface under you.
They also feature a water-resistant upper that is very close to being waterproof.
The upper is made from recycled PET, and then there’s the neoprene sock that gives you moderate ankle support, but it mostly prevents debris and water from slipping in. These are not the cheapest shoes, but you get what you pay for because they’re quite durable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I buy vegan waterproof hiking footwear?
Not necessarily. It all comes down to where you head out to hike the most frequently. Plus, despite manufacturers’ claims that waterproof footwear is breathable, you have to understand that the more the waterproof the footwear is, the warmer your feet get. Therefore, it all comes down to where you’re going to hike. On a summer hike, you might want a water-resistant (not waterproof) hiking footwear, and on a winter hike, you might want to choose waterproof footwear.
How heavy should my hiking footwear be?
Light hiking footwear will feel more comfortable and leave you less exhausted after several hours of hiking. However, heavier footwear is typically associated with more useful features, like proper ankle support, as well as waterproofing. In the end, it really depends on your preference and need for certain features.
One good thing is that synthetic materials typically weigh less than leather, so vegan hiking boots are consequently a bit lighter. Proof of that is Vivobarefoot Magna Trail shoes.
How durable should hiking footwear be?
Well, it should be as durable as possible, especially if you’re looking to spend more than $100 on footwear. Good hiking footwear should last you between 500 and 1000 miles of trail. Though, it also varies depending on how rough that trail is.
Vegan footwear, unfortunately, is known for being less durable than footwear made with leather, even though there’s the odd exception here and there. At the same time, given the rise in vegans, companies are continually putting more effort into synthetically made footwear, so it’s just a matter of time until truly long-lasting solutions are available.
Should I buy an aftermarket insole?
Almost every hiking footwear will come with a foam insole that will wear out after some time. Some are better than others, and some feel really comfortable right off the bat, but what they lack is durability because in some cases they’re just generic.
Superfeet has amazing, yet affordable insoles offering various levels of support. Personally, I think you should try them out in-store, instead of buying them on the internet to ensure you choose the perfect fit, but you can also do it through their website, or through Amazon which is a bit riskier.
What kind of socks should I wear?
Typically, the thickness of the socks that match what you intend to wear. So, if you’re wearing boots, you go with thicks socks. In addition, if you’re going on the trail, you should pick synthetic socks instead of slow-drying cotton socks that are more likely to leave you with blisters. Either way, before you go hiking, have a feel for the combination of socks and boots before you zap.
How often should I clean my hiking footwear?
As often as possible, or immediately after each hike. The more you clean your footwear, the more it will last, reducing the need to replace them prematurely. Every time your footwear flexes, particles of dirt, grit or sand creep into the fabric, making them wear faster. As such, you need to take care of them faithfully. Some people blame the wearing on the quality of the footwear, but sometimes it’s just because they don’t take care of it properly.
Can I hike wearing running shoes?
Yes, you can, even it’s not an optimal solution for hiking. For shorter, occasional hikes you shouldn’t find any issues with running shoes, but for longer, and more frequent hikes you want something that offers a better padding, more support — and certainly something that lasts longer and is designed to face some of the challenges that come with proper hiking.
Can I wear hiking boots for regular walking?
Most definitely. Hiking boots are made for long-distances, so they’re perfect for all types of walking. Though for road walking, a running shoe might be more adequate given the lightness, which offers you the capacity to cover more distance in less time.
Can I run with hiking boots?
You can use hiking boots to run but it’s not advised. Trail running is becoming increasingly popular, but I don’t think hiking boots should ever be used for that purpose. There are more well-suited options to choose from, and they’re usually aptly named as “trail runners”.
Trail runners usually have no ankle support and are way lighter than boots. They also have a thinner sole, reducing your chances of tripping because you’re planted on the ground. On the other hand, they’re not as durable as hiking boots, but they’re designed to help move rapidly in trails without risking injuries.
Should I get low-cut or mid-cut hiking boots?
Low-cut boots are better for your average day hike. If you’re hiking on well-established trails where ankle support isn’t a big factor, then I’d say that a boot with a low-cut is more adequate because it allows you to walk more lightly, and it also helps your feet breath.
However, on more rocky trails, I don’t think they’re a good choice simply because they’re not as effective in supporting your ankle. You are much more likely to sprain your ankle if you hike on a rocky, uneven trail with low-cut boots.
On the other hand, mid-cut boots are better for long hikes where you may be carrying some extra weight. On a rocky path, these are more stable and supportive.
In addition, if you take mid-cut boots to the snow, you can also expect your feet to be warmer, unlike low-cut boots that offer more breathability. But low-cut boots will probably work better in hotter climates given how light and breathable they are.
The higher ankle shaft of mid-cut boots also keeps twigs, stones or even water from easily getting into your boots, which will happen in more complicated terrains. At the same time, mid-cut boots might feel clunkier, and less comfortable over time, even though they have better support and durability.
Frankly, I think you’d have more success if you get both low-cut and mid-cut boots because then you can adapt to different trails. It all comes down to the type of trail you’ll be going for.
Should hiking boots be a size bigger than my actual feet?
Some manufacturers recommend going half a size up, but that’s not always the way to go. Before you buy hiking boots, you should check your foot size, length, width, and arch and then go for boots that will snuggle your feet. However, you also want a boot that gives enough room for your toes to move freely, and in comfort.
A boot that is too loose will not give you enough stability and support to avoid injuries, and you’re also more likely to get blisters. The boot should also lock your heel in position so it doesn’t slide or move. If you’re struggling to find some proper boots, you can always consult an advisor in a store’s hiking section as they should be able to make the right recommendations.
Do I need to spend a lot of money on hiking footwear?
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on your first pair of hiking footwear. However, you should also keep in mind that very often you’re getting what you’re paying for. If you just buy the cheapest hiking footwear, you can expect something that will offer you less protection, as well as something that will have a really short lifespan.
Though it will also depend on the type of hiking you’ll be doing. If you’re an extreme hiker and want to face the most complex trails, at a ridiculously low or high temperature, you need to adjust your purchase to the amount of challenge you and your footwear will be facing.
On the other hand, if you’re new to the world of hiking, you can easily find a moderately reliable pair of hiking footwear that is sturdy, breathable, water-resistant, as well as comfortable. This is assuming you’re not going to be hitting the trails as viciously as experienced hikers do.