You may think hiking shoes are designed for a specific type of walking, but this might not necessarily be the case. We tend to equate certain items with certain situations, but there are times you can wear hiking shoes even when you are not on a trail.
Hiking shoes are good for walking in general, and it can be advisable to consider wearing them for day to day use as well. Hiking shoes often offer better support than normal shoes, so they may be more comfortable on your feet than a regular pair of sneakers.
There are plenty of differences between hiking shoes and a normal pair of walking shoes. In the article below, we’ll explore why hiking shoes may be a better choice for your everyday footwear, and the ways hiking shoes help protect your feet from the environment and injury.
5 Differences Between Hiking And Walking Shoes
1. Hiking Shoes Are Often Sturdier
Hiking shoes are usually sturdier than walking shoes. This means they can withstand significantly more punishment and tougher conditions than walking shoes. After all, they are designed to help you get off the beaten path, or at least on a very uneven and rocky path, so they need to be manufactured this way.
Think about the reasons why we wear hiking shoes, and what they need to contend with. Due to the potential distances you will cover, they need to be constructed from better materials with stronger stitching. They cannot simply fall apart at the seams after a few miles, or when you are in the middle of nowhere.
They also need to contend with scratches from nature and terrain. Add in being covered in mud, and potentially water if you need to cross a stream, and then compare all this with what normal walking shoes must contend with. There is no comparison between the two, and it becomes evident why hiking boots and shoes need to be significantly sturdier.
2. Hiking Shoes Offer Greater Protection
Another difference is the level of protection hiking shoes give you compared to normal walking shoes. Yet again, it’s all connected to the terrain they are designed for, so they often need to sit higher around the ankle to prevent injury and protect your feet from being drenched in the rain.
Designers of hiking boots and shoes are fully aware of the terrain the boots need to be capable of dealing with. They know all about the way trails rise and fall at different angles or degrees of difficulty. They contend with uneven ground, holes, the need to scramble, stones falling − the list is endless.
Most of the time, normal walking shoes don’t have to contend with any of that. An incline you need to walk up in a suburb is different from an incline on a hiking trail. The two just cannot compare and often, if you wear regular shoes when you hike, you’ll regret it.
Your feet need protection from the elements. With the need to deal with a wider range of eventualities, it’s no surprise that hiking shoes need to be designed differently. This versatility makes hiking boots and shoes stand out from the rest, and the protection they offer is second to none.
3. Hiking Shoes Have Thicker Soles
Hiking shoes come with thicker soles, and this is to try to prevent sharp stones or other debris from inflicting pain while you hike. A trail can have so many potential dangers for you to step on, so hiking shoes need to protect you from this.
Compare the soles on hiking shoes with normal walking shoes. You can find images online to do this. Look at the rubber and how the varying thicknesses are positioned between the two. You should see a noticeable difference between the two, even when comparing what are deemed to be “lighter” hiking shoes.
But it needs to be like this. Have you ever tried hiking a trail using normal walking shoes or running shoes? Unless you strike it lucky, you will feel every small stone you stand on, even if the hike is just half a mile in length. It will be a terrible experience, and much of it’s because of the difference in soles.
4. Hiking Shoes Offer More Traction
Due to the terrain and conditions they must see you through, hiking shoes come with a better grip on the soles. Hiking shoes need to deliver substantial grip and traction when walking across different terrains. They need to provide you with great grip when walking up a steep slope to allow you to move forward and downward and to stop you from gaining too much momentum.
Add in the fact that you will possibly be hiking in wet weather with foliage underfoot, and it can be easy to slip and fall. You can see why the grip on the sole of your hiking shoes needs to be thicker and better equipped than normal walking shoes.
You won’t encounter the same potential hazards when you’re out walking on your daily business. Walking shoes aren’t required to offer that same traction as a result. Why would they, when they do not encounter the same situations? It would add weight and cost to them for something that is completely pointless.
5. Hiking Shoes Are Heavier
The other major difference between hiking shoes and regular shoes is their weight, but that won’t surprise when you consider everything else we’ve discussed. If you have a shoe with thicker soles (which means more rubber, stronger material, more support and cushioning, and more material) then they will always be heavier.
But while the idea of wearing heavier shoes may potentially put you off, don’t let that happen. Keep in mind these boots and shoes need to be designed in this way. They just need to contend with so much that it’s impossible for them to be made as light as normal walking shoes.
Can You Wear Hiking Shoes For Walking?
You can wear hiking shoes for walking. Hiking shoes are designed to be worn on tough terrain for extended periods, so wearing them for a walk in your local park, or even going to the store, should be as comfortable on your feet as any other pair of shoes you have broken in.
They provide you with comfort and support, a lot more than you would ever need, so there’s no problem in that department. However, you need to consider whether hiking shoes are essential in this sort of environment.
Hiking shoes are made for durability and for sterner tests than they will ever face during a normal walk. It will be a breeze, but there are instances where wearing hiking shoes in these conditions could potentially work against you. Being aware of these situations allows you to make a better call as to when you could wear them, and when it really would not be a good idea.
They Are Only Made For Walking
You need to remember that hiking shoes are only made for one action, and that is walking. They are not designed for running or even trail running. They have one function, and that is to help you enjoy your hike, and to offer you the support you need at a leisurely pace.
As a direct result, you should have no problem wearing them for any type of walking. You are engaging in the action they were made for, so when you think about it in the most basic of terms, why would you then struggle in walking conditions away from a trail?
But hiking shoes work well for almost everything, and they can certainly be a good investment. After all, if you can wear the same shoes for many situations, it cuts down on the number of pairs of shoes you need overall.
But Should You?
It’s all personal preference, but there is absolutely no reason why you cannot wear hiking shoes for walking. As we will describe later, they have various advantages and disadvantages, but there is certainly nothing stopping you from wearing them.
There are undoubtedly times when these shoes offer a practical solution. If you are not concerned about the lack of style associated with these shoes, there is no physical reason that they cannot be a good solution.
Are Hiking Shoes Good For Everyday Use?
Hiking shoes are a good option for everyday use, and it’s all to do with the support and comfort they offer. Think about the stability they provide, as they need to stop you from hurting your ankle almost constantly. This is done through better ankle support and better vibration absorption.
You Can Tackle Any Surface
If you think of the different surfaces you are likely to encounter daily, there’s nothing that will prove difficult for your hiking shoes. After all, they are specifically designed to cope with terrain tougher than you will tend to find each day. There’s probably no instance where you will encounter trail conditions in your regular life.
Whether it’s asphalt, concrete, carpet, slopes, or anything else, hiking shoes will be comfortable when you are just moving around suburbia. It’s hardly going to be the case that you end up going way off the beaten track on your way to the store, where the traction on your hiking shoes suddenly needs to kick into action.
Their Support Can Help
Hiking shoes can also help if you have some issues with your feet, especially where pain is involved. The arch and heel support, as well as the additional cushioning, can make a significant difference to the comfort of your feet as you go about daily life.
Hiking shoes need to provide this added level of cushioning and support due to the distances some people walk while wearing them. They need to ensure your feet feel supported and comfortable, even at the 10 miles mark. It would be poor design if they were adequate for the first couple of miles, and then left you feeling crippled afterward.
You Don’t Have To Worry About The Weather
How often do you feel like wearing a particular pair of shoes, but the weather puts you off doing so? No matter if it’s rain, snow or ice, it will directly influence what you wear. With hiking shoes, that entire problem becomes a thing of the past because they are designed for any weather.
But you also need to think about how long you will wear them for. Let’s say you are going to the store and it takes an hour or so. It’s still not going to be the same as a hike covering miles of terrain with all the ups and downs that you may encounter. Wearing these shoes to run some errands is hardly asking too much of the shoes, even if it’s raining outside.
Advantages Of Wearing Hiking Boots For Walking
1. Extra Traction
Hiking boots tend to come with better traction than walking shoes, and that can make a difference on the terrains and conditions you may face. For example, if you plan to walk in a park after rain, then the extra traction can just make you feel that bit more confident about things.
Also, they are perfect for wintry conditions, so if you live in an area where snow and ice are an issue, hiking boots can provide that extra protection and may even stop you from slipping and falling. That’s something regular sneakers have a hard time preventing.
One thing you should do is examine the difference in tread between hiking boots and normal walking shoes. Look at how the grip is spread, and how it will hold onto things. Look at the depth of the grip, and you will then get an inkling of how it will act on rough surfaces.
2. Added Support And Cushioning
Hiking boots need to provide more than adequate support because you wear them when you’re walking on tough and difficult terrain. That still applies when wearing them for day-to-day use. Hiking boots come with additional arch support built into the shoe. They need to provide this extra support due to the potential for individuals to walk miles in a single day on a hike.
But that still means you should feel as if your feet are being supported, even if you wear hiking boots when going to the local store. Also, don’t forget the added cushioning that is built into hiking boots will make your feet more comfortable and stable.
Hiking boots absorb the impact of standing on stones or other debris while hiking. Imagine if they didn’t do this. A hike would be complete agony, as every stone you stood on would send shock waves through your feet. The cushioning that comes with hiking boots will easily cope with whatever daily use can throw at them. You will quickly find them to be surprisingly comfortable.
3. You Should Not Feel Fatigue
Hiking boots are designed to help your feet cope with a long and arduous walk, and that should translate into you feeling as if your feet are not as fatigued when wearing hiking boots even when not on a hike. The truth is that the correct footwear will have a major impact on ensuring your legs do not tire in the same way.
4. They Can Improve Your Gait
Having an incorrect gait can easily lead to many problems, and yet we still insist on wearing shoes that exacerbate this, without even being aware of it. Hiking boots can keep your legs straight, which will improve your gait.
It’s all to do with the support and the way these boots hold your ankles. However, don’t think it means you feel restricted, as that’s not the case, unless you are wearing boots that are the wrong size. By effectively straightening your leg, it changes everything. This will then remove some stress going through your joints, and that will reduce pain.
5. They Can Prevent Injury
The problem with normal walking shoes is the lack of support around the ankle. In fact, the ankle obviously gets a lot of movement, and what happens is the slightest thing can throw you off balance. Before you know it, you twist your ankle and are left limping along in some obvious distress.
Hiking boots have additional support around the ankle, designed to reduce the chances of you twisting your ankle. They need to be like this due to the terrain you encounter when on a hike. If they didn’t provide this ankle support, you would end up in all sorts of trouble, and your ankles might not survive a single hike.
Hiking boots take this advantage from a hiking trail and transfer it to normal walking conditions with ease. Ultimately, you would need to do something spectacular to hurt yourself in this way thanks to the protection they offer.
Disadvantages Of Wearing Hiking Boots For Walking
1. They Are Heavier And Bulkier
The main disadvantage is that hiking boots are distinctly heavier and bulkier than walking shoes, and that means it takes a bit more energy to walk around wearing them. This will become even more apparent if you are not used to wearing hiking boots in general, as the weight difference will be very evident.
If you are new to hiking boots, you need to get used to wearing them you head out on a hike. In that sense, wearing them even while going to the store to become accustomed to having them on your feet is a good idea. Also, it lets you get used to the extra weight on your feet.
One way around this is to consider buying hiking boots that are lighter in weight. There are many different brands and designs for hiking boots, so you can find a pair that aren’t too heavy. Even a small difference in weight can make a huge difference in how they feel on your feet.
2. They Can Wear Down Quickly On Concrete
One problem with hiking boots is that the soles can wear down quickly if you only wear them when walking on hard surfaces such as concrete. They are not designed for that surface, and while wearing them for short periods won’t do them any harm, continued use can lead to you losing some grip.
This won’t happen overnight or with little use. They are resilient and sturdy but be aware that you are taking them away from the conditions they are designed for, so they may not perform as well as walking shoes in this instance.
On hiking boots, the material does not have to contend with concrete for mile upon mile. Instead, boots need to deal with a wider range of surfaces, but often with underfoot conditions that are softer than concrete. While you can sometimes get your hiking boots resoled, it’s not always the best choice.
3. They Can Make Your Feet Warm
Depending on the style of hiking boot, they may not be very breathable. While that’s great in certain conditions, that’s not always the case if you are hiking in warmer weather. At that point, your feet may overheat thanks to the boots keeping heat and sweat in, and any cool air out. This will not be very comfortable for you, and it could quickly turn into a miserable experience.
But this doesn’t always apply to every pair of hiking boots. Those with full leather uppers will be significantly less breathable than those made from other materials. However, we are only talking about slight differences in how much cool air will circulate. What this means is you should not consider wearing hiking boots in extremely warm conditions when there’s no need to do so.
4. They Aren’t Stylish
Honestly, hiking boots have their own distinctive look, and it’s easy to spot a pair from a mile away. They focus more on being practical than stylish, so that can be a disadvantage if you plan on wearing them for day-to-day walking.
Everyone will know you are wearing hiking boots. They stand out, and you may feel you need to dress a certain way to compliment the boots. This can influence everything else, so you need to perhaps think differently from how you would normally dress.
Hiking shoes are good for walking, but you need to be aware they are not perfect. They will help protect your feet and keep you comfortable, but there are disadvantages that may discourage you from wearing hiking boots. They are fine to wear for everyday walking, but concrete may wear them down.