Hiking requires footwear that balances durability, comfort, traction, and stability. Doc Martens have been a classic boot for the best part of 50 years, both as a practical work boot and a cultural fashion statement. However, can you hike in Doc Martens?
You can hike in Doc Martens, but they will not provide the comfort, grip, and stability of a specialized hiking boot over longer distances. If you hike in Doc Martens, you should look for short, flat trails, and only wear boots that have been well broken in.
Although not the first-choice option for hiking, Doc Martens are a comfortable boot and a favorite for many people. Below, we will consider at the pros and cons of wearing Doc Martens for hiking, and we’ll offer a few tips if you intend to hike in these classic boots.
What Are Doc Martens?
Doc Martens are a style of boot which became popular in the 1960s. The durability and practical nature of Doc Martens made them perfect for work settings, worn by workers on a factory floor or by mail carriers on their rounds. Over the next decades, however, Doc Martens transformed into more of a cultural statement than practical footwear, particularly within the punk music scene.
Are Doc Martens Good For Hiking?
Doc Martens are good for hiking in some circumstances. If you’re hiking a primarily flat, smooth trail, Doc Martens can offer enough comfort and stability that they are indeed a good choice. However, Doc Martens are not good for longer, tougher hikes, as they’re just not built for them.
Doc Martens always remained a practical workhorse of a boot, offering durability and comfort once broken in. Therefore, it’s understandable if the boot is considered by some as suitable for hiking. For most hiking, you should invest in a good pair of hiking boots. But if Doc Martens are your only realistic option, there are certain circumstances where they could be considered for a hike.
Doc Martens are generally a good choice for hikes involving:
- Short distances
- Flat terrain
- Dry terrain
- Light backpacks
For an irregular hiker who only goes on relatively short hikes on trails classed as easy, a well-worn in pair of Doc Martens may suffice. It can take a while to wear in leather boots like Doc Martens, but once you have, they can provide good mobility and comfort for your feet and toes.
The sturdy nature of the boot also allows it to withstand the solid surface of many trails while being lightweight enough to make short hikes feel relatively easy. If you do opt for using Doc Martens, then you should stick to a well-worn trail and not head off on to muddy or rocky areas. You will want to avoid steep inclines, too.
Doc Martens remain a popular leather boot with a quality sole. They should not be your first choice when hiking, but they can do the job for an irregular hiker sticking to often used, shorter trails.
Before we delve into why Doc Martens aren’t considered an ideal hiking boot, we first need to think about what makes a good hiking boot.
What Makes A Good Hiking Boot?
A good hiking boot fits comfortably and is made for the harsh conditions found when hiking. Choosing the right footwear is essential, not just for a safer hike, but also for a more enjoyable hike. A poorly fitting boot may cause blisters, while a boot that isn’t designed for the terrain may cause sprained or broken ankles. The following are features of a good hiking boot:
- Waterproof – Nothing is more uncomfortable on a long hike than cold, wet feet. Waterproof materials and a high-cut boot prevent water from seeping in.
- Breathable – While the boot needs to be waterproof, the fabric should be breathable for warm conditions. A gusseted tongue helps prevent water, dirt, and stones from entering the boot.
- Correct weight – The lightest boots with all the protections required for your hike is the best option. Heavy boots may offer more support and durability, but the extra weight could tire you out sooner.
- Ankle support – Rocky terrain is a hazard to sprain or break an ankle, so decent ankle support is important.
- Shock absorption – Long hikes over rough terrain will place additional stress on your legs and feet. Soles designed to absorb the shock from the impact of each footfall can help prevent injury.
- Durability – Good hiking boots are made from good quality materials that are tough with reinforced stitching. Hiking boots have traditionally been made using leather or suede, although Gore-Tex is common now to aid breathability while keeping the boot waterproof.
- Traction – You need good grip on more difficult terrain.
Different hikers will place emphasis on different aspects of a hiking boot depending on the type of hiking they do and the conditions they tend to hike in. However, the features listed above are baseline elements for you to consider when choosing a hiking boot.
What Makes Doc Martens Bad For Hiking?
There have been many different designs of Doc Martens in their long history. One or two designs have even been inspired by hiking boots, yet were still marketed for urban terrain and style rather than the hiking trails. So, what are the main reasons Doc Martens are not generally considered great hiking boots?
1. Less Durable
Although Doc Martens are a renowned durable boot, they will beless durable than a specialized hiking boot. The vast majority of Doc Martens are not designed with hiking in mind and should not be expected to cope long term with all the extra rigors regular hiking places on them.
2. Less Waterproof
Theclassic Doc Martens are not waterproof, and while this may not be a major concern if you only hike on short trails, wet feet for serious hikers is a big issue. Although Doc Martens are not classed as waterproof, they do offer some water resistance to light showers and rain. However, hiking boots are designed to be waterproof and breathable, keeping your feet dry on long hikes.
3. Need Time To Break In
While you should never head off on a hike in new boots, Doc Martens are known to take quite a bit of time to break in. If they are still a little stiff when worn, you could soon find you have painful blisters when hiking in Doc Martens.
Again, we have to remember that Doc Martens are not designed with hiking in mind and most wearers will not be contemplating miles of walking on uneven terrain. Even if your Doc Martens fit perfectly, they will still require a breaking in period.
4. Less Grip
Doc Martens have good traction, but when it comes to traversing difficult, rocky terrain you want the grip of a specialized hiking boot. Doc Martens were originally designed to be practical footwear on a slippery factory floor – and therefore meant to be “slip resistant” – which is different from hiking on wet, rocky terrain.
Doc Martens have rubber soles with a good amount of tread, so they do offer some traction in wet and icy conditions. But they are not designed with the same traction levels in mind as hiking boots. Different Doc Martens boot models can have different soles, so try to wear one with more traction if you do decide to hike in them.
5. Lack Of Ankle Support
When hiking on rocky or uneven terrain, ankle support is a must. On the face of it, the high-top designs of Doc Martens look like they should provide ample ankle support. However, on closer inspection, the materials are thinner compared to good quality hiking boots.
Therefore, while Doc Martens will support the ankle in their everyday use and on flat terrain, a hiking boot offers more ankle support when hiking on moderate to difficult trails.
6. They’re Heavier
Doc Martens can feel heavy and quite bulky, even more so after a few miles of hiking. In general, when considering appropriate footwear, you want as lightweight a shoe that you can get that still offers the necessary protection for the terrain you will be hiking.
Any unnecessary excess weight in the boot is just extra weight to carry around the trail. This is like carrying additional, unnecessary items in your backpack. It can slow you down and sap your energy more quickly.
6 Tips For Hiking In Doc Martens
1. Stick To Easy Trails
When Doc Martens are your only available footwear, look for shorter trails and those classed as easy. An ideal scenario is a pleasant woodland hike on a pancake flat trail. You want to avoid hiking on a long trek with a heavy backpack when wearing Doc Martens. A hike in Doc Martens is best limited to around three hours or less.
2. Waterproof Your Doc Martens
While most Doc Martens have some water resistance, they are not classed as waterproof. Older boots may lose their water resistance over time, too. Therefore, to try and prevent a very unpleasant hike with wet feet, waterproofing your Doc Martens is a good idea.
This is easy to do and involves applying a boot wax or waterproofing spray. You may find water can still penetrate some boots, particularly through the stitching around the top of the soles, but when waterproofed, the water should slide off the leather.
3. Wear Long, Thick Socks
The socks you wear can also be the difference between a comfortable, enjoyable hike and one that becomes increasingly unpleasant. If you are wearing Doc Martens for a hike, wear a good quality pair of thick woolly socks as well to aid comfort and provide extra padding. Some people may wear two pairs of socks instead, but whichever way you go, good socks can help prevent blisters.
Extra-long socks are an added bonus. Longer socks that extend above the boot can help prevent rubbing on the leg and ankle.
4. Tie Your Laces Properly
This may seem an obvious point, but we can all be on autopilot from time to time and tie our boots like our everyday shoes. You want to tie the laces on your Doc Martens in a way that ensures they reduce the movement of the boot against the foot without making them uncomfortably tight.
Doc Martens need to be secure if you are wearing them for hiking, particularly around the ankle. When the laces are tied properly, the boot should be pulled on to the heel, making it less likely to slip. You may need to adjust the laces once or twice to find the right balance between tightness and comfort.
5. Change The Insole
If you have owned your pair of Doc Martens for some time, it may be a good idea to change the insole. An insole with a more cushioning effect may be more comfortable when hiking, and if you find this to be true, then changing the insole of a relatively new pair of Doc Martens could also be beneficial.
6. Break In Your Doc Martens
Last, but certainly not least, it is essential to first break in your Doc Martens before heading out on a hike. This is true of any new pair of boots, but some people can find Doc Martens take quite a while before they are broken in and blister free.
To help break in your new pair of Doc Martens, you can start off by wearing them around the house and on short walks, perhaps to the shops and back. Gradually the leather will start to stretch around the shape of your feet. Do not wear them on a hike until this point, as you will soon regret the decision!
You can hike in Doc Martens, but they should not be your first choice of footwear because true hiking boots are designed to handle the rigors of hiking trails. If Doc Martens are your only option, stick to short, flat trails and avoid hiking on rocky terrain and in more inclement weather conditions.