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Good hiking shoes: How to choose the right type

Finding good hiking shoes for your outdoor adventure may be harder than you think. It seems as though there is room for debate on the best type of footwear. Maybe you think hiking boots are best or, running shoes or, sandals? After reading this article from an avid outdoor adventurer you may join his trail runner-hiking-clad! I will let you be the judge.

Related: Hiking boots not needed in New Zealand

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What makes a good hiking shoe?

Are Tevas good hiking shoes? What about sandals, sneakers or trail runners? Those weird toe shoes? Oh of course, how could I forget the infamous, yet mighty Croc- They must be the best lightweight hiking shoe! 

A convincing argument for the best hiking shoe is to find one to suit every occasion. Just have a think about the situations you may find yourself in. What about that small child that you’ll likely trip over, the puddle that you must assume dominance over, or that cartoon banana skin trip hazard? (Can confirm it doesn’t work). It is a no brainer that you will want all the ankle support necessary. Boots must be the only way! 

If you’d asked me several years ago, I’d tend to agree with this argument. It seems that the boot-wearing religion was drummed into many of us growing up. Despite my adventurous hobbies, it may come to surprise to you that I don’t even own a pair of boots anymore! (Besides ski boots, of which I have many!) That’s not to say that in future I won’t ever purchase another pair, I still swear by them for certain activities. You’ll likely find the decision is up to you and your personal preference. I will leave it up to you to make up your mind! 

I hope, however, I can clear away some of the fog associated with the boot dilemma.

Good hiking shoes are not boots:

Where did all this boot fancy begin? Is it a culture? Yes, certainly here in NZ, but are hiking boots necessary?

Yes and no.

First off, clearly, if you’re a mountaineer, hunter, in construction, trades, farmer, or a Timberland pansy then none of this will be relevant. Boots are your bread and butter.

via MEME

A lot of the timeless defence around boots refers to ankle support, however much to my own surprise, there are several studies (Sports Med. 1995 Oct;20(4):277-80 The role of shoes in the prevention of ankle sprains. Barrett J, Bilisko T / Prevention of Acute Ankle Ligament Sprains in Sport Martin P. Schwellnus/ Foot Ankle. 1991 Aug;12(1):26-30. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Hadassah Hospital, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, Israel) prove it is inconclusive that boots provide any more ankle support than that of regular shoes. 

But what about hiking, travelling and backpacking in general? You will want to find the best lightweight hiking shoes. But does this mean boots? Not necessarily. 

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Here is my argument for good hiking shoes:

I’ve used both boots, and trail runners in my time travelling North America, and I can express my overwhelming support to stay away from the boots, and yes, I did leave the tarmac. 

Backpacking around the eastern cities of the USA, with my boots tied by the laces onto my backpack, was a constant reminder of my idiocy of choice. A year later scrambling (hiking up steep faces that you would almost consider bringing a rope for!) in the Canadian Rockies and Banff national park my Salomon Speedcross trail runners were my best friend, and still are after the 4th pair, regardless if I’m out running, hiking, paragliding or at the mall (yes I’m that guy!).

With the invention of Gore-Tex and gaiters, you can even find yourself taking on more muddy/wet outings. I’d even go so far to say that If I was stuck on a desert island and could only bring one pair of footwear, then my Salomon’s would come along for the sandy ride. Sure, if you need to dress up a bit, then throw a show cover over top! But then, why would we be dressing up on a desert island in the first place (why is the rum gone, anyone?)


In my early days of hunting, boots were a premium, you were considered the rich kid if you had them, and when we did, they were hand me downs that’s were two sizes too big. For years, my friend and I hunted in what can only be considered grip-less tennis shoe sneakers. Minus the wet feet, we got on just fine ($1000 rifle, $10 shoes… go figure?).

There’s a reason why all the folks on the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trail wear shoes (yeah! Because they go through like 4 pairs!).

Comfort, fit, weight and speed that you just don’t get with boots.

Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash

If, however, you aren’t a fan of wet feet, injure ankles easily, are carrying big loads (multiday hiking) and intend on hiking through truly gnarly terrain, then perhaps you should consider a good hiking boot (or an NZ sherpa?) They do, and always will have their place. New Zealand certainly is a country that makes them more worthwhile, but then that’s what I thought about Canada while I was walking around New York City on my way there.

Multiday hiking through Fiordland? Then yes, boots are probably better. An overnight through Arthurs pass? Sure, trail shoes will be just fine. But then, you can just as easily eat a kiwifruit with a fork as you can with a spoon, or you can do without either and just eat the damn thing…. I’ll leave you to ponder that one.

For me, without a doubt, Salomon shoes are the best trail running shoes for hiking.

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But you might not be convinced! If you haven’t made up your mind on what makes a good hiking shoe yet, then look over at another couple of useful blog articles. It seems I’m not the only one that hangs out at the pub in trail runners.

Lastly, if you are looking for a good hiking shoe a few things you may want to consider before purchasing the shoe is the durability, breathability, traction, size and weight!

I’ll leave it up to you to decide!

Until next time,


Evan is a paraglider, backcountry skier, trail runner and mountaineer who seeks outdoor adventures at any opportunity he can get. If you’re keen to learn more from him you can contact him via his email address: or instagram @ev_mckenzie. 

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Let me know if you have any questions in the comment box below! And be sure to check out more of my hiking articles! Or, pop on back to the home page.

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