Hiking is, essentially, walking with purpose in a natural setting, but when people say they like to go hiking, they often mean very different things. Hiking could mean a strenuous adventure over rough terrain without paths, but some mean they take vigorous walks along trails. Others consider any walk in nature a hike.
Everyone knows walking is good for you, and getting outside offers a number of benefits as well. Taking a little hike outside offers the cumulative benefits of both.
Why Choose Walking Shoes?
Although there are specially designed shoes for hard-core hikers – hiking boots, of course – there are plenty of walking shoes that are great for trail walking and casual hiking. Depending on where you plan to walk and the planned intensity of your outdoor adventure, walking shoes designed for outdoor use might actually be better than full-blown hiking gear. Such shoes are often lighter and frequently provide additional support and cushion that many hiking boots do not. There are a few trade-offs, of course (walking shoes are rarely waterproof, for example), but the vast majority of casual hikers are better off with specialized walking shoes.
Below is a list of some of the best walking shoes available for the casual hiker. There are variations for men and women, high/low budgets, and extra protective features for those who need them.
Our Top Picks for Hiking
New Balance Men’s MW659 Country Walking Shoe Review
A protective toe cap and stabilizing web overlays help ensure a safe and steady stride, regardless of terrain. A specialized midsole offers exceptional support for long walks, and ABZORB shock-absorbing cushioning eases the strain on your feet. These shoes are made of fabric and leather with rubber soles.
Removable insoles are one of the highest-praised features of the Country Walking Shoe, and previous buyers with medical insoles find they fit well with only minor adjustments. A few issues, such as a slightly tight fit and heel slippage, were resolved after a little breaking in, and even those who suffered such early frustrations still gave the shoes high praise. A tiny minority of previous users complained about the construction and quality of the shoes.
- Removable insert
- Midsole support
- Shock-absorbing cushioning
- Extra protection/stabilization
- Some complaints about construction
- Break-in time required
Vanlly Men’s Walking Hiking Shoe Review
Made from a cotton blend with rubber treaded soles, these shoes weigh in at the cheaper end of the scale. The breathable fabric is designed for optimum comfort in warm weather. Thorough padding keeps feet comfortable during long walks.
A number of previous users have complimented the shoe’s construction, particularly in light of its price tag. The flexible sole makes it a great walking or working shoe for those who spend their days on their feet and would help hikers grip the ground more easily. At the end of the day, however, this shoe will fall apart much faster than more expensive brands might, and some feedback said the heel (which is glued on) can peel away and/or break after two months. One previous user also said the shoes have low arch support.
- Construction shortcuts lead to early problems
- Not much arch support
Ryka RTC Women’s Shoe Review
These are simple, sturdy athletic shoes. They are made from purely synthetic materials, and while the brand name keeps the price a bit above ‘cheap,’ they are more affordable than some other shoes, even within the same brand. Ryka draws a lot of repeat customers, particularly ones who are fans of outdoor walking. These shoes come in several colors but are only available in a limited range of sizes (7-10).
Although there appear to be multiple issues with sizing and shipping mishaps, these shoes have won a lot of praise from previous buyers. Provided they fit and arrived in the right size, most users found the shoes not only comfortable, but a good defender against the elements. The shoes are not waterproof, but those who have used them for casual hiking report that while the outside may become wet with dew and mud, the insides remain dry.
- Brand loyalty inspires confidence
- Water resistant
- Many sizing difficulties
- Shape of toes might decide whether or not these shoes are right for you
Skyline Women’s Traveling Trail Walking Shoe Review
Heel and toe bumpers help protect against rocky trails, slips, and trips while you’re out exploring. A cushioned EVA footbed keeps each step comfortable, and mesh elements help your feet breathe. These shoes are also very cheap, and nearly any casual hiker can afford them.
These shoes are spacious enough for additional inserts for those with orthotics or high arch supports. Previous buyers praise not only the product’s level of comfort, but also the shoes’ appearance. The shoes do, however, run large, and prospective buyers should order accordingly. Previous users agree that the shoes are very good for their price and make for great casual hiking shoes.
- Extra protection for hiking
- Run large
- Quality reflects price
Casual hiking is an excellent form of exercise, and there is no better time to get outside. As we enjoy the warmer weather spring has brought and plan for summer vacations and days at the park, it’s important to take your footwear into consideration. Think through your requirements before making a final purchase, though. Where will you be hiking? Will you need to deal with water? What time of day will you be hiking? Dusk, dawn, and night hikers have to deal with poorer visibility, and additional protection like toe and heel bumpers can help ensure your ankle doesn’t take a turn for the worse. There are shoes available for essentially any budget and any level of casual hiker. Whether you need your shoes to stand up to a lot of miles and some tough terrain or a few hours a week on a gravel path, the right fit is out there. Hopefully this list will help narrow the plethora of options.