At the height of the pandemic, my friend decided to get away from it all and hike the National Park Appalachian Trail. When she got back, she said, “You won’t believe how many shoes you go through on the trail, and when you’re in the middle of nowhere with holes in your shoes, it’s not like you can just go to the store.”
Choosing the best hiking shoes for a National Park depends on the type of park, your activity level, and how long you plan to walk in them. Below are some of my favorite hiking shoes, whether you’re going for a weekend getaway or a long-haul trek.
Keen Voyageur M
The Keen brand is my top choice in hiking shoes! One of the things I like about Keen shoes is their traction. The bottom soles are lined with oblong and triangular bumps designed to keep you planted on the ground. Additionally, it has four mesh vents on each side, so your feet can breathe. It’s ideal for treks out into the desert or wetlands, where nasty odors can build up over time.
Another benefit is its contoured heel lock. This feature keeps your heel firmly planted on the ground and minimizes the risk of slips and falls. Additionally, it reduces pressure and shock on your knees, minimizing the risk of strains and sprains.
The ECCO Hydromax Hiking Shoe
At first glance, the ECCO Hydromax Hiking Shoe looks like something you’d wear to work on casual Fridays. Its strength, however, lies in its interior. Instead of molding around the balls of your feet, its shape molds around your heel and instep. This not only reduces discomfort but also increases blood flow, reducing how often you stop for breaks.
This lightweight, rubber-soled shoe also keeps your feet dry, and when it does get wet, it dries within a matter of minutes.
The Merrell Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe
When I wear these shoes, it almost feels like I’m going barefoot. That’s because the Merrell Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe is outfitted with back-to-front mesh, allowing my feet to breathe comfortably. Yet, make no mistake; if you step in a puddle, this will prevent water from reaching your socks. Its tongue is made with closed-cell foam that keeps air flowing and water out.
The tip also has a protective rubber cap if you’re looking to go hiking in the mountains. This feature prevents you from stubbing your toe or tripping on rocks.
Columbia Flow Borough Mid Sneaker
This shoe is kind of like a sneaker/boot hybrid. This high-top shoe is coated in an “omni-shield” that prevents dirt, dust, and water from seeping into the interior. The shield is a fabric that doesn’t just absorb these materials; it actually repels them. The bottom is strategically lined with bumps to enhance traction and promote stability.
But the perks don’t end there. These shoes aren’t just for hiking; you can wear them anywhere. That’s because the Columbia Flow Borough Mid Sneaker adapts to all sorts of terrain, whether it’s your kitchen floor or the great outdoors.
Columbia Ivo Breeze Trail Shoes
The benefits are all in the name. Columbia’s Ivo Breeze Trail Shoes make hiking a breeze. It has reinforced toe and heel construction, which not only reduces wear and tear but reduces the strain on your feet.
Some hiking shoes are only meant to go at low, constant speeds. Not this one. You can run, walk, and hike in these bad boys–and they adapt to various weather conditions, so you don’t have to quickly change gear in the pouring rain.
Considerations When Buying Hiking Shoes for Park Use
Before selecting your next pair of hiking shoes, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to first consider your situation. For instance, if you’re visiting the Grand Canyon National Park in June, you’ll need a very different set of shoes from if you were to visit in December.
Consider the following to help you decide which pair of hiking shoes are best for your situation:
- If you’re going to a park with icy, slippery trails, you want shoes with a non-slip grip. You want the bottom of the sole to have a decent amount of tread and grooves.
- Wet shoes can weigh you down. If you’re going to go white-water rafting or slogging, you want water-resistant shoes made of rubber or another type of quick-drying material. This will also cut down on the blisters you get.
- If you’re going to a rocky area, constantly stepping over stones and rocks can put tension on your knees and calves. So, you want shoes with shock-absorbing midsoles.
Remember: buying the right kind of shoes isn’t just about your comfort; it’s also about your safety. Even one fall can take you off the beaten path and into the hospital.
When shopping for a hiking shoe, you want one that’s designed to keep you going. By outlining your expectations, hiking trail, and activity level, you can make the decision that’s right for you.