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How to choose trekking sneakers

It is very important to choose good trekking shoes that will meet your requirements and the conditions in which you will wear them. In this article you will learn a lot about choosing sneakers for hiking.

It is hard to overestimate the importance of choosing the right hiking gear, and the more serious your trip, the more your safety, comfort, and enjoyment will depend on how you prepare for it. Of all the things you need when spending a long time with nature, shoes are probably the most important. In the past, hiking went almost in the usual shoes for the city – urban or work boots, sneakers, cleats almost no chance to give your feet in comfort in difficult conditions. Bruises and blisters, frayed skin, blackened and lagging nails, ankle injuries, banned from the constant moisture skin – not a complete list of unpleasant consequences from the wrong footwear. In order to maximize the avoidance of unpleasant consequences and fully enjoy the beauty of the surrounding world is best for nature trips choose specialized items designed specifically for hiking.

Let’s understand what requirements should meet the hiking boots:

Important to know about trekking sneakers!

What kind of hiking to wear sneakers on

Hiking trips of varying difficulty in warm countries or hiking in the hot season.

Hiking in the mountains on the relief, which excludes the frequent passage of scree slopes with lots of loose stones, complex water crossings, movement in deep snow, glaciers, high, wet grass. All these obstacles in a small amount with the right model of sneakers and related accessories quite “teeth” to this kind of shoes, but if such obstacles occur repeatedly – you need trekking boots.

Hiking with large amounts of uncomplicated climbing on rocks, including simple category routes, routes “via ferrata”. For such conditions it is better to choose models with a special sole designed for climbing and a long lacing, allowing you to fix your foot tightly.

As an additional pair of shoes for approaches in the big mountains, daycares and movement in the conditions of the plains and cities during combined trips.

How does this type of shoe differ from its urban, running, training counterparts? First of all, more stringent requirements for operating conditions (see above), durability, protection of the foot. As a rule, these shoes are made using the best materials and technology. Accordingly, can cost quite a lot. The closest set of characteristics to the trekking shoes are cross-country running shoes – the so-called trail running shoes. They have a developed tread, often have toe protection and a membrane. Such shoes can be used in limited hiking. It should only be noted that, nevertheless, trail shoes are designed for running, usually for a few hours or for short races lasting from one to several days. So, in this kind of shoe, lightness and elasticity are more important than protection and durability. Also, it is not designed to carry a heavy backpack. Therefore, such shoes can hardly be called really hiking shoes.

We can say that trekking sneakers – is a “transitional link” between the usual athletic shoes and trekking boots. Still quite light and flexible, low (most models leave the ankle open, rarer versions cover it – the so-called middle-format (from the English Middle – Middle). At the same time such shoes are very durable, hard-wearing, has improved leg protection at many levels and has a special sole.

The sole of trekking sneakers

Usually, the expensive models have the sole of the well-known in the tourist market manufacturer Vibram, however, some companies install their own sole on a number of models. It can be said that it is the sole that most distinguishes trekking shoes from conventional ones. It allows you to have maximum traction with different surfaces – rocks, mud and clay, grass, tree roots. Of course, universal soles lose in some moments narrowly focused products. There are specialized soles for mud and grass, movement on rocks and stones, and wet surfaces. It is logical that the universal shoe is more suitable for universal soles, and for specialized – special. So before you buy, think again about the operating conditions of your new pair.

Modern soles almost always consist of several layers, each performing a different function. The cushioning and stiffness should be sufficient to move around all day with a backpack, which increases your weight by an average of 15-20kg.

Sneaker insoles

Must be removable and anatomical. Trekking shoes have higher requirements to protect the arch of the foot from stresses. Even if you do not suffer from flat feet, many hours of travel on difficult terrain, often even with a heavy backpack, places great stress on the sole and the arch of the foot. As well as on the knees and spine. An insole helps the sole to cushion and support the arch of the foot. It is also desirable that it has ventilation channels and had antibacterial treatment. Keep in mind that it is now possible to buy a suitable insole for you separately, or even make it to order.

The top of a trekking sneaker

It is made in different models of both natural (different types of leather) and modern synthetic materials, as well as a combination of both. Which option is preferable – it is impossible to say unequivocally.

Leather (and its varieties) has maximum strength, durability and increased resistance to abrasion (abrasion) loads. It sits better on the leg. If you need an extremely durable shoe for more than one season, you expect to travel in the mountains, among rocks and loose surfaces – you should consider this option.

MINUSES – considerable weight, high cost, relatively long drying time.

IMPORTANT TO KNOW – the less seams on leather shoes, the better. Ideally – cut from one piece of leather with a seam on the heel, closed reinforcement. Seams are the weakest point in leather shoes, and it’s also a place vulnerable to moisture penetration.

Synthetics is increasingly trying to supplant leather in trekking shoes and sneakers. So far it has not succeeded. But it successfully displaced leather and occupied an important segment in lightweight ranges. There is also a significant number of models of mixed construction – the most vulnerable places are made of leather of one kind or another, the rest – synthetic inserts. Synthetic is lighter, often breathes better, is not afraid of frequent washings, dries faster. Better suited for high-tech design.

MINUSES – easier to tear and wipe, afraid of sparks and high temperatures.

The lacing in trekking sneakers should be as long as possible for a better fixation of the foot, especially in models with a rocky orientation. It should also, in both dry and wet conditions, be easy and quick to tighten and loosen, and the overall construction should not squeeze the foot, even with high elevation. It’s good if the laces are well fixed in the knot and will not come undone during the day’s outing.

It is desirable to have a soft tongue with maximum ventilation. The most preferable is sewn into the design of the tongue – when, with the help of special webs it is actually one with the construction of the shoe. In this case, your foot will be additionally protected from ingress of not only moisture but also dust, small pebbles and debris. Convenient when there is a loop on top of the tongue, which allows you to pull up the tongue, as well as an additional opportunity to suspend the shoes when drying.

Additional protection sneakers are rarely redundant when traveling. The most practical is protection made of thick and durable rubber, which may partly cover the toe of the shoe (the most vulnerable and most exposed part), the heel, or represent a full-fledged bumper around the perimeter of the shoe. Full rubber protection around the perimeter of this type of shoe is quite rare. After all, sneaker is by default a lightweight shoe, and such protection greatly increases the weight. To facilitate the recent rubber is sometimes replaced by a lighter and more modern synthetic materials, for example, Kevlar. Nevertheless, rubber is still the most practical, albeit heavy option – its service life is almost unlimited, it is easy to wash and is completely unafraid of moisture and does not absorb it. By the amount and material of protection, you can in some way determine how the manufacturer positions this model – as a lightweight, or, on the contrary, as hardy as possible.

Choose sneakers with or without a membrane?

Truly, a “half a million” question! There is no unequivocal answer to it yet. Very cautiously we can note this trend – the higher the trekking shoes, the more justified the use of membranes on it. So it turns out that of all types of hiking shoes, the use of membranes is the most controversial on sneakers. Without giving a definite answer, we will give you the basic data to make your own decision on this issue. Of course, it is good to have two pairs of sneakers in your arsenal – with and without a membrane, but even this solution is not universal. Walking the trail all day in rainy weather, you’ll want a membrane, the next day it will be sunny and hot and your feet already “wish” sneakers without a membrane, with maximum breathability …

Membranes – are now a trend, and many people buy membrane shoes only “because they can,” without really thinking about whether they need them.

A good membrane (e.g. Gore-Tex, Event) really does not get wet for a while (depends on use and care). The bad news is that the sneaker will easily get wet in heavy rain “on top” – water will just flow into it. You can also “get snow” inside somewhere on a mountain pass or just by falling on the rocks. It’s just as easy to scoop up water on a crossing. Far from always you will wear leggings. But once soaked, the membrane drying in hiking conditions with great difficulty. If the weather is extremely wet, rainy, you need to force water obstacles, to go on the snow or wet grass, the membrane getting wet – just a matter of time. The notorious breathability of the membrane is really not a myth. However, a sneaker without a membrane breathes, as a rule, much better. Especially it is noticeable at high temperatures. And that’s when you take sneakers as your main footwear. For sneakers with a membrane is much harder to care for. If these shoes “stink” – fix it will be very difficult. Just a shoe with a membrane is more expensive. Can definitely recommend membrane sneakers for short trips, say, for a weekend, with the possibility of proper drying and care upon arrival in town. As for multi-day hiking – I advise to think carefully.

Without a membra, the sneaker will get wet much faster. You can partially delay this process by protecting the sneaker with rubber bumpers to the maximum and water-repellent impregnation. You can buy a branded impregnation and apply it yourself before your trips. It should be noted that the one-piece leather sneakers with impregnation is very reluctant to get wet. After getting wet, such shoes really dry in the field. As a last resort, it can be very carefully, in the hands to dry over a primus or stove, which, of course, is categorically not recommended by the manufacturer. Membrane in such conditions will almost certainly lose most of its qualities. For wet conditions is very important, what is the inner surface of your shoes. The less “spongy” it is, the less there is softening material, the easier it will be to dry. There is now some resurgence on the market of models with a leather inner, once quite popular. Such a sneaker in a wet condition enough to properly wipe the inside with a microfiber or cloths, change/dry the insole, put on a dry sock. In this form it will be quite comfortable to move around. However, it should be noted the high cost of such models.


Lightweight – the lightest possible footwear suitable for simple trails, light climbing, running, bivouacs, moving in cities, as a replacement pair. Some models of trail running shoes can be placed in this category. Be prepared that when walking under a backpack, over difficult terrain, scree slopes, negligent handling, such shoes can be worn not only for one season, but even for one long hike. In this class you can choose “sole specialization” – there are models both with extra-deep, muddy tread, and with a relatively non-aggressive sole.

Multipurpose – is the most versatile and balanced solution. This pair is suitable as a single, “for all occasions” – low mountains and trails, light trekking, weekend trips, the city. As a changeable pair is fine if you put up with the weight and size in your backpack. As any compromise, will be inferior to specialized models in specific situations.

Rock –  have two easily distinguishable differences – a long lacing “as in rock shoes” and a special smooth area on the front of the sole, the so-called “climb zone” (area for climbing). These sneakers proved themselves very well on the stony, rocky terrain. However, many travelers successfully use them as a universal shoe. Mainly these are climbers and mountaineers who are able to realize the high potential of such sneakers.

Heavy or protected –  these are real sneakers-tanks, however, they often have a quite elegant appearance. The main material is usually leather or nubuck. Often have a circular protection on the welt of rubber, a fairly thick and rigid sole. In a way, they are low shoes for trekking. Very durable, they are suitable for carrying a heavy backpack, even over difficult terrain, protects the foot as much as possible. Can be used with “soft” crampons on slightly steep firn-ice terrain to a limited extent. With protective leggings can “hold” on the snow for a long time. With thick socks keep warmth at low sub-zero temperatures. Nevertheless, because of their height they do not protect the foot from tucking and ingress of small particles (can be used for this with any running or hiking leggings sneakers). The main disadvantage is the significant weight. A pair can weigh 800-1000gr depending on size. Also the cost of such shoes, made of high-tech materials, can be very high.

Highs– are a specific niche product, quite rare on the shelves. In fact, lightweight boots with a more flexible sole. It is primarily the choice for sports tourism competitions, hiking races, as well as the attention of hikers and all those who save on the weight of their equipment and lovers of moving in a hiking as athletic as possible.


A basic rule – don’t buy your first pair online! Hiking shoes HAVE to be tried on! If you have already worn one pair and want the same one, or you are well acquainted with the size range of this manufacturer – you can order online. Choose a model with a margin of at least 0.5 size from the city. The exception may be the choice of sneakers for frequent climbing on the rocks – they need to take strictly on the foot. Keep in mind that after a day of trekking, especially in hot weather, your foot will swell and increase in size. If your toes rest on the sock on long descents – expect trouble! Also size reserve will give you the opportunity to wear an extra sock or just a thick warm sock in cold conditions.

Choose sneakers if possible in outfit centers, where a considerable range will give you the opportunity to compare several models. Also, in such places there are often samples of different “live” terrain – rocks, cliffs, logs, and you will have the opportunity to try the sole in action. Not superfluous can be the help of a qualified consultant.

Socks are an important addition to the trekking shoes. Immediately take those in which you will travel and measure the shoes in them. Modern trekking socks minimize the possibility of your feet getting chafed, even with new shoes, and they work well with membranes to help ventilate your shoes.

Spend as much time as possible in your favorites before you buy, go in for your purchase closer to evening, with tired and swollen feet.

The care of trekking sneakers is very important, it will partly depend on their lifespan. The greatest care is required for membranes. If you want the membrane to function for more than one season, buy special liquid detergents for washing shoes, do not expose shoes to high temperatures during washing and drying. The most proper drying is at room temperature. Remove dirt from the surface of the material with soft brushes and sponges, be prepared for the fact that after intensive cleaning you will have to restore the water-repellent coating again, or do without it.

Most out-of-the-box models have a water repellent treatment whether they have a membrane or not. After a couple of trips the coating will come off, it is advisable to buy a home treatment. Choose a specialized compound specifically for the material your pair is made of.

When hiking, try to dry your sneakers whenever possible by removing the insoles beforehand. To prevent unpleasant odors, use fresh socks whenever possible, spray the inside of your shoe with a special shoe spray (if you have a membrane, make sure the spray won’t harm it), or at least wipe the inside of your sneaker with an antibacterial damp cloth in the evening. Wash insoles while camping – they can easily be dried overnight just by putting them in a sleeping bag.

When hiking, remember that trekking shoes are lightweight low hiking shoes. They are basically unable to protect your feet reliably and are primarily a choice for hot weather or a compromise for those wishing to lighten their gear. In difficult terrain, you should be prepared for trip hazards, small objects, dust, and the possibility of getting your feet wet, even with a membrane sneaker. Use trekking poles on difficult terrain. If you realize that the functionality of sneakers alone will not be enough – look at heavier and higher hiking shoes, which we will talk about in a separate article.

Have a good choice and beautiful roads!

Author: Sergey Lakhotsky .


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