Can You Wear Tennis Shoes to Go Hiking?

Walking for an extended amount of time or distance through woods or across country is called hiking. Hiking is a form of recreation giving participants the opportunity to experience the wonders of nature. Experiences such as these are often cut short or ruined when proper gear is not used to ensure a comfortable and safe outing. Many options in hiking footwear exist today. Tennis shoes are an option and can be worn for hiking; however, they may not be your most effective and safe choice.

Proper footwear increases the safety and comfort of your hike. (Image: Błażej Łyjak/iStock/Getty Images)


The advantages of hiking in tennis shoes include less weight. Tennis shoes are lighter than other hiking shoe options. Individuals focused on lightweight hiking, or minimalist hiking, often prefer a tennis shoe to a hiking shoe because of this. Tennis shoes are breathable, comfortable, quick to dry and easily removed.


The disadvantages of hiking in tennis shoes are numerous. Soles on tennis shoes are not constructed to grip surfaces encountered in hiking such as dirt, rocks and tree bark. Your possibility of injury from slipping is greater in tennis shoes. Tennis shoes are low-cut and do not offer the same ankle support and protection as a hiking boot. Hikers carry backpacks containing water, food and emergency essentials. Extra weight from the backpack is better managed with a boot that offers ankle support.


Take into account duration, distance and difficulty of your hike. Knowing these factors aids in the selection of appropriate footwear. Choose a light hiking shoe if you are engaging in day hikes and will be carrying a lightweight pack. The soles are designed to grip and are flexible. Hiking boots that give additional ankle support are used for multi-day trips carrying a light pack. They have a break-in period, so wear them before your trip to avoid blisters. Choose a backpacking boot if your trip is longer than a day and you'll be carrying heavy packs over varying terrain. Mountaineering boots are designed for heavy loads and accommodate crampons used in glacier travel. Mountaineering boots are durable, supportive and the most heavy-duty of the footwear options.


Stacy Taniguchi, Ph.D., a professor of recreation management at Brigham Young University, suggests staying away from tennis shoes for hiking due to the high possibility of injury during your hike. Hiking boots with traction, ankle support and waterproofing are recommended. Take the necessary time to break your boots in by wearing them around before hiking in them. Educated footwear choices lead to positive hiking adventures.

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