Are Tennis Shoes Good for Hiking?

Yes, you can technically hike in tennis shoes. The better question, though, is should you? Now, this footwear does have its place on outdoor trails. This doesn’t mean that it is the right pick every time, however.

I have been a part of outdoor expeditions since I was a teen and have led groups for many years now. And, to be honest, when I was younger, I almost always wore tennis shoes. They have served me well throughout my career.

Throughout the years, I have tried out various trails and hiked in extreme conditions. Due to these experiences, they aren’t my go-to shoes anymore. Often, I will make the switch to hiking boots, but how do you know when to do this?

Well, this is what I will be covering below:

  • When to wear tennis shoes on hikes
  • How to choose a pair of tennis shoes for hiking
  • When to ditch the tennis shoes

Keep reading to discover everything you need to know:

When to Wear Tennis Shoes on Hikes

These are the best times to wear tennis shoes on hikes:

Covering Longer Distances

Here is my favorite thing about tennis shoes – they are pretty light. On average, running or tennis footwear can weigh around 1⅓ pounds. Hiking boots, on the other hand, can weigh up to 2 pounds.

At a glance, this may not seem like much. When you have to head out on a longer trek, though, every ounce counts. And, after a while even a little bit of added weight can slow you down.

If I’m headed out on stable terrain but for a longer distance, my tennis shoes are my first pick.

Hiking in Warm Weather

Athletes wear tennis shoes for hours on hot courts all while moving around. As such, these tennis shoes need to be breathable so that they won’t accumulate moisture.

This is why you will find that many designs come equipped with vents. The material is lighter and a lot more breathable as well. Hiking boots, though, are different.

The boots tend to be waterproof and come with sewn seams. All these features work to keep water and moisture out. The downside is that it can make the shoes too warm to wear in the summer.

So, if I am hiking in favorable conditions and now that I will be working up a sweat, I select my tennis shoes.

When You Want to Stay Comfortable

Hiking boots are usually comfortable. Here’s the thing, though – you have to break them in first! Not only does this take time, it also means a few blisters along the way.

This isn’t the case with tennis shoes, however. They are comfortable from day one. So, there’s no need to break them in before going on your hike.

There is also the fact that hiking boots don’t have too much flex to them. The rigidity helps to maintain the structure and durability of the shoe. After a while, though, the shoes can be rather painful to wear.

How to Choose a Pair of Tennis Shoes for Hiking

Want to wear tennis shoes on a hike? Here are some pointers to pick out the right pair:

Are Tennis Shoes Good for Hiking
Photo by Jon Flobrant

The Tread

The first thing I would look at is the tread. The lugs for tennis shoes are only meant for flat or smooth surfaces. This means that most designs won’t hold up on trails.

Do yourself a favor and look for shoes with excellent grip. This will ensure that you are able to stay upright even when you are walking on muddy surfaces or crumbling rock.

The Durability

As you can imagine, tennis shoes aren’t nearly as durable as hiking boots. This is why it is important to look out for a pair that is made from tougher materials. At the same time, consider the seams of the footwear – how well do they hold together the various parts of the shoe?

Of course, you should bear in mind that even the toughest tennis shoes won’t be able to withstand walking on rougher terrain.

Waterproof Features

If you want to be able to wear your tennis shoes in all kinds of weather, it is a good idea to look at the features they offer. In particular, check that the shoes are made from water-resistant materials. They should also have tightly sewn seams for the best results.

When to Ditch the Tennis Shoes

Here is when you should opt for hiking boots instead of tennis shoes:

Rough Terrain

There are two main ways that hiking boots are superior to tennis shoes. The first is when it comes to durability. The second is with the tread.

When you are hiking on rougher terrain, both these features become pretty important. The boots will make it easier for you to avoid slipping and sliding, especially when you’re hiking on muddy surfaces.

There is plenty of rock, debris, and other obstacles to contend with on rough terrain. Your boots will be able to handle these issues without too much scuffing. However, on longer treks you just may find that your shoes are falling apart.

When You Need Ankle Support

Hiking boots have a higher ankle profile. As a result, they offer up more support in general. This comes in handy for people with weak ankles or those have a tendency to roll them. If you fall into this category, then you may find that the boots are a better option.

In general, though, the ankle support may be useful when dealing with rougher terrain where it is harder to keep your balance.

So, there you have it – tennis shoes can absolutely be used for hiking. However, they will not always be the best choice for you, depending on various factors. Thanks to this article, you now know when to pick the right footwear.

Make sure to follow the guidelines mentioned here. They will help you to select shoes that are safe, comfortable, and have the kind of support that you require or various hikes.

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