Doc Martens have been fashionable for many years now. For many, they ride the line between comfort and practicality. When an activity calls for footwear more substantial than sneakers, they might be just the solution. But will they hold up on a hike? Doc Martens are boots, right?
Can you hike in Doc Martens?
Doc Martens sort of look like hiking boots, but they’re not designed for strenuous outdoor activity. You may be able to get by on a relatively easy hike with some broken-in Doc Martens, but wearing them straight out of the box or on a serious trek is a recipe for disaster.
If you’ve got a pair of Doc Martens boots in the closet, and your friend asks you to go on a Sunday hike, then break them out and give them a whirl. They certainly have the height to give you the confidence to tear through tall grass and other foliage.
However, don’t go out and buy Doc Martens specifically for hiking. There are much better shoes designed for outdoor use that will spare you the long task of breaking them in.
Whether you use your Doc Martens on the hike or not usually boils down to how serious the hike is and how long you’ll be on the trail.
Here’s some advice on why you shouldn’t think Doc Martens are the best hiking shoe in the world.
Why You Shouldn’t Hike in Doc Martens
People out there will tell you that Doc Martens are the best shoes ever made. They may not be wrong.
Docs are extremely durable, have been on-trend for decades, and don’t need a ton of maintenance. You have to give them a shine once in a while, and you’re good.
Despite the fanfare, these aren’t the greatest hiking boots you can find.
- In fact, taking Doc Martens on a rugged hike is an easy way to get blisters and fungal infections. The solid leather material hardly breathes at all. Your sweat has nowhere to go. If you step into a river, for example, you’ll potentially be hiking in puddles for hours.
- Doc Martens also take a while to break in. They’re comfortable out of the box, as long as you’re walking around the office at work. Running in them, though, will be tough on your feet.
- Finally, Doc Martens are notoriously heavy. Taking them on a hike means you’re carrying around a few extra pounds. It may not feel like a lot when you start out, but each pound becomes heavier with every mile on your hike.
Hiking in Doc Martens—It’s Possible
If you’re not an avid hiker, then a pair of Doc Marten boots will do the trick on your first jaunt or two.
You’re likely not going on a challenging trail, so you’ll get by just fine. A blister or two isn’t going to be that big of a deal.
Docs will perform well on flat trails and slight inclines. However, any trails that require walking over rocks or climbing hills should be avoided.
Anyone can hike in non hiking shoes, but they’ll pay the price for not wearing appropriate footwear.
If you wear your Docs on your first hike and think that it’s something you’ll enjoy doing more, then you should probably look for something better to put on your feet. Save the Docs for casual everyday wear.
Hiking Could Ruin Your Docs
Aside from not being the best hiking boots, taking your Docs out on a hike might ruin them.
The leather will be easily damaged in prolonged moisture. You’ll get wrinkles in your shoes much faster, and water can also damage the paint if you’ve got colored Docs.
If you want to wear them on a hike and they get wet, apply some conditioner to the leather to keep them nice and soft.
Break In Your Doc Martens Before the Hike
Are you committed to taking your Docs on a hike? If so, ensure that your Docs are broken in and won’t rub your feet raw by the end of the trail.
Breaking in Doc Martens takes much longer than your typical shoe. The sturdy leather lasts a lifetime, so turning them from something stiff into a comfy, bendable material takes time.
You can speed up the process by using balms and other products to soften the leather. But, of course, you can also wear your boots daily to prepare for the hike.
If you look online, there are guides that show you how to break in your Docs with a hammer! Yes, you read that right. It goes to show how sturdy these shoes are.
Wearing worn Docs on the hike will be much easier on your feet and energy levels than brand-new ones.
Choosing Better Hiking Boots
Luckily, there are plenty of better options for hiking boots than your Doc Martens. A quick search online will point you in the right direction at any price point.
You can spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of high-performance hiking boots or find something that’s a bargain at your local Wal-Mart. Either way, you’re better off than wearing Doc Martens.
Here’s what you should pay attention to when buying your first pair of hiking boots.
If you’re hoping to hike a fair distance, then the most important thing is how the hiking boots feel on your feet.
Whenever possible, go into a store and try them on. Walk around in them to see how they will feel moving around.
If you buy them online, you can try them on and return the ones that don’t fit quite right. It will just take you longer to find the best shoe.
Pay attention to things like width in addition to size. For example, you don’t want something too narrow that will pinch your feet when you’re out exercising.
Stability is also another important feature of a nice hiking boot. You may be carrying a heavy backpack full of water bottles, snacks, or a tent. If you sprain your ankle when stepping on an incline or a large rock, you’re done.
Beginning hikers generally do well with high-top hiking boots. Once you feel more comfortable on trails, etc., you can buy something mid-rise that is easier to put on and take off.
How well you want your boots to breathe depends on where you’re hiking and the weather conditions.
For instance, if you’re hiking somewhere that rains a lot, you may not want that much breathability. If air can get out, it likely means that water can get in. So instead, you should look for waterproof hiking boots.
However, breathability will generally make you much more comfortable when hiking. You’ll also lower the risk of getting athlete’s foot.
The better the tread on the bottom of your boot, the more quickly you’ll climb up boulders and stay firmly on your path. Most hiking boots have decent tread, but give the sole a glance before you take them out on the trail.
Skip the Docs for anything but the most casual of hikes. Instead, buy a specialized pair of hiking boots that will keep you safe and comfortable for as long as you’re hiking.
If you have an outdoor or sporting goods store in your area, give them a visit and talk to someone working there about the most popular types of hiking boots. Then, try them on and buy something that will fit your budget and performance needs.
The right shoes make hiking so much more fun. You’ll feel great when you’re out there and will be eager to try more hikes!