How to choose your next pair of outdoor trail shoes

Posted on 20 April 2024 By Louise Bell

From unwelcome pebbles in your shoes to navigating uneven trails, various factors can potentially mar your hiking adventure. However, by meticulously selecting the right hiking footwear, you can confidently embark on your journey, assured of the comfort and support a good pair of shoes provides.

Unsplash/ Greg Rosenke

As South Africa provides a stellar array of hiking trails to enjoy, picking the right shoe for you is similar to finding your glass slipper. Unsure how to choose your destined pair of sneakers or boots for the outdoors? Take a look at a few key questions to ask yourself to ensure a successful selection process.

What outdoor sport or activity is my main focus?

From hiking to outdoor trail running, picking the perfect shoes should be determined by the activity you deem your priority while working up a sweat in nature. Different sport types could significantly affect your shoe choice based on the features the footwear needs to have to ensure the ultimate support.

  • Hiking boots – A hiking boot is an excellent choice as it is durable and constructed for rough terrain. This type of shoe also generally offers abundant support if you plan to carry a heavy backpack on your journey. This choice is more suitable for avid hikers seeking to travel long distances.
  • Hiking shoes – This option is more suitable if you’re looking for light exercise in less uneven terrain. Here, the focus is more on a flexible and lightweight shoe that ensures more protection for individuals who are beginners.
  • Trail Running Shoes – This footwear choice is for individuals seeking a lightweight option that provides a constructed structure to assist in coordination.  

What terrain am I mostly looking to embark on?

Different terrains can cause many problems if you choose the wrong type of shoe for specific outdoor conditions. Take a look at a few trail types in order to determine what your footwear needs to survive the outdoors in style:

  • Sandy trails – Look for a shoe with a mesh upper to prevent buckets of sand from entering your footwear. You can also choose a shoe with less cushioning, as sandy terrains offer a naturally soft landscape to walk on.
  • Outdoor running trail – As you’ll generally need to manoeuvre through uneven terrain faster, choosing sneakers that provide stability and foot protection from the rock-filled ground will be beneficial.
  • Mountain trails – Climbing up and down in a mountainous environment can cause missteps and mishaps that can cause injuries. So, be sure to look for shoes that have ankle support and are made to provide good traction for rough terrain.

What shoe material should I get?

Once again, this is entirely up to the activity and general terrain you want to focus on. However, there are beneficial features that can help you cope with outdoor terrain in any given activity. Breathable and waterproof materials are a great choice, as weather conditions can change quickly. This will allow you to be prepared for anything and confidently venture head-on.

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ALSO READ: 5 trails in South Africa for beginner hikers

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