Vegan hiking shoes

Switching out my first pair of shoes after seven hundred miles on the AT!

Unlucky for vegans, shoes are often the last holdouts of non-vegan clothing items in our wardrobes. It can also be difficult to find good vegan shoes. On my hike I wore trail runners, and I would recommend them to any thru-hiker. Lucky for us, it is much easier to find vegan sneakers than vegan hiking boots.

Boots are heavy, clunky, and take significantly more effort to walk in compared to shoes. I once read that one pound of extra weight on your feet is the equivalent of seven pounds of extra weight on your back. Don’t know if that’s really true, but you can definitely notice the difference if you switch from boots to trail runners. I find lighter shoes to be easier to hike in and more comfortable.

I wore New Balance trail runners, which is their “MT” or “WT” model line. They’re all synthetic, no leather here! I really liked these shoes, and I went through three pairs of them! New Balance still makes a lot of their shoes in the US, too (no sweat). But you can check out any other brand of trail runners as well, there are many varieties and largely made without leather. People wore all different brands of shoes and boots on the trail.

For hiking boots, I think there is still some of the old-school thinking that still defines boots for many people; that is, they need to be all leather. This unfortunately results in many fewer vegan options. Garmont used to make a vegan boot but it’s since been discontinued. The folks over at hikingboots.com have a post listing some vegan boot options.

But seriously, unless you are winter hiking or have really bad ankles, I strongly recommend trying out some trail runners on your next hike! As a further note, mine were not waterproof and it wasn’t a problem at all.

edit: New Balance addresses vegan shoes here. Though many of their shoes are synthetic, they sometimes use nonvegan glue, depending on what is available. I found these shoes to be the best bet for my needs, and I was ok with using them. If you know of any 100% vegan trail runners, leave the name in the comments!

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23 responses to “Vegan hiking shoes

  1. Thanks for the shout! We are also giving away a pair of vegan hiking boots on our blog (Hi-Tec’s Cascadia). All you have to do is tweet this link to enter – http://hikingboots.com/blog/science-of-shoes-hi-tec-videos-explain-it-all/

  2. I took a quick look on New Balance’s site at a few of the shoes on the page that you linked – the models I looked at ARE all synthetic as you stated above – but I do not see New Balance labeling them Vegan (did I miss it??).

    I mention New Balance’s ‘labeling’ of the product since it is my understanding that many shoes use animal-based glues and are not truly Vegan products (even if they do not use any leather). It is fairly easy to find trail runners that are all synthetic – but I see very few labeled vegan (I’m sure an internet search would turn up more, but the Patagonia Tsali and Spectre are the only two I can name without searching).

    When I used the search on New Balance’s site only the http://www.newbalance.com/products/WE060/ came up on a search for ‘Vegan’ – and notice in the highlights and features they mention Water-based adhesives, which I did not notice on the trail shoe pages.

    CM

    • Samwise

      Excellent point… New Balance does address this on their website here. They list synthetic models, including trail runners, and then say:

      “However, please note that we do use different types of glues depending on what is available. Some of our glues will contain animal products as many glues do. Although the shoe may be made of synthetic leather it does not mean it will be completely vegan. “

      So it sounds like they are sometimes vegan. For a thru-hike, there are not many options that would meet my needs of being high-quality, durable, affordable, accessible, in my size, and as vegan as possible. So I decided that these were acceptable for me!

      Hopefully one day we’ll rid the world of industrial animal agriculture, and companies will have no choice but to use vegan glue…

  3. Nice find on there site about the potential animal content of the glues, thanks for following up and posting that link. I agree with you about the choices – I wish that more people would pressure companies not to use animal based glues, but when you stick to just the ‘officially’ vegan choices you are pretty limited.

    Thanks again for the reply and good info,
    CM

  4. Huib

    If you don’t mind hiking in minimal shoes you could try trailrunners from Vivobarefoot. They have just released the Neo Trail. A 100% vegan trailrunner.

  5. My New Balance sneakers are already 18 months old. I wear them on lots of day hikes around my area. I don’t do anything too rugged with them but have walked up some pretty steep hills with loose rocks and mud. They’re definitely an alternative for somebody not looking to wear leather shoes.

  6. Thanks for the post. I’ve also noticed that there aren’t many options out there. Nancy and I have been putting on about 30 days a year backpacking and we wear sandals for most of the time.
    We’ve seen many trail runners, we prefer Keens, and a few mid-height boots, but don’t really wear them.
    We do, however, wear boots for snowshoe backpacking. We’ve found The North Face Liftys and Niftys to be great, but they are no longer made. I actually had to buy a pair on eBay!

    • Samwise

      Very true! That’s a great place to start looking for vegan shoe options. One problem I’ve found in the past is that just because a product isn’t specifically labeled as “vegan,” doesn’t mean that it isn’t; or that it doesn’t meet my requirements. But that’s a great place to start, thanks for the tip!

  7. Wicked Hemp makes a few vegan options. Though I am ahving a hard time finding any of them in my size. And they also make leather ones too. SO read the fine print?

  8. Ian Sudbery

    Its all very well wearing sneakers if you can guarantee dry conditions, but if its going to rain, or you are going to need to ford rivers, then you either need something waterproof, or a really close fitting pair of sandles. Anything else is going to seriously mess up your feet.

    • Samwise

      Well, my experience was different. Though I do agree that you need to determine what works best for you. I wore New Balance trail runners from Springer to Katahdin, through the snow, rain, and mud! Yes, my feet got wet in the rain, but I was always warm while hiking, and my shoes dried quickly in the sun. As for streams, yes I often had to pick my away across streams to avoid getting wet, but in late summer in Maine there were a couple times that I just trudged right through the streams. But most thru-hikers also carry some sort of camp shoe that can be worn to ford deeper crossings. I wore my crocs across some and put my shoes on my pack.

      This all being said, you do want to avoid trench foot or other feet problems. One of my strategies was to carry a pair of camp socks that I never hiked in and were always dry.

      What has been your experience hiking in sneakers? Several companies do make waterproof trail runners, too.

  9. Hello everyone, it’s my first visit at this web site, and piece of writing is in fact fruitful designed for me, keep up posting these articles or reviews.

  10. Thank you for taking the time to write :) I’m also a vegan blogger, heading to Glacier NP this September. Looking for a lightweight – almost barefoot feel – but sturdy enough to withstand the possible wet & mountainous environments. And with some arch support if possible. Any suggestions that immediately pop to mind? I look forward to exploring your blog … Glad I found you!

    • Have been looking at the Jambu Women’s Sportage Barefoot. On first glance, nothing says leather … But. I’ll have to give myself a pass on the glue, as I’m still not 100% vegan on my wine either ;) Hard as it is, it’s all about awareness at some level (for me at least).

    • Samwise

      So glad you found the blog! Glacier is an incredible place… good you’re going soon before the glaciers melt… I don’t know what to suggest for something that’s barefoot-like but supportive. I think New Balance may have some minimalist shoes that are sort of in-between like that; I’ve seen them in REI. If you want supportive, I would highly recommend finding something you can put your own insoles into. Good luck!

  11. hereb

    there is a questiona bout how ethical synthetic, especially ‘micro etc’ fibres are. I heard there’s questions over their getting into areas of the ocean etc.
    probably not the best for the fish?

    • Samwise

      I think that’s a valid question. Just living in the modern (Western) world has enormous environmental impacts that we don’t readily recognize. Eating vegan has a real impact on the meat industry, but any notion of vegan purity is an exercise in futility! Obviously, synthetic materials are mostly made from fossil fuels, an industry primarily responsible for climate change.

      If you are concerned about microfibers, you could look to more “eco-friendly” companies that have recycled options, like Patagonia. Or you could look for used gear.

  12. Gabriela Oliveira

    I think Merrell makes vegan hiking shoes.

  13. Boots are heavier. They only really make sense in cold weather, mud, snow, that sort of thing. If its spring and the weather is dry, better to glide along in comfy, light footwear.

    • Samwise

      Agreed! Light shoes make hiking so much better. If I were starting a thru-hike again, though, I think I would start with waterproof trail runners for the mud and snow. But I’d switch once it warmed up.

      I have an old pair of hiking boots, but I only wear them in the snow!

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