CAMPING & HIKING

Best Vegan Hiking Boots: Maximize Trail Time, Minimize Impact

vegan hiking boots featured
Rita Warfield
Written by Rita Warfield

The birds are chirping, the wind rustling leaves overhead and the calming trickle of the nearby spring. If we’re lucky, the moments we take to rest by the stream for lunch during our wilderness hike will be graced by the presence of a deer or some other fellow inhabitant of the great outdoors.

These are some of the most precious aspects of spending time in the outdoors and represent a big reason why so many of us do it. But, as we know, these pristine parts of the world are under threat.

Human development and urban expansion continue to put the most beautiful parts of the world at great risk, and people who want to slow this process to protect the Earth’s natural beauty have responded in several ways.

One of these responses has been a movement to reject the use of animal byproducts in all aspects of human consumption. In more common terms, people have been “going vegan.” This is a dramatic lifestyle change that requires careful attention to what goes into the products you buy—including those for enjoying the outdoors.

hiker hiking with hiking poles

We are taking this time to review the best vegan hiking boots on the market to try and provide some guidance for those who are concerned about the impact the things they buy have on animals. These are not the only outdoors/wilderness products that often contain animal products, but they are a key piece of equipment for which a non-animal alternative is necessary.

We’ll start by going over some things to look out for when trying to combine the vegan lifestyle with an outdoors one and then finish by looking at some of the specific options available to you.

What does it mean to be vegan?

There is a lot of buzz about all these different types of lifestyles: vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, etc.—the list is endless. But what does it all mean? It’s actually pretty simple when we take a moment or two to break it down. The main confusion is usually between vegan and vegetarian and the main difference really is that vegan is far stricter.

Being a vegetarian simply means you don’t eat meat. It is typically restricted to this concept and does not extend further into the person’s lifestyle. However, being a vegan covers many more aspects of our consumption by committing to not consume any product that comes from an animal. This means apart from not eating meat, vegans do not eat eggs, butter, cow’s milk, etc.

different kinds of vegetable

Also, many people take the vegan lifestyle one step further and cut out animal products from everything they buy. This means doing things like making sure perfumes are free of animal products, not wearing furs or leathers and purchasing specific soaps, shampoos, glues and rubbers that are not made using materials from animals.

In an outdoor lifestyle, the most common hindrance to carrying out a vegan lifestyle is leather. Leather is found in many different products and has a wide variety of uses, but it can be replaced, as we will see later on.

Combining a vegan lifestyle with a love for the outdoors

At first glance, it may seem simple to combine these two ways of life, but there are some things one needs to look out for in order to develop this life safely and comfortably. The first thing is what we mentioned in the previous article, leather.

vegan hiker

This is the most obvious thing that vegans cut out of their outdoors lifestyle, but there are some other things to look out for, mostly dealing with food. Here’s a list of some important things to be aware of:

Protein

This is probably the concern most frequently brought up about vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. Where does the protein come from? When you are out on the trail, getting this key nutrient is important for preventing fatigue and reducing the risk of injury.

frying eggs on biolite stove

The most efficient sources of protein are of course meat and eggs—many people carry beef jerky or boiled eggs with them or catch fish along the way. If you are leading a vegan lifestyle this is obviously not an option so you will have to look to things like beans, nuts, and legumes to provide you with the long lasting energy of protein.

Dairy products

Being vegan means being very careful about all of the ingredients or components of the products you buy. Many things that are commonly seen on the trail, like energy bars and trail mixes, can contain some sort of dairy product such as butter, milk or yogurt.

glass of milk on the ground

This is fairly easy to work around, though, as there are quite a few versions of these types of products that are made specifically for vegans and do not include any animal products. You can also make your own trail mix and energy bars if you want to be 100 percent sure that it complies with your dietary needs.

Hygiene

We mentioned earlier that some cleaning products like soaps and shampoos sometimes include animal products. This list can be extended to toothpastes, deodorants and perfumes. To get around this, most people do one of two things: make their own or buy specific vegan products.

The advantage to making your own is that you can also make the product environmentally friendly and biodegradable, which continues to minimize the impact you have on your surroundings. One of the things that most vegans will say when discussing their lifestyle is that you need to be vigilant. For more, see our piece on the best bio

coregreen.euBasically, you need to examine each and every product you use to see if it complies with this concept of not involving animals. There are lots of resources out there that help you identify some products that at first glance don’t seem to have any connection to animals, like rubber tires and plastic bags, so that you can make sure you are carrying out your commitment completely.

Do your research and be careful and surely you will find that being your vegan lifestyle is more than compatible with your love for the outdoors.

Vegan footwear – different factors to consider

What you wear on your feet is one of the most important pieces of equipment no matter what. However, since some of the more effective and well-reviewed products out there contain leather, finding a quality option that fits with your vegan lifestyle can be quite difficult. Let’s go through some of the key factors to consider when buying vegan shoes and hiking shoes in general.

High-top or low-top

As you start perusing the different options available, you will notice that one of the main differences between products is how much ankle support they offer. High-top shoes are designed for more intense use as they wrap around the ankle and protect it from bending or rolling as you navigate uneven terrain.

high-top shoes

However, some people find this extra support restricting and opt for low-top boots. These fit a lot more like sneakers and tend to be cooler and lighter, but they do not offer much ankle support.

If you will be walking mostly on trails and not doing a lot of climbing, low-top shoes are plenty, but anything more intense will require additional support to prevent injuries.

Fit

This doesn’t deal specifically with vegan footwear, the material is really what makes the distinction, but it is still something that needs to be considered when you are buying a pair of hiking boots. These shoes need to fit a little different than your normal shoes because of the activities you are going to do wearing them.

tying up boots

They should be snug around the ankles and through the foot, but leave room for your toes. As you walk along uneven surfaces you want your foot to be able to react, but not slam against the front of the shoe, which can cause discomfort and can even break toenails.

It is very important that you try on the shoe before you buy it with the socks you are going to use later so that you can be sure of the fit. Then, once you purchase them you should wear then around the house for a few days so that they break in and you can be sure they are right for you.

Traction

Once you’ve found a shoe that fits right, you’ll want to be sure to turn it upside down and see what the sole looks like. This is so important because the traction your boot provides is one of the key benefits of this piece of equipment. You want to be able to know that you won’t be slipping and sliding when you step on a slightly wet rock or as you descend down a hill.

hiking boots traction

In general, the more grooves, or lugs, the boot has the better. Also, boots with strong traction will include intricate designs that maximize the surface area of the bottom of the shoe, which increases traction. During the trial period after you buy the shoes you will be able to test how well the design of the shoe translates to grip.

Waterproof/breathable

One decision you will have to make when you are looking at shoes to take with you into the wilderness is how much you want them to breathe. Waterproof shoes are great because if you step in a puddle or walk through a stream you don’t need to worry about your feet getting wet. For more waterproofing knowhows, check out our article on this wonderful topic.

waterproof hiking boots

However, shoes that are extremely waterproof tend to trap your feet and if you are hiking in warm climates, this could cause your feet to sweat, which leads to great discomfort. Ultimately, this decision will come down to where you will be doing most of your outdoors activity so think twice before making your final decision.

Material

Probably the one thing that separates vegan shoes from what you would consider a normal shoe is the material used. Leather is a common ingredient in this type of product but is also a big “no-no” for anyone wanting to carry out a vegan lifestyle. Some of the main options available that aren’t leather are:

Synthetic fibers

This is basically a fake version of whatever animal option is not being used. Instead of wool, you might see acrylic or instead of leather, plastic. These options are good because they tend to be durable and clean easily, but they can also be rather suffocating. Synthetic fibers are known for not breathing easily and if you plan to use your shoes in a warmer environment, this could be a problem.

Also, in terms of environmental impact, using plastic instead of leather isn’t necessarily a major improvement. This is a tradeoff you must be willing to make and it might be a good idea to learn about the impact of this material on other aspects of the environment.

Hemp

This is a great option in terms of reducing environmental impact because it is entirely natural. Deriving from plants, it eliminates the impact on the environment that products made from plastics or synthetic fibers might have, while also not involving animals in anyway.

hemp hiking shoes

So what’s the downside? Well, shoes made from hemp are going to be a lot thinner and provide a lot less protection against water and the cold. If you are planning on trekking through the snow or streams, this might not be an entirely realistic option.

What’s on the market?

Armed with this information about what is important when searching for hiking boots friendly to the vegan lifestyle, it is time to look at some of the specific options on the market to be able to help you decide which might be best.

La Sportiva Trango S EVO GTX Boots

la sportivo trango

Dimensions: Sizes 5-14

Weight: 26.5 oz

Material: Synthetic

High-top or Low-top: High-top

Breathable or Waterproof: Waterproof

Best Use: Intense mountain climbing, cold conditions.

The La Sportiva Trango S EVO GTX Boot is a great option for someone who is a serious mountain hiker and who might be doing lots of activity in the cold weather or in wet conditions. The sole is designed with an intricate design to provide lots of traction and is as thick as 7mm in some places.

The synthetic material is vegan-friendly and will provide lots of protection from the cold and from the water. Additionally, since this shoe is a high-top design it will provide plenty of support for your ankles as you try to maneuver the rocky terrain that is often involved in mountaineering.

The major downsides of this product would be its price, it retails at more than $200, and its weight. At just under two pounds, lugging these shoes around will take some getting used to. However, this might be the price to pay for the protection these shoes offer.

Check the price on Amazon

Wicked Hemp Alton 2 Vegan Hiking Shoes

alton 2

Dimensions: Sizes 9-14

Weight: 2.5 pounds

Material: Hemp

High-top or Low-top: Low top

Breathable or Waterproof: Breathable

Best Use: Trail hiking, warmer conditions

The Wicked Hemp Alton 2 Vegan Hiking Shoe is a great option for those who will be spending most of their time on relatively even, pre-made trails, but might not be the best option for those looking to traverse more difficult terrain. One thing that is nice about this shoe is that it is quite breathable.

It’s made from hemp and this makes it very practical for being out in warm climates—you won’t need to worry about your foot getting sweaty and the discomfort that can come from that. Also, the shoe’s sole features thick and evenly spaced lugs that provide quality traction while not collecting dirt and mud.

The biggest downsides of this product are its weight and limited sizes. The smallest version is a size 9 and the shoes together weigh 2.5 pounds, which is heavier than some other high-top, heavier duty options.

Check the price on Amazon

Montrail Mountain Masochist II Shoes

montrail Masochist II Trail Running

Dimensions: Sizes 9-14

Weight: 2.2 pounds

Material: Synthetic and mesh

High-top or Low-top: Low-top

Breathable or Waterproof: Breathable

Best Use: Cross training, even surface hiking

As indicated by the name, the Montrail Mountain Masochist II Shoe is really more of a mountain trail running shoe. It features a low top design for more comfort and the combination of synthetic and mesh helps to allow air to pass through the shoe to keep your feet cool and dry (if it’s not raining).

These shoes are also a little bit lighter than some of the other options we have been looking at, which makes them a good option for running and for light trail use. They are not as light as your typical running shoe, but they will give you a good mix of traction, protection, and comfort.

These might not be the best shoes if you are looking to do some more serious mountaineering since they do not offer the traction, support or protection from weather that you would want for that type of activity.

Check the price on Amazon

Dr. Martens Vegan 1460 Boots

Dr. Martens Vegan 1460 Boot

Dimensions: Sizes 3-13

Weight: 4 pounds

Material: Synthetic leather

High-top or Low-top: High-top

Breathable or Waterproof: Waterproof

Best Use: Rainy hiking, cold days

The manufacturer of this shoe, Dr. Martens, is known for its vegan products. It has been labeled as a boot largely because of the design and this is what makes it so useful for rainy and cold conditions. The Dr. Martens Vegan 1460 Boots are heavier than most, 2 pounds each, because of the focus on protection.

The sole is made of synthetic rubber but doesn’t offer much in terms of deep lugs or grips. It is conceivable that in very uneven surfaces you might have trouble maintaining stability. Another thing to watch out for is that this shoe is not breathable at all. The synthetic material that is used is thick and completely waterproof.

This is great if you are heading out in cold conditions or if it is going to be raining or snowing, but in warmer climates, these shoes will likely be very uncomfortable. They will trap the heat and cause your feet to become sweaty and uncomfortable in no time.

Also, as we mentioned earlier, if you are vegan for the environmental impact, synthetic leather might not be much of an improvement. Overall, these shoes are a nice product for more intense conditions, but not for a summertime hike.

Check the price on Amazon

Merrell Grassbow Hiking Boots

merrel vegan hiking shoes

Dimensions: Sizes 3-13

Weight: 2 pounds

Material: Synthetic

High-top or Low-top: High top

Breathable or Waterproof: Waterproof

Best Use: Mountain hiking, more intense conditions

The Merrell Grassbow Hiking Boot is a great option for women who are looking to do some more intense hiking in the mountains and on uneven surfaces with a product that doesn’t include anything related to animals. The high-top design will give plenty of ankle support and will help protect against any unwanted ankle rolls or sprains.

Additionally, the waterproof design makes this shoe a great option for those that will be trekking through wet conditions or areas where crossing streams and rivers will be necessary. However, as we know, this comes with a sacrifice in how the shoe breathes and this makes this product not as apt for warmer days and climates.

What is nice about this shoe, though, is that for being so protective it is still relatively light. Each shoe is only 1 pound, which is quite a bit lighter than most shoes of this design and function. For women looking for a solid hiking shoe with no impact to animals, this is a great option.

Check the price on Amazon

Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R Mid

Adidas Men's Terrex Swift R Mid Hiking Boot

Dimensions: Sizes 6-15

Weight: 28 oz

Material: Synthetic and mesh

High-top or Low-top: High-top

Breathable or Waterproof: Waterproof

Best Use: Mountaineering, harsh conditions

Adidas might be better known for making running shoes and basketball sneakers, but they also dabble in hiking boots and do a pretty good job with it. The one thing that really stands out with the Adidas Terrex Swift R Mid Hiking Boot is that it is extremely waterproof and features a supportive high-top design, but each shoe only weighs 14 oz.

Usually, this kind of protection means a much heavier product. Part of this comes from the use of Gore-Tex to line the shoe and make it waterproof. This is extremely effective and doesn’t add too much bulk to the shoe. Also, the sole features an intricate design and evenly spaced lugs that help to give traction in slippery conditions.

It’s hard to find a lot of faults with this shoe as it really does seem to cover all the bases. It only comes in an all-black design that differs a bit from the traditional earth tones usually found in hiking boots, which could turn some people away. However, apart from this, it’s a quality product that will provide ample protection when you want to head out hiking in more intense conditions.

Check the price on Amazon

Saucony Originals Jazz Low Pro Vegan Sneakers

saucony low vegan pro

Dimensions: Sizes 5-14

Weight: 3 pounds

Material: Synthetic

High-top or Low-top: Low top

Breathable or Waterproof: Breathable

Best Use: Light walking, even surfaces

The first thing to point out when reviewing the Saucony Originals Jazz Low Pro Vegan Sneaker is that it is not specifically a “hiking shoe.” Instead, it is best described as a sneaker that can be used for light, summertime hiking on pre-made trails and even surfaces. It is not recommended that you try to use these shoes for intense mountaineering or when it is raining or wet.

These shoes will help your feet breathe and will keep you comfortable, but they will not protect you from harsh conditions. The low-top design and synthetic material make this shoe weigh very little, only about 1.5 pounds each, which is good for longer-distance hikes. In general, if you are more of a casual hiker who spends time on the trails when the weather is nice, this is a great shoe for you.

Check the price on Amazon

Fix up your boots and let’s go

Now that you know that you can continue your vegan lifestyle while still enjoying all that the outdoors has to offer, there is nothing left to do other than get your boots and hit the trail. Essential, vegan footwear differs very little from traditional footwear.

vegan hiking boots

The main thing to look out for is the material it is made from. Avoid leather, obviously, and be careful with rubber. Other than that, follow the information we’ve provided here and you are well on your way to finding a comfortable pair of boots to wear on your next trip into the outdoors. For more insight on leather, do check out how to repair leather boots and other things.

Did we miss anything? If you’re a vegan, let us know what else you do to combine these two lifestyles and any challenges you’ve come across? Or, what do you look for in a boot that we haven’t mentioned here?

We’re curious to hear what you have to say, but we also hope the information here will help you be more confident when choosing this key piece of equipment. In the meantime, see you out there!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rita Warfield
Rita Warfield

Fully passionate about the outdoors and totally committed to a life of exploration and learning, Rita is the perfect guide when it comes to choosing the right gear for your adventures. She gathered years of practical experience in testing her survival skills and knowledge in a wide range of difficult situations but she is also a passionate mountain climber. Even more, Rita loves hunting, she knows her way around a weapon, and she doesn’t back off in a difficult situation.

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