Are Vans Good for Hiking (Pros, Cons, Recommendations)

As avid hikers, we often explore various trails in our quest for adventure. One question that’s been on our minds lately: Are Vans good for hiking? After all, Vans are renowned for their classic shoes and casual wear, but how do they perform on rough terrain? 

From our experience, hiking requires sturdy footwear that offers ankle support, arch support, and protection from sharp rocks. It’s essential to wear shoes that can withstand the rigors of outdoor adventures.

So, we decided to put Vans shoes to the test, examining factors like overall comfort, suitability for hiking trails, and durability of the canvas material. 

Let’s bring you along on our journey as we delve into the particulars of using these popular shoes for hiking. Read on to find out if Vans make good walking shoes or if you’d be better off sticking with a traditional hiking boot.

Quick Summary 

  • Vans are renowned for their classic and casual wear, but their suitability for hiking is in question.
  • Hiking demands sturdy footwear with ankle and arch support, as well as protection from sharp rocks. Vans’ canvas material may not endure outdoor rigors.
  • While Vans offer comfort and are versatile for mild outdoor activities, they may lack the necessary traction for hiking, especially on slippery or rocky terrain.

What Are Vans Shoes?

a pair of vans shoes

Vans shoes are a popular brand of footwear known for their casual, skateboarding-inspired design.

Originally introduced in 1966 by Paul Van Doren and three partners, Vans gained fame for their distinctive canvas upper and signature waffle sole, offering excellent grip and durability.

Over the years, Vans expanded its product line to include various styles such as slip-ons, high-tops, and low-tops, appealing to a wide range of fashion preferences.

Beyond skateboarding, Vans shoes have become a fashion staple, cherished for their comfort, versatility, and iconic checkerboard pattern. They are favored by individuals of all ages, who wear Vans for their laid-back, urban style.

Can You Hike in Vans Shoes?

Yes, you can do some light hiking on flat ground in Vans shoes, but their suitability depends on the type of hike and terrain. Vans are primarily designed for urban and skateboarding use, offering comfort and style.

They lack the specialized features of hiking boots or trail shoes, such as rugged soles and ankle support.

For shorter, easier hikes on well-maintained trails or in urban environments, Vans can be adequate. However, for challenging or long-distance hikes with rugged terrain, it’s recommended to wear proper hiking footwear.

Personally, I’ve worn Vans shoes for light hiking on established trails, but for more demanding hikes, I do recommend hiking-specific footwear to ensure safety and comfort.

What Are the Best Vans Shoes for Hiking?

When it comes to hiking, the right footwear is crucial. Shoes are more than just a fashion statement; they provide the necessary support and protection for your feet to withstand challenging outdoor conditions.

While we recommend proper hiking footer and not using Vans shoes, the following three pieces of footwear could be considered for light and easy trails.

VANS Sk8-Hi Unisex Casual High-Top Skate Shoes

VANS Sk8-Hi Unisex Casual High-Top Skate Shoes

These Vans classic shoes are not just for skateboarding. Based on our testing, they make a decent option for light hikes as well.

The high-top design offers ankle support, a feature crucial when navigating rugged terrains.

And as anyone who’s ever worn Vans can attest, these shoes offer little grip, a feature further enhanced by the waffle-patterned outsole.

The canvas upper, while not water-resistant, does help keep your feet dry in light moisture conditions. Plus, the flatter footbed is good for people with less pronounced arches. 

Vans Men’s Hi-top Trainers Sneaker

Vans Men's Hi-top Trainers Sneaker

The Men’s Hi-Top Trainers from Vans fulfill more than just your fashion needs.

Our team has determined that this is a good bet for hiking in Vans in varied weather conditions.

The higher cut provides extra ankle support, a vital aspect of any good hiking boot.

Furthermore, the shoes’ classic design is coupled with a rugged sole that provides good traction on both dry and wet surfaces.

Although these shoes are not specifically designed for hiking, they perform quite well, especially considering they are essentially a pair of skater shoes. 

Advantages of Using Vans for Hiking

a hiker wearing vans in an outdoor environment

While Vans is a brand generally designed for skateboarding, we sometimes wear Vans shoes on the trail, and that’s because they provide a series of advantages. Let’s explore the benefits of strapping on a pair of Vans for your next hiking adventure. 

1. Comfort

Vans shoes are renowned for their comfort, making them a viable candidate for short walks on the trail. Their original silhouettes are typically designed with a regular fit and a midsole foam, which provides a cushioning effect each time your feet hit hard surfaces.

This, combined with the right pair of socks, can potentially prevent blisters and offer more coverage for your foot. 

2. Weight

Unlike most hiking boots, Vans are lightweight. This can be a significant advantage on long hikes, especially in the mountains, where every ounce matters. Their canvas shoes, including the slip-ons, can make your hike feel less burdensome and more enjoyable.

3. Versatility

What sets Vans boots and shoes apart is their versatility. They offer different kinds of shoes that can handle various terrains, from wet terrains to snow to mud. Some are even re-engineered with better grip to tackle slippery rocks.

Yet, after thorough examination and testing, we found that they can also double as regular shoes for everyday use, providing excellent traction on both trails and city streets. 

Disadvantages of Using Vans Shoes for Hiking

closeup of a person using vans for hiking

As popular as Vans skateboarding shoes are for their fashionable designs and comfort in casual use when it comes to hiking, they may not be your best option.

While they may be pretty comfortable and offer a good grip on asphalt or a skateboard, we noticed that Vans fall short in some areas critical for serious hiking. Let’s delve into the disadvantages. 

1. Support

Vans classic shoes, primarily designed for street wear and skateboarding, lack the shock absorption quality and arch support typically provided by traditional hiking shoes.

Our experience suggests that the soft, flexible soles don’t provide the same level of protection or balance on uneven ground.

2. Traction

While classic Vans provide excellent traction on smooth surfaces like concrete or a skateboard deck, their grip on rocky or muddy terrain often falls short. They may not provide a really good grip when trekking over wet leaves or slippery rocks.

Moreover, in this study by Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, which focused on long-distance hikers on the Appalachian Trail, 40 to 60% of the participants experienced injuries due to lack of support and traction, which shows the importance of using appropriate gear during hikes.

3. Durability

Despite their reputation for being durable on city streets, Vans skateboarding shoes may not withstand the rigors of traction hiking and long-distance hiking.

The repeated pressure of stepping on rocks and roots when hiking in Vans can cause the fabric and soles to wear out faster.

However, our expert analysis indicates that compared to other sneaker brands, a good pair of Vans may still offer better value for money in terms of durability. 

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Do We Recommend Vans for Hiking

Having spent countless hours on rocky terrains, covering extended distances, and meticulously studying my footwear’s performance, here’s my expert take: Unless you are expecting a flat trail and excellent weather conditions, I do not recommend hiking in Vans, and here’s why.

When you’re tackling rocky terrain or covering long distances, you need shoes that cater to the specific needs of your feet. Classic Vans fall short in this department.

The arch support is minimal, and the cushioning doesn’t hold up well on rough trails, potentially leading to discomfort and even foot strain.

While Vans might suffice for short, casual walks on well-groomed paths, they’re ill-suited for the challenges of serious hiking.

I highly recommend exploring our articles on the best-performing hiking boots with ankle support and the top waterproof hiking boots and shoes for footwear options that are purpose-built to provide the necessary arch support, proper cushioning, and stability required to conquer rough terrains and cover long distances safely and comfortably.

What Are Vans Shoes Used For?

Originating as a staple in the skateboarding community, Vans are typically used for casual walking on flat surfaces. However, their traction and range of styles have made them a favorite for many, even outside skating.

They’ve become a versatile sneaker option for those who prioritize comfort and style. 

Are Vans Good Walking Shoes to Stand in All Day?

The arch length between the ball and heel of a Vans shoe is designed to reduce discomfort. However, it’s important to note that this may vary depending on personal fit and how broken in the shoe is. It’s always best to try them in person to see if they are suited for your feet. 

What Is the Difference Between Hiking Shoes and Vans?

Hiking shoes are designed with features like extra grip, good arch support, and breathable materials to handle tough terrain and slippery surfaces, while Vans are more of an everyday sneaker. That said, some Vans could do the job for a light, casual hike. 


Catalin Geangos

Catalin Geangos

Catalin is a writer and outdoor specialist who has been traveling in over 35 countries so far. He loves spending time in nature, enjoying mountains and nature adventures, and ultimately inspiring people to travel more. In his time off, he is testing, analyzes, and reviews hiking and other outdoor gear and accessories.

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