Why Are Hiking Boots So Ugly? (Answered by an Avid Hiker) 

I’ve bought my fair share of hiking footwear over the years, so of course, I know that hiking boots aren’t exactly the most fashionable piece of outdoor clothing gear.

I understand, though, that they are a necessity for anyone serious about getting out and about in the outdoors and exploring various terrains. Not having a good pair of hiking boots could undoubtedly spell disaster for your hike. 

However, many people still ask me, “Why are hiking boots so ugly?” So I felt compelled to share my thoughts on this subject based on my knowledge and expertise.

Here’s all you’ll want to know about why hiking boots are more of a fashion “don’t” than “do.” 

Quick Summary 

  • The reason many people find hiking boots so ugly is that their unique style is designed for rough outdoor activities and making them stylish is not a priority. 
  • Hiking boots provide traction, protection against the elements, and support for your feet. They are not made to be part of your everyday fashion. 
  • If you’re looking for more stylish hiking boots, consider searching for “hiking shoes” instead or find a company that provides you with various design options.

5 Reasons Why Hiking Boots Are Ugly 

We all know that a hike in the woods is a far cry from a strut down the fashion runway or even a walk around town. But many of us still like to look our best, even if our only admirers are the birds and bugs on the trail. 

However, even though your trail running shoes or more stylish boots may seem like a better fashion choice when you’re choosing what to wear for your hiking trips, you may soon regret that decision.

After all, once you are in the middle of a long hike and your feet start to ache you’ll start to question your choice of hiking gear. No doubt, when that happens, you’ll be wishing you had those ugly hiking shoes and their superior foot support instead.  

So without any further discussion, here are our top five reasons why hiking boots are ugly and why we just have to deal with them.  

1. The Materials That They’re Made From

columbia hiking boots

The main goal of wearing hiking boots or hiking shoes is not to keep up with current fashion trends, but to provide protection and keep your feet dry and warm in all types of environments and weather.

For that reason, like other outdoor gear,  they are designed with a  good amount of durability and that’s reflected in the rugged and waterproof materials used to make them. 

Although most hiking boots are made from leather because it is a durable and breathable material, many are made from other types of materials that have the primary function of keeping your feet from too much sweat or getting wet and uncomfortable such as nylon, synthetic leather, fabric, or even plastic.  

Although many leather shoes are attractive, the thickness, color, and processing of the type used for hiking boots tend to make them have a less attractive look and finish than a pair of fashionable shoes.  

2. The Environment and Terrain They’re Designed For 

Hiking boots and hiking shoes are not designed for everyday use or your average walk around the block.

Instead, they’re rugged, waterproof, and built for outdoor activities and harsh environments in order to protect your feet against things like very hard surfaces and sharp rocks. 

One of the things that most people find downright ugly about hiking boots is their thick soles. However, that thick tread helps ensure the soles of your feet aren’t damaged by the terrain and helps you to avoid blisters as well.

They’re also very stiff in order to provide enough good ankle support and protection for your feet, often with a lot of padding around the ankle.

You don’t want to risk spraining or twisting your ankle or hurting your foot against a sharp twig or another obstacle you meet along the way.  

Read More: Best Hiking Boots With Ankle Support

3. They Have a Specific Purpose (Function Over Fashion) 

columbia hiking shoes traction

As mentioned, hiking boots and hiking shoes will feel different from any other pair of shoes that you own and there’s a good reason for that.

They aren’t meant for you to wear during your regular day-to-day activity. Instead, they are there to be the best friend for your foot during all your outdoor adventures and give you a good grip in treacherous areas.

In fact, hiking boots are bulky for this exact reason. They need to be bulky to meet the demands of a variety of outdoor environments and weather conditions.

Have you ever been at the beach and your flip-flop broke? Well, you definitely don’t want something like that happening to your hiking boots when you’re hiking long distances in the wilderness. 

For this reason, hiking boots place function over pleasing designs and you’ll appreciate their bulky and heavy design during the next hiking trip where you need to trek through various elements, like mud or snow. Remember, heavy hiking boots are your foot’s friend.  

Post you may like: How to Wear Hiking Boots With Jeans

4. They Always Seem To Stay Dirty 

dirty keen hiking boots

Speaking of mud, it seems like no matter how hard you try, you can never quite get your hiking boots clean.

Some hikers think that the more dirt on the boots or hiking shoes, the better the outdoor adventures. However, there are others who wish that after every hike, they could simply wipe their boots clean.  

The materials and construction of hiking boots make them hold onto dirt more than dress shoes, trail runners, or other types of day-to-day shoes. So this fact makes another reason why ugly hiking boots aren’t ever going away.   

5. They Are Not Easy Footwear To Wear 

As mentioned earlier, hiking boots and hiking shoes are heavy and bulky, which makes them difficult to wear in environments outside of the ones for which they were made.

They aren’t going to be the boots you purchase that you’ll be able to easily integrate into the rest of your wardrobe. 

They also are not very easy to take on and put off due to the long round laces, which are needed to ensure you can adjust them to your feet to get the right kind of support that you need to keep you safe on the hiking trails. 

Are There Options Beside An Ugly Hiking Boot? 

If you really don’t want to wear an ugly hiking boot, you can consider other options. Several luxury fashion designers have taken strides to make more sleek boots that are both fashionable and protective.

However, these will often cost you much more money and may not be suitable for much more than moderate conditions and non-technical hikes. 

You can also try to customize your existing hiking boots and make them less ugly by buying new laces that better meet your personal preferences or finding a company that offers multiple designs or colors. 

You can also try searching for a “hiking shoe” instead, which may give you more options, but many of those would be more for everyday use. Therefore, make sure that they have a robust design that will give you the stability you need and withstand the forces of nature. 

Remember though, that hiking boots aren’t meant to be fashionable, and when you’re outdoors on your next hike, look around. Chances are everyone else walking the same trail is wearing ugly hiking boots as well. 

Danner Men’s Hiking Boots
Danner Hiking Boots

Can I Personalize or Customize My Hiking Boots to Make Them More Visually Appealing?

Your hiking boots can be personalized or customized to make them look better, and I personally have done so in the past.

Some hiking boot manufacturers like Danner, Salomon, and Lowa offer limited options for customization, such as different color combinations or patterns.

Additionally, you can explore aftermarket accessories like colorful laces or decorative patches to add a touch of personal style to your fashionable hiking boots.

All The Hiking Boots Are Ugly?

It’s clear that the manufacturers of hiking boots and the fashion industry are two different entities with two distinct goals and it can be difficult to find ones that meet your personal preference for style.

However, to better cater to the customer base, many companies are starting to design hiking boots that have a more appealing look to them. 

If you’re set against buying ugly hiking boots, consider these stylish hiking boots from Salomon – Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX or Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX – that combine purpose with fashion.

Also, Danner Men’s Hiking Boots look great and offer upgraded features to keep you safe, fashionable, and comfortable out on the trail. 

Ladies might want to consider checking our reviews for the best women’s hiking boots which have a cool vintage style and all the protective and traction features that you need. 

Jennifer Strom

Jennifer Strom

Jennifer Strom has been a writer for over 20 years and an outdoor and hiking enthusiast for most of her life. After spending much of her career in the corporate world, she decided to freelance to spend more time with her family and explore new places. You will find her always looking forward to her next weekend adventure and writing guides that help others make the most of their own hikes and time outdoors.

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