When Is It Time To Part With Your Favorite Hiking Shoes?

I’ve always believed that perhaps the most important piece of hiking gear you can own are your hiking shoes. I’ve had to give up on a pair of really bad hiking boots after one hike, and I’ve also put several hundred miles on my favorite hiking shoes. But how do you know when it is time to ditch your old hiking shoes and get something new?

The life of your hiking shoes will depend on the quality of the shoes, how often you hike and the terrain that you choose to travel through. A good pair of hiking shoes can be expected to last anywhere from 500 to 750 miles. As such, if you hike around 100 miles each year, you should expect to get up to 7 and a half years out of your hiking shoes.

While having the same pair of shoes for 7 and a half years sounds like a great investment, you probably shouldn’t assume that you’ll have the same pair of hiking shoes for that long. There are many factors that could effect the life of your hiking shoe.

Part Of A Hiking Boot. Picture by YourProofofconcept.com

What Are The Signs You Need To Replace Your Hiking Shoe

  1. A Cracked or Worn Midsole – Your shoe’s midsole is the section that connects the upper, or top, to the bottom, with the tread. The midsole is the vital part of your shoe – if it starts to crack or wear, you should expect a loss of support and stability.
  2. Frayed and Worn Laces – You may think that the life of your laces is not connected to the life of your hiking shoes. And while you can easily repair laces, they are made to last along with the shoe. At the very least, if your laces are starting to go, it is a good time to inspect the rest of your hiking shoe.
  3. Damaged Eyelets – Much like with laces, damaged eyelets are a sign that you have put a lot of wear on your hiking shoes. I would argue that damaged eyelets are an even bigger reason to get new hiking shoes – if you can’t tie and tighten your hiking shoes around your feet properly, your feet will have less stability and comfort.
  4. Worn-Down Tread – The tread on the bottom of your hiking shoes is made to last. This is the part of the shoe that takes the most punishment, especially if you hike over rough terrain on a regular basis. A worn-down tread, which could potentially be dangerous for you, is a good sign you need a new hiking shoe.
  5. Tearing or Worn Upper – Whether you have shoes with leather uppers, or a ventilated mesh upper, signs of wear are reasons to get a new hiking shoe. I prefer ventilated hiking shoes and trail runners, and as such I often see tears in the upper. At this point, you can either live with holes in your shoe or get new ones.
  6. Damaged or Worn Insole – Some hikers regularly replace the insole – either with custom-fit insoles or with common insoles. But if you still have the same insoles that came with your hiking shoes, if they are starting to wear thin or tear, it may be your shoe that needs to go.
  7. Overall Mileage – How many miles do your hiking shoes have on them? If you’ve got 1000 miles on one pair of shoes, you probably need to pay special attention to their condition. You may really love them, but they might just about be done.
  8. General Feel – Sometimes you just know that your hiking shoes have run their course. If you are feeling pain that you haven’t experienced before, or if you just don’t get the same support as before – it might be time to go shopping.

Make Sure To Perform The Stress Test

The Stress Test is a great way to measure the stability and durability of your hiking shoes and whether they need to be replaced.

First, press the outsole of your shoe, or the tread on the bottom of the shoe, with your thumb.

Second, as you are doing this, check for cracks or clear lines in the midsole. If you see clear cracks or lines in the midsole as you press up, or you fail to see any compression at all in the midsole, you will have a good idea that your hiking shoes are losing their integrity and support. Small, thin compression lines are fine, but be sure perform this test often.

What Factors Might Affect The Life Of Your Hiking Shoe

The most important factor to consider in measuring the life of your hiking shoe is its quality. In general, you get what you pay for, and so if you are willing to pay $150 to $300 for a pair of hiking boots or shoes, you will get a well-constructed pair of shoes that will be hold up to tough terrain, bad weather, and how you treat them yourself.

Terrain is another major factor in how well your hiking shoes will last. I live in the Pacific Northwest, so most of my hiking is in the mountains, on rocky trails, and sometimes over scree fields. Such terrain is more demanding on a hiking shoe than hiking on flat, softer terrain such as a desert or beach.

The amount of moisture your hiking shoe has to deal with can effect its lifetime as well. While many hiking shoes are made to be waterproof, or at least water resistant, all hikers know that the insides of the shoe will get wet at one point or another. The more that this happens, the more likely you will see some wear to your hiking shoes.

How you treat your hiking shoes can also make a major difference in how long they last. You should always clean your shoes once you are done with a hike – dirt and grime can accumulate and degrade the strength of your insoles, uppers, and midsoles. Also, if you choose to wear your hiking shoes for other activities, such as doing yard work or at your regular job, you are putting them under extra duress that will impact how long they will be effective.

Be sure to tend to your hiking shoes often to keep them in the best condition possible. For example, while frayed laces may be a sign that your shoes need to be replaced, you can actually prolong their life by putting stronger laces in. The same goes with eyelets and insoles. Replacing them often will help the overall stability of the shoe.

How To Find A Quality, Durable Hiking Shoe

There are various categories of hiking boots and shoes that will often determine the quality and durability of your hiking footwear.

Lightweight shoes and boots are less durable and more comfortable than other types. This category includes trail runners, which I love to wear for hikes, even over more difficult terrain. However, what you gain in comfort and less weight, you likely lose in durability. Expect to replace these types at 500 miles, if not before.

Midweight hiking boots and shoes offer a great compromise between heavy-duty boots and comfortable hiking shoes. I love Merrell Moab 2 hiking shoes (link to Amazon) because they offer really good support and stability but don’t feel like a heavy boot. I still hike in these and anticipate that they will get well over 500 miles of usage.

Finally, heavyweight hiking boots offer excellent support and stability. Often made with leather uppers and almost always waterproof, these boots can take a beating and keep your foot stable and protected. However, the main trade offs are price and comfort. Heavyweight boots are stiff and less forgiving than other categories. But they are most likely to get 750 miles in their lifetime, if not more!


There you have it – my guide to knowing when it’s time to get a new pair of hiking shoes or boots. Just remember to take the time to find the right pair for you and then take good care of them – you could have many great adventures together!

Happy Trails!

Recent Content