During the last few years, I have spent time with more and more vegetarians and also a few vegans. I myself am a meat eater. But I try to keep my meat consumption to a minimum and always free-range. So I love hanging out with non meat-eaters. There are always loads of new recipes to try and issues to chat about. However, on a recent discussion with my vegan friend, the topic of clothing and footwear came up. In my blinkered idea of how easily I could transition to a vegetarian lifestyle without too much change, I hadn’t considered the issues surrounding anything other than consumables. It got me thinking about what I could live without, or compromise on, and one of the main things was my beloved pair of Meindl leather hiking boots. So I decided to do some investigating to see what my options would be if I decided to ditch my leathers and step up to the challenge of a vegetarian or vegan existence.
As it turns out, it wouldn’t be such a huge compromise after all. Some major outdoor brands have the vegan hiking boot market covered, and have done for years. Yes, vegan hiking boots are a thing! Here are some options:
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|Arc'teryx Bora Mid GTX||Backpacking and trekking||Lightweight, comfortable and durable||Pricey||$$$$|
|Lowa Irox GTX Mid Hiking Boots||Fast and light hiking||Very lightweight and supportive||Pricey||$$$|
|WVSport Waterproof Hiking Boots||Backpacking and trekking||Stylish and durable with excellent grip||No Gore-Tex membrane||$|
|Vivobarefoot Magna Trail||Day hikes||Incredibly lightweight and minimalist||Not much support and very thin sole||$$|
|Inov8 Roclite 345 GTX Hiking Shoes||Fast hiking and winter trail running||Super durable soles||Sizing can run small||$$|
|Merrell Fiery Gore-Tex||Fastpacking and trail running||Very lightweight and versatile (can trail run in them too)||Not as supportive as high boots||$|
|Eco Vegan All Terrain Pro Waterproof Hiker||Day hikes and hill walking||Waterproof and environmentally friendly||No vibram sole||$$|
|Veggie Trekker MK 5||Day hikes and hill walking||Durable and very well made||Only water resistant||$$$|
|La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX||Mountaineering||Lightweight and comfortable||Not as warm as other mountaineering boots||$$$$$|
|Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R2 Mid GTX||Backpacking and trekking||Excellent grip||Sizing can run large||$$|
There are a thousand reasons why people choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Too many to even touch upon here. But my research into the world of vegan footwear has opened my eyes to what options are out there; if you are considering making some changes as a consumer, small or big, you don’t really need to compromise quality and performance quite as much as you may think. If at all.
How to choose vegan hiking boots
The first and most obvious thing to look for is the materials the boots are made from. There are loads of synthetic and non-leather hiking boots out there. Many of which perform equally well, if not better, than leather hiking boots. This depends on what you are looking for in a hiking boot, but for many hikers, choosing synthetic hiking boots is preferable whether they are vegan or not.
Secondly, and much less obviously, the glue that holds your boots together should be looked at a little more closely. Many synthetic hiking boots and shoes aren’t advertised as vegan because many manufacturers use glue that contains animal products. Or unknown ingredients. This immediately makes things tricky for vegans and vegetarians and much more care is needed in choosing vegan hiking boots.
Some brands clearly state when their products are vegan, but others are a little ambiguous – especially when it comes to the contents of the glues used on their shoes and boots. So if you are unsure, then the best course of action is to contact the companies and brands directly to put your mind at ease. This resource from Vegan8 is also really useful as a quick reference on vegan footwear brands.
When buying a new pair of vegan hiking boots, you also need to consider all the usual things that one needs in a pair of great boots; comfort, fit, support, good value etc. Take a read of these suggestions on what to look for when choosing new hiking boots.
So from my research into what I would choose if I were to buy vegan hiking boots, I have discovered some really great options that I would definitely consider regardless of my vegan/vegetarian values:
10 vegan hiking boots in 2020
Combining the comfort and agility of an approach shoe with the support and stability of a hiking boot, the Arc’teryx Bora Mid GTX hiking boots offer a truly excellent option for vegan backpackers and trekkers. Complete with a Vibram outsole for excellent grip and stability, and a Gore-tex lining to keep the water out, these breathable and super lightweight boots tick all the right boxes when it comes to performance in varied conditions. But what makes them really stand out is the separate internal lining that stretches around the foot for a custom fit that is super comfortable. The absence of a tongue further adds to their slipper-like feel and low weight. The Bora’s also feature seamless uppers that maximise abrasion resistance and durability, whilst minimising seam failure.Men’s version also available.
Pros: Waterproof, super comfortable and very durable
Weighing in at an impressively lightweight 1.2kg per pair, the Lowa Irox GTX Mid Hiking Boots are the ideal vegan option for trekkers and backpackers wanting to stay nimble on their feet without sacrificing performance. The athletic design, developed with input from alpinist Ralf Dujmovits, offer waterproof protection, thanks to synthetic uppers and a Gore-Tex membrane. Plus, the Lowa Elika rubber soles, coupled with Dual-density Lowa DuraPU midsoles, provide comfort, stability and superb grip on challenging high mountain hikes and casual hill walks alike.
Pros: Very lightweight and supportive
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Eco-conscious: These boots are carbon neutral! As is everything Will’s Vegan Store makes and does.
Will’s Vegan Store has expanded its vegan hiking boot range in the last few years, and with it has come the WVSport Waterproof Hiking Boots. They’re super smart and sleek, but they also step up to the demands of time on the trail superbly without upping their environmental impact. The vegan leather uppers are fully waterproof and are created with bio oil that is sourced from organic cereal crops grown in Europe. Additionally, the chunky Vibram outsoles that are made from recycled rubber, offer lots of underfoot support and feature fairly aggressive lugs for excellent traction. These are one of the most eco-friendly hiking boots out there.
Pros: Stylish and durable with excellent grip
Cons: No Gore-Tex membrane
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Will’s Vegan Shoes
Eco-conscious: uppers are made from recycled PET
For minimalist hikers the Vivobarefoot Magna Trail are a superb option to be considered. With a flat, ultra-thin (but super tough) sole, the Magna’s are designed to let your feet move freely in the way nature intended: unrestrained. Weighing only 500g / 17oz, they are incredibly lightweight making you feel very, very nimble on your feet. This is especially noticeable towards the end of a long day of hiking when heavy boots can often start to drag you down.
The boots feature a water-resistant upper that is actually pretty darn close to being fully waterproof. And the highly durable nylon upper is made from recycled PET. There is also a neoprene sock around the ankle to keep out debris and dripping water.
Due to their lightweight nature, these boots lack the ankle support and sole protection offered by traditional hiking boots. You can feel the trail much more underfoot, which can be both a good and bad thing. Plus, your feet are very close to the ground which means if you do go over on your ankle it’s not very far!
Barefoot shoes and boots can feel like a breath of fresh air to your feet and joints, and indeed your whole body! But they also take some getting used to if you are new to them. Don’t expect to hike for miles and miles and feel totally at home in them without building up to it.
Men’s version also available.
Pros: Super lightweight, minimalist design, promotes natural movement. For more info read our full review of the Vivobarefoot Magna Trail.
Cons: Can feel everything underfoot — not great on sharp, rocky terrain
The Inov8 Roclite 345 GTX Hiking Shoes are the perfect match for hikers who like to stay nimble on their feet. They combinine the flexibility, comfort and grip of running shoes with the protection and support of hiking boots. Weighing only 815g / 1.9lbs per pair, these lightweight trail boots owe their supreme grip to the innovative graphene-enhanced G-GRIP outsole which offers “the world’s toughest and most durable grip”. Impressive! Add a Gore-Tex membrane for breathable, waterproofness and you’ve got yourself a vegan hiking boot that is ideal for fast and light hikers or winter trail runners.
Pros: Super durable and strong soles
Cons: Sizing can run small
For those looking for one shoe for all adventures, these Merrell vegan hiking shoes are an excellent option. Though designed for trail running in rugged mountain terrain, these waterproof shoes are beefy enough to provide plenty of protection and stability for fast and light hikers, too. Fastpackers will love their low weight (650g per pair), as well as the M Select GRIP outsole for excellent grip over mixed terrain. Plus, the synthetic leather and mesh shoes feature a synthetic toe cap to allow for super-charged hiking, trekking or running in tough conditions.
Pros: Very lightweight and versatile (can trail run in them too)
Cons: Less ankle support than high boots
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Eco-conscious Flurocarbon-free water repellent finish
Eco Vegan All Terrain Pro Waterproof Hikers are a fully waterproof walking boot. Uniquely, they owe their waterproof properties to the Schoeller’s Ecorepel system that acts in a similar way to the feathers of waterfowl. Ecorepel is also flurocarbon-free. Compared with other water repellent finishes this is a big tick from an environmental viewpoint. In addition to this, the breathable micro-fibre and Advanced Swiss Fabric, also from Schoeller, helps to provide all round good levels of protection from the elements either out in the wild or about town. The lightweight and durable sole adds to the comfort and good quality that will step up to lengthy day hikes and hill walks.
Pros: Environmentally friendly and waterproof
Cons: Sizes come up large
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The Veggie Trekker MK 5 does a very good job of looking the part, and despite the lack of Gore-tex lining, steps up to its great expectations too. It is a very well made vegan hiking boot that is sturdy and robust and will deal with tough long days of trekking excellently well. The Vibram outsole has deep and chunky lugs that are super grippy, and together with the tough breathable micro-fibre uppers, will take on challenging terrain year round. These boots are superbly well made and will certainly go the distance in terms of durability. Their main downfall is that the Wind-Tex lining is only wind and water resistant, not fully waterproof and windproof.
Pros: Very durable and well made
Cons: Only water resistant
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These ultralight mountaineering boots may not be designed for the pedestrian hiker, but on winter alpine expeditions these are the top choice for the vegan mountaineer. La Sportiva have reached new heights when it comes to maximising out of box comfort; the seamless upper and direct-inject lacing system resists abrasion and also reduces weight. And the Gore-Tex lining ensures waterproof protection in even the most challenging winter conditions. As one of the lightest mountaineering boots on the market, these vegan winter boots make for an excellent choice for alpine hikers and ice climbers alike. Compatible with hybrid crampons and supported by Vibram soles, you will struggle to find a more comfortable boot of this grade.Womens version is also available.
Pros: Lightweight and super comfortable
Cons: Not as warm as other mountaineering boots due to their lightweight nature
With the feel of a running shoe but the performance of a boot, it’s no wonder that the Terrex Swifts have been getting consistently great reviews for so many years. The Adiprene shock absorbent foam midsole contributes to the overall comfortable feel of these lightweight boots. And although the lugs of the Traxion rubber outsole are relatively shallow, they do a great job at getting to grips with almost every type of hike you can throw at them. Better suited to narrow feet, the Swifts also run a little bigger than your usual foot size, so it’s worth ordering a couple of pairs, or trying before you buy.
These boots compete fiercely with Inov8 for a stable, waterproof and super lightweight boot that will provide plenty of support when hiking with a load in varied conditions.
If you prefer a lower cut, then Adidas have also developed vegan hiking shoes in the Swift range.
Pros: Great grip
Cons: Can run a little large
Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or a fully fledged carnivore, this excellent selection of vegan hiking boots is guaranteed to have something for you. And if having a fully synthetic walking boot is non-negotiable, then there really is no need to compromise on top class hiking footwear any longer. Happy feet all round!