Best Hiking Shoes for Hitting
the Smoky Mountain Trails
for Men and Women (Images Below)
The difference between the Great Smoky Mountains and some other hiking areas, is that you are in a wildlife setting with more weather fluctuations, more trees and overhead tree canopies, including tree roots, creeks, waterfalls, bridges, rocks and more diverse plant and animal life.
You may come across waterfalls and edges with steep drop offs in some areas. These trails are not as wide, dry and dusty as some out west.
The GSMNP is the most biodiverse park in the United States. Biological diversity is one of the things that makes the Smoky Mountain trails unique.
Ok, so...What kind of hiking shoes or boots do I need for the Smoky Mountains?
The best hiking shoes for the Smoky Mountains:
⦁ Protect from nature's elements, plants and creatures
⦁ Have good grip, traction and soles
⦁ Are lightweight
⦁ Are waterproof, if needed
⦁ Are the right size for your feet with plenty of toe room
⦁ Have specialized comfort for my specific foot issues
All the shoes and boots below are the most popular with many experienced Smoky Mountain hikers. They are the most frequently recommended by people who actively hike this area.
I personally own a pair of Merrel Moabs (I love them) and plan on trying Keen brand or Altra brands as well, due to the wider toe area.
The Oboz and Sportiva are favorites of people who mention comfort. You will see examples of these below.
What is a Trail Runner and are they good for the Smoky Mountain trails?
Hiking boots have been the "go to" for years for many hikers and backpackers. While boots still have their place and are preferred by many, they are not always necessary. Trail running shoes have become more and more popular over the recent years because they are more lightweight and flexible than some boots.
Trail runners are the go-to choice more and more, for many reasons. I think they are an excellent choice for the Smoky Mountains because:
They are lightweight
More flexible and less rigid than boots
Shape more to the natural foot
Have better grip and stability than street shoes
Easier to break in
Great for casual hikers, as well as experienced
One of the most popular trail runners are Altra. They were designed by hikers and are mainly different because they are shaped more to the natural walking foot shape. This means a wider toe area and less height in the heel area.
Pictured below are examples of
Altra Lone Peak Men's and Altra Lone Peak Women's mid rise.
Altra Lone Peak Men's and Altra Lone Peak Women's are trail shoes. Trail shoes are becoming the most popular choice due to being lightweight, yet rugged with an excellent grip on a wide variety of surfaces. Altra Lone Peak also have a wide fit so toes are not painfully squished. It's recommended to order a half or 1 size up as these run a bit smaller. Also these are not for those who need arch support. They do however, have great ankle support in the high tops version.
Other Excellent Choices
Here are some traditional and time-tested options that you will love as well.
Below are the most recommended brands of hiking shoes and boots by experienced Smoky Mountain hikers, with examples of each.
Most are available in low or mid rise, as well as a variety of colors.
Keen's are known for being great for wide feet. They are rugged enough for a hike and some creek action or mud and comfy enough to walk downtown and get a bite to eat or go shopping. I know people who even work in them, and will not wear anything else. Not recommended for those who need arch support, and ordering a half size up is recommended.
The Women's Salomon have a comfortable arch and good room for the toes. The X Ultra 3 GTX have a Gortex lining, meaning they will keep water out. And a pocket under the tongue for excess lace length, a benefit hikers really love.
The Merrell Moab is a longstanding and trusted, go-to shoe for hikers. It is the one I personally own and have found to be rugged and still very comfortable and lightweight. The men's shown above have great ankle support for aggressive terrain with rocks and tree roots. Includes a Vibram sole, which provides protection for feet from the cold and have excellent traction and grip. Average arch support and toe box sized for average sized toe room.
Oboz brand shoes are made by hand for comfort on the trail. They were first made in Bozeman, Montana, giving them their strange name, but also is the reason for their motto "true to the trail". Some Oboz are wider and some are narrower, so be sure to check the description when you choose your shoe. They each have an anatomically designed insole for good arch support and other special Oboz comfort features such as zero pressure points, and specialized women's fit.
La Sportiva shoes are made in a specialized, small factory in the mountains of Italy. The special IBS soles are designed to reduce up to 20% of the impact force on feet, legs, hips and back. They are lightweight -which is so important when you hike. The less work your legs have to do, the more energy you have and it is why many Appalachian Trail through hikers have gone to trail running shoes. They have a Gortex lining and a vibram sole for dry feet and best traction. At this time, they do not come in wide or narrow, but seem to run wide.
Quick Tips & FAQs About Hiking Shoes
for the Smoky Mountains
What about sandals? Can I wear sandals hiking in the Smoky Mountains?
Its not my recommendation because of foot exposure on trails, although some people do wear them. I'd only recommend it for very short day hikes and the best brand for that would be Chaco or Chaco Outcross.
What are the best hiking shoes for wide feet?
Keen brand and Altra are the most well known brands that are liked for the wide toe box area.
Do I need waterproof shoes or boots for Smoky Mountain trails?
It is definitely helpful for longer hikes, rainy days, and waterfall hikes. There are a lot of creeks and water bodies you may encounter on your trail adventures.
When are hiking boots needed for Smoky Mountain trails?
Hiking boots are for people who like or need ankle support, longer hikes with heavier brush or off trail exploring. They are not always necessary, but can be an excellent choice for Winter hiking and when you want maximum protection for your feet and ankles.
What is a "Zero Drop" shoe?
These are shoes that have a heel is at the same height as the front part of the foot. Its helps your foot stay in its natural position like when you are barefoot. Many hikers have found this to be a more comfortable style than the traditional shoe style where the heel is slightly raised, preventing leg pain and fatigue.
Bonus Quick Tip:
Buy and break in your hiking shoe of choice before you begin your hike or vacation. You should plan on wearing them for a month or 2 so they can provide maximum comfort on your adventure on the trails.