Docs have truly transcended their punk rock origins. Doc Marten boots are arguably the most popular and iconic shoes worldwide.
In Melbourne, where I’m based. I see the stylish Doc Martens being worn by a diverse audience. From students, musicians, baristas, office workers and lawyers.
We have covered the topic of Converse and if Chuck’s are suitable hiking shoes. Similarly, we get lots of readers asking the question, Are Doc Martens Good For Hiking?
From personal experience of owning three models of Doc’s and testing out my Vegan 1460 Felix for this article. I can attest that they can be used for as hiking shoes as a last resort.
This article will cover why lace-up styles of Doc Martens shoes can be used for hiking backcountry trails.
And also highlight the reasons why Doc Martens might not be a suitable choice for hiking activities.
Why Doc Martens are good for hiking
Many articles, videos, and forum posts admit that it’s OK to hike in Doc Martens.
As mentioned, I have completed a few small treks in 1460 Smooth Doc Martens without issue. Here are a few positives I experienced that lean towards Doc Martens having use-case when hiking.
- Secure fit: Any 1460 eight-eyelet style of Doc Martens will provide a tight fit, especially in the forefoot area. You want a comfortable and steady fit for hiking.
- Rigidity and Stability: Besides the secure fit, Doc’s are rigid. This can provide stability on a challenging dry hiking trail.
- Protective outer: The quarter panels and the vamp (the outer shell) of the Doc Martens are made from full-grain bovine Argentinian leather. It’s famously durable, and this stiff layer can protect your feet from falling obstacles.
- Cushioning: The patented AirWair sole branded with Doc Martens will keep your feet from fatiguing during long bouts of standing. It provides a comfortable ride for shorter hikes, but it’s unknown how the AirWair sole will perform during a long punishing hike.
- Cost savings: If you already have a pair of broken-in Docs or find youself out of time or strapped for cash. Then as a last resort your 1460s are a decent choice for hiking. This can save you a chunk of change from going out and buying a $200 pair of hiking boots for a once-off activity.
Why Doc Martens are not good for hiking
It comes down to choice and options. If you don’t have any other choice than to wear Doc Martens for a hiking trip, then it should be fine.
But if you have a proper hiking boot or an athletic boot, there is no reason to wear Docs for hiking.
Here are a few reasons why Doc Martens should not be used for hiking.
- Airflow: Doc Martens boots have a reputation for impeccable construction, excellent stitching, and a smooth leather outer. Airflow and ventilation are two features that Docs are not known for. Apart from the 16 eyelets, it will be challenging to find any relief from ventilation. When hiking, Docs tend to overheat quickly due to lack of airflow forcing your feet warm or get sweaty feet thus causing discomfort often leading to blisters.
- Too rigid: In fact, my first pair of Docs I ever owned took me several months of breaking in. It’s common for Dr Marten boots to take several months to soften. Just look at all the Youtube videos on ‘how to break in’ Doc Martens. During a hike, your weight distribution and feet will be put into positions that the boot was not made for. Even if you have broken-in your boots, your feet will exprience new friction points during a hike. This could lead to blisters and injury.
- Traction: The tread and traction of a Doc Marten boot it terrible for hiking when compared to for example a Merrell boot. Doc Marten lugs are shallow, linear and symmetrical, and and sparse on the forefoot and heel. In contrast, a hiking boot will feature evenly spaced multi-directional traction all the way from the toe to the arch and heel.
- Beatdown: Doc Martens boots can last up to 20 years. However, Docs were never made for trail hiking in mind an activity which could cut their longevity in half. If you’re going to spend $200 on a pair of Docs, are you sure you want to dirty them up in backcountry mud? It won’t be long before the iconic yellow toe box stitching is an off-color, dirt brown.
- Cushioning: The AirWair sole promotes trapped air within the PVC sole to provide cushioning. It’s hard to tell how if this midsole can stand up to the torturous rocky trails, abnormal movements and aggressive weight distribution of a long king. And Doc Martens were never constructed to support a fully loaded backpack.
Tips to keep in mind when hiking in Doc Martens
Break them in
Make sure that your Doc Martens are already soft and comfortable before you take them on a hike.
I’ve experienced excruciating pain and poor ankle support while wearing Docs out to a nightclub. So much pain that 30 minutes into the event I ended up leaving in a taxi.
You won’t have the luxury to leave the trail in a taxi if you experience an injury from your boots.
Find a comfortable sock liner
I prefer to wear thick socks when using my Doc Martens boots. Never wear thin socks as there is a high chance that friction will eventually wear through a light sock.
Most adventure stores have hiking sock liners that provide arch support and sweat-wicking features. We have a great article on the best hiking sock liners here.
But if you cannot purchase a hiking sock liner, then any thick socks should suffice.
Opt for short hikes
You never want to jump into a 20km thru-hike in doc martens for the first time. Instead, go on several short hikes, build up your strength.
Get to know what type of obstacles your Docs will be exposed to while putting extra minutes into breaking in your boots.
Insoles to add support
It’s unlikely that you’re going to add a thicker insole because of the existing secure-fit of a Doc Marten boot.
However, if possible, adding an insole can help provide stability when coupled with the AirWair insole.
What Are Doc Martens
Originating from the United Kingdom via Germany, the blue collared Dr. Martens 1460 has endured much popularity for over 70 years.
The Doc Martens are synonymous with youth, music, rebellious and alternative culture. However, I wear my Docs in an office setting, a place not at all associated with being cool.
Dr. Klaus Maertens created the Doc Martens in 1945 as a comfortable alternative to the leather boots that existed at the time.
Dr. Klaus nurturing a foot injury from the World War, jimmied up an air-cushioned sole that was much more comfortable than anything he had previously experienced.
He then decided to shared his creation to Dr. Herbert Funk, a classmate, engineer, and future business partner.
A license was gained in 1959 from Bill Griggs, a shoemaker in Northamptonshire United Kingdom. Griggs was allowed to improve upon and produce the Doc Martens and brand the AirWair feature.
Doc Martens were soon popular amongst the working class. They gained a reputation for having quality materials, great aesthetic, durability, and affordability. The workboot only cost £2 at the time.
This was perfect timing because soon after, the punk and skinhead culture broke onto the scene in England.
This sub-culture quickly latched onto the Doc Martens as their symbol of style, youth, and anarchy. A representation that is still attached to the brand today.
Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and any up-and-coming punk band, to name a few, have all been seen rocking out in a pair of Docs.
1460 SMOOTH LEATHER LACE UPS
The iconic original 1460 features the renown eight eyelets and yellow stitch lacing. The smooth leather is ready for formal events or scuffed up to your liking.
SANTO GRIZZLY ARCHIVE
The Grizzly pays homage to vintage hiking boots. Made with a worn-in look and featuring a heavy leather upper these boots will look great in any event.
Questions and considerations
What weather can I hike in Doc Martens?
Dry but not hot weather is best when hiking in Doc Martens. The Argentinian leather that the Doc Martens are made from will provide wet weather protection, but having 16 eyelets will surely let moisture in.
This is the same with snow and sleet. Due to their shallow traction lugs, Doc Martens can get slippery on certain surfaces, so it’s best to stick to dry hiking conditions.
My survivalist friend swears by Doc Martens
Everyone has their favorite casual boots to go on a random adventure. Many people swear by Converse Chuck Taylors as their go-to hiking boots.
It is a matter of choice and experience. If you feel comfortable in Doc Martens, have broken them in and know the trail and weather then Doc’s might be the hiking boots for you.
But, Docs are worn in urban settings and are a semi-expensive chic fashion accessory. The last thing many Doc Marten owners want to do is scuff up their Docs on rocks and fallen branches.
What boots do you suggest for hiking instead of Doc Martens?
A quick search on the official drmartens.com site for the term ‘hiking boot’ comes up with ‘hiking style’ results. But don’t get too excited.
Unlike Timberland hiking footwear, which have street style, construction, and dedicated hiking products, Dr. Martens don’t have an exclusive hiking product line.
The boots on offer, like the Santo Grizzly and the Crazy Horse, are made of premium materials like Nappa leather.
However, these Doc Marten boots appear to pay homage to vintage hiking boots rather than marketing the boots as a hiking boot.
Danner hiking boots are a good hiking boot alternative
Timberlands and Danner both have a dedicated hiking boot line and trail running shoes that look great and are highly rated as hiking boots.
If you want to read more about Timberland boots, we have a great article here that answers the question if Timberlands are good for hiking.
Danner hiking boots
With origins in Portland, Oregon, Danner boots have been crafting hiking and adventure boots from the 1930s.
Charles Danner used the backdrop of the Pacific Northwest with its teeming crip alpine lakes, uncompromised mountains, and untamed forests and coastlines to shape the Danner hiking footwear line.
Built to last in extreme environments, there is a Danner boot model that will please the loyalist of Doc Marten wearers.
The handcrafted Danner Boot uses the highest quality leather and components. Not to be judged just by their looks, Danner boots perform incredibly well on backcountry hikes while providing great ankle support and stability.
Unfortunately, there are more negatives to the question Are Doc Martens Good For Hiking that lean towards NO they are not good for hiking.
Like any other popular shoe e.g. the Converse Chuck Taylors or the Air Jordan 1’s (yes, people ask if the J’s are good hiking boots). The more popular the shoe, the more consumers will try to test it out in different environments.
Short hikes on a dry, mild day would best for a hike in doc martens if you have no other choice.
Just make sure to consider some of the tips found in this article on how to wear your Doc Martens when hiking. But if wearing Doc Martens gets you off the couch and out in the wild to experience the outdoors, then that’s and bonus as well. Remember, there is no best hiking boots, just the best ones for you.