Found: Hiking Sneakers So Light and Sock-Like, You’ll Dump Your Clunky Boots for Good
Most people associate hiking boots with clunkiness. While the outdoor industry has certainly made strides in technical apparel innovation—especially in aesthetics and inclusivity—most hiking boots still scream "hiking boots," definitely rugged but not necessarily lightweight.
Which makes sense: Hiking footwear needs to be sturdy. You might be able to get away with your everyday tennis shoes on casual hikes, but the more treacherous terrain gets, the stronger and more protected your feet need to be. Roots, rocks, the occasional river—the clunk can come in handy... unless you're wearing a pair of Adidas Terrex Free Hiker 2 Hiking Shoes ($200), which eliminate the heavy, hoof-like feel for good. They're just as strong as any serious hiking boot, only they're incredibly light and airy, giving you supreme comfort without weighing you down.
Available sizes: Women’s 5-11, in half sizes.
These sock-like sneaks come pink, gray, and black colorways.
What's different from the original Free Hiker?
Adidas Terrex (Adidas' outdoor line) launched its original Free Hiker in 2019. Since then, the versatile sneak has been beloved by fashionistas and outdoorspeople alike. This September, the brand upgraded the shoes with some nifty new features, designed to give you maximum comfort wherever you roam. These include:
A new, sock-like fit
The biggest upgrade comes from the sock-like liner that comfortably slips over feet to cradle all of your contours. This snug, Primeknit collar lies seamlessly against the ankle, giving you a second-skin feel while preventing gravel or puddle spray from leaking inside. Combined with the brand's beloved Boost midsole and EVA-foam cushioning, they're plush and shock-absorbing, even on unforgiving terrain. This gives you maximum return on energy, so you can step lighter and save energy with every stride.
The biggest change from the original Free Hiker 2 is the upper, which is now enhanced with a yard made from 50 percent Parley Ocean Plastic, aka, upcycled plastic wastes that would otherwise wind up in our oceans. This change is a step forward to meeting the brand's sustainability goal of replacing virgin polyester with recycled materials.
There's nothing worse than wet feet, especially when you're far from home in the middle of a hike. The Free Hikers now come in a waterproof version: The Free Hiker 2 Gore-Tex Hiking Shoe ($230). For an additional $30, you can buy the exact same shoe only waterproofed with a Gore-Tex membrane that keeps moisture out. Navigate mud puddles, creeks, and flowing streams dryly, so you won't have to turn around early.
Available sizes: Women’s 5-11, in half sizes.
Made with a Gore-Tex membrane that keeps your feet completely dry every step of the way. Available in black, dusty rose, and blue.
All of this is packaged in a stylish shoe that looks good on and off the trails. And they're so good, they got me to ditch my old, chunky boots for good.
Why we love 'em
As a casual hiker, it's hard for me to justify spending $200+ on hiking-specific footwear I'm only going to wear a few times a month. Which is largely why I'm a sucker for these shoes. They double as an everyday sneaker, light enough to slip on to run errands or take my dog around the block, giving me more bang for my buck.
When I am on the trail, however, they're a total game-changer. Unlike most hiking boots, there's literally no clunk. None. Zilch. Zero. The thin, sock-like design feels featherlight on your feet, making it easier to navigate terrain, allowing your feet to "feel" the ground and giving you better grip. I have the Gore-Tex pair and find they're just as protective as my stiff boots, giving me plenty of traction on slippery surfaces while protecting me from the occasion stray jagged rock or unforgiving root. Tl;Dr—I don't feel like I'm going to trip over myself when I'm wearing the Terrex Free Hiker 2s. They feel natural and forgiving, not like I've laced my foot into a hoof I have to heave up and down the trail.
I also love the Gore-Tex addition and say it's well worth the extra $30. As someone who spends more time on water than on dirt, I appreciate how dry they keep my feet. Thanks to the Continental™ rubber outsole (which is found on both the Gore-Tex and regular models), they're not slippery, so I can safely wear them on the boat and not worry about my feet sliding out from underneath me at any point. This also comes in handy on mossy stones or wet river rock where your feet can't fail. So if you're gonna get these shoes, get the Gore-Tex.
The only thing I wish was a little sturdier? The upper. I have extremely flat feet, much flatter than the normal person's. Since the upper is so soft and sock-like, I do find my feet over-pronating more than in my other boots. However, I've found that simply popping in an insole can do the trick. I swapped Terrex's insole with my own (the Fulton Classic Insole, $48) to give me just a smidge of extra support. Keep that in mind if your feet over-pronate, too.
Regardless, if you're ready to dump the clunk, Adidas Terrex has got you covered. They're about as comfortable as it gets, and can take you from the trail to tapas without sacrificing style or comfort. The Free Hiker 2 Hiking Shoes are fabulous, but take it from me—that extra $30 for waterproofness goes a long way. Buy the Free Hiker 2 Gore-Tex Hiking Shoes here.
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