This Season, Hiking Boots Are for More Than Hitting the Trails

Photo: Getty Images/Christian Vierig
The idea of a "dad sneaker" has always been a little lost on me, personally. When I think back to what my father stomped around in during my childhood, it wasn't a chunky, white trainer—more often than not, he was clad in some kind of hiking boot. (As were many other parents in his upstate New York town, who spent as much time as possible escaping the suburbs for the nearby mountain trails.) And while I never would have predicted it back then, the fashion gods have recently turned their gaze to his footwear of choice, deeming hiking boots to be the it-shoe of winter 2018.

Although, let's be clear: The options available today go way beyond the ones you normally see in the wilderness, all high-performance materials in varying shades of muddy brown. Proenza Schouler's take on the hiker is rendered in graphic, black and white leather, with a chunky lug sole and bold red cord laces. Gucci dropped a few different styles for fall '18—its Flashtrek boot is sleek and sporty, while its Flat Trip Leather Hiking Boot is on the extra end of the spectrum, emblazoned with gold stars and faux pearls (not to mention a three-inch heel and '90s combat-boot vibes). Moncler has a leopard-print calf hair version named Blanche, while Copenhagen-based brand Ganni collaborated with mountaineering mainstay Diemme to create leather-and-suede boots with ultra-grippy Vibram midsoles, like you'd find in a performance hiker.  (The first batch of Ganni + Diemme boots sold out globally on Net-a-Porter, leading the retailer to order over 100 more hiking-boot styles for fall 2018.) Similarly, Sam Edelman's Browan boot, cut from Merlot-colored velvet, has pretty much sold out in every size, save for a few—lucky you, size 6s or 9.5s.

"The return of the hiking boot is part retro-rewind to the early 90’s grunge resurgence and designers embracing a function-meets-fashion attitude with a sports motif," says Ken Downing, fashion director at Neiman Marcus. Given fashion's obsession with active footwear over the last few seasons—and the fact that the gorpcore movement, which favors hiking boots that are actually made for hiking, is in full swing—it makes sense that designers would start reinventing this kind of performance footwear, too.

cute hiking boots
Stylist Simone Harouche. Photo: Cole Haan

Even brands that specialize in more technical kicks are elevating the hiking boot to Kilimanjaro-level heights. Cole Haan enlisted celebrity stylists Simone Harouche, Erin Walsh, and Karla Welch to reimagine a few of their popular hiking boots for fall 2018. "I think that the hiking boot is a great example of truly functional fashion," says Harouche. "Nowadays, [women] are really looking for a pair of shoes that provide just as much support and durability as they do style. We wanted [to create] shoes that were warm, versatile, durable, but also inspiring, fashion-forward, and something you’d want to wear and show off." Her sold-out take on the brand's ZERØGRAND All-Terrain Waterproof Hikers, for example, blended olive-green leather with a speckled-wool cuff and rose-gold hardware. Walsh's winter-white, croc-embossed iteration is surprisingly still available—but not for long....

When it comes to styling your hiking boots, it's really an anything-goes kind of situation. "I’m particularly fond of the heft of a hiking boot with an ankle-length floral dress and biker jacket," Downing says. "Hiking boots also give an eclectic edge to leather and knit leggings. Many designers even showed them under evening dresses and ballgowns—not a look for the faint of heart, but certainly attention-getting!" He's partial to styles with the traditional red laces, like the Kodiak Surrey II style that's a best-seller at REI right now. To wear them like a fashion girl, Downing adds, lace them to the top of the foot and then wrap the laces around the ankle. Harouche agrees that hiking boots are easy to match with just about any winter look. "They'd go great with a pair of jeans, a cute coat—really, anything in your closet," she says. Watch your back, dad sneakers.

You heard it here first: Your sneakers are getting a hiking boot-inspired upgrade for 2019. And if you're more of a minimalist, Stan Smith kind of gal, those definitely aren't going anywhere either.

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