What to wear hiking in Hawaii
Hiking sandals or trail running shoes
What are the best shoes to wear for hiking in Hawaii?!
In short, the best footwear for hiking during a Hawaii vacation would be hiking sandals or trail running shoes, I think.
Hiking sandals can be perfect for a Hawaii vacation because they can be versatile.
These types of sandals are better than regular sandals or flip flops because they give you a little bit of extra traction.
And, it’s good to have a little bit of extra traction on hiking trails in Hawaii!
There are a lot of trails that are loose gravel or dried up dirt which can make for conditions that can cause you to slip a little.
This isn’t to say that any type of shoes you choose will prevent you from slipping, but the traction will be able to help a bit.
And since Hawaii is hot, you may prefer sandals over shoes!
Teva, Chaco, and Keen are popular outdoor brands and are known for good quality hiking sandals.
But, if you do prefer shoes, then trail running shoes can be perfect.
Because again, they provide a little bit of extra traction and support compared to regular shoes.
And there may also be some trails where closed-toe shoes will be preferable, like if you’ll be on the Big Island where small specks of lava rock can be sharp! (There’s a good chance you’ll end up walking over some lava rocks on the Big Island!)
So for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, trail running shoes will be better in case you’re tempted to walk across the lava fields.
Aside from this on the Big Island, it will be better to wear trail running shoes compared to sandals for any places where you might be walking over old lava. See the list of top spots to see old lava flows on the Kona coast and around the Big Island to see if you might want to go to any of these places.
For Haleakala National Park on Maui, trail running shoes will also be better compared to sandals for the Haleakala summit area because it’s at higher elevation with cooler temperatures. This would include if you’re doing the Haleakala volcano crater hike, Sliding Sands Trail. If you’re doing the coastal side bamboo forest hike, Pipiwai Trail, hiking sandals can work there since you’ll get warmer temperatures and it’s a mostly dirt trail.
Aside from this on Maui, the other notable trails may be Hoapili Trail and the Waianapanapa Coastal Trail. These are trails that also go across old lava flows so again shoes will be better. For the Waianapanapa Coastal Trail, the further you go (like hiking to Hana Airport!), the more lava rocks and rugged terrain you’ll encounter.
What about regular running shoes?
If that’s what you have, then yes regular running shoes will also be just fine. I have worn regular running shoes many times when hiking in Hawaii.
One of the main differences between regular running shoes and trail running shoes is in terms of durability on a more rugged terrain.
You generally won’t be dealing with too rugged of a terrain for popular hiking trails in Hawaii, so you can be quite fine with regular running shoes as well.
Trail running shoes also tend to have a stiffer sole, which means that regular running shoes have a more flexible sole compared to trail running shoes.
Regular running shoes also tend to be a little lighter than trail running shoes.
If you’re looking for an excuse to get into running and possibly do 5K or 10K running races in the future (or a half marathon or marathon…), then you may prefer to buy regular running shoes.
Mizuno is a brand that’s known for putting out good quality running shoes.
What about “hiking shoes” for Hawaii?
There are also more specific shoes for hiking, like hiking shoes or hiking boots.
I like running shoes because they are a bit more versatile, in this case meaning I think they work better as “everyday” shoes to wear out and about in Hawaii.
Hiking-specific shoes are a bit more “heavy duty.”
That said, I have also taken hiking boots to Hawaii with me, and I very much liked having them in certain situations.
What type of situations?
Hiking boots tend to be more water resistant. So I like to have them on trails in which there are water crossings so I didn’t have to worry so much about my shoes getting wet (like this great Maui waterfall hike), or if it’s known to be a muddy trail (which keeps your socks and feet from getting muddy!), or if it’s raining (once again keeps your feet more dry/cleaner).
You’ll want to check that the shoes are labeled as waterproof which is more like water resistant. If you see gore-tex in the description, this is often the material that’s used for the “waterproof” nature of shoes.
If you plan on getting more into hiking, then your Hawaii trip can be a good excuse to buy hiking shoes.
But overall, since trail running shoes can also be good shoes as regular walking shoes, my vote is for trail running shoes for hiking in Hawaii. But again, this can depend on the extent of which you’ll be hiking in Hawaii.
If you’ll be hiking across lava rocks, it may also be nice to have the extra stiffness on the bottom of your feet that hiking shoes will give you.
Merrell is an outdoor brand known for putting out good quality hiking shoes.