Shoes to Wear While Hiking in Phoenix

It’s amazing how sometimes as you’re hiking along the trails you come across other hikers who are clearly not prepared for the hike.

For example, wearing flip flops while hiking in Phoenix.

On the Phoenix trails, we have cactus needles, sharp rock edges and lots of loose small rocks (that sometimes even find their way into my socks). For this reason…you should never hike in flip flops. The bottoms are way too thin and walking for a long period of time with really, no foot or ankle support is not a good idea.

Never Hike in Flip Flops in Phoenix.

While some other hikers may laugh or poke fun of the person hiking in flip flops…I actually feel for them and give them props for at least getting outside and hiking. And then I shoot out a positive vibe towards them that they don’t hurt their feet and never hike in flip flops again!

And honestly, I get it. If I was visiting from out of state and excited about the warm weather in Phoenix I would be wearing flip flops around town. I might not even think twice about it while hiking. I mean, if you’re not from around here…then you don’t really know what to expect. So, who am I to laugh?

Side note… I literally just found out a few weeks ago that rock climbers actually wear rock climbing shoes. I thought they just wore hiking shoes, but instead they wear these little flat bottom shoes that can really grip! So, all you rock climbers out there go ahead and laugh at me! I laughed when I found out too!

This dude is wearing rock climbing shoes…for sure.

But I’m still not going to laugh at the hiker with flip flops behind their backs. I get it. You don’t know, until you know. And it’s impossible to know everything.

So with that all said, you should always be wearing some kind of tennis shoe or athletic sandal while hiking throughout the entire state of Arizona.

Now, if you’re a beginner hiker you may just want to go out in your most comfy tennis shoes. Once you decide whether you enjoy hiking or not then it’s time in invest into a pair of hiking shoes.

There are many different varieties and really it all comes down to personal preference. I hate to say it…but finding out what your preference is, is going to take time and money. But, once you figure it out…your whole hiking experience will change for the best!

When I first starting hiking…I just wore my old Nike’s. These big, clunky white Nike shoes. They were okay while at the gym, but while hiking, I remember feeling like I looked like a senior citizens with my bright white shoes. But, I honestly didn’t care. Those were all I had.

At the time, I wasn’t in love with hiking quite yet…and I didn’t want to spend the money on hiking boots. So I just kept wearing these huge ass white shoes.

Then….my life changed. I found a pair of hiking shoes, at a REI garage sale and bought them. The first time I hiked up a steep section on Telegraph Pass with these bad boys on my feet…I began my love affair with hiking!

My first love…a pair of Patagonia hiking shoes

I realized just how awesome of a grip these shoes had and it didn’t physically take me that much effort to hike up this section. My shoes were gripping me onto the rock as if they were suction cups and I wasn’t in fear of slipping.

Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t last that long. The shoes started to wear out and became uncomfortable. I had a big hike coming up, which meant I needed a new pair of shoes and they needed to be good! This time instead of shoes, I was going to opt for boots! I decided I wanted better ankle support and over all to protect my feet more.

From going on this shopping spree I learned a whole bunch of information about hiking shoes:

Before You Buy Hiking Shoes

  • Buy your shoes a half size larger than your normal size. When you’re hiking, your feet swell, so in order for them to remain comfy when this happens, get them half a size bigger.
  • You won’t actually know if they are comfy or not, until you hike with them for a while. So even if they feel comfy while in the store…it might not be the case 5 miles into a hike.
  • This makes it a guessing game. You just never know. So you have to go with your gut and hope you made the right decision.
  • Go for comfort instead of style. While you make feel awesome in stylish shoes your feet may not feel so awesome. So if the ugly pair is more comfy than the pretty shoes…go with the ugly. Take care of your feet. They do so much for us.
  • Now, when I’ve purchased my shoes I do it at REI. The reason? Because REI allows you to return your shoes for up to a year. So if you are 5 miles into a hike and decide these shoe’s will not work, you can easily return them.

While wearing these boots, I then hiked to Havasupai last year. The last two miles of trail is hiking through red sand. Like 2 miles of an endless beach with sand flying all around from all the heavy footsteps pouncing up and down along the route. By the time I came home it took forever to get the sand out. Even after I vacuumed the soles, I would b still be able to feel the sand while hiking in them.

My Merrell hiking boots that took me down to Havasupai

I needed another new pair. And this time, I wanted something with less weight.

While hiking boots offer amazing support they are big and clunky. I was preparing for the Phoenix Challenge Summit and decided I wanted something light weight on my foot so that I could hike faster.

This is were I went to REI again and talked to the shoe guy. He’s an older, grey hair, skinny guy and by looking at his stern face seems to be set on his ways. I told him I was looking for a light weight pair of shoes…at which he hesitantly looked at the wall of shoes and pointed out a pair.

He seem bothered that I would decide to go for a light hiking running shoe instead of a boot and wasn’t shy about telling me about it.

For a moment, while sitting upon the brown couch in the middle of the shoe department seeing the other customers walking by I hesitated, thinking I was making a mistake. I mean, maybe this old guy was right. A boot is the better shoe to hike in. He’s been a hiker longer than me…and his job is knowing all about the right hiking shoes…

I stood up and walked a little. I was in love. Again. Who cares what this old man says? I thought to myself. This just felt so right.

 These amazing shoes have been on my feet throughout all my hiking experiences for the past year. By far they are my favorite pair of shoes that I have ever owned! It took me over 5 years and 3 different pairs of shoes until I finally found a pair that is my sole mate! Get it….”sole” mate!

My new love! Altra running shoe

So the whole point of what I’m trying to say is that you just don’t know until you know. You can be wearing shoes and think everything is fine until you try on a new pair and realize you’ve been missing out!

So please don’t be that hiker wearing flip flops while on the Phoenix trails. Make sure to wear some sort of athletic shoe that will save your beautiful feet from some serious pain!


  1. Please wear socks too! A friend of the family once insisted she would be fine hiking up Squaw Peak with no socks. After about 20 minutes, she and her blistering, bleeding feet limped back to the car.

    1. I feel like I’ve seen ankles ones at REI, but I prefer the taller socks so I haven’t really paid attention to the ankles ones.

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