Are Duck Boots Good for Hiking? (Practical Advice)

Are duck boots good for hiking?  Duck boots are not the best option for hiking trails.  While you can get away with casual hikes in duck boots, you’ll be much more comfortable choosing something else.

I own a pair of duck boots that I walk around in everywhere.  I’ve even completed a few hikes in them.  And let me tell you, there are much better hiking footwear options out there.

As someone who completes hundreds of miles of hiking trails each year, I’ll be the first to say that finding a hiking boot or shoe with great ankle support, arch support, and traction is a must.  Duck boots don’t provide any of these things.   

The rubber portion of the duck shoe fits loosely, allowing too much foot movement while hiking. The rubber outsole doesn’t breathe well, which makes your feet sweat and more prone to blisters. 

This guide will compare the specific design features of duck boots to my favorite hiking boots and trail shoes so you can make the right choice for your hiking footwear. 

What Are Duck Boots?

Traditional duck boots are ankle-high boots with a rubber lower portion and a leather or fabric upper/ankle portion.  

These boots were invented in 1911 by Leon Leonwood Bean (founder of L.L Bean) after he was tired of getting his feet wet during outdoor activities.  

These boots became known as ‘duck boots’ because they were popular footwear with duck hunters walking around in marshy/muddy conditions.

Today, duck boots are a popular choice for casual wear during the winter.  Well-known brands, like Sperry duck boots, are made in various colors and styles. 

side view of black duck boots | are duck boots good for hiking?
Duck boots are popular during the winter, but they are not the best choice for hiking trails

Pros/Cons of Duck Boots for Hiking

We’ll start with the pros of hiking in duck boots because there are only a few of them.

Pros of Hiking in Duck Boots

The pros of hiking in duck boots are that they are lightweight, easy to slide on, and waterproof. However, many other quality hiking boots have all of these features and are better suited for tackling rough trails.

Lightweight 

Many people love that duck boots are lightweight, and they are.  However, I’ve found that they aren’t much lighter than a high-quality pair of hiking boots.  

I weighed my duck boots, Columbia hiking boots, and Altra trail runner tennis shoes, and here were the results (weight in oz, per shoe):

  • Duck boot: 14.9 oz
  • Columbia hiking boot: 16.1 oz
  • Altra trail runner shoe: 8.01 oz

So yes, duck boots are slightly more lightweight than other hiking boots.  However, the difference is minimal. 

black duck boots on a small scale
Duck boots are lightweight, but mine were only slightly lighter than my hiking boots

Easy to Slide On 

Duck boots are easier to put on than hiking boots. However, they lack good ankle support and lacing that comes up around the ankle.

This ankle support is so important for tackling tough trails to keep you comfortable and injury-free.

Waterproof 

People wear duck boots because the lower rubber portion is waterproof.  However, the upper portion is not waterproof.

These boots are okay for wet conditions without challenging terrain (like walking on flat ground through a swampy area), but they won’t keep your feet dry for river crossings.  

The waterproof rubber insoles of duck boots are better suited to walking around town on rainy days than trying to navigate a wet hiking trail. 

Also, most high-quality hiking boots are waterproof with much better breathability.

Cons of Hiking in Duck Boots

In short, the cons of hiking in duck boots are that they lack sufficient ankle and arch support, have poor traction, and are not breathable. Also, the rubber portion is designed to fit loosely, allowing the foot to slide while walking.

Lack of Arch Support and a Heel Cup

Whether hiking or walking, having shoes or boots with fantastic arch support is crucial. I’ve had so many problems with plantar fasciitis that it’s just not worth it to wear subpar shoes. 

Unfortunately, duck boots have almost no arch support. My pair has a simple, flat rubber insole without support or cushioning.

Compared to my hiking boots, my duck boots don’t have a heel cup to help stabilize my Achilles tendon and ankle. 

While, in theory, I could add a shoe insert to give some arch support, this doesn’t provide nearly the benefits of using a shoe designed to support the arch. 

the inside of a black duck boot showing the lack of arch support
These duck boots have a flat interior with no arch support

Too Roomy

Duck boots are WAY too roomy to be good hiking shoes.  These boots are meant to have a ‘rain boots’ feel and tend to fit a bit large.

When hiking, compared to walking, your feet move around a lot. You need shoes or boots that minimize your foot sliding. Extra sliding creates extra friction, which can lead to blisters.

Lack of Ankle Support

Although duck boots have an upper portion covering the ankle, they don’t support it. The upper portion is lightweight and flimsy, doing nothing to stabilize the ankle.  

Most good-quality hiking boots have a stiffer ankle portion made of strong (to support the ankle) yet breathable (to wick sweat) materials.

Also, good hiking boots have long laces and metal eyelets, so you can snugly lace your boots up around the ankle.  Duck boots don’t have this. 

flimsy ankle material of a duck boot next to a Columbia hiking boot
The flimsy ankle of duck boots provides little support on hiking trails

Not Breathable

Along with finding a great hot-weather hiking shirt, having breathable shoes is a surefire way to keep yourself comfortable on warm-weather hikes. The bottom portion of duck boots is made of rubber, which is not breathable.  

As I mentioned before, other quality hiking boot materials are both waterproof AND breathable.  You don’t want to choose something that will retain moisture when you sweat. 

Poor Traction

Duck boots don’t have good traction. While the slight ribbing design on the bottom can help prevent slipping in marshy/mud-puddle conditions, it will not prevent you from slipping on a loose dirt trail.

the bottom of a duck boot compared to the traction on the bottom of a Columbia hiking boot
My duck boots (bottom shoe) have very poor traction

Lack of Warmth for Cold-Weather Hiking

Duck boots won’t keep your feet warm in the snow or in cold conditions, especially for winter hiking in deep snow. 

High-quality hiking boots are designed to be breathable during hot-weather hiking but maintain warmth during colder temperatures. 

What to Look for in a Great Hiking Boot

Great hiking boots fit well and minimize foot sliding. They are water resistant, have good traction, and offer great arch and ankle support.

Perfect Fit

Finding the perfect fit for your hiking boots will take some time and practice.  In general, you’ll want to find a pair of slightly snug boots that still allow enough room for your feet to swell a little during hot-weather hikes. 

Water Resistance

Boots with waterproof protection are a lifesaver.  Hiking with wet feet is uncomfortable and will make you more prone to blisters.

TIP: To keep your ankles dry, invest in a cheap pair of hiking gaiters. Gaiters are one of my favorite hiking gadgets, and I bring them on every winter trail.

Durable Build

Quality hiking boots, compared to other shoes, can withstand miles of rocky trails without breaking down.  The best boots will be made of a firm rubber midsole. 

The outer lining and padding should be made of a durable yet flexible material, like full-grain leather. 

up-close photo of the leather grain of a hiking boot
Most quality hiking boots are made of water-resistant leather

Ankle Support

Especially if you do a lot of hiking on rocky terrain, a hiking boot with an adequate shaft height will be your best friend.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve stepped on a rock the wrong way but have been saved from a bad ankle sprain by my supportive boots.

Arch Support

Again, the rough terrain of a hiking trail will put more stress on your feet.  Especially if you’ve got flat feet or have had issues with plantar fasciitis (I have!), having a shoe with an insole that supports your arch will make a big difference in how many miles you can hike in a day.

Supportive hiking boot inserts are another good choice if you are struggling to find a pair of boots with perfect arch support. I love my Walkhero insoles and have been using them for years. 

Supportive Heel Cup

A supportive heel cup will keep your ankle in alignment and will prevent twisting injuries, especially to your Achilles tendon. 

a hiking boot zoomed in on the heel portion
You’ll want to look for boots that have a solid, supportive heel cup

Good Traction

Of course, good traction is a must. Apart from using hiking poles on the trail, my good-traction boots are the number one thing that keeps me from sliding on loose dirt trails. 

Better Alternatives to Duck Boots

Our top three better alternatives to duck boots for hiking are the Columbia Newton Ridge series or the Columbia Crestwood series. For hikers looking for a lighter-weight option, Altra Lone Peak trail runners are our top choice.  

Best Overall: Columbia Newton Ridge Boots

I’ve worn these Columbia boots for years on multiple long hikes, and they are hands-down my favorite hiking boots. 

What I Love About These Shoes: 

  • Come in over 17 different color combinations
  • Durable, yet lightweight (only 16.1 oz on my scale)
  • Good traction
  • Waterproof leather and suede outer
  • Reinforced toe and heel
front view of a pair of brown Columbia Newton Ridge hiking boots with red laces
These boots are affordable, durable, and look fantastic

Runner-up: Columbia Crestwood Boots

These boots are a good alternative to the Colombia Newton Ridge line of shoes, and I’ve got an older men’s pair that I’ve used for years.  

Like other high-quality hiking boots, they have a durable rubber midsole, a water-resistant upper, adequate ankle protection, and fantastic traction. 

The Crestwoods are slightly more expensive than the Newton Ridge styles and come in fewer colors, making them my runner-up choice. 

pair of brown Columbia Crestwood boots
This older pair of Crestwood boots has lasted me for years and traveled many, many miles

Best Lightweight Hiking Shoe: Altra Lone Peak 7 Trail Runners

For easier hikes that don’t require as much ankle support, the Altra Lone Peak series of trail running shoes are a perfect, more lightweight option.

What I Love About Altra Lone Peak Shoes:

  •  Wide toe box: this is great for anyone with bunion pain or wider feet
  • Fantastic traction
  • Super lightweight: I weighed my pair of Altra shoes at just over 8 oz
a purple pair of Altra Lone peak trail runner shoes
Altra trail runner shoes are a great lightweight alternative to hiking boots

The Bottom Line: Are Duck Boots Good for Hiking?

Duck boots are not the right footwear for most hiking trails.  They won’t keep your feet warm in winter conditions and are not the best choice for rocky terrain.  

If you’re planning your next hike and looking for the right pair of boots, we recommend something like the Columbia Newton Ridge series.  These boots come in different styles, have a waterproof leather upper, and are all-around a solid pair of hiking shoes.

FAQs: 

Are Duck Boots Good for Snow?

Duck boots are not the best option for the snow. While they are waterproof, the rubber sole does not provide heat retention for cold weather.  

What Are The Best Hiking Boots?

The best hiking boots are durable, often with a rubber midsole and leather upper. Both the Columbia Newton Ridge and the Columbia Crestwood boots are fantastic, affordable choices. 

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