Doc Martens are probably one of the most recognizable pairs of boots in the world. Initially worn by mostly postmen and factory workers, as time went on, the English working-class began to wear them casually.
Eventually, the meaning of the boot would go on to cultivate a life of its own, with Doc Martens becoming an emblematic symbol of punk and skinhead culture.
Since the 1980’s the classic 1460 Doc Martens boot has become a symbol of nonconformity and counterculture. They can be worn in a multitude of settings, from everyday streetwear to the mosh pits, but is taking your Doc Martens on the hiking trail a good idea?
History of Doc Martens
Before we get into the fit and overall practicality of Doc Martens boots, let’s take a closer look at how this iconic yellow-laced boot came to be.
In 1945, Klaus Märtens was a 35-year-old man who had served as a doctor for the Nazi army in World War II. While recovering from a broken foot he had gotten from a skiing accident, he developed a special boot that he could wear comfortably through the duration of his injury. Rather than the traditional hard leather sole that was common for the time, Märtens developed a boot that had an air-cushioned sole, which would go on to become a defining feature for the Doc Martens boot.
Märtens felt like he had created something that the entire world could benefit from, so he contacted Dr. Herbert Funk, a friend from his university days, to show him the prototype for the soon-to-be iconic Doc Martens boot.
The Griggs Family, a family of shoemakers from very humble surroundings, had by this time made a very prominent name for themselves as the premier shoemakers in England. The multigenerational family business was already well known for creating shoes and work boots that were sturdy, durable, and comfortable, but it would be their collaboration with Klaus Marten, the namesake for the Doc Martens boot, that would really solidify the Griggs family business place in history.
In 1960, the Griggs family had acquired the patent for the shoe design, and after a few key alterations, such as an altered heel, and the boot’s iconic yellow stitching, the classic Doc Martens boot was born.
Doc Martens For Outdoor Work: A Multifunctional Boot
Doc Martens are a great shoe to have in a variety of settings. You can style them with a casual outfit for a day of light walking, or you can throw them on to thrash around at a punk show. It’s really up to you how you wear this multifunctional shoe.
Today, Doc Martens are known more as a fashion statement than as a shoe with a practical function. Klaus Marten had been inspired to create the patent for the Doc Martens boot we know today from the boots soldiers were wearing during combat. After the war had wrapped up and the Griggs family had acquired rights to the boot, everyday workers began to wear them for their practical function and protection at work.
Other than being a badass article of clothing, Doc Martens are an excellent shoe to wear for blue-collar workers who work in environments such as factories or construction sites. The boots have the option to be fitted with steel toes to make for an extra level of much-needed protection in machine-heavy workspaces. This makes the Doc Martens boots excellent for people who are going to be on their feet for most of the day.
However, just because they’re good for activities that require you to be on your feet all day, doesn’t mean they are compatible with all activities that require a lot of standing or movement.
Are Doc Martens Good for Hiking?
Although it would appear that the Doc Martens boot would be a great boot to take with you out on the trails, with an obvious advantage of the ankle support from the classic 1460 boot, the Doc Martens is actually a less than ideal shoe to hike in. It would be much more convenient and far safer for you to opt for a proper hiking boot or a running shoe if you really are serious about making the most out of your hikes.
One reason why it’s probably not the best idea to hike in a Doc Martens boot is the level of discomfort you’re likely to experience. Although Doc Martens have an air-cushioned sole that allows for more comfort for standing all day, the shoes’ stiff leather material can really do a number on your feet if you allow yourself to traverse over rugged terrain and long distances with them.
Another reason why you might not want to use Doc Martens on your hike is that the shoes can tend to be quite heavy. On average, a pair of Doc Martens can weigh about 3.2 pounds. This kind of heavier shoe can actually impact your energy levels greatly on a hike, with research suggesting that the extra 3 pounds on your feet can actually be the equivalent of carrying a 25-pound backpack out on the trails.
A pair of proper, lightweight hiking boots or running shoes will cut the weight carried on your feet which can have a very positive effect on your energy levels, which in turn will give you more motivation to complete your hike.
Doc Martens also lack a comfortable level of breathability which is due to the fact that the shoe is made out of leather, a perpetually unbreathable material. If you’re gonna be out on a trail hiking with this boot, especially during warmer seasons, you’re actually putting yourself at a higher risk of potentially developing a fungal infection due to an increased level of foot perspiration in a sealed environment. This isn’t even to mention just an increased level of odor that would radiate from your socks once you take these clunkers off.
Despite the risks associated with wearing Doc Martens on the trail, one positive thing that this boot can offer you is a good level of traction thanks to their patented GripTrax soles.
Despite all of this, If you still decide to go ahead and hike in a Doc Martens boot, it would likely be in your best interest to take them with you on relatively short trails with smooth surfaces.
Can You Wear Doc Martens In The Rain?
Although the classic 1460 Doc Martens is made out of leather, which can be good for insulation, the leather is actually quite thin, which makes it less than ideal for hiking in closer temperatures. The leather that Doc Martens are made from also tends to soak up the water quite quickly, which can be very dangerous for you as a hiker. Not only can this increase your risk of a fungal infection, but this can also greatly increase your risk of catching hypothermia.
The water that you would subject your Doc Martens to would also likely harm the material of the boot itself. If your Doc Martens are exposed to rain or snow for too long, this can cause the boot’s leather material to crack. This wear to the boot will damage them irreparably and will cost you a pretty penny to get them replaced.
If you are in fact looking for a boot in a Doc Martens style that is waterproof, such a boot does exist. The classic 1460 boot has a version that comes with a waterproof coating and light insulation that is suitable for colder weather.
As we stated earlier, the Doc Marten boots have a special GripTrax traction sole that can help with keeping sturdy on less complicated terrain. So although this boot isn’t the most ideal for walking through torrential weather, if you do choose to wear these boots in rain or snow, you will have a good amount of traction to keep you balanced.
It is however highly advised that you at the very least avoid all ice when walking with your Doc Martens through cold weather. The soles of this boot are not created efficiently enough to help you stay steady over the frozen water. So just be mindful wearing them in the rain or snow, and be sure to avoid crossing over any and all ice. To give yourself extra protection against frigid temperatures while wearing Doc Martens, opt for a thick, warm wool sock.
The Best Doc Marten Boots for Hiking
If you haven’t guessed already, my choice for the best Doc Marten boot for hiking would have to be the 1460 boot. This is because it has a waterproof coating and light insulation that is suitable for colder weather, as well as the GripTrax traction sole which helps with keeping sturdy on less complicated terrain.
So although the boots are still made from leather, which isn’t the most breathable or ideal material for hiking, the 1460 boot is the best option that Doc Martens has to offer in terms of a boot that could be suitable for hiking.
So while you have the free choice to hike in a pair of Doc Martens, it would be much safer to go on the trails with a certified hiking boot.
Although the Doc Martens is an emblematic symbol of nonconformity, you might want to stick to convention when choosing a shoe to wear on a hike. A conventional hiking boot will allow you a great deal of breathability so your feet can stay dry and keep a pleasant smell. Conventional hiking footwear will also offer a lightweight material that will be very beneficial when taking on those longer trails.
Remember that a good hiking shoe is the foundation of your hike, and can really make it or break it. Choosing a shoe specially made for hiking will always be your best bet in enjoying all your trail has to offer!