Can you wear wellington boots for hiking? If you’re British, you may very well have asked this question, especially when the weather turns colder and the hiking trails become boggier. In fairness, there’s nothing to ruin a good hike quite like stepping into what looks like a shallow puddle only to end up knee deep in mud and then squelching along with a cold, wet foot for the remainder of the day.
On the surface of things, the classic wellington boot seems like it would be the perfect solution. These knee-high rubber boots, more fondly referred to as “wellies,” have become a staple of British life since their leather predecessors were popularized by the aristocracy and middle classes in the mid-nineteenth century. On an island where it rains a lot, they make a lot of sense. Trotting out to work in a torrential downpour? Need to walk the dog in a deluge? Throw on your best wellington boots and you won’t succumb to the torturous discomfort of soggy socks.
But when it comes to hiking in wet weather, do wellington boots actually make adequate footwear? The truth is, if you’re heading out on a long, hilly walk, the answer is a resounding no.
As we’ve discussed in our article on choosing hiking boots, there are certain key factors that you definitely don’t want to overlook when it comes to footwear for the trail. Primarily, you want boots or shoes that fit well, have good grip for uneven terrain, breathability for sweaty feet and overall comfort to prevent blisters and rubbing. Some people also prefer the feeling of ankle support from a mid or high hiking boot.
Now, wellies have certainly come a long way from the basic boots of our youth. These days, you can find wellies with Vibram soles for better grip and fleece linings that help with breathability and comfort. However, wellies still aren’t really suitable for – or designed for – hiking. For one thing, they’re quite heavy, usually weighing in at about 4lbs per pair while a lot of the best hiking boots weigh less than half that. They also don’t fit as snugly to your feet as hiking boots, nor do they have laces to make them snugger, so the chances of them rubbing and giving you blisters if you’re out in them for an extended period of time is high.
Finally, there’s the issue of price. If you were to invest in a really good pair of wellies, you might be looking at shelling out upwards of £170 and at that rate, you might as well go in on some proper hiking boots if that’s what you’re looking for anyway.
If you own a good pair of wellies, there’s no need to drop them off at the charity shop however. Wellies offer the ultimate water protection for your feet and are great for wet days, walks that aren’t too long or hilly, even wading through the odd stream. But if you’re planning on a hike in wet weather, you’d be better off seeking out a good pair of hiking boots made from a breathable waterproof fabric like Gore-Tex, and you might also consider investing in a pair of gaiters which you can strap on over your boots or hiking shoes to keep out rain, snow, mud and even the irritating intrusion of a crafty pebble.
Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Adventure.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.
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