If you like a good pair of boots, or you’re in the musical scene, you’re probably very familiar with Dr. Martens boots, or Docs. These boots are no longer just a choice for punkers and outsiders. If you live in a city, chances are you’ll see at least a couple of pairs if you spend a day out and about.
Where I live I’ll often see at least 3 or 4 couple of them if I walk down the street for a bit. The classic black boots are an iconic image associated with music, streetwear, and style, but you may be wondering if your Docs can be used beyond casual or day-to-day use.
The iconic boot’s workwear roots make it a durable choice for daily life or urban adventures, but are doc martens good for hiking? You may want to keep reading before taking them on the trail.
The short answer is Doc Martens are not good hiking boots. Like Blundstones, they are better used in town or calmer environments. If you’ve got nothing else, they may not hurt you on some casual trails, but any serious hiking in Docs won’t be a good experience.
Can you hike in Doc Martens?
The boots are designed for comfort, but that does not make them appropriate for hiking.
Since they were originally designed as work boots, Docs may hold up to short adventures like a 5-mile hike, but you’ll still likely face discomfort.
On longer hikes, you will most likely encounter pain and begin to notice the lack of features suitable for hiking.
I will not generally be focusing on a specific boot that Doc Marten manufactures, as none of them are constructed for hiking or outdoor use specifically.
While Doc Marten used to manufacture boots inspired by hiking styles, even that was mainly a fashion choice.
The Santo Grizzly model was as close as Doc Marten came to creating a hiking boot, but even the description of the product was clear that they were only inspired by hiking boots, not genuinely created for hiking.
Disclosure: Links to products might be affiliate links so we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The Grizzly was the only product remotely close to a hiking boot, and it is no longer manufactured. I reference the 1460 model, as this is the classic style of boot that Dr. Martens is best known for.
Many Docs have similar features, so information will apply to nearly every model they carry.
It’s still ideal to research whatever model you are questioning for use on treks, but the statement stands that they should generally be avoided as hiking footwear!
Dr. Martens History
Doc Martens beginning stems from Munich, after WWII. Former soldier Dr. Klaus Martens created a new boot to help his broken foot heal.
Traditional boots had a firm leather sole, and in 1945, Marten created an air-cushioned sole. He brought a prototype to an engineer friend from university.
Dr. Herbert Funk and Marten became partners. Soon after, formal production began, and by 1959 they were looking to advertise overseas. In England, the Griggs Company noticed the product and acquired a license for them.
Soon after, the boots were altered and we see the earliest version of the iconic Doc Marten. The yellow stitching, overall shape, yellow heel loop, and they hit the market as “Airwair”.
Docs were originally working boots used by blue-collar British citizens. Throughout the 70s and into the 80s Docs were worn by British anti-establishment and youth cultural groups, and musicians began wearing them on stage.
With their punk history, Docs exploded with the grunge scene in the 90s but faltered in the early 2000s. Docs began being used in fashion and again rose to popularity.
Doc Martens are now fashion boots, not for work or hiking, but they’re still an amazing product with a rich history.
Why Doc aren’t good hiking boots?
Despite Docs’ roots as a work boot, they lack the features to be a proper hiking boot.
Below is a list of qualities that hiking specific boots will generally have:
- Ankle support
- Protective qualities
- Waterproof or water-resistant
- Reasonable weight (Varies in heavier-duty versus lightweight designed models)
Many of the problems Docs face on the trail relate to their lack of these qualities.
While I’m not saying a pair of Docs will fall apart, leak, slip or cause pain on every trail, they won’t compare to boots made for hiking.
You won’t face major issues on some casual treks, but once you begin serious hikes or conditions are poor, you’re out of luck.
The soles are not made to have a lot of traction, they lack significant ankle support, and large amounts of water will likely leave your feet damp.
As far as protectiveness goes, your feet will generally be safe from scratches or jagged rock, but you’ll likely develop blisters or foot pain if you hike beyond a few miles or a mellow day outside.
Some Doc Martens can be heavy for long walks, but that varies based on the model. An example of heavier models can be found in their platform boots.
Doc Marten platform boots are essentially the same product with a much thicker sole. If you own a pair of platform Docs you should avoid hiking in them at all, as these are the least suitable for hikes compared to the traditional models.
The simple fact is that Docs are not manufactured for this purpose, so however amazing they are, you will face problems if you use them on the trail. Docs are much better suited on the streets and sidewalks, musical venues, or even a relaxed work environment.
Pros and Cons of Doc Martens
How to make Docs better for hiking?
If you can’t pass up on a beautiful hike or your friends dropped some last-minute plans on you, you may be worried about wearing your Doc Martens on an adventure.
If you’re in a pinch, there are a few things you can do to make the best of the situation.
Many pairs of Docs are notorious for having a difficult break-in period. Unless your boots are fully broken in, it’s not a good idea to go on any hikes in them, especially if they are not short in length.
Wearing a couple of pairs of high hiking style socks can also help, as you’ll reduce movement, and hopefully minimize your chances of blisters. Properly tying your boots can be a big help.
If they fit a bit badly, there are many hiking boot tying techniques available online to prevent slipping or fit problems in several areas of your foot. While Docs are water-resistant, they will not be as waterproof as most hiking boots.
To increase their resistance to water, you can buy waterproofing treatments to make sure they hold up to snow or rain. I also recommend choosing an easy, well-maintained trail with little elevation changes.
What can doc Martens handle?
Even though Docs aren’t a good hiking boot, they’ll still hold up to daily wear. The boots became iconic for a reason, and if you’re seeking something that’s a good urban boot that will hold up to rain, snow, and hard use, they’re a wonderful choice.
Docs are also known as festival wear, or as a great choice for concerts or shows. After their evolution away from a work boot, Docs are much better as a casual choice.
A benefit of their history as a choice for factory-workers, postmen, and so on, is that most Docs have some work boot style features. It isn’t quite fair to put Docs in a hiking boot lineup since that’s simply not their intended purpose.
After the tough break-in period, hordes of people stand by their comfort. This boot is now a fashion icon, but its construction is simply lacking for hard use outdoors. If you buy Doc Martens, you’ll have a great product that’ll hold up for a long time, just don’t bring them on the trail.
What features does Doc Martens have?
I’ll be focusing on the Doc Marten 1460 for this summary, as this is their classic model that you’re likely familiar with. Features of the 1460 are also fairly common for most Doc Marten models.
The 1460 features a cushioned footbed, an oil and slip-resistant rubber outsole, a lace-up style, round toe, and mesh lining, alongside full-grain leather construction. Most of these features are not helpful for hiking boots, but the full-grain leather and slip-resistant sole will be helpful on a trail.
It’s good to keep in mind the slip features are designed for daily wear or work boot, not necessarily hiking boots. Full-grain leather is one of the features genuinely helpful on hikes since it will hold up to potential damage, scratches, and so on.
Dr. Martens boots are a popular, iconic piece of footwear for a reason. They’re known to be a great investment that lasts a long time if used for daily/casual wear, and as an urban boot. People around the world stand by Docs as their choice boot, and their reputation has made them a consistently used product.
Once you venture onto hard trails, rugged terrain, and outdoor adventures, they do not perform. However harsh that sounds, that is not their intended use. If you love a good pair of boots, they’re worth a try.
If you want a boot to wear when not in nature, Docs are a great choice. It’s always essential to remember what a product is designed for, and know that if you use something beyond its range, it will suffer and you probably will too.
If you’ve got nothing else, they’ll be alright on last-minute treks with your friends, but if you have the chance to plan for your next adventure, a different boot is your best choice.
For more detailed guides and references, read my other posts:
About the Author
Hussain is a passionate hiker and traveler that love the outdoor and enjoys what nature has to give, whenever he can he love to write and give tips & honest reviews to help others get out there and just seek more unforgettable experiences