Best Hiking Shoes for Hawaiʻi

If you are going to be hiking in Hawaiʻi, then you will need to be prepared. Having the right footwear is essential for any hiking trip, but even more important for hiking in Hawaiʻi. Steep trails, sharp ridges, and slippery slopes are normal occurrences while hiking Hawaiʻi. Here’s a guide to finding the best hiking shoes for Hawaiʻi.

What are the Best Shoes for Hiking in Hawaiʻi?

There are a few different types of shoes that you can wear while hiking in Hawaiʻi. For some of the most popular hikes in Hawaiʻi, you can just wear your running shoes. For instance, many people get by fine hiking Diamond Head using their normal shoes. But if you will be going up trails that are in dirt or off-road then you will need proper footwear.

In this article, we’ll discuss a few different types of footwear that you might find on the trails in Hawaiʻi. We’ll also go over what each type of footwear excels at, and what they are not so good at.

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Trail Runners

Trail running shoes have traditionally been used by trail runners, but are now widely used by hikers. They are lightweight hiking shoes that are made to tackle all kinds of terrain. They also have good construction since they’re designed for running. Some trail runners even have cleats that claw into the ground as you walk.

Trail runners are excellent for hiking in Hawaiʻi because they can handle the diverse terrain that you will find here. They are great for hiking slippery ridges and have no problem going through water. If they get wet, they are lightweight and quick to dry.

One downside of trail runners is that they do not provide much foot protection or support. Also, they are typically not waterproof.

Rocky ridge in Hawaii
Trail runners are excellent for hiking diverse terrain, such as rocky ridges
A pair of trail running shoes such as the Inov-8 X-Talon are an excellent choice for hiking on Hawaiʻs diverse terrain

The adidas Rockadia trail running shoes are a popular choice for conquering all types of hikes


Tabis are a type of footwear that many people have never heard of, but may have seen. They are typically used in Hawaiʻi by fishermen while walking on wet rocks. Tabis have a grippy underside that is excellent at holding onto slippery surfaces. Some tabis are made of neoprene, a waterproof material that is used in wetsuits.

Tabis are fantastic for hiking in Hawaiʻi because they rarely lose traction while hiking over slippery surfaces. If you are going to be hiking through mud and water, then tabis will keep your feet dry.

One downside of tabis is that once the inside gets wet, they take a long time to dry. Also, tabis do not provide much support, so only use them on short hikes or if your feet are strong.

The Rikio Spike Tabis are waterproof canvas boots that hake spikes underneath them for gripping slippery rocks

The Marugo Tabi Boots have flexible soles that are super grippy

Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are tried and true pieces of footwear, an excellent choice for hiking in most places. However, they are often not the best choice for hiking in Hawaiʻi. This is because they are thick and heavy, and can make your feet sweat in tropical Hawaiʻi. They also are bulky and can get in the way of hiking up rocky ridges. Hiking boots also are known for slipping over wet rocks.

But if you are going to be hiking through brush or overgrown areas, hiking boots are probably the best choice. Hiking boots are also a great choice for people who need arch support for hiking long distances.

Hiking boots such as the Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II are waterproof and have protection for overgrown trails

The Timberland White Ledge Hiking Boots are made of waterproof leather and are perfect for hiking through mud

Hiking Shoes

Hiking shoes are the smaller, less intense version of hiking boots. They are lighter, thinner, and have less protection than their bigger boot counterpart. Hiking shoes are a decent all around choice for hiking in Hawaiʻi. While they don’t have as much protection as hiking boots, or as much grip as trail runners, they are a great choice for handling anything you will find here. They are even comfortable enough to wear around town.

The Merrel Moab 2 Hiking Shoes are lightweight, breathable, and have excellent grip

The Columbia Redmond Waterproof Hiking Shoes are the shoe version of Columbia’s hiking boots

Why do I need Shoes for Hiking in Hawaiʻi?

Hiking in Hawaiʻi is unlike hiking in most places. While the hikes are usually not as long, they can be much more intense. Rocky ridges, slippery streams, and steep slopes are normal on many hikes in Hawaiʻi. There is not one type of shoe that is best for all the hikes in Hawaiʻi. Depending on the kind of hike you are going on, it may be smart to wear one type of footwear over the other:
  • For hiking up a stream or a waterfall it would be wise to wear tabis to avoid slipping on wet rocks.
  • If you are hiking up an overgrown ridge with Uluhe Fern, then hiking boots might be the best choice.
  • Trail runners are a great choice for wet, slippery ridges since they have good grip and are easy to maneuver.
  • Plain hiking shoes are a great all-around choice for hiking in Hawaiʻi.
Ridge overgrown with Uluhe Fern in Hawaii
Hiking boots offer foot protection and are be a good choice for ridges that are overgrown with Uluhe Fern


Trey is an avid outdoorsman and curator of Code:Outdoors. He enjoys discovering new places and learning new skills. He is an Eagle Scout and can be found both car camping and on rugged extended adventures.