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Are tennies OK for summer hiking in Switzerland?

I will be doing a month-long Europe trip this summer and packing light. My last week will be in Switzerland and I plan to do some hiking in the Berner Oberland. I'm 50 years old, and this will be light hiking, maybe 5 miles per day at most. Do I need hiking boots for this, or will I be OK with tennis shoes (with gripper bottoms)? Of course, I don't want to waste valuable packing space with something I don't need. Thank you!

Posted by
505 posts

For safety's sake, I would at least bring some lightweight hiking boots (like the low rise Merrells for instance). The ankle support is key - you may encounter 'scrambly bits', mud or other unstable conditions.

Remember that it would probably be less of burden to carry a bit of extra weight rather than have to cut your trip short because of a sprained ankle/knee/broken wrist. And to have to worry about paying for medical expenses or dealing with an insurance company.


Posted by
6898 posts

Donna, light shoes with good soles should be OK on most hikes. However, there are some mountain goat hikes in the BO so you might want to think about that. HERE'S A LINK to a great website for hiking trails in the BO.

As a side note, I hear they closed my favorite Le Bistro. Years ago, when I lived in Larkspur, I went there weekly.

Posted by
9345 posts

Donna, hi, I live minutes from you in Corte Madera :) I wear my tennis shoes for hiking in the Berner Oberland and have never, ever had any problem. We'll be there again this July, with me in my tennies!

Posted by
281 posts


Lightweight sneaker type shoes are fine as long as they don't have smooth soles, i.e. court type soles. If you look on the Lands End website, they sell a "Trekker" that is light and reasonably priced, but my preference is for some of the light hikers at REI (Corte Madera). They are a great shoe for daily wear in Switzerland when on holidays. There are a number of different brands, just try them on until you find the one you like.


Posted by
6898 posts

If you look at Land's End, look at the All Terain Mary Jane. You won't believe how casual and CROC-ish it looks.

Posted by
1396 posts


For the most part hiking in the Berner Oberland is very different from hiking somewhere like the Rockies or the Sierra Nevadas. Almost all of the trails are very well groomed. A good pair of tennies should be fine!

Posted by
9091 posts

Jill makes a good point, a lot of the popular "trails" in the BO are actually more service/access roads then they are traditional trails, and for these kinds of "hikes", sneakers should be okay. But traditional trails like you find in the rockies do exist; like the all day ridge hike Rick describes in his guidebook. For this type of trek, real hiking boots are mandatory.

Posted by
2 posts

I am a hardcore backpacker who recently switched to the ultralight philosophy and am VERY glad I did. You basically NEVER need hiking boots if you carry little weight. If you are concerned about ankle support, you can save lots of weight and still get support by wearing either the canvas lace-up, or velcro type of ankle wraps underneath your lightweight hiking shoes.

BTW, I HIGHLY recommend any of the Nu Balance trail shoes. They're so light that you feel like you're wearing nothing. Makes hiking MUCH easier. Remember: 1 pound of weight on your foot is like 5 on your back, because you are picking them up and putting them down with each step.