Why Do Hiking Boots Have Red Laces?

Have you ever been out on the trails and seen other hikers with red laces glaring like a beacon from their boots? Perhaps you own a pair of hiking boots with red laces and have wondered why on earth the manufacturer decided to go with such an out there design.

I mean, when you think about it, hiking boots aren’t a fashion accessory; they’re a practical type of shoe made for a specific purpose. So the addition of red laces probably isn’t a style thing, right? 

Hiking boots have had red laces for years and years. They’ve become something of a tradition and this has stuck over time. Originally, hikers would use red laces on their hiking boots as a way of separating them from their work boots. 

So, when you assume that those red laces probably aren’t a fashion statement, this isn’t necessarily true. They might be bright and in your face, but this is a tradition that isn’t going anywhere. 

It’s All About Tradition

Look at any community and there will be long standing traditions and that’s no different among hikers. If you want to feel as though you’re really involved in this activity and show others that that is the case then wearing hiking boots with red laces will certainly make you fit in. 

The tradition of wearing red laces on hiking boots dates back to the 1960s. A lot of hiking boot manufacturers started using red laces and this has now become almost a symbolic thing. Taking it away would ruin the branding.

Today, a lot of these companies also make hiking boots with laces in other colours but you’ll almost always be able to get your hands on the traditional red lace style. The only real exception here are the more modern hiking boot brands which don’t release boots with red laces but these are few and far between.

But Where Did That Tradition Begin?

As we have mentioned, the first red laced hiking boots made an appearance in the 1960s and this trend only grew in the following two decades. Back then, you wouldn’t have really been able to tell the difference between a pair of hiking boots and the boots you’d don for work. 

There were some minor differences in terms of weight and length, but to the untrained eye, they were anything but obvious. But when manufacturers started adding red laces to their hiking boots, it became a lot easier to tell them apart. This was particularly important when shopping for a pair of boots. 

You see, while they might not look much different, hiking boots have some features that make them better suited to outdoor use on the trails. For example, the tread is much deeper and the whole boot would be more lightweight to improve your mobility. 

Since you’d be using the hiking boots outdoors, they were normally made from thicker materials that better insulated the feet in winter. 

But when you compare these features to work boots, you begin to see how they’re different. The rubber sole of the hiking boots wasn’t ideal for use in a warehouse or factory. In fact, they’d probably wear out much more quickly.

The problem here was that boot manufacturers didn’t want their customers getting confused between boots. Accidentally buying a pair of hiking boots for work only to find they didn’t stand the test of time would only annoy the customer who would automatically blame the brand and avoid using them again in future. By adding red laces to hiking boots, the manufacturer could clearly show the different types of boot on offer. 

Stand Out!

Red is used in so many situations where attention is needed. This is what makes it great for use when hiking. Being able to announce your presence when walking along trails can help to keep you safe. Imagine you’re headed out during hunting season, you’re going to want to let nearby hunters know that you aren’t an animal and those red laces can help with that. 

Moreover, if you’re trying to avoid animals then red is a brilliant colour to wear. You see, most animals can’t see this colour so they won’t be attracted to you, meaning you’ll be safer when hiking somewhere with potentially dangerous creatures.

What’s more, if you were ever unfortunate enough to suffer a fall or accident when out on the trails, the more obvious you can make yourself, the better. You might think that your laces are a small part of your attire but if you were to fall and only have your feet exposed, a lack of colour wouldn’t draw attention. If a passer by notices that flash of red, it could be the difference between life and death. 

Keeping Your Boots Clean

Hiking isn’t an activity for people who aren’t willing to get a little dirty. But you still want to keep your gear clean and having red laces can actually work in your favour here. 

Hiking boots are normally made in neutral or earthy colours to make sure that mud is as invisible as possible. The great thing about red is that, while it is bright, it’s also an earth tone so when it gets dirty, the mess won’t show up as much.

You’ll be able to go on a lot of hikes before you have to clean your red laces. Most of the time, you’ll be able to get away with just hosing the boots down between wears so they’re very low maintenance. Even when it comes to fully cleaning the laces, you’ll only need to use some soap and minimal elbow grease to get mud out. 

The Dark Past Of The Red Lace

I really wanted to touch on the notion that red laces on hiking boots comes from the Neo Nazi tradition of wearing red laces. 

This culture, more commonly referred to as the ‘skinhead culture’, began back in the 60s; the same time that hiking boots with red laces started being made. They were known for wearing boots with red laces and sometimes were even called the ‘boot party.’

Skinheads would wear their red laces as a badge of honour and they were a symbol that that individual was ready for violence or fighting. Of course, this isn’t something that your average hiker would want to display.

The good news is that skinheads wouldn’t typically have worn a hiking boot but some other type of boot. Normally they would have had steel toes and would have been made with black leather which is hardly ever used for hiking boots.


If you’ve ever been hiking then you may have noticed people wearing hiking boots with red laces. This is a common thing that dates back to the 60s when manufacturers needed a way to differentiate between working boots and those made for hiking. 

While the differences between these boots are far less subtle today, the tradition of red laces has stuck and is now considered to be hiking fashion.