For those who like the idea of walking in the countryside as a means of keeping fit, but would prefer to gently stroll it rather than race to the top of the nearest mountain then soft hiking might just be for you.
Forget hardcore hiking, TikTok's latest fitness trend is all about taking it slow, swapping marching for meandering and strolling at your own pace rather than scrambling to do 5K in record time.
The term itself is believed to be coined by Brits Emily Thornton and Lucy Hird from @softgirlswhohike who wanted to show that hiking is for everyone, no matter your fitness level or walking ability.
In a TikTok post introducing the concept the duo explain that having been on walks with seasoned hikers, they worried they weren't strong or fit enough to keep up.
They came to the conclusion that they have different motivations to more traditional walkers, and while their reasons for enjoying rambling aren't wrong, it isn't for them.
"Ours is simply to enjoy ourselves," they say of their own hiking motivation. "Slowly, we have learned that we are capable hikers too. It is not about pushing yourself to the limit or ticking something off. Soft hiking is about the pure joy of spending time in nature and moving your body."
The key to soft hiking, they say, is to take it slow, taking in your surroundings, and stopping for regular water and snack breaks.
"It's time to go off trail and be present in the moment," they continue. "There's no need to rush we hope to inspire you to get out there and soft hike no matter who you are."
The duo's original post explaining the soft hiking premise certainly seems to have resonated, having clocked up over 359K views and receiving a whole host of comments sharing the love for the concept.
"Love this! Soft hiking, rambling, puttering along… whatever the term, it’s meeeee," one user writes.
"I've wanted to get more into hiking but I prefer going at my own pace, love the term soft hiking," another agrees.
"I love this!" another user adds. Especially the actual getting to enjoy nature. Hikers I've been with go so fast I have to stare at my feet to make sure I don't trip."
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What is soft hiking?
Where traditional hiking is often about pushing yourself to complete more challenging routes, soft hiking, is more about puttering along at your own pace.
"There are no time restrictions or other external pressures," explains Catherine Lauris, community manager at Merrell Hiking Club UK, a women-centric community which aims to empower, inform and inspire female hikers and bring inclusivity and accessibility to the hiking world.
"It’s a gentle workout that provides people with the opportunity to be fully present, enjoy being in nature and take in their surroundings."
Lauris believes the term, which currently has 431.5K views on TikTok, is proving so popular right now for several reasons.
"Firstly, it is accessible to the vast majority of people," she tells Yahoo UK. "You do not have to be very fit or have previous hiking experience.
"Secondly, it’s a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful nature that surrounds us."
And of course, as we know, being in nature has some pretty important benefits including reducing stress and anxiety, boosting happiness and wellbeing and promoting better sleep, which we're all craving right now.
Soft hiking also taps into a growing movement, quite literally, of encouraging anyone to move their body whatever their level of fitness, income or body shape. Think lazy girl workouts, conscious exercise and low-impact interval training (LIIT).
If this sounds much more your kind of exercise jam and want to give slow hiking a try, Lauris has put together some tips about getting started.
Research your route properly beforehand. She suggests choosing a route with a well marked path and where there will be phone signal. And check the weather forecast before heading out.
Be safety conscious. Always tell someone where you’re going and what time you expect to be back.
Wear the right footwear. Hiking boots are advisable if you want good ankle support. If the weather is wet, GORE-TEX hiking books, like the Moab Speed, are the best as the GORE-TEX membrane means that the shoe is waterproof and breathable.
Be prepared. Always take the essentials - waterproofs, power bank, water and snacks, first aid kit, head torch.
Bring hiking poles for extra support if you think you need them. There is often a misconception that they are only for older walkers and you don't need them if you are young, but they are really helpful. They’re great for balance, stability, increased circulation and safety, not putting pressure on your joints on the downhills, weight distribution if you have a big pack on your back. I hope the soft hiking trend can help break this stigma.
Take regular breaks. And enjoy the beauty that surrounds you.
Check what’s allowed on the trail. Respect your surroundings and take your litter with you.
Consider joining a slow hiking group. If you have nobody to go with, find a hiking group to tag along with. Merrell Hiking Club is a great community that provides an inclusive, safe space for hikers of all levels to connect.
Most importantly, stay present and enjoy!