If you are a hiking enthusiast interested in hitting the mountains on the first chance, you already know the importance of choosing footwear. Sometimes, however, the climatic conditions are rough, as also the terrain. For instance, at times, during your hiking adventures, you will have to face snow, rain, or intense winds and walk on debris or sharp rocks.
Therefore, wearing regular sneakers does not guarantee a solid mountaineering experience. Instead, opt for hiking boots or hiking shoes, as both of them make a fantastic choice for hiking.
But what’s the actual difference between hiking shoes vs hiking boots? Well, that’s what we’re trying to find out in this article.
|Hiking Shoes- Benefits||Hiking Boots- Benefits|
|Comfortable and breathable||Ankle Support & stability|
|Lighter than boots||Total foot protection|
|Dries slowly unless you have the waterproof version||Durable|
|Little to no break-in period||Super warmth for cold-weather excursions|
|Average ankle support||Great all-all around traction|
|Good for wet or hot weather hikes||Can be waterproofed|
|Good middle ground for terrain and trail hikes||Repairable and parts of shoe can be replaced.|
|Lasts about 350-500 miles before needing to be replaced||Lasts about 500-1,000 miles|
|Hiking Shoes- Downsides||Hiking Boots- Downsides|
|Limited support in foot, none in ankle||Breaking in period- mandatory|
|Trail debris can come through the top of ankles||Heavy & bulky|
|Less protection on rough trails||Not very flexible|
|Needs replacing more often||Slow drying|
For starters, boots offer top-notch protection and ankle support in hikes. By choosing them, hiking enthusiasts are protected from the elements of nature, sharp stones, and steep edges. And for these reasons, professional hikers choose them over hiking shoes.
Currently, there’s a variety of designs available, covering every preference and need. What’s hard, however, is finding the one that’s best for you.
Moreover, there’s an assumption among consumers that hiking boots are always heavy, bulky, and stiff, restricting hikers from going the extra mile as they are less flexible. On top of that, hiking boots appear useful only for covering long distances.
However, most of the assumptions about hiking boots are no longer true and much has changed. Over the years, hiking boots have become user-friendly, with manufacturers incorporating new materials into innovative designs.
For instance, if you’re a hiker who prefers to go only for day hikes, you might need to choose a soft, light, and super-cushioned boot that allows your foot to relax without pressuring it, much like a shoe.
Contrarily, if you are passionate about hiking and your favorite places to be are Mount Everest or Mount Fuji, you have to reconsider your hiking boot options. You better choose a heavy boot with stiffer soles and a heavily protected toe area.
Consequently, heavy boots are fantastic for long-distance hikes, especially if you’re carrying large loads. And the extra support of boots is welcoming. Sturdier boots also offer additional protection by absorbing shocks too.
Without a doubt, hiking boots are the choice to go when hiking in rain or snow as their high tops tuck inside waterproof pants to keep moisture away. Most boots are made of durable leather or Gore-Tex and are warm and cozy. Hiking boots are now waterproof and offer complete protection when crossing streams or walking through mud.
It’s important to note that hikers have to break in their hiking boots before taking them to the mountains. Leather that is never worn before causes blisters, is painful, and can even sabotage a hike by becoming a nuisance. Better to prevent then to treat, we have some tips on how to prevent blisters when hiking.
- Great traction
- Superior ankle support
- Total protection
- Warm and comfy
- Bulkier and less flexible than hiking shoes
- Need breaking in
- Takes longer to dry
Lately, more casual hikers have hit the mountains and the trails, hiking shoes have increased in popularity and demand. They resemble sneakers and offer unique out-of-the-box comfort. In this way, they end up being the first choice of recreational hikers. Additionally, for casual hikers needing more support, hiking shoes also have rugged versions with reinforced soles and toe protection: Trail runners.
As mentioned before, boots are kind of heavy and stiff. On the contrary, hiking shoes are very soft and comfortable, and way more flexible. And they don’t need breaking in. They make a great fit.
That said, they are a safe choice solely for dry weather and smooth, clean terrain. So, avoid using them in technical conditions. However, some argue that hiking shoes are made of more breathable materials than hiking boots, so they dry faster. Therefore, hiking shoes seem excellent for wet environments too.
Even though they are less durable than boots, hiking shoes are fantastic for compact travels and day hikes. They are easy to pack and carry along and also provide adequate support. But don’t try to wear them when carrying loads on your back, as you might feel heavier than usual.
Furthermore, some sandals are perfect for hiking in warm weather too. They can even be submerged in water, which is handy for crossing streams. However, they are not ideal for rough trails as debris gets lodged on the insole and makes for an uncomfortable hike.
- Drying quickly
- No break-in period
- Less protection on rough terrain
- Mediocre ankle support
- Not so durable
Best Fit: Hiking Boots Or Hiking Shoes?
You’d think that protection or support would be the most crucial aspect when choosing a hiking shoe or boot. Sure, these are important too, but if the shoe does not fit well and is uncomfortable, you’re going to remove it the soonest.
Hiking footwear has to feel great and provide enough space around the toes and room for the feet. In this way, when the feet swell during intense hikes, you’ll not feel discomfort. To find the best fit, you might need to opt out for a number larger than your usual shoe size.
Leather boots are obviously tougher to fit than hiking shoes, which are softer and mold to the foot almost perfectly. Size-wise, hiking shoes are similar to athletic shoes and should provide arch and heel support and spacious room for the toes.
Remember that when you try hiking footwear on, roll up your ankles from side to side to check the support. If it satisfies you, take a walk inside the store and try to feel any pressure points or other inconvenience before removing them.
Be aware also that hiking footwear is designed to fit as many types of feet as possible. That means that you may not find a perfect pair immediately. So, keep searching!
What about the Retail Price?
A decent pair of hiking boots or hiking shoes come at a great price. So, expect to pay around $150 to almost $300, depending on the construction materials, cushioning, and support system.
Hiking boots tend to cost higher than hiking shoes because they are usually all-leather and bigger. However, the total cost over time depends on how much you use your footwear for hiking.
If you hike once in a blue moon, the cost of your investment in hiking footwear will be greater than hitting the trails every weekend. Similarly, you’ll pay over the long term for a pair of super durable boots than for several pairs of hiking shoes that will not be as durable, needing replacement every six months or so.
If you still can’t decide, take a look at a few bestsellers here:
Last update on 2021-05-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API