Get Out There

Hiking Shoes vs. Boots: What’s Better for You?

Many headlines have said it’s time to swap shoes for boots as people head out to hiking paths for the fall. We’re not sure we agree. The differences between hiking shoes and hiking boots aren’t simply seasonal. Today, we’re looking at hiking shoes and hiking boots to help you decide which one is right for you.

At this time of year, we think waterproof footwear is a must in most parts of the country. It’s often raining or snowy throughout the week. You might not think about it in a city or town where the ground dries after a storm. But when you go out to hike, the ground can be slippery and soggy. However, you can get waterproof hiking shoes, so you don’t have to rule them out as fall footwear. In warmer months, breathable shoes that dry quickly are best. They let water in, but they also let your feet dry fast. Waterproof shoes have the drawback of possibly getting waterlogged. But if you know you will be walking through mud and water, it’s worth the risk to keep your feet warm and dry.  

One of the most significant factors in picking footwear is weight. You will be carrying the weight of whatever you are wearing. Hiking boots weigh three or more pounds, while a pair of hiking shoes weighs around two pounds. Studies have found that carrying extra weight on your feet takes far more energy than an equal amount of weight on your back. The lighter your footwear is, the farther you can go and enjoy yourself.

When it comes to comfort, hiking shoes are the clear winner. They don’t need to be broken in. They aren’t hard to find a good fit. They’re a cross between a sneaker and a hiking boot. They have a sturdy sole and thick sides, but it’s a more flexible sole and softer sides than a boot. They mold to your feet and feel nice. The drawback is that they do wear out faster. Hiking shoes last about 800 miles. You get thousands of miles of use out of boots.

Some argue that for ankle support, you must pick a boot. They are high-cut and offer more support for people prone to sprains, rolling their ankles or suffering from balance issues. Their stiff sole is where most of their ankle support comes from — not the cuff. It stops the foot from rocking. The high cut of the boots protects your ankle from scratches from undergrowth and can help you stay dry in wet weather. Experienced hikers recommend ankle braces if you’re concerned about an injury, not relying on a boot. A brace gives you much better, focused support.

For most people, hiking shoes are adequate. How light and comfortable they are makes them the clear choice for more casual hikers. However, a boot may be right for you if you are concerned about your balance or ankles. No matter what you pick, we hope you lace up your footwear and get outside this weekend!    

Banner image: Joanna Nix-Walkup via Unsplash

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