There is usually some debate among hikers about whether to choose hiking boots or hiking shoes when hitting the trail. The answer is: it depends on the type of hike you’re going on! Let’s break it down.
Also known as trail runners, hiking shoes are similar to a sneaker. They look and fit like sneakers and are lightweight. Most are made from synthetic material and have a cushioned sole.
These are great for a short hike, especially on a paved trail in dry, warm weather. And you won’t expend as much energy hiking in these as you would hiking boots.
However, if you’re going on a long hike on rocky, uneven trails, hiking shoes typically will not cut it. They do not offer the ankle support of a boot and their sole offers minimal grip.
Here are the pros and cons of hiking shoes vs. hiking boots according to the Appalachian Mountain Club and Cool of the Wild.
· Minimal break-in
· Suitable for off-trail wear
· Good for fast hiking
· Virtually no ankle support
· Less durable
· Poor traction on rough terrain
· Not as good protection on rocky trails
· Midsole cushioning compacts
For the avid hiker, hiking boots are the choice of footwear in all seasons. Hiking boots have a high ankle collar to for support to prevent ankle rolling. They are also durable with a tough, grippy sole, usually are waterproof, and versatile on all terrain. Most are made from a combination of leather, fabric and/or mesh.
The pros and cons of hiking boots are:
· Good ankle support
· Stiff sole that offers good traction
· Better heel and toe protection
· Cushioned midsole
· Helps keep feet dry when crossing streams
· Heavier and bulkier than hiking shoes
· Less breathable
· Requires a break-in period
· Not as flexible as hiking shoes
Choosing Hiking Boots or Hiking Shoes
Before choosing, ask yourself several questions.
What type of trail are you hiking? – If it is rocky and/or there are streams to cross, hiking boots may be better. If you are hiking a smooth or paved trail, hiking shoes will do.
Do you need ankle support? – If you are prone to rolling your ankle, go with hiking boots.
What will the weather be like? – If it’s mild and dry, hiking shoes will do you fine. For cold, snowy, or muddy conditions, hiking boots win hands-down. Also consider, if you need ankle support – regardless of weather conditions, hiking boots are the best bet.
Are you carrying a heavy pack? – Hiking boots will give you better support if you’re backpacking. If you’re an ultralight backpacker, hiking shoes may be preferred.
Do you need waterproof footwear? - Another feature to consider is having waterproof boots or shoes. Most hiking boots are waterproof and keep feet dry when traversing a stream or hiking in the rain or snow. Some hiking shoes are waterproof, but their lowcut can be a problem if you’re stepping through puddles or a brook. Keep in mind that waterproof footwear tends to be less breathable. But it can be a tradeoff in wet conditions.
It’s All About Comfort and Fit
Above all, make sure your boots or shoes are comfortable and fit right. Wearing uncomfortable, ill-fitting, or just the wrong footwear can make or break a hike. Blisters and sores will result and an enjoyable hike to a miserable end.
Just as important as wearing the right footwear for a hike is wearing the right type of sock. Hiking socks are designed for hiking and keep feet dry and comfortable.
FlipSockz is one of the best hiking socks you can wear. Its unique design has a skirt attached to the ankle portion of the sock that flips over the top of your boot to keep out dirt and stones. A new version for hiking shoes will be coming soon.