A lengthy discussion that has been going on for many years in the hiking community has been that of hiking boots vs hiking shoes. Whilst some don’t consider this much of a debate and have firmly made up their minds and will not have it changed, others are still dwelling on which one is more suitable.
In this article, we are going to look at the main differences between hiking shoes and hiking boots. I do have a personal preference which I will discuss later in the post.
Whilst doing some research on the internet and observing what others wear when I am out on the trails the most popular hiking footwear does appear to be hiking shoes. Although, this is not to say that everyone wears hiking shoes while hiking. Hiking boots are still alive and kicking, and by no means are they out of popularity or obsolete, as some would have you believe.
Let’s look at some comments that I have found by other hikers on the subject hiking shoes vs hiking boots. The statements were acquired from several different articles and online discussion platforms.
- Boots last longer than shoes
- Boots cost more than shoes
- Boots need more time to break in
- Boots are better for snowy / colder / wetter conditions
- Boots are heavier than shoes
- Boots are constricting
- Shoes are lighter so cause less strain on feet, ankles, and legs when on long hikes
- Shoes make your feet stay cooler in hot weather
- The ankle support provided by boots is a myth
- Boots stay wetter longer than shoes
Looking at the10 comments above 10, it would appear that hiking shoes win hands down. However, that is not entirely true. Both types of footwear provide significant advantages and disadvantages in different types of situations, terrains and weather. For example, a walk on a hot sunny day in the hills, hiking shoes would be ideal. A cold winters day hike in deep forestry hiking boots would be better suited.
Before we go any further let’s go through each statement one by one.
1. Boots last longer than shoes. I fully agree with this statement, most boots are well built with strong and durable material and should if treated correctly out live a pair of hiking shoes. The life of shoes and boots is always dependent on how a person walks and how they take care of their footwear post-walk.
2. Boots cost more than shoes. Yes, I agree. As long as you are looking at equivalent quality boots will cost you more money than a pair of the same quality shoes. Generally, a good pair of boots starts at around £70 whilst a good pair of shoes about £30. If we look at lifespan, then it is possible you could spend less for a pair of boots than 2 – 3 pairs of hiking shoes.
3. Boots need more time to break in. Generally yes, but I don’t think there will be too much difference between them and shoes. Technology has come a long way, and footwear is made with things like this in mind.
4. Boots are better for snowy / colder / wetter conditions. Without a doubt this is true. In certain weather conditions, boots will provide much more protection to your feet than shoes can. For example, keeping them warm and dry. In situations like snow where falls are possible boots also provide better protection for the ankles.
5. Boots are heavier than shoes. Yes, this is true. Some boots can feel quite heavy weighing in at nearly half a kilogram. Although the weight depends on the materials used to make the boots such as split leather, full grain leather, nubuck and synthetic. There are different boots for different conditions, so this must be taken into account when purchasing. When I first started wearing boots, they felt a little heavy, but I adjusted very quickly to them.
6. Boots are constricting. I have to disagree with this. I have had no issue when hiking with boots we are not runners, so there really is no issue on this for me.
7. Shoes are lighter so cause less strain on feet, ankles, and legs when on long hikes. Yes, shoes are lighter, due to this, they will take the strain of moving parts of the body such as feet and ankles. Interestingly there was a study carried out many years ago by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, and this research study revealed that 1lb on the foot used as much energy as carrying 6lb in a backpack. If we go on this research then hiking shoes are a better choice for being lighter, also saving wear and tear on the body.
8. Shoes make your feet stay cooler in hot weather. Yes, on a hot summers day feet can get very hot in boots. Shoes do provide that extra breathing for the feet allowing them to stay cooler.
9. The ankle support provided by boots is a myth. Going back to number 4, I disagree. In certain terrains where slips and falls are possible, I believe the extra hight of the boot provides additional ankle support and the strength of the boot provides a lot better support to the feet and give more leverage on uneven trails or cross-country routes.
10. Boots stay wetter longer than shoes. This would depend on the type of boot and material used. For example, if it were a heavy leather boot that is soaked this would take quite a while to dry out. A fabric boot, on the other hand, would dry in the same amount of time as equivalent hiking shoes. This is all dependent on material type and amount.
Also, water enters shoes a lot easier than it does boots. Wearing mid or high cut boots could easily walk through a few inches of water and have no water absorbed. Water will certainly have a more difficult time entering boots and getting your feet wet than it ill a pair of shoes.
As you may have picked up in this article, my personal preference would be hiking boots. The main reasons being I believe the offer better protection to the foot and ankle, they keep foreign bodies out (water, thorns, twigs etc.) and they last longer. Unless I’m going for a leisurely stroll in the park, I would undoubtedly choose hiking boots. Currently, I am using Berghaus Expeditor AQ Trek Waterproof Boots, and I love them.
What it really comes down to is your personal preference. When thinking about whether to buy hiking shoes or hiking boots there really no right or wrong answer. It is what best suits you. Think about where you will be hiking, the weather, the terrain and how much you want to spend. Most of all, when buying footwear your number one priority is comfort. Can you walk for hours out in the wilderness in your choice of footwear?
All these issues build your hiking personality. My suggestion, go into your local outdoors shop like GoOutdoors and try on many pairs of shoes and boots, check reviews online, and make your decision.
When you have made your decision, its time to put them to work.