Hiking Boots vs Hiking Shoes: What’s the Difference?

Hiking Boots vs Hiking Shoes: What's the Difference?Pin

Casual and inexperienced hikers may not understand the differences between hiking boots and hiking shoes, but those with more skill and experience are sure to know how significant the differences are between these two styles of footwear.

One is more common among serious hikers who need extra support and comfort, while the other can cover a much wider range of products for hikers at all levels.

If you plan to invest in a new set of hiking footwear, you must get the right type for your hiking style. Getting the wrong footwear can result in heavy and uncomfortable walks at best but also put your feet and ankles in danger.

They are massively different products, having detriments and benefits that are unique to each product.

With these common questions answered, you should hopefully have a better idea of why hiking boots and hiking shoes are hardly interchangeable.


1. What Are Hiking Boots?

Hiking boots are thick, with the base including a thick rubber outsole and the upper made of various leathers and synthetic materials. They usually include high-cut or mid-cut ankles that sit higher than your average shoes, and they are typically quite padded inside to provide a more snug and comfortable feeling.

hiker wearing meindl bootsPin
(Hiker wearing Meindl boots)

The thing that makes hiking boots different from regular boots is the level of padding and reinforcement. Hiking boots are for rougher terrain and to prevent injuries on enduring hikes.

Stray rocks, branches, or twisted ankles can easily lead to the end of a hike, and these boots will provide enough defense to prevent unexpected hazards from causing you harm.

Must read: The 5 Types of Hiking Boots that You Should Know

2. What Are Hiking Shoes?

Hiking shoes are more structured than walking shoes, but they aren’t nearly as protective as proper hiking boots. They use heavy leather and synthetic materials, and they can be quite snug, but they have no ankle protection as they are low-cut shoes.

Hiking shoes are not as great for long or challenging hikes, but they’re usually less expensive and better for those who want something more mobile.

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Hiking shoes also have unique variations like trail running shoes, outdoor running shoes with lighter materials like polyester, and thick rubber soles that resemble hiking boots and shoes, making for better traction on rough terrain or a rocky trail.

You might also like: 8 Types of Hiking Trails that You Should Know

3. When Do You Need Hiking Boots?

If you’re a serious hiker who goes on regular hikes in various climates, you want a pair of defensive and comfortable hiking boots.

These can feel a bit stiffer to walk around in for short periods, but they give a much better amount of safety when spending a long time out, and keeping your ankles straight will allow you to maintain your balance much easier on uneven terrain.

Getting a good pair of boots is even more important with backpacking and mountaineering, two activities that require you to take a lot of weight on your back.

Balance with a heavy load is even more challenging than most average hikes, and if you don’t have a high-enough ankle cut, you can easily end up losing your balance and risking your ankle’s safety.

Don’t miss: What to Look For in Hiking Boots? 6 Important Things

woman with Osprey backpack and Salomon boots hiking in the mountainsPin

4. When Do You Need Hiking Shoes?

For the most part, hiking shoes are what you should go for if you aren’t planning on any hikes that involve treacherous terrains. Casual hikes through well-maintained paths and slow-paced nature exploration will both be much easier when you can bend your ankles, and they’ll likely lead to more lightweight steps that won’t strain your legs as much with longer journeys.

Alternately, you can usually go with hiking shoes or trail runners if speed is more important to you than safety.

This isn’t to say you should choose hiking or trail running shoes for treacherous paths, though, as the lack of protection and reinforcement is very much a cost. Nonetheless, you’ll feel the benefits much stronger if you regularly visit clean trails without much elevation.

Read also: Hiking vs Mountaineering: What’s the Difference?

5. How Expensive Are Hiking Boots And Hiking Shoes?

Hiking boots are usually more expensive, landing at higher price points of $150 and up depending on the brand, primarily because their snug fit requires much more effort to produce.

They also usually last much longer due to the durable materials, which means you won’t be replacing them often. Hiking boots are still an investment compared to other footwear.

Hiking shoes vary much more as many are sold as street shoes, and there are many non-premium options at lower prices of $50 or more.

Nonetheless, getting stronger shoes from more popular brands is likely to cost a fair amount more due to their greater quality. Trail runners can reach these points, too, due to their unique traits over simpler running shoes.

You might also like: European Hiking Boots & Shoes: 9 Brands that You’ll Love

6. Which Is Better, Hiking Boots or Trail Shoes?

people hiking on a mountain trailPin

At their core, no style of hiking footwear is better than the other. They’re simply designed for different purposes and different audiences. The only thing that would make one better is what you’re personally looking for out of a hiking boot, and that will always vary between each hiker’s preferences and experience.

Don’t miss: Are Trail Running Shoes Good for Hiking?

7. Conclusion

Since neither product is better than the other, it’s important to get what you think suits your hikes best.

If you plan to go on challenging hikes for long periods, you will want the added support and reinforcement of a hiking boot. If you hike less often and don’t gravitate to challenging trails, you want a hiking shoe instead.

Either way, the correct footwear will make a world of difference, and it will keep you from worrying about comfort and safety along whatever trails you prefer and enjoy.

Read next: 8 German Boots Brands for Hiking and Outdoor Activities

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