Hiking Shoes vs Boots: Which is a Better Option For Hikers 2021

Hiking Shoes vs Boots

Last updated on – 01.01.2021

When you are out for a hike you need the right kind of footwear suitable for the terrain of your hiking trail. Choosing the right kind of shoes is like choosing the right toes for different jobs. 

You should choose your hiking shoe or hiking boot after comparing them on the following points

  • The objective you want to achieve with footwear.
  • The terrain of the trail.
  • Weather conditions you will face while on a hike.

Hiking Shoes 

Hiking shoes are just like sneakers but provides you with extra comfort and protection while you go on a recreational hike. They are softer and flexible which makes it quite easy to wear and go on a hike.  

Most hiking shoes come with low-cut and are suitable for day hikes on groomed trails. The groomed trails mostly have a well-established path with a clear surface to hike on. Hiking shoes are suitable for such trails as you wouldn’t need much stability and ankle support for hiking. 

Hiking shoes come with different types of fabrics but most of them are made using breathable materials. The breathable material helps you to keep your feet in shape by preventing excessive sweating.

Hiking Shoes

When Do You Need Hiking Shoes 

#1. Objective

Hiking shoes are for a recreational hiker, who goes out on a moderate day hike to unwind and relax. 

You should go for hiking shoes which are lighter in weight and well-cushioned. The hiking shoes will provide you with better comfort and support than basic sneakers.

#2. Terrain 

Hiking shoes can be used on the trails that are gentler and are suited for conditions where you don’t have to go up and down on mountains multiple times. Hiking shoes help you complete well-groomed trails that have a limited uneven surface. 

#3. Weather Conditions

Hiking shoes are best for the warm weather condition because they are made of breathable material that keeps your feet dry. They will help you in preventing excessive sweating in your feet. You will definitely return home while keeping your feet in the best shape during the trail.   

How To Choose The Best Hiking Shoes

While selecting the best hiking shoes you must consider the following

  • You need to make sure the shoes are comfortable to wear.
  • Hiking shoes should provide you with better stability than sneakers.
  • They should be lightweight.
  • Hiking shoes must be durable.
  • The material of the hiking shoes must be breathable.
  • The stitching and pasting should be of great quality.


Hiking shoes are lightweight shoes with many limitations when it comes to hiking on difficult terrain.

  • Hiking shoes will provide you with only minimum ankle support and stability.
  • You will not get complete protection with hiking shoes if you hike on rough uneven surfaces.
  • Hiking shoes are designed for beginners to provide better experience and comfort than normal sneakers.
  • Hiking shoes are not as durable as the hiking boots.

Hiking Boots 

Hiking boots are specially designed to provide you greater ankle support on rough uncertain terrains. 

They are made using the most durable material, which is leather in most cases. The leather helps you stay comfortable on a hike for a long duration. You can go on a multi-day hike wearing hiking boots without getting any blisters or sore feet.

Hiking Boots

Hiking boots provide you with better stability and traction (friction of boot with the surface) on your hike. 

Hiking boots have aggressive lugs and treads that help you walk safely over rough uneven surfaces. You should go for hiking boots if you are planning to go on long hikes regularly. 

lugs and treads in hiking boots

When Do You Need Hiking Boots

#1. Objective

The hiking boots are for you if you go hiking regularly on rocky and uneven surfaces. The hiking boots will provide you with ankle support that will help you avoid getting your ankles sprained. 

The hiking boots have very aggressive lugs that help you when you are hiking on the uneven rocky surface.

#2. Terrain

The hiking boots are suitable for trails that are rocky and you would need to walk up and down multiple times. Using the hiking boots on uneven rocky surfaces will help you avoid getting your ankles sprained. 

The hiking boots will make your hike on the rocky surface comfortable by providing you with stability. The hiking boots have a wider base and aggressive lugs that keep you stable. Your ankle and feet will remain stable and secure even when your feet are at different angles.

#3. Weather Conditions

Hiking boots are better under rainy or snowy conditions because you can tuck your boots under your waterproof pants or gaiters. The high toes in hiking boots help you to keep the moisture away from ruining your feet.

Hiking boots are generally made using leather that helps to stay warmer especially during the cold weather or in snowy conditions. 

Some hiking boots come with the option to attach snow boots and other gear to increase their functionality.  

How to Choose the Best Hiking Boots 

When selecting the best hiking boots you must consider the following 

  • You should understand the terrain of your hike and choose the boots accordingly.
  • You need to make sure that boots provide you with enough comfort and angle support.
  • Best hiking boots should provide you with stability on all sorts of trails.
  • The tread patterns in the sole of the boot should be able to provide you with good traction on your intended trail.
  • Hiking boots must have aggressive lugs with a thick sole to provide better protection.
  • Best hiking shoes must be made of waterproof material or have a waterproof lining.
  • Hiking shoes must be made using highly durable material.


The downside of hiking boots are under

  • Hiking boots are a lot heavier than shoes due to the material used for providing stability and protection for the most challenging trails.
  • Takes a lot of time to dry but most of them are made of waterproof material.
  • Not easy to pack them as hiking boots are made using most stiff materials and some even have steel mesh in them.
  • Hiking boots are made of leather, so you would need to wear them for some time to break-in and get comfortable.  
  • Not good for newbie hikers mainly because of the heavyweight.

Hiking Shoes Vs Hiking Boots 

Hiking Shoes Vs Hiking Boots

#1. Ankle Support

Ankle support is essential if you are hiking on rocky terrain with a heavy backpack. The support will help you avoid any strain on your ankles. Footwear with adequate ankle support will be of great help if you are a beginner.

Hiking shoes are designed for hiking on gentler trails, so they provide limited ankle support which makes them better and comfortable than a normal sneaker.

But the ankle support in case of hiking boots is better than hiking shoes because of its padded ankle support. The leather around the ankle region provides you with extra support that helps avoid any sort of sprain in your ankles.

Ankle support in case of hiking boots

#2. Durability

The durability of footwear depends upon the kind of material used while designing. 

Hiking boots are made using leather which is more durable than any other synthetic material. The leather makes the hiking boots more sturdy, enabling you to hike on a rocky trail. 

The hiking shoes are made using synthetic materials in order to make them lightweight and breathable. Even the premium quality mesh and synthetic material are not as durable as leather.  

So, hiking boots are more durable than hiking shoes.

#3. Breathability

The breathable material in footwear permits the water vapor to escape and help you to keep your feet dry. The breathability depends on the material being used while designing the footwear.

The synthetic material used in hiking shoes is far more breathable and keeps your feet dry by preventing excessive sweating. The hiking boots are made up of leather or have a waterproof lining that makes them less breathable.

The hiking shoes are more breathable than hiking boots. This means hiking shoes are good for warmer weather and hiking boots for colder hikes.

#4. Weight

While choosing the footwear the weight matters a lot as that will make your hike convenient. The extra weight of the footwear would be like an ankle weight on your feet.

The hiking shoes are made using lightweight breathable material and have thinner soles compared with hiking boots. 

The hiking boots weigh more due to the leather body having an inner insulation lining. The hiking boots also have padded ankle support and thick sole with aggressive lugs that adds to the weight.

The weight of the hiking shoes is less when compared to the hiking boots.

#5 Protection

You wear footwear to protect your feet from getting injured so it is always better to choose your footwear depending on the hike.

Hiking shoes are good for day hikes on an easy trail with limited challenges. But you won’t be able to protect yourselves with hiking shoes on a challenging trail. 

Hiking boots are designed to face all kinds of challenges that could possibly come on any trail. Hiking boots are better equipped to provide all-around protection even on a most challenging trail.  

Comparison factorsHiking ShoesHiking Boots
Ankle SupportLimited ankle supportPadded ankle support
DurabilityNot as durable as hiking bootsHighly durable
BreathabilityBetter breathability due to synthetic materialLess breathable due to leather
WeightWeights less than hiking bootsWeights more because of leather and thick soal.
ProtectionProvides limited protection. Good to go on an easy trail.Provides all-around protection from challenges on any trail.

Final Words 

You should carefully choose your footwear depending on the conditions of the trial. The right footwear will help you in preventing sore feet and sprained ankles. 

The hiking shoes are a great choice for beginners and those who are going on an easy day trek. Whereas, hiking boots will provide you with complete protection on different kinds of terrains and against challenges of any trail.

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