Should I Get Hiking Boots Or Shoes? | Hikers University

Should I get hiking boots or shoes? New hikers or those looking for an old favorite can find many options when they ask this question these days.

Both hiking boots and shoes will get you out on the trails, but where and how you go makes a difference.

While many people love to go on hikes, there is a choice of footwear that one must make before leaving. For those who want comfort as well as lightness, consider trail runners. For fashion-conscious folks looking out for some sweet designs and colors, look no further than hiking boots!

The great dilemma - do you really need hiking boots? Or can a shoe work instead of the more traditional type of footwear. This guide will sort it all out for you.

We have compiled this guide after thorough research about different kinds of hiking boots and shoes and what are the things that you should consider before choosing either of those options.

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Types of Hiking Boots and Hiking Shoes

Have you ever wondered what type of footwear is best for hiking? There are many different options to choose from, including day-hiking shoes and boots as well backpacking or trail running sneakers.

The most important factor when picking out your new pair is comfort because if they don't feel good on your feet, it'll be difficult to hike all day long!

Let's look at different types of shoes and boots and what they have to offer:

Day Hiking Shoes

Different types of hiking shoes are designed for different purposes. Day hiking shoes are designed for day hikes or short hikes of up to a few hours.

They are usually lighter weight than other types of hiking shoes and have less aggressive tread patterns. This makes them more comfortable walking on paved surfaces or well-groomed trails.

If you're planning on doing any serious hiking, you'll need a good pair of day hiking shoes. Look for shoes that fit well and offer good support. Be sure to break them in before hitting the trail, and always carry extra socks in case your feet start to chafe.

Day Hiking Boots

There are different types of hiking boots available on the market, each designed for a specific purpose. Here, we take a look at day hiking boots and what sets them apart from other types of footwear.

Day hiking boots are designed for shorter hikes, where you are not carrying a lot of gear or equipment. They are usually lighter in weight than other types of hiking boots and have a lower cut that provides good ankle support.

The soles of day hiking boots are also generally less aggressive than those of other boots, making them more suited to walking on well-maintained trails.

If you're planning on doing any day hikes, make sure you choose a boot that is comfortable and fit for purpose.

Different brands will offer different features, so it's important to do your research before making a purchase. With the right pair of day hiking boots, you'll be sure to enjoy your time out on the trail.

Backpacking Boots

There are many categories that backpacking boots can be classified into. Let's have a look at these categories:

Heavyweight Backpacking Boots

Heavyweight backpacking boots help you trek through rough terrain with ease. They're designed to give your ankles the support they need when carrying heavy loads, so that means these shoes will be perfect for rugged trails and off-trail treks!

Hiking enthusiasts who are looking to get into some really tough hiking can also find what they're searching for here: high cut models constructed from sturdy materials like leather or rubber, which make them more durable than other types out there in terms of protecting against rock impacts during hikes while still providing good traction on dry ground too.

Lightweight Backpacking Boots

Lightweight backpacking boots are perfect for those wanting to shave some ounces off their load. They don't provide as much ankle support as heavyweight boots, but they're still tough enough to handle most trails. These shoes are often made from synthetic materials, which make them lighter and more breathable than leather boots.

Ultra-Light Backpacking Boots

Finally, there are ultra-light backpacking boots, which are designed for those who want to travel fast and light. These shoes are usually made from very lightweight materials like mesh and nylon, and they don't provide much in the way of ankle support. However, they're perfect for those who want to move quickly on the trail.

Trailing Running Shoes

If you're an avid hiker, you know that there are different types of hiking boots for different types of terrain. But what if you want to tackle a variety of terrain? That's where trail running shoes come in.

Trail running shoes are designed to provide the best of both worlds: the comfort and support of a hiking boot with the maneuverability and lightness of a running shoe. They typically have a protective toe cap, robust lugs for traction, and a cushioned midsole for comfort - all while being lightweight and flexible.

Whether you're tackling a muddy trail or a rocky one, trail running shoes can help you get the job done. And because they're so versatile, they're a great option for hikers who want to be prepared for anything.

Features to Look For - Hiking Boots or Shoes?

When it comes to choosing the right footwear for your hike, it's important to consider both function and comfort. Hiking boots offer more support and protection for your feet, while hiking shoes are lighter and more comfortable. But which is right for you?

Here are some things to consider when choosing between hiking boots and shoes:


One of the main factors to consider when deciding whether to wear hiking boots or shoes is weight.

Hiking boots are typically heavier than shoes, which can make them more difficult to walk in for extended periods of time. Shoes, on the other hand, are usually lighter and can be more comfortable to wear for long hikes.

When deciding which is right for you, consider how long your hike will be and how much weight you're willing to carry. If you're planning on a short hike, shoes may be the better option.

However, if you're embarking on a longer hike or carrying a lot of gear, hiking boots may be the better choice. Whichever you choose, make sure to break them in before your hike to avoid blisters.

Ankle Support

When it comes to hiking, you need to make sure you have the right footwear. This means having a good pair of hiking boots or shoes that will provide you with the support and stability you need on uneven terrain.

One of the most important features to look for in a hiking boot or shoe is ankle support.

Ankle support is important because it helps to prevent rolled ankles. This can be a serious injury that can sideline you from your hike. Look for a boot or shoe that has good ankle support built into it. This can come in the form of a higher ankle cuff or extra padding around the ankle area.


One of the most important things to consider when choosing hiking boots or shoes is comfort. You want to make sure that your footwear is comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time and that it won't rub or chafe your feet.

Here are some features to look for in comfortable hiking boots or shoes:

  • A padded collar - This will help prevent rubbing and chafing around the ankle.
  • A cushioned insole - This will provide padding and support for the foot, helping to reduce fatigue.
  • Breathable materials - These will help keep your feet cool and dry by allowing moisture to escape.
  • A flexible sole - This will provide good traction and allow your foot to flex naturally while walking.
  • A roomy toe box - This will give your toes plenty of space to move and prevent them from feeling cramped.


When you're out on the trail, you need footwear that can protect your feet from the elements and provide good traction. That's why it's important to choose the right type of footwear for your hike.

Here are some things to look for when choosing hiking boots or shoes:

  • Waterproofing - If you are hiking in wet conditions, make sure your footwear is waterproof. This will help keep your feet dry and comfortable.
  • Traction - Good traction is essential for safe hiking. Look for shoes or boots with lugged soles that can grip the ground well.
  • Support - Your feet will take a pounding on the trail, so make sure your footwear provides good support. This will help prevent injuries and keep you comfortable.
  • Durability - Hiking footwear takes a lot of abuse, so it's important to choose something that is durable. Look for shoes or boots made with tough materials that can withstand the rigors of the trail.


Whether you're hitting the trails for a day hike or an extended backpacking trip, having the right footwear is essential. But what's the best option - hiking boots or shoes?

Traction is a key point to consider when wondering which footwear to choose for hiking. Hiking boots normally have more robust tread patterns and deeper lugs than shoes, providing better grip on slippery or loose surfaces.

If you are doing mostly day hikes on well-maintained trails, shoes may provide sufficient traction. But if you're planning to tackle more challenging terrain, boots are usually the better choice.


The upper is the most important part of any shoe, and this is especially true for hiking shoes. The upper must be tough enough to withstand all the abuse that your feet will put it through, but it also needs to be breathable to keep your feet from getting too sweaty.

There are a few different materials that are commonly used for hiking shoe uppers, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.


Nylon is one of the most popular materials for hiking shoe uppers. It's lightweight and durable, and it dries quickly if it gets wet. However, nylon doesn't breathe as well as some other materials, so your feet can get pretty sweaty in hot weather.


Leather is another common choice for hiking shoe uppers. It's very durable and provides good support, but it's also heavy and doesn't breathe well.


Synthetic leather is a man-made material that's designed to mimic the look and feel of real leather. It's usually lighter and cheaper than leather, but it's not as tough or breathable.


Gore-Tex is a waterproof and breathable fabric that's often used in high-end hiking shoes. It keeps your feet dry in wet conditions, but it can make your feet pretty sweaty in hot weather.


Mesh is a lightweight and breathable material that's often used in trail running shoes. However, it doesn't offer much protection from the elements or from rocks and roots on the trail.


Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

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