Hiking Boots vs. Hiking Shoes: Which One Wins?

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You should be ready for a great day out in the sun and in Mother Nature if you are going hiking. However, you should never hike without the proper footwear. If you want to prevent blisters on your feet by the end of the day, and if you don’t want cold and wet feet, you need a good pair of hiking boots or hiking shoes.

That said, hiking boots and hiking shoes are not the same, and there are some pretty significant differences. This article discusses those differences so you can make an informed decision between the two for your next big hiking adventure.

Differences Between Hiking Boots and Hiking Shoes

Weight and Size

One of the main differences is that hiking boots are much larger and heavier than hiking shoes. This is because hiking boots are designed to keep your feet warm, dry, and safe from the elements as well as from obstacles on the ground. On the other hand, hiking shoes are designed to be much more lightweight.

Hiking boots are designed for long-term wear, and hiking shoes are designed for single-day or short hiking trips. Now, this is kind of counterintuitive because you would think that the lighter and smaller hiking shoes would be better for longer hiking trips.

But with that said, although they are far more comfortable to wear, they don’t offer you the protection you might need for a long hike.


Hiking shoes tend to be a bit more comfortable than hiking boots in size, weight, and flexibility issues; hiking boots are generally made to be quite thick, and they’re not overly flexible.

Hiking shoes are more flexible, and they better fit the contours of your feet. They move with your feet, whereas hiking boots are more about protecting your feet. The tradeoff is comfort for protection.

Outsole Thickness

Another significant difference between hiking boots and hiking shoes is that hiking boots tend to have thicker outsoles than hiking shoes. This can make a difference in a variety of ways. First, if you step on a very sharp stick or rock, it might be able to penetrate the outsole of a hiking shoe, but it probably won’t penetrate the thicker outsole of a hiking boot.

Moreover, if you have a much thicker platform to walk on, it can absorb a bit of impact created by walking on rough terrain, something regular hiking shoes don’t do that well.

While normal hiking shoes are relatively light and springy, they don’t work that well to protect the bottoms of your feet from the obstacles and terrain beneath.

Tread Pattern

Hiking shoes generally don’t have a good tread pattern and aren’t designed for extremely rough terrain, especially wet terrain. However, hiking boots typically have big lugs and extreme tread patterns designed to keep you from slipping on uneven and wet terrain.

So, if you’re hiking on rough terrain, you should wear boots as opposed to shoes.

Hiking Boots vs. Hiking Shoes

Thickness and Breathability

Because hiking boots are much thicker, they are less breathable than regular hiking shoes. Therefore, hiking shoes are the better option if you are hiking on a fairly warm day and don’t want your feet to be too hot.

However, if it’s a cold and windy day, and you need your feet to be warm and protected, a much thicker and warmer hiking boot is preferable. This is because hiking shoes are breathable and cool, and hiking boots are not very breathable but will keep your feet warm.

Ankle Support

Hiking boots tend to be high on top, which means that they protect your ankles. This is important when hiking over rough terrain because a good ankle support system can help prevent injuries from occurring. On the other hand, hiking shoes usually stop below the ankle and don’t have very good ankle support.

Arch Support

Although it depends on the model, hiking boots will generally have more arch support to deal with long-term hikes. Hiking shoes are fine, but they don’t always have the most support.


Although some hiking shoes will be waterproof, the chances are not 100%. Hiking boots are usually designed to be highly waterproof to keep your feet dry, even in the wettest conditions. Hiking shoes, on the other hand, will only keep your feet dry for so long.


For shorter hikes that don’t involve rough terrain or wet weather, hiking shoes are fine. However, boots are better for long hikes where you need better foot protection and support.

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