Hiking Boots vs Hiking Shoes

    Hiking Boots & Shoes — …And in the right corner, weighing in at 1.67 pounds—the Asolo TPS Highland…

    Yep, 1.67 pounds per boot, but this little beauty is on the high end of quality and is light compared to other brands. The hiking shoe by comparison is typically less than a pound and offers almost the same trail experience.

    And weight is just one of the issues.

    I grew up backpacking and hiking with Dad (Dave) who prefered places where conditions required hiking boots. But hiking in today’s modern world gives you access to almost unlimited trails where you will prefer a hiking shoe.

    You can determine whether you should get a hiking boot or shoe depending on the condition of the trails that you plan on hiking.

    Conditions Where Hiking Boots are Preferred

    1. Trails where you could potentially roll your ankle
    2. Places where the trail crosses rocky areas or boulder fields
    3. Steep grades over 45 degrees
    4. Trails that cross water or that are excessively muddy or swampy
    5. Multi-day hikes with a heavy pack (25+ pounds)
    6. Areas that require added toe protection
    7. In ice or snow
    8. If they make you look more attractive

    Conditions Where Hiking Shoes are Preferred

    1. Groomed, packed or finished (wood, asphalt, concrete) trails
    2. Trail running
    3. Where impact cushion is more important than ankle support
    4. Day hikes
    5. Wearing shorts in urban areas

    Hiking boots usually have more aggressive and stiffer traction to help bear the weight of backpacking and endure abusive hiking conditions like a rocky mountaintop. They also give you maximum ankle support to prevent injury.

    Hiking boots can have additional toe protection made of steel, plastic or rubber. If you’ll be doing a lot of kicking (stubbing toes on rocks, crampons into ice, annoying animals) then you will want to get a hiking boot that has a reinforced toe area.

    Hiking shoes are best for maintained hiking trails like the asphalt side hikes of Yellowstone or the smooth dirt ruts of the Appalachians. Hiking shoes generally have a more flexible sole to provide more cushion and are better suited for trail running, day hikes with light backpacks and impressing the other outdoorsy people around you.