Hiking Shoes or Boots? Which should you choose?

hiking shoes and boots

When you go out for a run or hike, you don't want anything weighing down your feet. Your sneakers should give you just enough support while providing freedom, flexibility, and comfort. However, when you're going uphill or on rugged terrain, you'll want something with a little more protection. Look for a shoe that provides ankle support and offers a bit of cushioning.

What Are Hiking Shoes?

three people showing off their hiking shoes

Hiking shoes are footwear designed specifically for hiking. Often called trail runners, they have a wider sole than normal running shoes, along with extra support features.

What Are Hiking Boots?

two people showing off their hiking boots

When you hike on harsh terrain you need to wear good hiking boots. These are heavier than regular running shoes and provide additional traction on uneven terrain. You may even want to consider wearing some climbing shoes if you intend to climb a mountain or cliff for fun.

Things to consider before purchasing a hiking shoe or boot

Before you purchase any type of footwear, there are some things you have to take into consideration. Below will be a list of some of the things you need to pay attention to.


Protection is the first thing to check out if you're looking at purchasing a hiking shoe or boot. If you plan on spending long hours hiking, you should choose a shoe/boot with good protection and ankle support. You will find many different types of protection depending on what type of hike you plan to do. Typically, you'll want either a hiking boot or a hiking boot for hiking. Trekking boots are often worn while backpacking, whereas hiking boots are ideal for daily hikes. While hiking, you have the option to wear a shoe or boot alone or with socks. However, wearing a boot without socks may lead to blisters. To prevent blisters, you need to make sure that the sole of your boot fits properly and doesn't rub against your heel. Also, choose a shoe/boot that provides adequate ankle support; you don't want any pressure on your foot or ankle, especially while walking uphill.

Ankle Support

Ankle support refers to providing stability to the ankles through the use of laces or buckles. Many hikers prefer having the laces tied rather than using buckles due to ease of movement. Ankle support is not always a priority, but it's still something to keep in mind. Make sure you can tie the laces easily if you decide to go this route.


Water-resistant means your footwear can withstand the effects of water when hiking. Depending on the activity level, you'll want to look for water-resistant footwear. When deciding between a pair of hiking boots and hiking shoes, you'll want to make sure they're waterproofed. Most hiking shoes will have some sort of rubber or plastic coating on them, but you'll want to look closely at the leather uppers.


Weight is a big consideration when selecting a hiking shoe or boot for everyday use. As mentioned earlier, hiking shoes and boots tend to weigh a little more than running shoes. You might even get away with regular sneakers if weight isn't a concern. When selecting a hiking shoe or hiking boot, remember that lighter equals easier when carrying gear or your backpack.


Durability is another consideration when choosing a hiking shoe or boot and it comes down to how much time you plan on spending on the trail. There are several different materials used to construct hiking boots and shoes, including canvas, leather, nylon, and polyester. These materials vary according to cost and durability. Canvas and leather are typically considered durable materials, but nylon or polyester is less expensive. Regardless of material, you want to ensure that your hiking boot or shoe won't break apart after months of heavy use.


Cost is another thing to keep in mind when selecting a hiking boot or hiking shoe. A quality hiking boot or shoe will cost more than a cheap pair of sneakers. Keep this in mind when shopping around for a good deal.

Type of Terrain

If you plan on hiking over uneven terrain, you'll want to choose a hiking boot or shoe that gives proper support for the terrain. In addition to giving support, these boots and shoes should be breathable. You want to feel comfortable when hiking, but you also need to take care of your feet.


Breathability is a major factor when selecting hiking boots or hiking shoes. While hiking, air circulation is essential to avoid sweating and chafing. Choosing a hiking boot or hiking sneaker with plenty of vents is best if you plan on going off-trail.

Lacing Systems

What type of lacing system do you have? Do you prefer slip-on or buckles? If you wear them daily, then they should always be buckle style. Slip-ons are usually only used if you're wearing them for short periods of time. Buckle styles are great because they provide stability and allow for greater flexibility. But, they may make it difficult to get off of the shoe.

Outsoles And Traction

What type of sole do you have? Hiking boots or hiking shoes often have an outsole. These are the soles that cover the bottom half of your foot. They generally have a rubber/plastic/or nylon mix and offer traction. There are many different types of outsoles available for hiking boots. Here's a list:

  • Rubber
  • Nylon
  • Plastic
  • Foam
  • Synthetic leather
  • Suede (synthetic leather)

Toe Protection

What type of toe protection do you have? When hiking, we spend hours on rocky terrain and grassy surfaces. Toe protection is critical during these times. A lot of people skip safety and buy inexpensive toe covers. However, over time, the toe cover gets brittle and breaks down. You want to purchase toe covers specifically designed for hikers! Most of them are made of leather or synthetic materials.


Which material is your upper? Are you looking at a mesh or canvas fabric upper? Mesh uppers are lighter and breathable than canvas uppers. Canvas uppers can hold their shape and keep your feet dryer.

Buy a shoe with good traction outsole

Hiking boots have a solid sole and sturdy design for added stability and durability. Most footwear companies make good quality boots that are very durable. Make sure to buy a pair of boots that offers good traction. You should look at the rubber material, tread pattern, and the number of traction spikes. The soles should offer grip and traction for walking on uneven ground, wet surfaces, and climbing over rocks.

Check the size chart

Many manufacturers give a rough guideline for sizing their boots, but they may not always fit properly. A good rule of thumb is to check the manufacturer's sizing charts. If you have trouble finding a size chart in-store, then take them to a local store and ask for help. Usually you can find a person who knows how to measure correctly and what brand fits best.

Women's shoe size conversions

SIZES (US) SIZES (EURO)SIZES (UK) Length of feet in inches
4 352 8.188"
4.535 2.58.375"
535-36 38.563"
5.536 3.58.75"
636-37 48.875"
6.537 4.59.063"
737-38 59.25"
7.538 5.59.375"
8 38-39 69.5"
8.5 39 6.59.688"
9 39-407 9.875"
9.5 407.5 10"
10 40-418 10.188"
10.5 418.5 10.375"
11 41-429 10.5"
11.5 429.5< 10.688"
12 42-43 1010.875"

Men's shoe size conversions

SIZES (US) SIZES (EURO) SIZES (UK) Length of feet in Inches
6 395.5 9.25"
6.5 396 9.5"
7 406.5 9.625"
7.5 40-417 9.75"
8 417.5 9.938"
8.5 41-428 10.125"
9 428.5 10.25"
9.5 42-439 10.438"
10 439.5 10.563"
10.5 43-4410 10.75"
11 4410.5 10.938"
11.5 44-4511 11.125"
12 4511.5 11.25"
13 4612.5 11.563"
14 4713.5 12.188"
15 4814.512.125"
1649 15.5 12.5"

Size down if needed

You never want to go above your foot size since it will restrict blood flow and cause blisters. Also, avoid going below your normal shoe size since it could lead to blisters. Wearing larger sizes than you normally would allow for proper padding. If you need a smaller size, then get a half size down. Shoes can stretch slightly over time, so wait until you've worn them in for a few weeks before taking them off.

Wear socks

Wear thick socks that provide adequate wicking and moisture management. Cotton socks work well, especially in the summertime. Your feet sweat and will need to breath in order to cool down. Socks that trap heat can result in hot spots and blisters.

Choose high quality leather shoes

Hiking shoes should be made from leather that is top quality. Avoid synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester, and canvas. Synthetic materials don't breathe and dry out quickly. Leather provides excellent insulation and absorbs water easily. High quality leather shoes will last longer and require less maintenance.

Find comfortable footbeds

The foot bed is where the heel of the shoe meets the bottom of the foot. This is where most of the pressure comes from. Foot beds should be soft and cushioned to prevent injuries. Good quality shoes will have a contoured foot bed that conforms to the shape of your foot. Look for a foot bed that provides arch support.

Avoid ill fitting shoes

A poorly fitted shoe can lead to blisters and other injuries. When trying on different pairs of shoes, try to keep your eyes peeled for any issues, including tightness, discomfort, rubbing, and blistering. Ill fitting shoes can lead to pain and injury.


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Pros Of Hiking Boots

  • A good pair of hiking boots can make your hike more comfortable.
  • Good quality leather makes hiking boots durable and long lasting.
  • A good pair of boots may help prevent blisters.
  • You may have an easier time finding decent hiking boots at a reasonable price.
  • A good pair of sturdy hiking boots can keep your feet dry.
  • A good pair of waterproof hiking boots can keep your toes warm.
  • A good pair of rugged hiking boots may protect you from insects.
  • A good pair of well-cushioned hiking boots may enhance your comfort level while hiking.

Cons Of Hiking Boots

  • Can be pricey depending on the brand and quality you choose.
  • Can be heavy for some people to wear all day.

Pros Of Hiking Shoes

  • Comfortable - You're going to be spending hours upon hours hiking up mountains, through forests, and across deserts. If you don't have comfortable shoes, then you may really start regretting after a while.
  • Protects Your Feet - A lot of hiking shoes have built-in insoles and arch supports that help protect your feet from getting injured, blisters, and soreness.
  • Durable - Wearing hiking boots for extended amounts of time means they'll last longer than any shoe you've ever worn before.
  • Look Good - Shoe brands like Keen, Merrell, and Teva make some of the best looking hiking shoes out there.
  • Stay Dry - Since hiking involves many different terrains, you need shoes that can keep your feet dry. There's nothing worse than being caught in a thunderstorm at night and having wet feet.
  • Easy To Clean - You want something that you can easily clean off dirt and grime, especially if you're planning on doing a lot of hiking.
  • Affordable - While expensive hiking shoes might look good, they probably won't last that long. Cheap shoes tend to break down faster and get ruined very quickly. So, you want to spend less money on them.
  • Fit Well - When you put your foot in a pair of hiking boots or shoes, you want them to feel comfortable right away. Otherwise, you're just going to end up walking around with bad posture and cramps everywhere.
  • Waterproof - Even though it doesn't rain much where I live, sometimes you do get caught in the rain. That's when waterproof hiking shoes become extremely useful. They help stop water from soaking inside your shoes and ruining everything.

Cons Of Hiking Shoes

  • Some can be pricey


There is no doubt that walking is good for you. Walking is a great way to get fit, and there is no shortage of places where you can walk. But walking isn't always practical or possible because of weather conditions, time constraints, and other factors. If you happen to be stuck indoors, you might be wondering whether it makes sense to go out for a hike, even though you don't really want to. Here are some questions to ask before heading out to hike.

Tips While Hiking Outdoors

  • Hiking is a fun activity that gives you time to relax, reflect, and enjoy yourself. But, to protect yourself from various hazards, it is advisable to follow certain rules while hiking.
  • Always watch where you are stepping. Step only on solid ground and avoid tree roots or uneven surfaces.
  • Walk slowly, take frequent breaks, drink plenty of fluids and eat well.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco products because they increase your risk of suffering road accidents.
  • Wear protective clothing that covers your head, eyes, ears, hands, legs, waistline, and knees.
  • Remember also to bring a flashlight so that you can illuminate your path.

Where are you hiking?

If you're planning to camp out somewhere in nature, then you need to know if it's a good idea to hike in your current state. If not, maybe it's time to get some extra stability at the ankles. The last thing you want while camping is soreness afterwards!

Do I need extra stability at the ankles?

Let's say you have a pair of hiking boots that fit perfectly and feel comfortable. However, they don't offer enough ankle support. These shoes could cause blisters, which could lead to pain and discomfort after hiking. That's why it's important to find footwear that fits well and offers adequate ankle support.

Are you carrying a heavy pack?

Weight matters while hiking. If you carry a backpack full of extra weight, it could be harmful to your body. In fact, even something as small as a pen can weigh down your back. Instead of bringing everything you might need, consider packing only what you absolutely need. You should always keep your weight low to avoid injury.

What will the climate be like?

The weather makes a big difference. If you're going to be hiking in hot temperatures, then you'll need a lightweight outfit. If it's cold, bring layers. Of course, there are many factors to take into consideration. You'll need to look at the environment around you and make sure you're prepared accordingly.

What do you plan to eat?

You should always remember to eat before you start hiking. Remember to bring snacks! Not only does it help you avoid starvation, but it helps you stay energized throughout your adventure. While you're walking though the wilderness, you may forget to eat. Don't let this happen! Bring plenty of food because you never know when hunger strikes.

How long will you be hiking?

It's important to plan ahead. Make sure you leave enough time to complete your trip. When you go camping, you want to enjoy it. If your plans change, you won't want to rush through. Set aside enough time to visit places along the way.

How much water will you drink?

Hiking requires drinking plenty of water. There's no doubt about it. Drinking enough means staying hydrated and preventing dehydration. If you don't drink enough, you'll become dehydrated and suffer greatly.

Should I invest in a cheap pair of hiking boots or spend some extra money for a better quality pair?

If you're going on a long hike, then you definitely want a good pair of hiking boots. These tend to cost around $100-$200, depending on size and style. After buying a couple pairs, you might realize that they aren't high enough quality or don't fit well enough. That's why it's important to shop around for the best deal.

There are plenty of reasons why people choose to spend their free time hiking, from enjoying nature and taking part in outdoor activities, to bonding with friends and family, and even as a form of exercise. Some hikers enjoy the challenge of completing long hikes while others love the thrill of exploring new terrain. Whatever your reason is for wanting to take up hiking, there are a few important considerations you should bear in mind.

Before you head off into the woods, it pays to consider your health and well being. Although hiking is generally considered low impact exercise, it can cause injuries if done incorrectly, so it is very important to pay attention to safety tips. Remember, safety comes first, so it's spending a little time thinking about these things before hitting the trail.

Considerations Before Packing An Appropriate Bag

  • When packing your trekking backpack, remember to always pack essentials first.
  • Make sure you pack clothes that are appropriate to the temperature you expect to feel.
  • Pack gloves, sunscreen, insect repellent and anti-mosquito spray. Also, place items of hygiene such as soap and toothpaste in separate containers.
  • Choose a bag that weighs less than 10 kg and is easy to carry.
  • Ensure that the straps are adjustable and comfortable.

Things To Consider When Looking For A Sole Material

If you are going to hike in snow, then you should choose leather soles with traction strips and metal spikes.

  • Leather is a great material that offers excellent durability and flexibility. However, leather requires regular maintenance, especially if you intend to use it for extended periods.
  • Rubber outsole materials are ideal for hiking in dry weather conditions. They are more durable than leather and easier to clean. But they are not suitable for wet surfaces because they tend to become stiff and slippery.
  • If you are planning to go hiking in cold climates, then synthetic sole materials are a smart choice. Synthetic sole materials are lighter than leather and rubber and therefore allow you to hike longer distances without getting fatigued. In addition, synthetic materials are highly versatile and allow you to change your footwear according to the season.

If you want to find out how to choose a hiking boot, read this.


Hiking boots are designed to provide extra support for both feet, protecting them from injury and discomfort during long hikes. They also come equipped with insoles, which are meant to cushion the foot and prevent blisters after prolonged walks through rough terrain. The main difference between hiking shoes and hiking boots is their design design. Hiking boots are usually made from some type of synthetic materials, whereas hiking boots are usually made from leather, hikers generally opt for synthetic materials since they are lighter.

About Author:

image of Kevin Pommells

Hi, I'm Kevin Pommells, a lover of camping and the great outdoors as everyone says nowadays. I'm also a passionate soccer fan and the proud owner of CamperRules.com, a website dedicated to helping campers and outdoor enthusiasts make the most of their adventures. With years of experience exploring the wilderness and a deep love for the sport of soccer, I'm always looking for new ways to combine my two passions and share my knowledge with others. Follow me for tips, tricks, and insights on all things camping and outdoor recreation.

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