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Are Hiking Boots Or Shoes Better?

What you wear on the trail matters, whether you wear sneakers, hiking sandals, shoes, or boots. One way or the other, they set the mood for hiking, and they may determine how well you enjoy your time on the trail.

Out of the different hiking gear people wear on the trail, people pay more attention to their feet, and usually, it is either shoes or boots. Some people have their go-to choices for their hiking footwear, whether shoes or boots. However, some people are yet to decide which one to go for.

There has been quite a debate as to which is better between boots or shoes. While some people argue that you don’t need hiking boots and that shoes are okay, others don’t disagree.

If you are a regular hiker and you hike in groups, you will probably have had that debate with your group once in a while. Not just that, some argue on online forums which is better for hiking.

Have you hiked in both or any of them before? Which do you think is better? The answer can be contradictory because different people have different perspectives based on their experiences with either or both of the footwear.

Are hiking boots or shoes better? You had better find out! Before you set out on the trail, you need to know which one works best for you.

Let’s get right into it!

Are Hiking Boots Or Shoes Better?

man tightens shoelaces of hiking boots to prevent stones getting into

Generally, this is a frequent debatable subject among many hikers. However, as we mentioned earlier, people’s opinions about that can be conflicting based on their experiences or what they have heard.

But when you consider some factors, you will realize that hiking boots and shoes tend to be better than themselves in some ways. For instance, hiking shoes are lightweight, breathable, and comfortable. And you can walk in them for a while without feeling their weight on your feet.

They cannot, however, perform as well as hiking boots on the trail. While hiking shoes have traction, they don’t provide as much traction as hiking boots.

In addition, hiking boots have more elevated soles that are thicker and wider, which provide more support and protection than hiking shoes for the feet. Moreover, hiking boots are more stable and sturdy options for hiking on rougher terrain and longer hikes on the trail.

Furthermore, hiking boot’s tall uppers designs, whether mid-cut or high-cut, contribute to ankle support and protection on the trail. Unlike hiking shoes, which have little to no ankle support,

The truth is, ankle support is one major thing hikers don’t joke about on the trail, especially if you will be hiking on rough terrain or going on long hikes. This also depends on the amount of weight you carry on your back.

Regardless, you will never get a definitive answer on which is best because different, better options emerge depending on the circumstances. So, let’s look at a side-by-side comparison of both footwear options based on different options.

  • Terrain

Uncomfortable walking strides due to loose hiking boots

Hiking terrains are numerous, and hiking lovers will have experienced quite a number of them. They range from flat to rough to rocky to muddy, snowy, or slippery, and each terrain requires a different type of hiking footwear.

For simple, easy, and plain terrain, you can get away with hiking comfortably and conveniently with hiking shoes. On plain terrain, you are less likely to trip and fall or be exposed to moisture or debris.

Since that is the case, your hiking shoes can protect your feet and ensure adequate traction on the trail. However, if you are hiking on rougher terrains, like slopes, rock, mud, dunes, snow, or water poodles, then you need hiking boots.

Hiking boots are sturdy and more supportive, and they ensure your balance on the trail, so you don’t fall and sustain injury no matter how uneven the terrain is. They provide ankle support, and their deep lugs are effective in gripping the terrains, so you can hike safely.

More than that, hiking boots are also suitable for plain terrain. But if you would rather have a laid-back hike with external factors like debris or water out of the way, then hiking shoes are good.

  • Environment

wear steel toe hiking boots sitting on grass

Hiking boots are very protective, irrespective of which hiking environment you walk in. Hiking shoes, for example, are good for hiking in environments devoid of moisture, debris, twigs, insects, or other harmful elements.

If you are hiking in the woods or an area filled with water, you are better off with hiking boots. Hiking boots protect you so much that harmful insects can hardly crawl their way into your hiking boots.

In addition, they protect your feet and socks from twigs that could tear your socks or harm your leg and make you bleed. They are also better for protecting your feet from moisture because they totally seal water from getting into your feet.

The time you get to choose whether to wear shoes or boots is when the hiking trail is devoid of things that could make you feel uncomfortable on the trail.

  • Miles usage/durability

a group of hikers wearing hiking boots for running

You can expect hiking boots to last longer than hiking shoes. First, when you examine their mile durability, hiking boots can last between 500 and 900 miles, while hiking shoes can last about 599 miles.

But of course, this may vary depending on the quality of the footwear and how often you use them. But asides from that, hiking boots are more built to last longer.

Their stuffed leather uppers can withstand harsh terrain and weather and still be good for longer use. Likewise, their soles are thick, strong, and don’t wear out quickly.

But of course, one more thing that could affect hiking boots’ durability is how well you take care of them. As long as you do that, you can use them for a very long time before you need to replace them.

  • Comfort/convenience

Running shoes

Any hiking footwear that falls short of convenience or comfort is not a good one. However, comfort and convenience levels differ, and in this case, hiking shoes are more comfortable than hiking boots.

Hiking shoes are flexible, and you don’t need to break them in before you wear them on the trail, but you can’t exactly say the same for hiking boots.

In addition, they are very breathable and are more likely to help you maintain dry feet on the trail, provided that moisture is out of the picture.

This makes hiking shoes ideal for use when you want to take casual or relaxing hikes on the trail. Hiking boots are also comfortable, and they are even more so when you break them in.

Whether you decide to wear either, what should matter is that your comfort matters. So, wearing what you are comfortable with is not a bad idea, as long as your footwear is functional for the environment.

  • Safety

orange pants are tuck in green hiking boots in a forest

Hiking boots are safer than shoes on the trail. They ensure ankle support and stability on the trail, so you don’t twist your ankle or sustain other injuries on the trail.

In addition, hiking boots prevent debris, harmful insects, or moisture from getting to your feet when you are on the trail. They are rigid on rough terrain, and their grip is good for smoother, safer hikes on the trail.

  • Waterproofness

waterproof hiking boots 1

Hiking boots are good for many hiking trails, especially when you are sure that you will be exposed to moisture. Hiking shoes are, of course, waterproof, but you shouldn’t submerge them in water because water can get in from the top.

However, hiking boots’ upper designs protect your feet to a greater extent and prevent them from getting wet on the trail. We could go on and on about how hiking boots are better, but that does not mean we write off hiking shoes completely for use on wet trails.

  • Breathability

breathable hiking boots

In this area, the better option is clearly hiking shoes. Why? They allow more airflow into them than the hiking boots. Plus, you get more pores that will suit short or long hikes during extremely hot weather on plain terrain.

Comparison table

Let’s take a look at the comparison table that summarizes the conclusions of all the ideas above.

Outstanding characteristicsHiking bootsHiking shoes


Are hiking boots or shoes better? Hiking boots are better than hiking shoes, but one thing we can say is that the debate will probably not end here.

People’s opinions and choices depend mostly on their experiences. However, when you consider their functionality, hiking boots are more suitable for hiking.

Hiking boots are good for different terrains, weather, environment, and they sure ensure hikers’ safety on the trail. While hiking shoes are good, they don’t exactly offer ankle support, waterproofness, and much traction as compared to hiking boots.

However, in the end, it boils down to your choices and what you are more comfortable with. Whether you choose to go for hiking boots or shoes, ensure that they are functional and protective for the hiking situation and terrain.

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