Hiking Shoes vs Boots: Which Do You Need For Your Backpacking Trip?

hiking shoes vs boots

Hiking Shoes vs Boots: Which Do You Need For Your Backpacking Trip?

Category: Camping & Hiking

Are you preparing a backpacking trip and wondering whether you need hiking shoes or hiking boots? In this article we explore hiking shoes vs boots, where either may best be suited and which you should buy for your next trip backpacking.

Hiking is one of the most popular ways to exercise and explore the outdoors. From going on a walk in your local trails to a backpacking adventure, there are plenty of options out there to explore. Picking the right footwear for your trip can make a big difference in the experience you have.

When it comes to hiking there are generally two pieces of footwear that are debated: hiking shoes vs boots. For backpacking, that is even more important. Backpacking means you are out in the wilderness hiking for quite a while. It can be days and sometimes even longer. The shoes you pick for the adventure have to be able to last and take care of you.

Today we are going to look at which option is better for backpacking, hiking shoes vs boots.

When do you need hiking shoes?


hiking shoes vs boots

A hiking shoe resembles a more rugged traditional shoe. It features an ankle height design and thick fabrics. Despite the rugged design and material, hiking shoes tend to be lightweight and comfortable. A strong rubber sole will have grip on the hiking shoe but it will not offer the most traction possible.

Most hikers enjoy the fact that hiking shoes are quick and easy to break in. It won’t take long or much work to get them ready for the trail. Just keep in mind that it is still important to break them in before you go backpacking. The flexible, easy to break in design also means that the shoe is more flexible when your feet are navigating trails.

Overall though, the favorite part of hiking shoes is their hybrid design. Hiking shoes fall in between your standard walking shoe and a hiking boot, giving you the best of both worlds. You can have all of the comfort of a shoe with additional support and traction.

With a smaller design, more breathable fabric, and the overall features make hiking shoes quick drying. If you step in a river or puddle, you can hang them in the sun to dry. On the other hand, the breathable design does not make them optimum for heavy rain.

Something to consider when backpacking in hiking shoes is the fact that they offer less ankle support. Backpacking with a heavy hiking backpack on a rough surface will be challenging at times with shoes as opposed to boots.

Compact hiking shoes are a great option to bring as secondary shoes for your backpacking trip. Because the shoes are not as big as hiking boots, the shoes will take up less room in your bag but also give you plenty of support.

For backpacking we wouldn’t consider getting a type of hiking shoe known as the hiking sandal. Hiking sandals do not offer as much support and will get debris in them.

When do you need hiking boots?


hiking shoes vs boots

Compared to a hiking shoe, a hiking boot might seem like a monster. Almost all hiking boots are heavily durable footwear that extends past the ankle, although the height varies on the design of the shoe. The extra height of the boot makes it a more supportive option for the ankle, one that is perfect for more complex trails. With the higher coverage comes a higher amount of water resistance too.

Most people who backpack in heavily rainy or snowy climates will choose a hiking boot when looking at hiking shoes vs boots because of the weatherproofing. Not only are the boots more resistant to the elements but you can tuck pants into the boots. That includes tucking waterproof pants into the boots.

When hiking boots do get wet, they take a fair amount longer to dry. Some modern designs will dry faster but not by much. Hiking boots are more enclosed and have more fabric, increasing the drying time.

A hiking boot comes with a large amount of traction. The weight behind them combined with the well-designed treds, hiking boots are able to handle the most complex of trails. When on these complex trails the higher sides of the boot will help to prevent getting rocks or other debris in the boots.

You will be able to find hiking boots in either a regular boot or a heavy duty boot. The heavier the duty of the boot, the more material there will be and the more it will weigh. It also isn’t uncommon to find people who think boots are a cumbersome option and sometimes they are but with modern hiking boots you have a lot of options. Among those are easy to break in boots that offer just about anything you might be looking for.

Something to keep in mind is that hiking boots come with all kinds of specifications. Make sure to look at a variety of hiking boots to see what your options are. Some of the things that vary besides the height of the boot include: weatherproofing, soles, fabrics, cushion, and more.


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Hiking shoes vs boots: Which should you buy for backpacking?


hiking shoes vs boots

When it comes down to it picking between hiking shoes vs boots for backpacking can seem like a hard choice, they both have their advantages. That means that there is no one right choice. The choice is based on what kind of backpacking you will be doing and your personal preference. Let’s take a quick look at a comparison to help you determine which is best.

For those who are looking for somewhat durable footwear with some good traction but that is lightweight and easy on the feet, hiking shoes might be the better option for you. Easy trails will be no problem for hiking shoes. It will also be best for those in hot weather or are otherwise looking for a more breathable shoe. You might also find a hiking shoe the best option if you like a shoe that is more flexible and allows you more freedom.

On the other hand, hiking boots are a heavier duty shoe in almost every way. They will help you to get through complex hikes and trails. For those who are looking to engage in the most demanding backpacking adventures should consider hiking boots strongly. They are also the best option for those who live in cold and/or wet climates where they will need the most protection.

Something to keep in mind that neither shoe is optimal for running on trails. Both are bulkier and heavier than your average running shoe. For good shoes to run on trails, they make trail running shoes. These are what you want to consider for running.


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Final Take:

In the end whether you choose hiking shoes vs boots is up to you. You have to determine which option is right for the kind of backpacking you are going to be doing and your local climate. Some people also opt to bring both their hiking boots and hiking shoes with them when they backpack. The problem with this is the space they take up and the extra weight.

Don’t forget to let us know whether you like hiking shoes or hiking boots more when it comes to backpacking. Your opinion and choice may help others.




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Are you interested in more options to meet your personal needs and budget? Check out these advanced resources and extended listing we have below on this topic:

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