Hiking boots are the larger, heavier, more dedicated option available to most outdoor enthusiasts, yet they are not always practical. With hiking shoes becoming more and more advanced in their engineering and design, their performance often rivals that of top-end professional boots. This being said, hiking boots are the better option for anyone who hikes for extended periods of time, spending two to three days or more in the outdoors. Hiking shoes are preferable for light treks and brief excursions into nature, while remaining stylish enough to be paired to casual attire as well. There are of course certain hiking boots which match the aesthetics of a sleek set of shoes, but hiking shoes are typically more urban and upbeat.
Here we’ll be taking you through a look at both options, pointing out the pros and cons of hiking boots and hiking shoes. Given an open-ended budget, both varieties are capable of supplying near-equal performance and aesthetics, but we’ll be showing you specifically what to look at to make sure that you get the best outdoor shoes suited to you and your lifestyle. From elements of elegance and style, to practical functionality such as grip, breathability, comfort, and support, we’ve covered it all.
- Features: Highly fashionable with less outdoor tech
- Versatility: Generally suited to outdoor and casual-wear
- Outdoor performance: Average, suited to light hikes and light sport
- Comfort: High comfort for general use
- Features: Larger shoe design with broader range of integrated technology
- Versatility: Generally suited to outdoor wear only
- Outdoor performance: Peak, suited to all outdoor activities
- Comfort: Superior ankle support and all-terrain comfort
Breaking It Down
Here we’ll be taking a look at a side-by-side comparison of each individual aspect of design spanning features, versatility, outdoor performance, and comfort.
A good pair of shoes for outdoor use needs to be feature packed with everything from breathable fabrics to total waterproofing. Orthopedic benefits are welcomed, as are all comfort enhancing upgrades such as superior arch-support and multi-density EVA cushioning.
Hiking shoes do not have enough space present to integrate all of the features which a top-tier pair of hiking boots does. This is not to say that they are lacking, they just can’t provide the same array of support as given by boots. They lack ankle support and most designs are too sleek for dense, comfy cushioning.
From a denser, layered sole with more grip to enhanced support for your ankles, boosted protection for your toes, and even designs which prevent any dirt from going in the boot itself, hiking boots are feature packed. You’ll also find that they are typically more weather resistant than hiking shoes.
The nice thing about a high quality pair of outdoor shoes is that they are generally versatile enough to be worn to a range of events, matched to a broad array of clothing types and outfits. Good hiking shoes or boots will match both your style preference and lifestyle.
Hiking shoes typically come in sleeker design styles than their counterparts, with more contemporary, trendy styling. As a result, they are far more versatile, with certain hiking shoes matching everything from dress pants to jeans. Given the comfort, many people prefer them over other forms of footwear, for daily use.
Hiking boots are not as versatile as hiking shoes, mainly due to the bulk of their size. You’ll be able to get away with wearing them with jeans, but never with smart pants. Their large size makes them hard to pair, especially when combined with the distinctive rugged appearance which most varieties exhibit. After all, they are hiking boots.
When buying a new pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots, you need to carefully evaluate what you will most often be using them for. Professional hiking boots are packed with outdoor practicality, but they can be heavier. Adversely, trendy hiking shoes may just not cut it for the trails you have planned.
Hiking shoes are designed to give you a good blend between urban convenience and outdoor performance. In this way, they are also gimped when it comes to how well they will handle a variety of environmental conditions. Most hiking shoes will be water resistant, enough for the city or brief trips into nature, but not waterproof enough for ponds, streams, or swamps.
Nothing beats the outdoor performance of a top end pair of hiking boots. From total foot and ankle protection to traction which will handle any surface or environment, hiking boots are the best at handling the outdoors. One good set of boots can last for weeks on end when out in the jungle on a grueling hike, without ever allowing your feet or ankles to take strain. Totally protected from the elements, hiking boots are also the most hygienic option.
Comfort is an aspect of quality which can see no compromise, with comfort being measurable on many different levels and key aspects. Each shoe type comes with its own common comfort benefits, although the bottom line is that your choice needs to fit the form of your foot with enough room to never hurt you.
Comfort depends largely upon what you will be doing in your hiking shoes. They are definitely the most comfortable option for an urban setting or use around the home, with the sleeker design also being more practical. However, they do not grant as high a level of comfort on uneven or wet terrain as hiking boots do.
Hiking boots are heavier than hiking shoes but that extra weight sure pays off in terms of comfort when out hiking on treacherous terrain. The arch support, ankle support, and dense padding all allows you to spend the whole day exploring without taking strain. Modern designs are becoming more and more lightweight, with many hiking boots being comparable in weight to hiking shoes.
Hiking Shoes Won 2/4 Compared Sections – Versatility, Comfort
Hiking Boots Won 2/4 Compared Sections – Features, Outdoor Performance
Pros and Cons
- Best for use in urban setting
- Suited to short hikes and light exercise
- Lightweight and sleek design
- Cannot handle extended exposure to the elements
- Not suited to streams, ponds, pools, and swamps
- Shorter durability than hiking boots
- Best for all-terrain hiking
- Excellent in cold weather
- Must-have for camping
- Large, heavy broad design
- Limited pairing outside of outdoor use
- More expensive than hiking shoes on average
The winner between hiking shoes and hiking boots remains a matter of personal preference. If looking at the performance and comfort in the outdoors alone, hiking boots emerge as the clear winner. However, to get a pair of hiking boots which looks good enough to be worn casually while remaining feature-packed enough to be suited to your hikes, is an exercise which comes at a considerable cost. Decide what you need your shoes or boots for and shop accordingly, but everyone wants, and needs, a good pair of hiking boots.