The difference between hiking footwear and how to select the right choice for you
The great debate. If you’re new to the hiking scene, you may be wondering – boots or shoes, those aren’t the same thing? Correct. In the hiking world, there are a few different types of footwear that can be used for different purposes. Understanding which hiking shoes are the best fit for your needs can greatly improve your comfort and performance. Today, we’re breaking down the different types of footwear and how each can fit your hiking needs.
Boots are going to be the most durable shoe of the hiking footwear selection. Two of the main reasons for this include the built in ankle stability and protection from the elements (aka they’re waterproof). This is the shoe to get if you plan on taking longer, rockier, and in general more serious or weather variant hikes. Boots can last you around 1,000 trail miles give or take, and will be the most durable all around. The downside? They’re heavier, clunkier, and take a bit more time to break in, so maybe not the best choice for your moderate day-hiker.
Hiking shoes are a great alternative for the moderate hiker looking for support with a little less weight. The main difference between boots and shoes are the loss of ankle support, which can typically be fine for a general day hike or damp spring weather. You can still opt in for the waterproof protection, but your overall lifetime mileage is closer to 750 for a pair of hiking shoes. You’ll find far less break in time, if at all, but you do compromise a bit of durability when opting for a hiking shoe over boot, so rockier and longer treks won’t be the move with these.
Trainers/ Trail Runners
Very similar in functionality and purpose, trail runners are going to offer you an even lighter weight option for footwear. Designed for comfort yet built to perform well on the trails, trainers are a bit sturdier than your typical running shoe, but more lightweight than your standard hiking shoe. These are great for day hikes or runs on moderate trails, and can also be perfectly suitable for everyday wear if need be. These are becoming increasingly more popular in the hiking world, with a ton of great options across a number of brands.
Last but not least, is the hiking sandal. Popular brands such as Chaco and Teva have made this shoe a fashion statement, but it offers great functionality as well. For casual hikers, this option allows breathability and comfort for the everyday trail without the clunkiness and heaviness of a boot. Designed for water use, these perform well for the light to moderate, well-paved trail. Smaller in size and weight, they’re also the easiest to pack.
If you’re in the market for a new hiking shoe, know that there are a ton of different footwear options that can best suit your interests and hiking needs. Also know that everyone has their personal preference! If possible, try to purchase your shoes in person so you can really experience the fit and weight of each option. Lastly, enjoy your new purchase! The best way to break in your shoes is to wear them as much as possible before you venture on your actual hike, so tie those puppies up and enjoy them around the house for a bit. Getting a new pair of hiking shoes always makes for an exciting return to the trails, so treat yourself before your next adventure!