Traditional wisdom suggests that if one wants to go hiking, one must wear hiking boots. Hiking boots are suggested because they support the ankle, can be used in a variety of climates and terrain, and protect the ankle from debris or small critters. The traditional hiking boot is a heavy, clumsy thing. This is what most people set out to buy. This may have been the ideal choice fifty years ago, but now there is an even better one. Best Hiking shoes have the same benefits of hiking boots without drawbacks like water retention or no ventilation.
Hiking Shoes vs Hiking Boots Differences
Ankle support is a major concern for serious and casual hikers alike. Many trails are uneven, unpaved, or have obstacles in the way. These are all dangerous places due to the ease of twisting an ankle, which can result in anything from minor pain to a major sprain or break. The traditional school of thought is that the hiking boot has the best ankle support due to the fact it covers the ankle, allowing for rigid stability. However, hiking shoes with high-quality soles and insoles allow for the user to be more nimble in the first place.
Even if the user is not planning on hiking through snow or forging rivers, water retention is a concern. Muddy trails, a rainy day, puddles, and even sweat can all factor in. The hiking boot has little to no ventilation, which means if it gets wet, it will stay wet for a long time. This will not only add weight to the boot, but could lead to blisters and chafing of the feet. Hiking boots often come designed to be waterproof or water resistant, but moisture can and will still form. Hiking shoes, on the other hand, are light and well ventilated. When they get wet they will dry out relatively quickly, preventing any blistering or chafing.
When hiking for long periods of time, the comfort of footwear is a major variable. Hiking shoes are more comfortable than hiking boots. The material is softer and does not fight the movements of the foot. The shoes are lighter and more flexible. The stiff material used in hiking boots leads to blistered and sore feet.
Hiking shoes are versatile. For the most part, the only reason hiking boots are functionally necessary is in intense environments. Some examples of these environments include harsh weather with low visibility, hiking paths that aren't marked or planning on hiking through extensive marshes. Otherwise, hiking shoes are effective and safe. The traction on either footwear is equal. In some hiking shoes, the soles can have better grip due to material and the traction being above average.
Intent of User
The purchase of hiking boots allows for limited usage. They are often expensive and unless used regularly, they are not a cost friendly investment. Hiking shoes, on the other hand, are perfect for hiking, camping, running, and all sorts of other activities.
For the majority of people interested in hiking, purchased hiking shoes is going to be the best plan. The only real reason to purchase hiking boots is if one is an avid hiker. Hiking boots are expensive, clunky, and take dedication to work in. The stiff material has little give in it, and the boot must be broken in before regular use. Hiking shoes are completely free of this problem. Most hikers do not hike at the intensity where hiking boots would be a logical choice. With the purchase of hiking shoes, people who fall out of the habit of hiking can still use the shoe in other activities. Hiking boots would end up in the back of the closet, collecting dust.
Overall, the footwear has to match the needs of the user. These needs include the obvious conditions of terrain and location, but reach out to include what else the user may want to use their footwear for. Many hikers who could justify using a hiking boot have experience with hiking and equipment. At that point, the majority of hikers will have made their own decisions about footwear. For the rest of us, we're better off going with the hiking shoe.