Whether you’ve logged hundreds of miles on the hiking trail or are a novice, we could all use a little guidance when picking out the best pair of hiking shoes. After all, your legs and feet are your greatest asset out on the trail, so keeping them protected should be job #1.
If you’re an avid hiker, you know that it’s all about the journey, not the destination. Often times the process of getting up that mountain or scenes along the trail is way more satisfying than completing the hike.
To ensure your journey is a great one, here is a guide on how to choose the best hiking shoes.
Types of Hiking Footwear
For any type of trail, whether it’s an easy flat paved path or rugged mountainous terrain, you basically have two options: shoes or boots. Which one you choose depends on several factors, which we will describe. Read on.
When to Wear Hiking Boots
- If you are new to hiking, wearing boots are the best option, as they have thicker soles to provide you with a solid base to work from. Hiking is a game of longevity, and even seasoned hikers get tired after a few hours on the trail and their steps become less stable.
- Boots provide stability and security for ankles and feet in a variety of conditions. If the terrain on a trail will be rough, rocky, or unpredictable, boots are the way to go. They are better suited than hiking shoes to endure rocks and give your feet an additional layer of protection from the harsh ground.
- For cold and wet conditions, boots are better, especially during the winter months. They offer an extra layer of warmth. When it’s wet, waterproof boots will protect both your feet and your socks from the moisture.
- If you will be wearing a backpack filled with food, water, first aid, and other supplies, hiking boots can give you extra support for carrying that heavier load. It offers extra stability overall so you’ll feel more confident on the trail.
- If you have joint issues, boots offer that extra bit of strength and stability to help on your hike. Why? As stated above, they have a bigger sole, thereby providing greater stability to help you in those areas where your body struggles, primarily the joints.
- Hiking boots are best for longer, slower hikes. They are a bit heavier than hiking shoes, so you’ll naturally go at a slower pace. Additionally, the added stability a boot provides will enable you to hiker longer. You’ll get less tired along the way and be able to just enjoy the view!
When to Wear Hiking Shoes
- Shoes are good if your feet tend to sweat. Some of us were just born with sweaty feet, and shoes provide greater breathability. Couple that with moisture-wicking socks and your feet will thank you after a good hike.
- As much as a good hiking boot is, if you purchase them off the shelves right before a hike without breaking them in, they hurt! Shoes may be a better option for last-minute purchases. They’ll be more comfortable in a brand-new, not-yet-broken-in condition.
- Shoes are a better option for more faced-paced or shorter hikes. If you like to move fast, boots will just slow you down. Shoes are lighter and more “aerodynamic.” They can last for miles without a beat.
- Hiking shoes are versatile. You can wear them on the trail, then leave them on later in the day when you go out to dinner. They are also great for other types of exercising or just wearing when out running errands. Hiking boots just don’t translate in the same way.
- For warmer weather hikes that don’t have a lot of tough terrain, hiking shoes are the way to go. As with the sweaty feet point above, they offer more breathability from the heat.
- Lastly, hiking shoes are better for the budget-minded. They are generally less expensive; there are a lot of great brands out there with high-quality hiking shoes that are around $100, as opposed to around $200 for hiking boots.
Consider Both Hiking Shoes and Hiking Boots
That said, if you plan on hiking on a regular basis, investing in a good pair of both hiking boots and shoes may be the best option. For anyone who is able, hiking on the regular is a fantastic way to keep fit, and you’ll no doubt run into situations that call for either/or!