What's Best: Hiking Shoes Or Boots?


Finding the right hiking footwear can be a challenge. There are many types of hiking shoes and boots available on the market, each with its own features and benefits. But whether you’re an experienced mountaineer or looking for something that will serve you well on casual day hikes, it’s important to choose footwear that is fit for purpose. 

There are several factors to consider when deciding between hiking shoes vs hiking boots, but three of the most important are durability, construction and weight. Considering how often you hike and the types of conditions you hike in can help you weigh up whether a pair of shoes or boots is the best option for you.

Do you really need hiking boots?

In short, it depends – hiking boots tend to be heavier but more durable than hiking shoes, which means they are often suitable for people who regularly embark on long treks and are looking for footwear that provides maximum protection. If you plan to go off-trail or want footwear that is built to withstand all conditions, including during winter, hiking boots could be a good choice.

Many hiking shoe styles and trail runners offer excellent protection with similar features to those you might find in hiking boots. Some people also find the lower-cut design of hiking shoes to be more comfortable than boots. Whether you opt for boots or shoes, useful features to look for include:

  • Water-resistant design

  • Waterproof lining

  • Breathable mesh upper

  • EVA midsole

  • Ample cushioning and support

  • Sturdy grip sole

Is it OK to hike in sneakers?

Well-designed sneakers and running shoes are generally suitable for shorter hikes on flat, easy terrain such as paved trails and boardwalks. However, if you plan to hike on these trails in cold or wet conditions, you might prefer the added protection and warmth offered by a pair of hiking shoes. 

For more difficult terrain, such as slick surfaces and rock scrambling, hiking shoes or boots are a safer option than sneakers. This is because hiking footwear is specifically designed to offer superior traction, grip and stability compared to standard running shoes. Many hiking shoes and boots are also constructed with shock-absorbing cushioning, which provides added comfort on rocky and uneven surfaces. 

What kind of shoes are best for hiking?

This depends on the types of trails and conditions you usually hike in. Generally speaking, an all-round hiking shoe that offers good grip, comfort and cushioning should serve you well on most hikes, treks and walks. More broadly, there are three main types of hiking footwear to consider:

1. Hiking shoes

2. Trail running shoes

  • Low ankle

  • Lightweight

  • Flexible design

  • Breathable

  • Waterproof and water-resistant styles are available

3. Hiking boots

  • Mid-high ankle

  • Midweight

  • Rigid design

  • Breathable, waterproof and water-resistant styles are available

  • Some styles are compatible with crampons

What is the best shoe for walking? 

The best shoe for walking is one that offers flexibility, comfort and support. Well-made running shoes or sneakers are a reliable choice for general walks on even terrain in mild weather. For treks in cold, wet conditions or on uneven surfaces, consider hiking shoes or trail runners with added protection and grip. If you want the best of both worlds, opt for hybrid walking shoes that offer added traction and weather protection while still being flexible and breathable.