Hiking Boots and Shoes differences cover image

What is the difference between Boots and Shoes for Hiking

If you have ever searched for hiking shoes on Google, Yahoo or Bing (Really doubt the Bing part) almost all the time the page you end up with is about hiking boots. That’s because of the Google Semantic search. Google uses this function to “understand” what you’re really looking for, but in this particular case, it fails us all, because we end up with boots rather than shoes. The semantic search might work great for working boots, because even if you type shoes, you’ll probably look for rugged boots that will endure lots of abuse.

Well like we said, that’s not the case with hiking shoes and boots, as these two categories are much different as the boots are usually much heavier, much more durable and provide better ankle support compared to the shoes.

In this article we decided to tell you about the most notable differences between hiking boots and hiking shoes to help you choose better if you are new to hiking and trekking and are just now starting your search for a good pair of footwear for your first outdoor adventure. Hopefully you’ll find this article helpful and might share it with friends and family that are interested in going outdoor to enjoy nature with you.

We created this table of content on what each type of footwear is best for.  The table of content is actually a reference to Andrew Skurka’s book on hiking gear, which is a great read not only if you’re interested in starting to hike, but if you are an experienced hiking enthusiast as well.

Hiking boots and Hiking shoes side-to-side


Not really comfortable until they are broken in
Heading-1 Hiking Boots Hiking Shoes
Best Use Mountaneering, Heavy Backpacking, Walking in dry snow Hiking through a rough terrain, trekking with a light backpack. Best for daypacking too.
Comfort Comparison/row_column] Comfortable from the first time you put them on (Still depends on the maker)
Breathability If made out of leather, the breathability is really poor, but with newer waterproof materials used nowadays, it has significantly improved. The ones made out of leather will keep the moisture and sweat from your feet inside. Make sure to use oils to keep the feet from blisters.  Depending on the shoes, the breathability is pretty good, but again that would depend on the model you pick. There are some models, which are better at allowing fresh air inside and keeping your feet dry. If there isn’t a special linen to keep the moisture from getting out, you should be fine.
Dry time Once you get your hiking boots wet, you would have to wait a decent amount of time in order for them to dry out. Luckily most hiking boots are waterproof and don’t really allow water to get in, so your only problem would be the moisture coming from the inside (but we all know that’s not really enough to make them “wet”) Hiking shoes dry out normally about 30% quicker than the boots with the same names. Obviously it would take much longer for them to dry out than it would for a running shoe, because the breathability of running shoes is significantly higher. Hiking sandals would also dry in an instant compared to hiking shoes.
Durability Hiking boots are obviously the better choice if you are looking for durability and when compared side to side with the hiking shoes from the same manufacturer with the same name, they would last approximately 25% more or an average of 1000+ miles. Hiking shoes might have a lot of advantages over boots, but with about 750 miles less of a lifespan, they are not the right choice for you if you’re gonna be hiking a lot. If you buy footwear for trekking often, then the costs could really add up, but that being said, you’ll probably have a pair of both shoes and boots if you do a lot of hiking so it’s more of a choice that depends on the type of outdoor person you are.
Underfoot Protection Excellent Good or moderate in most models, excellent in others models.
Agility and Sensitivity Sensitivity of hiking boots is not great and that’s something that you can expect, considering the amount of underfoot protection and ankle support you get. Imagine the agility of a tank compared to the agility of an everyday car. Well it’s pretty much the here except for the tanks and cars. The higher the weight, durability and support you have, the lower the sensitivity and feel you get. Sometimes you simply have to trade whichever one’s least valuable to you. The hiking shoes provide much more movement to both your ankle and their out sole is also usually also more agile and allows the your feet to move more naturally while you’re out on the trail. It’s not like you are wearing one of those monkey like shoes, with the outlined toes, but still you get plenty of feel that lets you move with more confidence on trails which demand more from you. 
Average weight of hiking boots and shoes The average weight is usually between 3 lbs and 4 lbs or for our European friends about 1,5 kgs to 1,9 kgs per pair. Hiking shoes, like mentioned earlier are on average lighter than boots. Their weight is between 2lbs and 3 lbs, or 1 kgs and 1,4kgs a pair.
Ideal temperature for use We won’t go into exact numbers, but the boots are better for use in cooler temperatures and work fantastic in cold temperatures as well. Hiking shoes won’t really do great in cold temperature, but they are ideal for cool and moderate temperatures anywhere from 40 F (5 C) to 60 F (17 C). Obviously you could use your hiking shoes for hiking in higher temperatures, but that’s the range that we find to be the perfect one, so you don’t get sweaty or feel cold.
Water resistance Some leather hiking boots are so well waterproofed that you can basically walk in water and not get your feet wet. That really depends on the maker and the linen used to waterproof them if the boots are not made from leather. Obviously hiking boots are no submarines, so you should avoid getting in ankle deep waters and allowing it to flow in.  The water resistance of hiking shoes is moderate and you should really consider getting in water with shoes that you aren’t really sure of. The quality you can expect is greater with some brands though. Merrell, Asolo and Keen are known to make fantastic waterproof hiking shoes.
Sole Stiffness Really, really stiff. (But you already knew that) Moderate stiffness. Could be worse though and it used to be.
Support Couldn’t be any better. I don’t think there are boots that offer better support than the ones for hiking. May be snowboarding and skiing boots, but that’s another subject. Could be better, but like we already talked, the people that choose shoes instead of boots are using them for a different type of hikes and trekking.
Average prices Approximately $150 or depending on the today’s exchange rates €133 or £104. Today is 02.06.2016, so this might change, but we’ll change it accordingly. About $100 should get you decent hiking shoes and if you buy an outlet model it could get down to $60. That translates to €54 or £41 (for the $60 example)
Quick Recap The hiking boots are best if you do heavy hiking and need extra support for your body, which is wearing a heavy backpack. They are also better for colder weather and will let you hike an average of 25% more. or 250 miles more. For the people of Europe that translates to about 400km, which is a significant difference. Hiking shoes are better for light trail walking, they’ll serve you really well if you like camping, but so will any other type of boots for that matter. They are really comfortable though and offer a better overall breathability compared to the boots. They also offer better feel and work well for hiking in rain.

Hiking Boots or Hiking shoes differences and features

We hope that this list will answer most of your questions on the differences between hiking boots and shoes. There are really different in terms of the things they’re best used for, as well as the features thet they offer. Hiking shoes will actually be the better choice for the majority of people that don’t do over 100 miles a year, but it’s totally up to you what type of footwear you decide to go for.

If you like light backpacking or “Daypacking” as it’s often referred to these days, hiking shoes are again, the better choice for you. Hiking boots are actually great for a number of different activities. You should’t really limit their use to “going on a hike” or “mountain climbing”. One of our editors actually takes his hiking boots to the mountain whenever he goes snowboarding. They are awesome for walking in dry snow and most models provide good grip even on icy surfaces. They also offer much better comfort compared to the snowboard boots too, so you’ll basically feel like you’re barefoot once you slip a pair.

Anyway, hopefully you like the representations we got on this table for you. We actually have a visual one for our readers as well, which doesn’t have quite so many details, but does explain the main differences in a nutshell.

If  you have found what you needed to know and are ready to purchase the right type of footwear for you, we’ve got a review of both the best hiking boots for men and the best men’s shoes for hiking as well.

The difference between Hiking Boots and Shoes
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