Hiking Boots or Shoes: do I need hiking boots or shoes?

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If you’re looking to buy a new pair of shoes or already own hiking boots, you may be asking yourself this question. In this post, we’ll answer that question, and also take a look at the pros and cons of each type to help you decide which are best for your needs.

An important note before we begin: Hiking, in general, has been proven to be one of the best forms of exercise you can get. As a result, there are better and worse ways to hike. Hiking is a different animal than going for a fast run on flat ground or to the gym or park to walk the dog. In that context, hiking on trails with low elevation can be just as beneficial as hiking at higher elevations (elevation is not the only factor that affects your cardiovascular system though).

Why You Might Need Hiking Boots

So, what are the pros and cons of hiking boots vs. hiking shoes? Why would you need a pair of hiking boots in the first place? Let’s take a look. If you’re planning on taking your new hobby backpacking, you’ll want to buy a pair of hiking boots rather than just a regular pair of running or walking shoes (don’t worry, we have some tips for you below). Here are a few reasons why.

One reason you might need hiking boots is if you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking in the mountains. You’ll want to wear your hiking boots for protection against rocks, roots, and falling trees. For this reason, hiking boots are usually made from hardy materials including – synthetic leather, steel toe caps, and others.

Another reason you might need hiking boots is if you are going to be doing a lot of day hiking in flat areas. If you’re hiking on rocky ground, your regular walking shoes will flop around and rub against your feet – not what you need. This can cause blisters or other injuries to your foot.

Also, if you have a specific trip or hike in mind (especially longer ones) where you’ll be going over significant elevation gain and loss, you’ll want to have the support of some sturdy boots. Shoes are just not sturdy enough for that type of terrain in some cases.

When a Trail Runner or Hiking Shoe Works Best

On the other hand, you may be interested in a pair of trail runners or hiking shoes. These are good for shorter hikes and those without much elevation gain and loss. If most of your hikes have flat trails or very gentle inclines, then you should consider a pair of hiking shoes. (Keep in mind that “gentle” is relative – mountain hiking trails never go straight up or straight down. There are always changes in elevation whether it be steep or gentle. And different trails will have different levels of terrain and terrain change.)

The only negative about trail runners is if you are not careful, you may end up with blisters on your heels. If that’s the case, then you may need to invest in a slightly more sturdy pair of hiking shoes.

Conditions For Heavy Hiking Boots

There are other conditions that might require you to use a pair of hiking boots. If you plan on doing a lot of day hiking or want to wear your boots in snowy or other cold conditions, then you’ll need a boot with better traction and grip.

For example, almost all hikers carry some type of waterproofing gear in the winter. This is especially important if you plan on wearing any type of technical gear (like snowshoes) while hiking.

If you’re planning on a serious backpacking adventure, you might consider a pair of boots that have front lacing for a more secure fit. They also help with moving around in the backcountry – especially if you’re struggling to get your boot on or off with frozen or thawing feet.

In summary – there are many different ways to hike. While some may see hiking shoes as an alternative, they aren’t always better than hiking boots if you are going to be doing sustained elevation gain and loss.

Things To Look For When Buying Hiking Boots OR Shoes

There are several things to look for when buying hiking shoes or hiking boots. The first thing you should consider is fit. You want a boot that fits tightly around your calf muscle, but not so tight that it’s painful to wear. One of the main things to look for here is how well your heel sits in the boot. If you find that it moves around a lot, then you might want to go with a different pair (this is especially true for women).

Next, look for a boot that is waterproof (if you’ll be hiking in wet conditions – especially if you’re going to be hiking for long periods of time). Most people think that waterproofing comes from the outside. However, a lot of the waterproofing comes from within the boot. The interior parts are made out of leather or another type of material that keeps water out better than most other types of boots.

Alternative Options You May Not Have Considered

Not all boots are hiking boots or shoes. For example, some outdoor stores sell hiking boots that look like athletic shoes. The fit is comfortable and they aren’t as heavy as real hiking boots. You can also find some very lightweight hiking shoes that are made from breathable materials to help keep your feet dry and warm while walking in cold weather such as snow or ice.

If you’re looking for an alternative to a pair of hiking boots – you might be wondering how wearing tennis shoes with socks would work for you. Well, you don’t have to wear tennis shoes or any special type of shoe for that matter. If you don’t like the idea of wearing hiking boots just because they are heavy – consider this option.

What Type Of Hiking Surroundings Do You Plan To Use?

If you’re trying to decide between a pair of hiking boots or shoes, you should consider what type of hiking setting you’re looking for. If you’re looking for something more lightweight, then the tennis shoe solution might be a great choice for you. However, if you think you’ll need some extra support for your ankles or feet – then you’ll want to consider a pair of hiking boots or shoes.

Are There Any Specific Hiking Settings You Are Looking To Go In?

If you’re looking to do some serious backpacking, then heavy-duty boots with lacing may be the ideal choice for you. If you wear athletic shoes, then trail runners could be the best option for you. Sometimes, you might even find that hiking shoes can be made from similar materials to athletic shoes so they will fit in more with your normal style of shoe.

When you’re looking for the right hiking boots, it’s important to consider what type of hiking setting you’ll be doing. If it’s a shorter day hike at an easy incline and the ground is flat – staying in a pair of tennis shoes for sure won’t work out well for you.

Final Thoughts

You’ve already read some of what you should consider when looking for the right pair of hiking shoes or boots. This can be a bit overwhelming, but it’s worth spending the time evaluating what you want.

Of course, there are other factors that come into play as well. These include your fitness level, your environment (for example – if you’re hiking in high elevations), and the type of terrain you expect to be doing.

Looking for the correct hiking footwear is a tall order when it comes to shoe shopping. But as you’ve seen, it can make all the difference in how comfortable your feet are during a long day of hiking. And with outdoor stores and manufacturers constantly coming out with new and different types of shoes, it never hurts to check them out and see what type of style you’d prefer.

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