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Hiking Shoes Versus Hiking Boots


Hiking or running shoes are the better choice for almost all of us who like to go light when backpacking, at least during late spring, summer and early fall. Boots are heavy, hot, and they stay wet forever. Since a pound on your feet is equivalent to five on your back (some say six), three-pound boots naturally leave you much more tired at the end of the day. Add water weight to that and the problem gets worse.

What About Ankle Support?

You have probably heard all the arguments for the necessity of ankle support and good hiking boots give you that, but you know that throughout history people managed without stiff ankle-supporting boots. The problem can be seen as one of weak ankles rather than a lack of support. Walking a little each week on uneven ground (not in the mall) solves this problem. Certainly some hikers need boots due to injuries or weak ankles, but I have yet to meet a person who has tried backpacking in hiking shoes or running shoes and then returned to boots. Be sure your ankle problems are not just due to a lack of exercise before you settle on backpacking in hiking boots.

Advantages of Running or Hiking Shoes

Your feet will stay cooler in a good pair of running shoes than in hiking boots. This means fewer blisters. After switching to running shoes and lightweight socks, I stopped getting blisters. I don't mean I have had fewer blisters; I mean haven't had ANY blisters since I switched. Not one blister after a 110-mile 7-day trek in the Rockies, for example.

So no hiking boot reviews here. No comparisons of Merrell hiking boots versus Vasque hiking boots. But thankfully they both make hiking shoes.

How To Choose Your Shoes

Weights are not always shown in catalogs, so you may have to just guess at which hiking shoes are lighter based on the description and photo. If weights are shown, try to keep it below two pounds per pair, unless you have size 13 feet.

High quality shoes will always have their soles stitched to the uppers, so check. You can do this by removing the insoles (a removable insole is another sign of quality shoes). I can usually find a good pair of running shoes that weighs less than 28 ounces for under $80.

Some of the outdoor clothing discount catalogs have closeouts on great running shoes, which is why I've bought several pair from them. You never know what they are going to have, but you can get good quality at a good price - possibly out of style. (That doesn't bother me.)


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Hiking Shoes Versus Hiking Boots