Hiking Shoes Versus Hiking Boots
By Steve Gillman
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.)