Hiking boots, hiking shoes, do I even need either of those? We’ve been there just like you, and it can be so hard to tell whether or not you need this specially designed footwear.
I mean, are hiking boots really as good as they say, or are they actually bad for your feet?
Hiking boots can be bad for your feet, especially if you have weak ankles. They don’t offer a great deal of support unless your ankles are already fairly strong, and their protection from rain and water is often questionable at best. Breaking them in? That’s a whole other (painful) story.
It’s a tough question, but we’re here to take you through the pros and cons. It’s time to find out if you really need a pair of hiking boots in your life.
4 Reasons Why Hiking Boots are Good for Your Feet
I have always found my hiking boots to be pretty comfortable, especially as someone who suffers from plantar fasciitis.
There are a few reasons why hiking boots are a good choice for your feet. (We have an article talking further about arch support for your Plantar Fasciitis you should check out).
#1 Ankle Support. It’s commonly debated whether or not ankle support is a MYTH, but the truth is that as long as you have healthy ankles the support offered by hiking boots is pretty good. In fact, we have an entire piece dedicated to it here.
If you do have weak ankles and you are worried about the support offered, there is a solution. You can pick up an ankle brace like our top pick below.
- Comes in a pack of two to make life easier for you
- Simple to put on, takes hardly any time or effort
- Elastic compression that caters to both weak ankles and past injuries
These ankle supports are one size fits all to make them more versatile, allowing you to slide them on easily and adjust them according to your needs.
They are also made from comfortable and breathable materials to prevent sweating and ensure it doesn’t rub.
It is a compression support, meaning that it ensures stability and a snug fit that caters to both past injuries and lasting conditions.
It also comes in a pack of two, ideal for those who have weak ankles or are prone to ankle injuries. They also secure tightly to prevent slipping.
#2 Grip. The outsole, which is found on the exterior of the boot at the bottom is great for providing a better grip when you are tackling rough terrain.
They have been designed to hold tight when encountering mud, dirt, and loose rocks on your hike.
#3 Protection. Your hiking boots are there to offer you protection from the outside. Step on a sharp rock? You’re not going to feel that.
I have stepped on a sharp rock while hiking in regular shoes and I honestly thought it had gone through and into my foot.
They keep you warm in colder conditions, protecting you from the elements, and most are breathable so that your feet don’t cook in the summer sun.
They’ve been designed to tackle the seasons, and that’s part of what makes them great.
#4 Waterproofing. Most hiking boots are also waterproof, which is fantastic because you’re likely to need to walk through puddles and streams at least once.
Even the leather ones tend to use GORE-TEX because it’s breathable and keeps the water out.
You know what’s bad for your feet? Spending a whole hike soaked because your shoes didn’t have the required waterproofing.
Some hiking shoes have this as well, just as an important side note if you are still jumping between the two.
4 Reasons Why Hiking Boots Might be Bad for Your Feet
On the flip side, hiking boots aren’t perfect and there are a few aspects of them that might lead you more towards hiking shoes (or trail running shoes, your choice).
#1 Ankle Support. We’re sliding back to this because ankle support is a big deal. If you have weak ankles, the support in hiking boots isn’t going to do much for you – same with if you have past injuries that cause current weakness.
Similarly, if you fall or roll on your ankle the supports are not guaranteed to prevent you from experiencing an injury.
Braces and additional supports help with this, but you might as well pick up some hiking or trail running shoes instead.
#2 Rigid Build. The fact that hiking boots have such a rigid build does mean a downside for you.
First, you have the breaking in which is always painful and leads to a few sores and blisters that form on your feet. They also don’t flex with your feet which can cause rubbing.
The thick sole is good for protection against sharp rocks, but not so much when you are trying to keep steady footing.
The thickness actually delays signals from the brain to your feet while it tries to determine the kind of terrain it is on which can increase the risk of a twisted ankle.
#3 Maintenance. Hiking boots are more maintenance, especially if you want them to retain their shape and stay waterproof.
You’ll need to use a care kit on them regularly to maintain that smooth finish and keep the water out of your boots.
If you do want to look into maintenance for your boots (and some hiking shoes) we have a great pick that you might want to check out.
- Designed to protect leather hiking boots and shoes
- Uses natural ingredients to create a waterproof finish
- Protects against water, oil, and stains
This little tin packs a serious punch and contains a smooth wax that can be applied to any leather footwear effortlessly.
It uses natural beeswax as one of the primary ingredients, providing a finish that is truly unrivalled by other brands.
The waterproofing is exceptional, nourishing smooth and full-grain leather alike while also protecting against oil and stains.
The best part? With each tin, you will get an easy 5-6 treatments for your favourite pair of boots or shoes, and there is a full treatment kit too.
#4 Weight. They tend to be pretty heavy, and we all know how much of a pain that can be when on a long hike.
You might find your legs and feet tire sooner, causing you to become fatigued and leading to some seriously sore legs and ankles.
Interestingly, the weight on your feet is going to drain your energy up to six times more than anything on your back.
So, swapping out your heavy boots for a pair of appropriate shoes can be equivalent to taking 5kg off your back – mad, right?
There are plenty of pros and cons for hiking boots, which only makes the choice harder. Personally, I enjoy wearing my boots on winter hikes but I stick with the hiking shoes or trail runners for my 3-season treks.
It just makes sense, and it might be worth you trying out as well.
If you’re enjoying this guide to the best footwear for your next expedition, why not check out the rest of our hiking advice pieces? It’s a great way to learn more about the great outdoors and really prep for your next trip.
A seasoned camper and hiker, there is nothing he doesn’t know about the Great Outdoors. Hiking alone, with friends, or even little ones, he’s done it all. A trained survivalist, he gives Bear Grylls a run for his money.