What Is the Difference Between Hiking Boots and Hiking Shoes?

Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities, and having the right footwear is essential for a successful and safe hike. One of the most common questions for hikers is: what is the difference between hiking boots and hiking shoes?

While many people use these terms interchangeably, there are certain differences that can be important for safety and comfort.

Material – Hiking boots are made from a thicker, more durable material than hiking shoes. The material used in hiking boots is usually leather or synthetic leather, while hiking shoes are usually made from lightweight nylon or mesh.

Support – Hiking boots provide more ankle support than hiking shoes due to their higher cut and thicker materials. This extra support can be important when navigating uneven terrain or carrying a heavy pack.

Waterproofing – Hiking boots are often waterproofed with materials such as Gore-Tex, while most hiking shoes are not waterproofed at all. Waterproofing can be important when hiking in wet conditions as it helps keep your feet dry and comfortable.

Weight – Hiking boots tend to be heavier than hiking shoes due to their thicker material and extra support features. This makes them better suited for long hikes where you need the extra support, but can be uncomfortable on shorter hikes.


Hiking boots and hiking shoes both have their advantages depending on the type of hike you’re taking. Hiking boots provide more support and protection but are heavier and less breathable, whereas hiking shoes are lightweight but offer less protection against rugged terrain or wet conditions. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which type of footwear is best suited for your next hike.

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Samantha Mckinney