Hiking Shoes vs. Hiking Boots

Hiking boots come in a plethora of shapes and sizes. Even using the word “boot” no longer encompasses all of the different options available to the foot conscious outdoorsman. Hiking Shoes, Hiking Sandals, Cross Trainers, Ultra-lite Boots – combined with all the of the different types of brands, materials, and styles it is enough to give anyone who grew up with two brands, who both offered the stiff leather variety, some serious Paradox of Choice.

What are the differences? When are hiking shoes appropriate and not heavy boots? Are they worth the price difference?

We’ll start with some basic features of each and then elaborate on which conditions demand which type of “boot”.

Hiking Sandal

It may come as a bit of a surprise to some, but hiking sandals can be a great option for a casual hiker. Sandals are super lite, which means you aren’t going to expend as much energy moving your feet over the course of the hike. They are also perfect for water crossings or as foot liberating camp shoes. Many people prefer a sandal with some kind of toe guard to help protected against miscellaneous rocks and roots. For most, hiking sandals are best used for short well maintained trails or as a lite back up when their primary boots are temporarily out of commission.

Look for sandals with similar features to most good hiking shoes: stitch materials, tough soles, and good arch supports.

Ahnu Reyes III Performance Sandal
Ahnu Reyes III Performance Sandal


Trail Shoes or Hiking Shoes

Trail shoes are all the rage in hiking communities due to their compromise between comfort and functionality. They are sturdier than your average running shoe because of their thicker soles and leather reinforced fabrics while at the same time are lighter and more comfortable than standard hiking boots. Because of their versatility, trails shoe styles have started to become part of a more mainstream fashion. Be sure to double check standard quality measures such as stitching, arch support, waterproofing, and lace design so as to avoid buying shoes that look like trail shoes but don’t function in the same way.

Trail Running Shoes

Saucony Adapt Trail Shoe
Saucony Adapt Trail Shoe

Trail running has also exploded in popularity in recent years. Shoes designed specifically for trail running are similar to standard trail shoes with a few subtle differences. Most trail running shoes have a bit more padding, tough soles, and slightly more ankle support. These shoes can be quite expensive, so if you aren’t planning on running up the mountain, you can probably go with a standard trail shoe.

Mid-weight Hiking Boot

Mammut Teton GTX Hiking BootMammut Teton GTX Hiking BootMany people would just call this “a hiking boot”. A mid weight boot is what most people think of when they think of hiking footwear. They have extra ankle support, stiff foot support, and reinforced leather or synthetic outer layer. They are versatile and rarely feel like overkill on a trail of moderate difficulty. Sure, they will be a bit heavier, but unless you are using them on a multi-day, long term trek, you probably won’t even notice. Don’t forget to look for staple signs of quality: Waterproof outside, good stitched soles, and a Gore-Tex inner lining.

Remember to give yourself a few days to break in new boots. While modern Mid-weight boots take significantly less time to break in than their 30 year old all leather grandparents, you should still dedicate three to four days to breaking in your new Mid-weight boots.

Heavy Boot

For the true trail blazers in the crowd, these boats are for you. Quite literally, unless you plan on spending a significant amount of time out in the woods where there are no blaze to follow, it is hard to justify a heavy boot. However, if you do fall into the category of serious boulder climber or rugged bushwhackers, you know that a heavy boot can be your best friend.

A good heavy boot should feel like a cross between mountaineering boots and a hiking boot. They should provide extra grip with knobby soles and possibly a crampon on the lip. The ankle support should not only protect your ankle from twisting but also protect it from briars and any water or mud if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in a situation where mud protection is necessary.

Of course, for all of this protection you pay a price, both physically and financially. Heavy boots are, well, heavy! The extra metal, rubber, and leather that go into making them great at keeping you high and dry also makes them cost more and over time, will weigh you down. Don’t expect them to be super comfortable either. These kinds of boots are designed for hard work and will be overkill for anything else!

When do I need hiking boots?

1) When trails are particularly rocky, covered in roots, or are made uneven by other objects in the trail.
2) When the trail is wet.
3) When there the possibility of rolling your ankle is high.
4) When trails are exceptionally steep.
5) When hiking in the snow.

When will hiking shoes be ok?

1) Well maintained even trails.
2) Day hikes
3) Trail running
4) Campsites

When has having the right type of trail foot gear helped you on the trail?

Tell us in the comments!

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  • Joseph

    Nice article, but the other dimension that should be at least mentioned is if you are wearing any kind of pack and how much weight you are carrying.

    • Bob

      I agree with Joseph. When I’m carrying a heavy pack (for instance, 50-60 lbs of camera gear) I’m much more secure footed with my heavy hiking boots than with my hiking shoes. There is much more support for my ankles on uneven terrain; and there is a confidence stepping into places or onto surfaces that I don’t have with the lighter shoes. Otherwise, I think your blog/article does a good job of explaining the benefits and tradeoffs of each type of footwear.

    • Bob

      I agree with Joseph. When I’m carrying a heavy pack (for instance, 50-60 lbs of camera gear) I’m much more secure footed with my heavy hiking boots than with my hiking shoes. There is much more support for my ankles on uneven terrain; and there is a confidence stepping into places or onto uneven surfaces that I don’t have with the lighter shoes. Otherwise, I think your blog/article does a good job of explaining the benefits and tradeoffs of each type of footwear.

      • Sleepy Head

        Pack weight and ankle roll risk are definitely big factors. I would also add distance back to civilization. Don’t roll your ankle and make someone spend two days hiking you back. The mid-weights today are so nice I can’t imagine going overnight in anything less. My two cents worth…don’t let someone waxing nostalgic talk you into the those big leather things. I grew up in those things and they don’t have any redeeming qualities.

    • Allen

      Try on shoes with the socks that you plan to wear while hiking and if possible with loaded pack on. Your feet expand when you wear weight on your back and the thicker socks (a thin inner wicking layer and thick all around foot wool is what I have found best) will likely be thicker and require larger shoe/boot than your everyday wear. If you do not want to do this in the store at least at home before wearing outside so the boots/shoes can be returned if neccessary.

      • Natz


  • Bruce Payne

    I have an extra wide foot. This makes finding the correct fit difficult and at times, expensive. This year I switched to the New balance 610v2. I am hiking with a group of people who like a challenge. Though the shoe is light, I have been able to traverse uneven, muddy, root exposed trails w/ o incident. I do use an orthotic insert.

    • doug mallard

      try out some keens i’ve got a wide foot and these felt great right out of the box

    • Allen

      I have a wide foot and have always had problems getting the correct fit too. Sometimes I can go up a half size which sometimes work and sometimes does not. I have found a lot of disparity from different companies on sizes and widths too. I have worn Merrells for awhile, some of their boots come in wide sizes. Has anyone else had good experiences with them. I tried on some Keens, but even a size larger was too narrow.

      • RJ Lewis

        I’ve used a variety of boots over the years with my over size, wide feet. The best fit I’ve found has been with New Balance and Merrell. Merrell’s boots have good durability, and the uncanny heavenly fit right out of the box, requiring little, if any, break in. NB also makes a nice hiker for wider feet that’s all leather and quite light. I’ve had problems with Keen boots also, but did find a pair of winter mud and snow boots that were quite comfy, as well as being no heavier than the Merrell’s. Hope this helps.

  • Michael Cornwell

    This article is helpful for the novice or someone just getting started. My hiking boot for years was the wafflestomper, Vasque Hiker II. Though heavy, it was great for off trail. I spent several weeks in Glacier National Park and the Grand Tetons in 2010 and 2011. Last summer , I spent 3 weeks in Alaska. Though some would call it extravagant, I use 4 different hiking shoes, depending on the terrain(hiking sole sandals, low trail shoe, mid lightweight, and all leather hiking boot). If I could only use one shoe, it would be the Merrell Moab low. It is great, even on the rocky trails in Glacier and the Tetons. One caveat about sandals (I have the Chaco with the hiking sole), they can be used effectively even with a moderately heavy pack, but never use them when there’s a chance of rain and puddling on the trail which is covered with evergreen needles: the needles will eat up your feet. I learned this the hard way.

  • Herb Pomfrey

    Overall a weak piece of information. How about some data? I did not find any usful information here!

  • Bill Seward

    My old Vasque boots should be replaced. When we hike Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania, wet slippery rocks and roots are a problem. Is there any rating system for traction?

  • Meryl Huckabey

    Good article!
    I was looking for a new pair of light hiking boots yesterday, and your article really opened my eyes.
    Be aware – light hiking boots and trail shoes are now “chic” and there are cheaply made copies all over the place!

  • Thank you for this article. At 76, I am feeling an increasing number of physical changes which cause me to be more cautious about my moving about, whatever the activity.

    My foot size has changed markedly over the past five or six years. Having not noticed, initially, that fact, I incurred changes in shoe and boot fit.

    Also, secondary to blown knees years ago, my gait changed.

    The long and short of it is, for the first time in my life I must deal with callouses in critical weight bearing areas on one foot.

    Finally, when I began to shop for footwear which actually suited my faithful old feet, the size measures (for men) had changed. No longer could I find a 13 C or D or E. Now the sizes are, general, 13 wide or narrow, and half sizes above 12 seen non-existent.

    The last obstacle is measuring foot size. I’ve not found a single sales person, with the possible exception of SAS stores, who truly knows anything about fitting shoes for customers.

    Your article was most helpful. Perhaps, if you receive other comments similar to mine, you could have a few more basic articles about selection and sizing of footwear for your older customers.

    I’ve bought camping items of many sorts from Campmor, and have always been satisfied with the transactions. Thank you for the excellent setup, from web page to product delivery, on time and as advertised. Outstanding company, for sure, for sure!



    • Younger Salt

      Nice to see you are still on the trail at 76. Now that I reached 60, I wonder when my backpacking days will be over. Certainly, I’ve trimmed pack weight significantly. However, I still prefer a boot on the trail. When I get tired, I tend to roll my ankles. It happened a few times when I did the John Muir Trail, and luckily, I didn’t get a bad sprain until the last day on the trail, coming down from Whitney. Anyway, I would have done much more damage if I hadn’t had good ankle support.

      So, one should also consider individual physical conditions when selecting the right footwear for the trail.

    • MarkTrail

      I’m with you, Oldsalt. At 65 I realized that my feet were changing drastically, not to mention other skeletal changes. I have become a regular visitor to the podiatrist. I now use a variety of arch supports depending on the footwear, and have gone from a 10.5 D to a 11.5 or 12 4E.

      My favorite and most comfortable footwear is a light hiking boot, Timberland Chochorua Trail GTX Hiking Boot. I wish I could wear them everywhere. These are the boots that my dog brings me when he wants to hit the trails.

      Keep hiking. There is always something new to experience in wilds, even for us old veteran hikers.

  • Holman

    I’m a heavy boot man. I like the ankle support and in a pinch, I can cinch them up super tight. Every other foot gear can and will break down under severe day-over-day use and this potential must be minimized. It’s like blowing a tire at the worst possible moment.

  • Eric Nelson

    I have to always say when talking about what to wear on my feet is — it depends. Backpacking is different than hiking because of the weight. However, weight alone does not mean I should use boots. I carried 30 lbs for a 4 – day trek on the NCT in Michigan. Not a rugged trail (roots and occasional cobbles), but it was occasionally wet. Used my Goretex trail runners. The only time I use my full – grain leather boots is in very wet and cool conditions. I have even use trail runners hiking/ scrambling up 13,000 foot peaks in summer. I am much more nimble with them and less likely to twist and ankle because of that.

  • Craig

    The other factor is hunting, where you will go where there are no trails. Up and down ridges and across streams that could be frozen. The truth is that everything on the ground is tough. A small plant can snag an arrow and pull it right out of your quiver. I prefer the hunting boots from Outfitters. They have Vibram soles covered with round balls about 1/2″ across. That gives you good weight on a small surface. Flat bottom boots will let you slip and slide far too much.

  • Karl

    Day hikes? If I was on a day hike that didn’t offer some or all of the five items listed in when to wear boots, it’d be a bit sedate indeed. I’m moving away from light/mid boots towards hiking shoes, and my “day hikes” are often 15-25 miles and 5-10k feet elevation gain. (Generally a “steep” spot or two!) Waterpoofing isn’t always that great a deal, either, especially in fair-to-good temps. Once the water is inside, and it always finds a way, it takes a lot longer to dry out.

  • Andy Pilkington

    Great responses here! Love all the different feedback.
    Here in Michigan there are lots of different trail conditions that warrant any and all of the types of footwear mentioned.
    I prefer minimalist if I can, wearing a good sandal for light trails and paths near the beach. Out in the woods I go with my 10″ Rockies for ankle support. Can’t risk a sprain when carrying a pack!

  • My perfect boot? Meindl “Perfekt ” boot [not the ‘lite’ – they offer two styles]. Excellent fit and support for the wide foot [ a ‘D’ to an ‘E’]. I’m 50 yrs of on-the-move, 6’2″ – 250 lbs. Usually two backpacking trips a year toting 50-60 lb packs, countless two or 3 day ultra light/fast weekends [ less than 52, of course] and lots of general trail strolling and these are the all day boot, bar none. Light in weight comparatively, but still spec out and perform as the tougher of the mid-weight boots. Comfort is off the chart – really. There are days in hiking shoes or sandals where the most comfortable thing I can do is put the boots on and take a short walk and feet are happy for the evening. No reservations in this recommendation.

  • Noah

    This is an awesome article, but for the last three years, I’ve completed all of my hikes in Vibrams’ “Five-Fingers” trail shoes, and they are totally bad ass. They are uber light and offer great protection against rocks, roots, and other trail obstructions. All in all, it depends on how much, and if you like to walk around barefoot. Ask yourself those two q’s before purchasing though; most pairs are $80+

    • John E

      You are farther along than I am…But I have been running and walking in my VFFs for almost a year now and I really want to make my initial voyage hike with my VFFs.
      I am still overweight, but I have lost 40 lbs this year so far.
      I still have ankle issues but i have not rolled it since I went with Vffs.
      But I am still concerned a little bit. Any advise would be great.

  • Mark

    I do a 40 day hike every year on the PCT and I would NEVER dream of wearing a hiking boot, especially in the desert. The vast majority (maybe 95%) of through hikers wear running shoes. I do 25-28 miles a day with a 35-45# pack (varies depending on water and food required) and I wear a moderate support running shoe like the Brooks Ghost or GTX even in the high Sierra and Cascades. I also wear only one light pair of socks, double socks cause blisters for me. A heavy boot is much more likely to give you a stress fracture or a knee sprain than a running or hiking shoe and it is extra weight in the most stressful part of your body. If you are hiking long distance 500+ miles you will have to get a second pair of shoes (they are completely dead at 500 miles). I also powder my feet in the morning and rub them in oil at night.

    • Bob Hughes

      You through-hikers are truly crazy–good crazy.
      Yeh, I learned years ago that double socks are double-dumb.
      I wonder who started that myth?

      • Hey Mark,
        I am with you! For me, those heavy boots spell danger. I handle a search dog and so am always off trail, up and down mountainsides, through high desert mesas and rocky gorge areas – widely varied terrains. When I can actually “feel” what’s under me, I am more agile and trip less, so the lightweight running shoes are what I use tri-season, with a heavier, but still mid-range waterproof boot for the deep snows in winter. I do think it is what you get used to, combined with your ankle strength and general foot health. I am so thankful for the trend to the lighter shoe. Dang, I hiked in moccasins for years and probably still would if search and rescue did not require me to use something different. 🙂

  • Jeff G

    I spend a lot of time in the woods in northern NJ whether it is backpacking or just long walks with my dog. All the trails seem to be uneven with a lot of roots and rocks. I have accumulated a variety of hiking shoes and boots. For just hiking in the woods with no pack low hiking shoes are usually fine unless it is cold or wet. A few years ago I sprained my ankle just before completing an overnight trip with a 30 pound pack while wearing relatively stiff well made low hiking shoes. They were comfortable and seemed to give enough support for the hike with the pack but offered no help at all when I twisted my ankle on a root that was hidden under a lot of leaves. Now I usually use a lightweight mid height hiking shoe with gtx lining and a vibram sole whenever I have a pack. They are light and comfortable and seem to have enough support but even with the gtx my feet get damp after hiking through a lot of wet snow. I do feel some rocks and the cold through the sole so for wetter and colder conditions or where I expect a lot of rocks I do like the security and stiffness of a true hiking boot. Another aspect to think about is that in winter hiking none of the above keep my feet warm and comfortable especially walking around in camp at night and when I wake up so in winter you really want insulation. I have been happy with a pair of North Face mid height hiking shoes for cold weather. I use them with gators in deep snow.

    • Bob Hughes

      I’ve found that Goretex boots stink like hell after fording rivers

  • Nak

    I’m a firm believer in personal preference. What’s ever comfortable. I’m 60 yrs. old and hiked the whole 2,184.2 mi. of the AT last year. I wore CROCS for app. 1/2 of it. More comfortable than my mid boots or trail shoes. Serious! The one thing I would definitely stay away from is Vibram soles. They are the scourge of the WET earth. Slippery as all get out.

    • Bob Hughes

      Vibram soles are more earth friendly than horseshoes.
      Nice work on the App Trail Nak.

  • John

    I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon last summer. I considered wearing hiking shoes, or even a pair of FiveFingers. However, I decided to play it safe, an wore a pair of Asolo’s heaviest-duty hiking boots. I am quite happy I chose these.

  • Steve G

    I’m hiking the 100 mile wilderness in September, and will stick with my Keen Targhee II mid height boots. BUT… any suggestions for something really lightweight to use for the water crossings?

  • John E

    I am currently looking into getting a new pair of hiking boots/shoes. I have worn a pair of vasque boots for the last three years and it is time to move on. I have tried some hiking sandals by columbia and I liked them. I even own a pair of NB trail shoes. However this past year I have gone with some VFF shoes and I am seriously considering hiking in them. I have a pretty bad ankle but I have yet to roll my ankle this past year. I haven’t done any hiking since September (I live in the Alaskan Bush) but I have been playing basketball three nights a week. Part of me wants to go with a lighter shoe but part of me is scared to give up that ankle support. I will be hiking the GA and NC portions of the AT or the NC/GA portions of the Bartram trail this summer. The trails are in great shape. Anyone have any advise? I would be carrying about a 50 lb pack (7-10 days).

  • TomT

    I think the whole business of needing boots and “support” is wildly exaggerated and overblown. Just yesterday did a day hike 5 miles up, 5 miles down, 4300 feet up (and down) on a rough established trail using trail running shoes. And I am 60 years old.
    No problems, and I am just getting in shape for this season.

    But people are different, and if you are prone to sprained ankles or just plain clumsy this may not work for you. I have done large sections of the Sierra High Route in trail running shoes without issue. And I don’t do this to prove something or make a point, but because I like the lightness and freedom. Some peoples thinking is to armor themselves against the wilderness, which is not necessarily necessary.

  • Bob Hughes

    age 72 and looking towards my first backpack of the new year on April 25th into Hell’s Canyon.

    After I broke my ankle in the high Sierras in 1971, wearing a pair of light weight Pivettas,
    I bought a pair of HEAVY all leather Raichles.
    42 years later I’m still wearing them–everywhere–except in my sleeping bag.
    Sure they’re the HEAVIEST, 6.4 pounds for the pair.
    Afraid that they’d fall apart after at least 6 or 7 resoleings, I have tried maybe 4 or 5 lightweight boots (Asolo/Lowa Allspitzs/ Raichle Mt. Trail XT GTX Goretex which really sucks, and a nice Mammut/Raichle leather about 4 pounds, no longer made by Raichle);
    but they all suck.
    Of course, I’m not going to run 30 miles a day, but I never have to worry about varying conditions or breaking my ankle again;
    I just keep slogging along.
    By October I’ll be hiking/climbing up to Chief Mountain in Glacier.
    Bob, Post Falls, Idaho

  • Brenda

    I appreciate that your company has this chat set up for our feed back.
    It shows you care about serving the customers in the best way.
    Zamberlan makes some extra rugged hiking boots!
    My co-worker’s son got over 1,000 miles out of 2 pairs of Zamberlan boots. He hiked the entire AT Georgia-Maine. He only needed the 2 pairs! 🙂

    • Geezer

      You have understated his accomplishment and the boots’ durability … the entire AT is 2100+ miles – that’s ‘way more than “over 1000 miles”.

  • Tom Walker

    Bruce P. says: <> You should try it with a narrow foot – borderline impossible, any potential options very expensive. For example, if you go to “Hiking Boots” on the Campmor website, under “Width” it lists 108 choices for Medium, & 36 choices for Wide. Not even a listing for Narrow. The only options I’ve found are my Red Wing Irish Setters, really heavy-duty work/hunting boots, over the ankle in height, made of leather, & heavy – $150.00+ a pair, last I checked; & a pair of New Balance walking shoes, low (no ankle support at all) & not really very heavy duty or strong – ~$140.00 for my last pair.

  • Quickfire

    Highly recommend a Vasque boot for backpacking, mid weight hiking boot for day hiking. I unfortunately found my every day mid weight hiking boot caused blisters with a heavy weight pack. Also, immediately stop and attend to any rubbing or stones in your boots before blisters occur. Using glide and changing to dry socks at lunch also help prevent blisters over a long trip.go to shoe for river crossing/camp shoe CROCS by far, carabiner to your pack or kayak. Dry quick, easy to slip on cushy at camp and lightweight all in one. EMS has foot gurus-make an appointment ahead:)

  • fanman

    Wow, all the great comments. The point is to listen, read, then find what works for you. I did dump my heavy leather boots years ago and wear a variety of boots or shoes now depending on the route and season. Generally I don’t like waterproof boots as they make my feet sweat. But, they are warmer in cold weather. I use very thin liner socks and a second pair of hiking socks in some footwear and single socks in others. I’ll second the use of glide, or sport slick, or hydropel. If you’re looking for a boot fitter try REI. They train their folks pretty well and have an almost absurd customer oriented return policy. My girlfriend (with wide forefeet, bunions and narrow heels hiked in 3 different boots before finding a fourth that worked well. REI exchanged w/o problems.

  • Pete Crum

    I’ve been hiking and backpacking the Gila Wilderness for 20 years or so, following the Middle Fork where you can have 6 or 7 stream/river crossings per mile. When you’re not in the water you’re bushwhacking thru cactus and rocks. Too much to keep changing footwear. I’ve found that wearing Sealskin Goretex SOCKS inside non-Goretex midweight boots works about the best. The water will drain out of the boots but your feet stay dry.

  • Julian

    After a wet month on the AT with Asolo leather boots with 2/3 steel shank I realized these are not good general purpose hiking boots. They are twice the weight of full support modern hiking boots, and once wet stay that way all day no matter what you do, resulting in rotting feet no matter how many times you change socks.
    What they are good for is on ice(crampons) and scrambling on wet rock where no matter how careful you are bound to slip occasionally.
    I next tried trail runners, and found I could keep my feet mostly dry, and if wet dried quickly, but with a trail weight pack they provide little ankle protection on serious rocks.
    We then tried Vasque and Keen mid weight hiking boots, and they are a good compromise, dry quickly, good grip and ankle support on wet rock, but don’t expect them to last more than a month or so before they start peeling apart.
    Scuttlebut on the trail(AT) was that most manufacturers would drop ship free replacements to through hikers, sadly that no longer seems to be the case.

  • David

    As I got older, wiser, and heavier, my pack and gear got younger, more technically advanced, and lighter. With a lighter pack I generally don’t have issues with ankle twist and have found the transition I made many years ago from waffle stompers, to lighter weight boots, to cross trainers a very good move. Even at 240 pounds with a 30-40 pound pack, I find the extra comfort of a shoe rather than a boot a major plus on day hike or multiday backpacks. However, mud and rock, yes, I am going to back my lightest weight boot.

  • Sara

    I am 67, and for at least 10 years I’ve had problems with severe cramping in the balls of my feet. This begins after only a couple of hours hiking. I finally realized that heavy boots were causing the problem. I’m now using Ariat boots; they are not hiking boots, but they are very comfortable and cause no pain. The only problem with them is that the soles have little traction, so I am prone to slipping. Any suggestions for a good light weight boot with a good sole? I hike mostly in Big Bend National Park, very rough, rocky trails.

    • billyoblivion

      IMO the most important thing about a shoe is fit. If the Ariat’s fit you well take an older pair to a show repair shop and see if they can/will put lug sole of some sort on them.

  • Steve Duby

    The current trend for footwear use in Alaska (rugged, wet, mostly
    without trails) is precisely the opposite of what’s described. If doing
    major gear hauling such as those required for hunting trips or serious
    mountaineering expeditions, boots are necessary and the more rigid the
    better. Some sheep and goat hunters, who may not even encounter snow,
    use plastic shell double boots such as the Scarpa Inverno. Extreme
    alpinists may opt for the single layer leather boots due to their light
    weight, with overboots added for extreme conditions.

    when it comes to fast and light travel – even in the most wild,
    untracked areas – the best footwear you could ask for are light weight
    trail racing shoes that are NOT WATERPROOF. In Alaska, your feet will
    get wet, and unless you’re wearing rubber boots or waders, which are
    severely impractical for hiking, there’s no way to prevent it even with
    gore-tex. The philosophy of use here, is that light footwear allows for
    faster travel and increased distance over multiple days.
    Non-waterproof footwear is lighter, and will also dry faster in camp
    than leather gore-tex boots…which by my own experience do NOT dry once
    they get wet up here.

    Here’s your rule of thumb for backpacking in Alaska:

    If you’re carrying less than 50 pounds, go with non-GTX trail racing shoes of high quality (i.e. Salomon, La Sportiva, etc.)

    over 50 pounds and/or traveling extensively on glaciated or otherwise
    extremely rugged terrain, rigid mountaineering boots are your friend.

    Keep on having fun.

  • Jeff

    So What’s the difference now? is a hiking boot considered a backpacking boot? that’s what still confuses me.

  • C N

    I have been hiking for over 30 years and have never been able to hike in a boot. For the last several years I have worn Merrell’s. I purchase different soles for different terrain. For heavy terrain I wear Patagonia which is made by Merrell and I find them very comfortable. Of course, making sure you have the correct size and type of socks is also very important.

  • Natz

    What works for a 67 year old female: Different footwear for different outings. For relatively flat terrain, a lightweight low Vasque. As terrain gets rockier and more uneven, high lightweight. For rough terrain, ravines, backpacking, a full leather backpacking boot. gtx is a personal preference. In all situations I wear wicking liner socks and ragg wool socks for maximum wicking, padding and coolness. I also use moleskin as a preventive measure on those areas where I know hotspots and blisters tend to form. I always carry a pair of clean dry socks to change at the first sign of dampness. Two factors in selecting shoes/boots: Important to me that the footbed of the footwear conforms to my foot (different manufacturers have different “lasts”…lesson learned!). Also the toe box should have enough room in height and length to compensate for downhill, especially with a pack of any size, so that toes do not jam forward. Sidenote: For some reason, “bodyglide” type products have not worked for me.

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  • limping mule

    Hikem barefoot- less wampum, less stinkum. All bleedem.

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