Hiking boots vs trail shoes. What is the right choice for you?
Some people swear by hiking boots while others much prefer trail running footwear. Then there’s the terrain, season and conditions underfoot to consider. IN the end, how do you choose between hiking boots and trail shoes?
Before going hiking, you will need to know more about the terrain of where you will walk or run. Is it more rocks or soil, or are there a lot of puddles that you will need to cross?
In general, hiking boots will be safer and more protective for feet in more challenging terrain. However, boots are usually bulkier and heavier for long walks that might well turn into a run. The trail runner shoes will allow greater comfort and flexibility on hiking trails that allow you to run or walk briskly, but they will not allow for the protection and/or support for your feet that you may need should you have to go over rocks or other tough terrain.
The main difference between a good pair of hiking boots and a pair of trail running shoes is that boots come up above the ankle to offer greater stability. Many people who hike prefer to have the support of the ankle part of the boot, especially when walking on rocky, muddy and tricky terrain.
If you go over on your ankle, the boot will give more support and help you to avoid injury. However, this does not allow for so much freedom in terms of speed of movement and the ability to run rather than simply walk. Running in foots is not easy because there is a lack of ankle flexibility.
Boots also come in different grades from lightweight summer boots to stiff and highly durable winter walking boots. No one will recommend swapping winter walking boots for trainers, but a summer boot could be swapped for a trail runner if the conditions and terrain were suitable.
Hiking boots also offer a great chance of waterproofness. The ankle prevents more water getting inside and most good quality boots have a waterproof lining of some kind. The best waterproofing is in leather boots, but if you are buying fabric boots look for Gore-tex liners or similar.
The soles of hiking boots are designed to cope with rocky and slippery terrain. While trail runners will also have grippy soles, when compared to trainers for use on tarmac, they will rarely be as robust as h the sole of a hiking boot. You’ll find that the soles of boots are made with different levels of grip and durability depending on the season and terrain.
Boot will be more durable generally because the uppers are usually created with toe caps, heel protector etc to cope with rocks, dirt and general obstacles found wile walking on trail and in the mountains.
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Trail running shoes
These are usually much lighter and without ankles. They offer much greater ease and freedom of movement than a boot. The aim is for fast, lightweight movement, such as running or brisk hiking.
You could choose to wear trail running shoes for summer walking but take a good look at the soles and the uppers to make sure they are suitable for the purpose. There are trail shoes with very grippy soles for running in the mountains and those with stiff or more flexible soles depending on where you will run/walk or what you personally prefer.
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Some trail runners do have waterproofing but the water will usually end up going over the top of the shoe at the ankle so it’s worth investing in waterproof ankle protectors that fit over the trainers and around the ankle.
The best way to decide is to think first about the terrain that you will be walking and then what the weather is likely to be. Then think about whether you will be mainly hiking or planning to hike and run. Hopefully, then you will choose the right footwear for your particular outing.