We’ve been conditioned for many years to assume that if you need footwear for hiking, you need to buy a pair of boots. You should make sure that they’re rigid for ankle support and waterproof to keep your feet nice and dry, right?
Well, it turns out that shoes are a better choice than boots for most hiking scenarios. Before you profess your love for hiking boots, let us say that neither one is perfect for every scenario. If your boots have served you well, that makes us happy. That said, let us make a case for hiking shoes over boots.
Studies have shown that an extra pound on your foot forces you to burn as much energy as an extra 4-6 pounds in your pack. Heavy boots will cause you to fatigue faster, and as a result, you be less nimble and more prone to injury.
Just as thick soles on your shoes will encourage atrophy of the muscles in your feet, stiff boots will prevent the ligaments and tendons in your ankles from staying in prime shape. Research has shown that a powerful, flexible ankle is more effective at preventing injury than a stiff hiking boot.
If it rains, your feet are going to be wet no matter what. Ever hiked a full day in fully waterproof boots? Your feet end up damp from sweat, so there’s no way to win this one. The problem with this is that blisters often result from wet feet. You’re better off with a breathable shoe that will keep your feet dry. Breathable shoes also dry much faster than waterproof shoes, which is why many thru-hikers prefer trail runners over a big, clunky waterproof boot.
Are hiking shoes right for you? The only way is to log the miles and see how your feet feel. Our bet is that you won’t go back to bootville.