Hiking Shoes vs Boots – Unbiased Comparison

People often get confused about hiking shoes and boots. Both seem similar at first sight. What is the thing that sets them apart? To put it simply:

The main difference between hiking shoes and boots is the build and cut-out top. Hiking boots are readily available in mid-ankle cut to high-ankle cut designs. So, they add more stability and keep the ankle support a major factor. Whereas, the hiking shoes are low cut  top and offer less ankle stability. So, if you ask "Should I get hiking shoes or boots
?" I would say hiking boots are way more better than the shoes. I have explained this with logics and comparisons below.

The pictures below also explain the main difference between hiking boots and shoes.

Hiking Boot High Cut Top
Hiking Boot High Cut Top
hiking shoes low cut top
Hiking Shoes Low Cut Top

Comparison Table of Hiking Boots vs Shoes

FeaturesHiking ShoesHiking Boots
Design and buildLess stability and low-cut designOffers more stability due to high to medium-cut design
FittingIt needs time to accord to the feetNeed a break-in for snug fitting heel to toe
InteriorSofter and flexibleStiffer but warmer for winter hiking
Ankle supportLess ankle supportMore ankle support
ComfortIt delivers the best waterproofing but compromised breathability; takes time to dry Added comfort
TractionMedium traction and good gripExcellent traction and ideal grip
DurabilityLess durable; need to replace more oftenMore durable, don’t need to replace often
Waterproof/ breathabilityBest breathability but lesser waterproofing, get dry easily once get wetIt delivers the best waterproofing but compromised breathability; it takes time to dry
PriceAffordable with an avg. $100Expensive with an avg. $150-200
Best forMedium hiking and while walking on abrasive and coarse groundExtreme conditions and temperature to protect feet, abrasive grounds, etc.
UppersFeatures split leather-uppers or thinner synthetic fabricsTough material and leather uppers (suede and Nubuck) or synthetic fabric
Best CollectionsCheck Latest Hiking BootsCheck Latest Hiking Shoes

Video of Hiking Shoes vs Boots Explained by an Expert

Details of Hiking Boots vs Hiking Shoes

So, let’s get into the details and factor in the difference between hiking shoes and boots.

1. Design and Build

The hiking boots are bulky for appearance, making them instantly stand out from hiking shoes. However, both are equally good for styling.

Hiking boots usually have more padding, ample and roomy toe boxes, and more variation in ankle support, whereas hiking shoes are minimal in design and don’t offer ankle stability.

Furthermore, hiking boots have plush ankle-cut designs, i.e., high- ankle cut, low-ankle cut, and mid-ankle cut, while hiking shoes only have low-cut ankle stability.

For instance, this Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe has a low-key design and lesser stability for more extended hiking. In contrast, this KEEN Men’s Targhee 2 Mid-Height Waterproof Hiking Boot offers mid-ankle support, more protection, and a plush build.

2. Weight

Hiking shoes are lightweight and ideal for day-long wearing, whereas hiking boots are bulky, solid, and have a heavyweight design.

Therefore, you can’t wear hiking boots for all-day with zero strain on your feet at the end of the day.

Usually, hiking shoes have a pretty thin upper compared to boots, so it puts the minor strain on the toe and the feet joints, while hiking boots have leather uppers that are heavier for their weight.

Such as Skechers Men’s High Rise Hiking Classic Boot weighs 2 pounds while Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe only weighs 1.1 pounds which is pretty less when you have to wear it all day long and anticipate zero strain.

3. Durability and Comfort

The comfort of hiking boots and shoes depends on how sensitive one’s feet are. So nobody can rightfully tell you how a hiking boot or shoe would feel when you wear it. 

However, as a matter of common observation, hiking boots have more padding and ankle support that keeps feet wrapped and comfy. In contrast, hiking shoes are less comfortable for their minimal and exposed design.

Likewise, hiking boots are durable and robust for thousands of miles of trail hiking due to their thick rubber outsole and quality.

Therefore, they make perfect choices for professional hiking, and hiking shoes are only for moderate hiking.

On the flip side, hiking shoes are less durable, and you may need to replace them after about 500 to 750 miles of hiking as their laces or uppers start to fray.

For example, this Timberland Men’s White Ledge Mid Waterproof Ankle Boot is durable, especially for its solid toe boxes, interior comfort, and outsole quality. On the other hand, Kodiak Men’s Quicktrail Nano Toe Low Cut Electrical Hazard Athletic– Hiking Shoe has been somewhat less durable for me, and the uppers were subpar.

4. Uppers and Protection

Hiking boots are all about added protection from impact and abrasion.

Therefore, wearing a hiking-efficient boot would be less likely to injure your feet from cuts, rashes, or jerks due to the added comfort that is much needed in hiking.

On the contrary, hiking shoes don’t offer much protection and stability due to their build and design.

One thing to note here is the uppers of this footwear. The boots are usually heavy leather, such as suede, Nubuck, or synthetic fabric. In contrast, hiking shoes come with split leather-uppers or thinner synthetic fabrics that feel light but offer lesser protection!

For example, this Adidas Men’s AX2S Hiking Shoes has lesser protection and features textile uppers that are lighter for protection. In contrast, this Timberland Men’s White Ledge Mid Waterproof Ankle Boot has leather uppers and offers my feet added protection with its mid-ankle design.

Hiking Boot Upper
Hiking Boot Upper
Hiking Shoes Upper
Hiking Shoe Upper

5. Fitting

The hiking boots sometimes need a break-in for perfect fitting, whereas the shoes are softer, more flexible, and instantly according to the feet’ shape.

So you won’t need to break in the hiking shoe. The hiking boots are a big deal for perfect fitting, and once you fit them nicely and snugly, they are suitable to wear during dry weather.

For fitting and interior comfort, Jack Wolfskin Men’s Outdoor Shoe for hiking was comfortable out of the box for my feet due to its textile and synthetic mix. In contrast, Columbia Men’s Newton Ridge Plus II Suede Waterproof Boot, Breathable with High-Traction Grip, needed a break-in as its suede leather initially felt stiff.

6. Traction and Grip

Hiking shoes offer medium to less action for aggressive and sharp cuts hiking.  Their outsoles are thin, limiting their traction and gripping approach.

Conversely, hiking boots offer enough protection, comfort, and traction for all-terrain. The hiking boots have deeper and gripping lugs that make them ideal for durability and bring longevity around for wear and tear.

Also, the outsole anchors make a difference for running in hiking shoes versus hiking boots on different surfaces.

For example, this Columbia Men’s Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof Hiking Boot, a Breathable High-Traction Grip boot, has the best grip on multiple terrains. That rubber outsole has a non-skid design that marks supreme performance. In contrast, this Columbia Men’s Crestwood Mid Waterproof Wide Hiking Shoe has a lesser grip on specific terrain, and you may need to replace it often for the best grip around.

hiking boot outsole to get an idea of grip
Hiking Boot Outsole to Get an Idea of Grip
hiking shoe outsole to get an idea of grip
Hiking Shoe Outsole to Get an Idea of Grip

7. Price and Affordability

The price of hiking boots is more than hiking shoes. Boots are expensive due to their durability, leather uppers, thick-set outsole, and the build that works best for extreme weather conditions.

On the other hand, hiking shoes are affordable due to the same reason, but conversely. The shoes are lightweight, have less material, and the little ankle support makes them medium for price.

Hiking shoes and trail runners are available between the price of $80, $100, and $150, whereas hiking boots can be up to $125 to $350, depending on brand and quality.

However, the sales and deals of the brand will let you buy a hiking boot at an affordable price as well. Usually, boots with leather are expensive, while shoes with synthetic material are affordable.

For instance, this Asolo Men’s Fugitive GTX Hiking Boot costs $300.00 and looks classy with its red laces, brown Cordura, leather, suede uppers, thick outsole, and imported material. On the other hand, this KEEN Men’s Targhee EXP Low Height Waterproof Hiking Shoe has only $119.99 which is reasonably priced for sure.

Hiking Boots Pros and Cons

What I Like
  • Keeps feet warm and cozy
  • Best ankle support and protected design
  • Offers traction for abrasive to smooth terrain
  • Best for snow hiking and waterproofing is reliable
What I Dislike
  • May need a break-in
  • Heavier for all day long wearing

Hiking Shoes Pros and Cons

What I Like
  • Lightweight build doesn’t put strain on feet
  • Affordable in price
  • Softer and comfortable interior
  • Comes in stylish designs
What I Dislike
  • Lack of support and stability
  • Poor to keep feet dry

So, now you know the key and general differences between hiking shoes and boots, there are also different types of shoes available nowadays, like tennis shoes, runners, walking shoes and approach shoes. I have also compared below these shoes with the hiking boots. Let’s read further!

Hiking Boots vs Tennis Shoes

The hiking boots and tennis shoes are already saying the difference from their respective names.


The main difference between Hiking boots and tennis shoes is the lug design. It implies that hiking boots feature powerful and strong lungs that are efficient to dig into the soil and rubber offers traction on multiple terrains. On the other hand, tennis shoes have thinner lugs. More to add, hiking boots also has design that covers the ankle where tennis shoes doesn't have upers that covers your ankles.

Below is the comparison table to explain the differences between hiking boots and tennis shoes more in-depth.

FeaturesHiking BootsTennis Shoes
ImageA hiking bootA tennis shoe
Best forRough terrain and abrasive groundsSmooth and dry terrains, court surfaces
Ankle supportBest support and stabilityLess support and stability
 Lug size Thick lugsMinimal lugs
Traction and gripBest traction and grip for slippery and rough pathwaysMinimal traction and grip
 ComfortExtra cushioning No extra cushioning
 Shock-absorption Ideal protection and shock absorptionNo shock  absorption
Latest CollectionCheck Latest Hiking BootsCheck Latest Tennis Shoes

Video Comparison of Hiking Boots vs Tennis Shoes

Hiking Boots vs Running Shoes

Hiking boots and running shoes are differently made. One of the key differences is its weight.

So, when you are at the shoe shop, the main difference between hiking boots and running shoes would be their overall weight. Hiking boots are heavier due to the leather uppers, thick lug and they weigh about 2 lbs. On the contrary, the running shoes weigh about 12 to 30 oz and that makes them fairly lightweight. Also, hiking boots has ankle-covered design where running shoes does not.

There are a few more diversions between hiking boots and running shoes, such as shown in the table below:

FeaturesHiking BootsRunning Shoes
ImageA hiking bootA running shoe
Weight  HeavyweightLightweight
BreathabilityMedium Ideal
Fitting Need a break-inNo need for any break-in
Warmth Keep feet warm and cozyDon’t keep feet warm and cozy
Best forFor hiking and day-long adventuresShorter hikes and climbing 
Latest CollectionsCheck Latest Hiking BootsCheck Latest Running Shoes

Hiking Boots vs Walking Shoes

Hiking boots are best for dedicated hiking, whereas walking shoes are efficient for walking due to flexibility.


The main difference between hiking boots and walking shoes is their design and durability. Hiking boots are more durable and work for longer walks whereas walking shoes are less durable but offer a softer interior. Also hiking boots are pretty much stiff in comparison with walking shoes that are comparable out-of-the-box.

More differences between hiking boots and walking shoes are explained in the comparison table below:

FeaturesHiking BootsWalking Shoes
ImageA hiking bootA Walking Shoe
DesignProtected design and offers ankle and insole supportLess protected design and offers only insole support
Price and affordabilityExpensiveReasonable price
DurabilityMore durable and holds qualityLess durable and wear quicker
InteriorPlenty of cushioningLess cushioning and breathable
Latest CollectionsCheck Latest Hiking BootsCheck Latest Walking Shoes

Hiking Boots vs Approach Shoes

If you are a fan of outdoor sports and adventure, you must have wondered about the difference between hiking boots and approach shoes. So, the main difference is that hiking boots are heavy and more durable whereas approach shoes are lightweight and less durable.
FeaturesHiking BootsApproach Shoes
ImageA hiking bootAn Approach Shoe
 DesignHiking boots have a hard and solid appearanceSimilar to running shoes
 SupportStiffer and supportive for ankleSofter and less supportive
 Grip/ TractionBest grip on multiple terrainsThey have a stable  grip on rocks
 PriceExpensive  Affordable
Latest CollectionsCheck Latest Hiking BootsCheck Latest Tennis Shoes

Check Other Relevant Comparisons


Tim Campbell

I am Tim. Getting the inherited hobby from my father when I was a child to the fully grown individual I always loved boots. I live in hilly areas and love to explore the world at heights. That's where my profound hobby of boots collection comes in. I have tried a lot of boots and now helping my community to do better when having fun in different conditions like hilly areas, work, or farming. In this very blog, I have covered some awesome reviews and information that you may get hard otherwise. All of my self-experience and expert advice I have incorporated in this blog.

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