Are Hiking Boots Necessary? Answer from Personal Experience!

“Are hiking boots necessary” seems to be THE biggest debate when it comes to footwear for hikes, and for good reason. 

And if you’re a beginner who’s trying to find out everything there is to know about hiking before starting, deciding on your choice of footwear can be quite overwhelming. 

Experts and enthusiasts seem divided on their opinion on this topic, with some favoring these boots while others consider them completely unnecessary. 

So do you need hiking boots?

In short – no, these boots are not necessary. 

While you can get away with other choices of footwear, the ultimate decision really depends on many factors. And then there’s also the question of which other choice of footwear would be best for hiking. 

How do you decide? In this article, we take you through everything you need to know to figure out if these boots are necessary, so read on to find out! 

In this article, we will cover the following questions: 

  • What Are Hiking Boots?
  • What Do You Need To Consider When Deciding On Hiking Boots?
  • What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Hiking Boots?
  • What Are The Alternatives To Hiking Boots? 
me climbing up to Everest base cap in sneakers wondering : Are Hiking Boots Necessary?

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What Are Hiking Boots?

Before we dive deep into the technicalities of hiking boots, let’s clear up the most common questions beginners ask:

Do I need hiking boots? Or do I need hiking shoes? And how do I differentiate hiking shoes vs boots anyway? 

Hiking Boots Vs Hiking Shoes

To put it simply, hiking boots have wide, thick soles and are generally high rise, covering both your feet and your ankle. These boots can be quite heavy and offer a good amount of protection and support to hikers. 

These boots are great options for tough terrains and extreme weather conditions. However, these are usually more expensive than hiking shoes.    

Hiking shoes, on the other hand, are what you would get if hiking boots and trail runners had a baby.

The benefits of hiking shoes include being much lighter and more breathable as compared to These boots, but they do not offer the ankle support and protection that These boots provide. 

Hiking shoes are safe options for milder weather conditions and easier trails. 

This leads you to your next question: How do I decide on what shoes to wear hiking? Are hiking boots really necessary?

For newbies, you can’t go wrong with a good pair of hiking shoes. These do really well for easy trails, as well as milder weather conditions. Their breathability ensures your feet stay dry and comfortable during your hike.

Hiking shoes are also generally fairly waterproof, and they are heavier than your standard pair of trail runners – providing enough support and traction for casual hikes.

As compared to These boots, they are pretty lightweight and are great for extended periods of time spent on your feet. 

Best Hiking Shoes For Beginners:

The Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator is one of the best hiking shoes for beginners. It is budget-friendly, sturdy, and breathable.

It also doesn’t take time to break in. so you can pretty much slip this on and go off on your first hiking adventure without worrying about abrasions and blisters on your feet.

Now, before you completely dismiss the idea of getting these boots, it is important to note that there are instances whereby a good pair of hiking boots come in handy. 

What To Consider When Deciding If Hiking Boots Are Needed

“So do I really need hiking boots?” We suggest taking the following factors into consideration when deciding if you should invest These boots:

1. Terrain

It is always a good idea to bring along your hiking boots when dealing with rougher terrains. This is especially the case when dealing with unpaved trails, muddy or snowy paths, and rocky surfaces. 

A good pair of hiking boots allow for a good grip on the surface. They also provide ankle support that can be really helpful when you maneuver these kinds of paths and work as a protective barrier between your feet and the trails.

This minimizes potential falls and injuries due to the rough and uneven nature of the terrain. 

2. Weather

It is also important to consider the weather during your hike when deciding if you will need These boots. 

Your favorite pair of trail runners will work just fine when the weather is pleasantly warm and the ground is dry, but exploring the grounds on a wet day is a whole different story. 

Slippery grounds and muddy paths can pose a challenge to even the most experienced hiker, and so These boots can help by providing the additional grip and support needed. 

Many boots for hiking are also waterproof and help keep your feet warm and dry even when sloshing across puddles, snow, and rivers during your hike. 

3. Length And Duration Of The Hike

While it is perfectly acceptable to hike in your trail runners or hiking shoes, hikes involving a longer period of time on your feet would require greater support and this is where a good pair of hiking boots may come in handy.

You want your feet to be protected throughout the duration of your hike. 

Besides that, you also want to consider the entire duration of your trip and the type of hike you will be embarking on.

Are you backpacking across a few countries, and planning a quick hike here and there? Will you need to remove your boots during the hike? 

These boots can be quite heavy, and as we all know weight adds up pretty quickly especially if you’re on a backpacking adventure.

Sure, you can always use your hiking boots to walk around and explore the city/country you’re visiting, but some of us may prefer a comfy pair of sandals or sneakers for casual sightseeing. 

So back to our initial question – are these boots necessary?

Besides weighing in on the factors mentioned previously, it would be good to be aware of the pros and cons of hiking boots before making up your mind. 

Hiking Boots – The Good And The Bad At A Glance

The GoodThe Bad
Provides ankle supportMore expensive than other footwear
Durable – lasts longerHeavy
Better protection from external elementsNeeds to be broken in before use
Water resistant/waterproof

Advantages Of Hiking Boots

1. Ankle Support

Ankle support is a pretty debated topic when it comes to hiking boots. Many in the hiking community who find These boots unnecessary would argue that this is a myth, and ankle support is not needed when hiking.

In fact, there is a study that concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support the role of high-top shoes such as hiking boots in reducing ankle injuries. 

However, there are also many people who vouch for the sturdy support these boots provide for your ankles, and how this plays a vital role in ensuring a smooth hike with minimum injuries. 

While the jury is still out on whether or not the ankle support provided by hiking boots is necessary, it is vital to note the importance of ankle strength when partaking in activities like hiking.

Ankle strengthening exercises can really help in ensuring your legs carry you safely throughout your journey. 

2. Durability

These boots are made of thicker material as compared to other choices of footwear such as trail runners, hiking shoes, and hiking sandals. 

This ensures that your boots last a much longer time and are able to accompany you on many more hikes of varying terrains before you finally have to get them replaced. 

3. Protection From The Elements

The thicker material of hiking boots offers greater protection to your feet from the elements. We’re talking rough stones and pebbles, mud, sharp sticks and branches, insects, snakes, and snow, among others. 

It is obviously difficult to avoid these elements during your hike as they are part of nature, and the purpose of the hike is to explore them as much as possible anyway. 

So it would be best to anticipate encounters with these elements and prepare yourself in advance. 

You can count on your hiking boots to ensure your feet remain uninjured and scratch-free from all these external elements that you may encounter during your hike. 

4. Water Resistance/Waterproof

This is another useful feature of most hiking boots.

The waterproof material of the These boots ensures your feet are warm and dry when you encounter puddles, snow, and mud, or when you have to cross streams and rivers during your hikes. 

Waterproof boots are also very useful when hiking in rainy weather conditions.

Disadvantages Of Hiking Boots

1. Cost

The benefits that come with a good pair of hiking boots also come with a higher price, especially in comparison with trail runners. 

Are hiking boots worth it? 

Depending on how well you are able to maintain the boots, These boots can be a good investment.

These boots may be able to last longer than a pair of trail runners and serve you for up to a decade, so while the initial investment can be steep, you reap the rewards in the long run. 

If you’re hesitant to cough up a large amount for your hiking boots, you would be delighted to know that there are budget friendly hiking boots for under 100 dollars as well!  

Our favorite is the Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped Hiking Shoe. These are lightweight and durable and should be able to accompany you on both dry as well as snowy and icy terrains. 

2. Weight

Hiking boots are definitely much heavier than hiking shoes or trail runners, and may sometimes slow and tire you down, especially during long hikes. This would result in more energy and effort needed to complete your hike. 

These boots can also be a bit of a pain to carry around during trips due to their weight and their bulkiness, as mentioned earlier.

They can be a little tricky to pack into backpacks, and can significantly contribute to your weight requirements, posing issues to travelers wanting to travel as light as possible. 

If your hike involves other activities such as swimming, rafting, and kayaking, it might be a little difficult for you to quickly slip in and out of your boots.

Carrying it on your person might also be a little inconvenient during these activities before you slip them back on and resume your hike. 

3. Time Duration To Break In

The need to break into these boots is one of the biggest reasons many hikers may hesitate to invest in a pair.

Going off on a journey with a pair of hiking boots that has not been broken in can only lead to disaster in the form of sores and blisters on your feet. 

This issue is not present in other choices of footwear such as hiking shoes and trail runners – you can pretty much use them for hiking as soon as you get them without needing to break them in, and even when breaking in is needed it’s much quicker compared to with hiking boots. 

Let’s Talk Alternatives To Hiking Boots

As you are researching hiking boots, you may be pleased to know that there are other options for footwear to be used on hikes, mainly trail runners and hiking sandals. 

Are Trail Runners Good Enough?

It is possible to use trail runners for hikes, but you will have to make sure the conditions of the terrain and weather are favorable. 

Terrains that are not very rocky and paved trails can definitely be conquered by trail runners. These would also be good options during the dry summer months. 

As trail runners are cheaper and more versatile, many people would gravitate toward this choice of footwear. You can easily pair them with more casual clothing for everyday use. 

They are much lighter and don’t tire you out on long hikes, besides being comfortable and flexible. These light footwear are easy to carry around. Their breathability also allows your feet to stay dry during your hike. 

However, do note that trail runners would not be able to offer adequate support and protection for more vigorous hikes in rougher terrains and more extreme weather conditions.

For this, a good pair of hiking boots or hiking shoes would be a wiser choice. 

What About Hiking Sandals?

Hiking sandals are another option of footwear that quite a few hikers prefer these days.

They’re much cheaper than trail runners, hiking shoes, and hiking boots, and are a good option for consideration when it comes to easier trails and warm, summer months. 

Unlike normal sandals, hiking sandals are designed with thick soles to allow you to navigate uneven ground during your hikes.

Many are waterproof as well, and even if they are not, most hiking sandals dry off pretty quickly. 

They’re generally quite light, so they don’t slow you down and will also not be difficult to lug around during your travels.

Hiking sandals also allow your feet to breathe – any moisture or sweat on your feet is quickly dried by sun and air, leading to lesser occurrences of blisters forming due to sweaty feet rubbing against your footwear. 

As good as all these sound, hiking sandals are not without their disadvantages.

The open concept of this choice of footwear offers lesser protection to your feet, thus increasing the chances of bruising due to stones, rough surfaces, and branches among others.

Besides that, your feet are also very likely to suffer from sunburn. 

The straps of hiking sandals may also be a nuisance – these rubbing against your sweaty feet is a recipe for blisters and bruises, though prevention with some athletic tape is definitely possible. 

If you’re looking for a good pair of hiking sandals, we would recommend the Chaco Z1 Classic Sandals. Chacos is a brand that is well recognized in the hiking community, and this durable pair of sandals provides a good amount of support and comfort for your hikes. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do Hiking Boots Make A Difference?

If you’re wondering if hiking boots make a difference, the answer is YES, these boots make a difference, especially with more challenging trails. These have the sturdiest ankle support, offer better protection from snow and boggy conditions, and deeper insole cushioning for when you’ll be carrying a heavy pack.

Why Are Hiking Boots Important?

Hiking boots are important because they offer great ankle support, which minimizes injuries, and they come with more sturdy midsoles, offering greater support.

Opting for other forms of footwear such as sneakers and running shoes when hiking may lead to injuries and increased chances of sprains. 

Can You Hike In Regular Boots?

While hiking in regular boots may not be a good idea, it is not necessary for you to get these boots. Other options such as hiking shoes, hiking sandals, and trail runners can be considered as well, depending on the type of terrain, weather conditions, and the duration of your hike. 

Can I Wear Running Shoes For Hiking?

Yes, you can wear running shoes to hike in. However, if the hike is a little more challenging (rougher terrains, harsher weather conditions, and longer miles covered throughout the hike) it will be better to evaluate your choice of footwear and pick those that offer greater support and protection. 

Can I Hike Without Running Shoes?

So, can I hike without running shoes? Yes, you can hike without running shoes! A pair of comfortable sneakers or running shoes work well for easy trails. You will only need to look into specially designed footwear for hikes such as hiking boots, hiking shoes, and trail runners for more challenging trails and harsher weather conditions. 

Final Thoughts – So, Are Hiking Boots Necessary?

At the end of the day, you have to remember that you will be on your feet for a long amount of time during your hike. So you want your choice of footwear to be comfortable, breathable, and preferably able to dry quickly should they get wet. 

Thicker soles will offer more protection from rougher terrains, and also increase the durability of your shoes – allowing your choice of footwear to accompany you for many hiking adventures before falling apart. 

While it is perfectly acceptable to go on hikes with even running shoes and sneakers, it is best to carefully evaluate your footwear options when dealing with longer duration of hikes as well as more extreme terrains and weather conditions. 

In summary, the decision to proceed with these boots is definitely a personal one, based on various factors. 

While it is entirely possible to hike with a variety of other footwear such as trail runners and hiking shoes, there are times when these boots would be the wiser choice. 

We hope this article answers your question on are hiking boots necessary. Do let us know what you think.  Are you for hiking boots, or do you think it’s completely unnecessary? What is your best choice of footwear for hikes? We would love to hear from you! 

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