Why should you buy hiking shoes instead of hiking boots? Because if you aren't traveling over seriously rugged terrain or carrying a heavily loaded pack, you might not need the full-size version.
Hiking shoes are lighter and more nimble than boots, but they still come kitted out with features like Gore-Tex waterproofing, grippy rubber tread and supportive, durable uppers. As a bonus, many of them are sleek enough to pass as everyday footwear around town.
Best OverallDanner Trail 2650 Read More
Best Town-to-Trail ShoeHoka Anacapa Low GORE-TEX Read More
BEST BUDGET FRIENDLY SHOEMerrell Moab Speed Read More
Most BombproofUnico Hiker Naglev Read More
BEST UPGRADE HIKERThe North Face Vectiv Exploris Futurelight Read More
Hiking Shoes vs. Hiking Boots
The most obvious benefit of choosing a hiking shoe over a hiking boot is cutting weight — by losing the mid-height of a traditional boot, you're shaving ounces off each pair, resulting in a decidedly lighter hiking experience. With a lower silhouette, you're also getting more breathability and freedom of movement, but for anyone with sensitive ankles or past injuries, think twice before switching to a low-profile pair.
An additional benefit of opting for a hiking shoe is travel — since they're less bulky, less heavy and still kitted out with the same waterproofing and durability as their full-sized counterparts, hiking shoes are easier to stuff into your favorite weekender, luggage or travel backpack.
Are Trail Running Shoes Good for Hiking?
Outdoor wisdom dictates that while you can probably get by lacing up a pair of trail running shoes for a quick hike, there’s a reason the two categories exist: each address the individual needs of its discipline and participants.
The most noticeable difference between hiking shoes and trail runners is the weight capability of the shoes — hiking shoes are designed and constructed to be able to better hold up under a heavy load, like an overpacked hydration pack or daypack. Trail runners are typically made with lighter upper fabric, thinner rubber in the outsoles and more breathable materials, which make them more nimble on the trail, but also less able to stand up to the wear and tear that a hiking shoe can handle. Hiking shoes typically have beefier lugs and are more sturdy and robust throughout the midsole and upper.
How to Choose Hiking Shoes
This definitive guide provides information on the best hiking shoes you can buy. In it, we break down each model's key features, such as support, material, weight and more.